July 22, 2018

Prescott's Other History Museum: Ft. Whipple

Due to a mature tree rooting its way into a sewage pipe, the Fort Whipple Museum had been closed for six months. But now it's reopened and it offers a unique and charming visit into the fort's past.

"If you want to learn the history of Fort Whipple from its military beginnings in 1864 to the modern-day Veterans hospital, it’s all here in riveting exhibits with crisp text, historic photographs and compelling artifacts. Friendly, knowledgeable docents will give you a tour of the exhibits and answer any questions you might have."

"Housed in one of the 1909 military officer’s quarters, the Museum traces the history of Fort Whipple. If you are an historic house enthusiast, you will enjoy touring the first and second floor rooms for their architectural interest alone. If you are medical professional interested in the history of military medicine, you’ll be fascinated with the exhibits featuring medical instruments of the late-1800s, treatment programs of WWI veterans suffering from tuberculosis and respiratory recovery from mustard and chlorine gas warfare."

"Artifacts were chosen for various reasons...to help tell a story." Even in the foyer, one finds artifacts of both the early miners and the Native Americans. A Mexican spur speaks of the latino influence. This piece was purportedly collected by Sharlot Hall herself, "although nothing