A History of Fort Ruby
In May 1860, Co. B of the 4th Artillery assigned to Camp Floyd, Utah, was sent to Ruby Valley to find and establish a camp base to use to protect the Overland Mail Route and its passengers and others from Indian attacks. On Sept. 4, 1861, Col. E. P. Connor organized the 3rd Regiment of California Volunteers. A year later he received orders to patrol the Central Route of the Overland Mail Company. The site chosen for Fort Ruby is on the eastern side of the southern end of the Ruby Mountains in Ruby Valley, Nevada. The Fort was situated about 2 1/2 miles southeast of the Overland Mail Station on a six square mile plot of ground. The Fort’s northern boundary was on the dividing line between what are now Elko and White Pine Counties in Nevada. The site was approximately midway if the 600 miles separating Carson City, Nevada and Salt Lake City, Utah.
Col. Edward P. Connor and seven companies of soldiers (about 600 men), 55 wagons, 2 howitzers, carriages for some of the officer’s families, 3 ambulances and the regimental band departed Camp Halleck, Stockton, California, on July 12, 1862, and began marching east. They arrived at Fort Ruby on the evening of September 1, 1862. Fort Ruby was officially established pursuant to orders # 8 dated September 4, 1862 by Col. Connor.
Soldiers immediately began to gather stone and timber from the nearby mountains to build store houses and winter quarters. Living quarters were log cabins of hand hewn logs either laid horizontally or vertically and heated by fireplaces. Stables and store houses were built of vertical logs in a stockade fashion with the posts set vertically in trenches. Corrals were constructed of adobe. A good sized pond, fed by a spring, supplied the Fort with fresh water.
The Fort Ruby Spring with several views of the remains of a stone Spring House.
Photographs taken in 1868 by Tim O’Sullivan, a member of King’s Survey party, show that at least two of the officer’s quarters were built with vertical logs, caulked with adobe, had shingled roofs, 2 brick fireplaces, and 2 double-hung windows in each building. When the Fort construction was completed, there were approximately 14 white washed log buildings comprising the Army’s quarters and several other log cabin outbuildings. In 1858, the only two original buildings remaining showed evidence of having 3″ tongue and groove wainscoting in their interiors.
One of the two original building that still existed when they burned to the ground in 1992 from an electrical caused fire. Several structures including a kitchen, recreation area and living quarters had been added on to it by Andy Anderson.
Major P. A. Gallagher served from Oct 1862 to July 1863. Dr. R. K. Reed was the first Post Doctor and then Asst. Surgeon Kirkpatrick took over the treatment of military and civilian patients at the Fort until 1863. Dr. John W. Long served as Post Doctor from 1863 to 1866.
Lt. Col. Jeremiah. B. (P.) Moore served from April 1863 to Sept 1863 (Co. K 2nd Cav. under command of Capt. Samuel P. Smith. Lt. Col. Moore was known to flog soldiers for minor infractions or made them carry heavy sandbags in the hot sun until they collapsed from heat exhaustion as punishment. He hung two Indians at this post when they were identified as having led the Indians at the Gravelly Ford battle and left their bodies hanging to frighten the Indians and keep them in line by using the hangings as an example.
During the Goshute War of 1863, the Overland Mail and Stage Company lost 150 horses, 7 of their stations were burned to the ground and 16 of their employees were killed in Nevada and Utah. Moore stayed in Ruby Valley after mustering out of the Army.
During the summer of 1864, the two California Volunteer companies stationed at Fort Ruby were replaced by a unit of the Nevada Volunteers of Co. B. 1st Nevada Infantry. The lessening of manpower made patrolling of the Overland Route much more difficult.
Capt. G. A. Thurstin was in charge beginning in the fall of 1864 until Dec. 1865. Capt. Thurstin and Dr. John W. Long, the Post Doctor tried to cure venereal disease of some of the soldiers and some Indians by constructing stone chambers at the hot springs on the Old Myers Ranch above Franklin Lake several miles north of Fort Ruby. Patients were required to sit on the stone “pots” and absorb the steam from the hot water. These structures could still be seen in 1957.
Capt. Thurstin wrote to his superiors at Fort Douglas, UT in 1864, suggesting that the Indians were stealing to prevent starvation and it would be beneficial for the Army to gather the Indians of the area together for a conference. The Army did not respond to his idea but the Overland Mail and Stage Company stepped in and told its station keepers to provide enough emergency rations to the Indians to keep them from starving to death.
A Company of 9th U. S. Infantry was in charge from Dec 1865 to Sept. 1867. On January 1, 1867, the name of Fort Ruby was changed to Camp Ruby.
Capt. George Walker assumed command Sept. 20, 1867, immediately took a six-month long furlough, and died upon his return to the command of the Fort of apoplexy about March or April 1868.
Lt. J. T. Trout took over the command when Capt. Walker died.
Capt. Timothy Connelly was in command from 1868 to 1869. Connelly was the last commanding officer at Fort Ruby. He was found guilty and court martialed at Fort (Camp) Halleck on May 20, 1869 for embezzling company funds at Fort (Camp) Ruby.
After 1865, Indian raids became infrequent and in 1869, the Army determined that Fort Ruby was no longer necessary. On instructions of Headquarters, Department of California, San Francisco, dated July 15, 1869, Fort Ruby was ordered to be abandoned. On September 20, 1869, the men of Co. I 9th Infantry and all of their supplies were transferred from Fort Ruby to Camp Halleck some seventy miles to the north.
Most of the abandoned building at Fort Ruby were sold to nearby ranchers. Thomas Short of Cave Creek is said to have bought several of the structures and moved them off the Fort. Some of the buildings or parts of them may still be being used on ranches today.
Fort Ruby was never declared a military reservation by Executive order. In 1961, the U. S. Dept. of the Interior gave landmark status to Fort Ruby. Only two original buildings, an enlisted men’s barracks and the officer’s quarters were remaining in 1992 when they were both lost to history when they were destroyed by a fire.
Fort Ruby Cemetery
This view shows the wooden fence surrounding the two graves along side the east side of the road 1/2 mile north of the Fort on the Old Narcissi Ranch property. – Shaputis photo
Twenty-one or more interments of military men and civilians took place in the Fort Ruby Military Cemetery. This cemetery has several sources saying it was located one half mile to the north of the Fort on the Old Narcissi Ranch. Two graves are fenced and can be seen on the east side of the road near a huge spreading willow tree where a road leads into the marsh. One source states the cemetery was located 1/2 mile to the west of the fort.
One of the burials was likely that of Private or Sergeant John W. Purdy, of Carson City, Nevada, who drowned in the lake in the cave at Cave Creek while exploring the cave.
Another burial may have been that of Post Commander Capt. George Walker who assumed command Sept. 20, 1867, immediately took a six-month long furlough, and died upon his return to the command of the Fort of apoplexy about March or April 1868.
A third burial undoubtedly was that of Pvt. Thomas Conley who was fatally wounded at Egan Canyon Pony Express Station during an Indian squirmish on August 11, 1860.
An erroneous local legend persists that the three fenced graves in the Egan Canyon Cemetery are those of three soldiers killed in a Indian battle in 1860. On August 11, 1860, when the Army arrived in time to save the lives of the two Egan Station keepers from a large party of Indians, during the fight, three soldiers were wounded. According the report of Lt Stephen H. Weed (File U-44, Adjutant General’s Office, Letters Received, Records of the War Dept, National Archives, Microfilm # 567, Roll 634), the three wounded soldiers were: Corpl. John Mitchell (shot in the hip, not serious) and Pvts. Joseph Henry (shot in the neck, serious) and Thomas Conley (shot through the back – serious). On the August 12, 1860, Lt. Weed ordered eight soldiers to take the wounded soldiers back to Ft. Ruby where Pvt. Thomas Conley died from his wounds. The other two survived their injuries and obviously are not buried in the Egan Cemetery.
The Quartermaster Corps authorized removal of the military dead to the Presidio Cemetery in San Francisco, California. Sources conflict on the final disposition of the interments by saying the bodies were removed to Fort Halleck, Nevada, to Carson City, Nevada, to the Presidio Cemetery in San Francisco, or that they were never moved anywhere and are still resting within a mile of the old Fort.
Soldiers who stayed
Several Fort Ruby soldiers remained after being mustered out of the Army to settle in Ruby Valley as ranchers and farmers. Some of these Fort Ruby soldiers were:
Col. Jeremiah P. Moore settled the present Lourinda R. Wines (Mrs. J. B.) Ranch (Buckle D Ranch) after commanding Fort Ruby in 1863.
William Meyers settled the present Lloyd Meyer Ranch
James Meyers settled the present James K. Stonier Ranch. This ranch was owned by actor Joel McCrea at one time.
John Helth settled the present Duval Ranch Company
Mickey Flynn settled the present Shantytown site John Thompson
Fort Ruby is located in the south end of Ruby Valley in White Pine County. A plaque situated in front of the Fort Ruby site located just off the Ruby Marsh Road was dedicated on June 11, 1994 by the Lucinda Jane Saunders Chapter E Clampus Vitus states the following information:
1862 Fort Ruby 1869 “Colonel P. Edward Conner was ordered to build and command this post in 1862. The Fort was built midway between Salt Lake City, Utah and Carson City, Nevada to protect the Overland Mail route (Pony Express) and emigrant travelers from Indian raiders. Most Army outposts of this time were built in remote areas, but this post was classified by the Army as the “Worst Post in the West.” In 1869 the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad brought an end to the Pony Express, and the need for this Fort.
Post Commander Captain Timothy (last name of Connelly omitted here) was ordered to close the Fort. He and his men returned the “Worst Post in the West” back to the Nevada desert in 1869.”
Fort Ruby 1862 – 1869. Courtesy of Stanley W. Paher from his Nevada Ghost Towns & Mining Camps and Jerry Bowen.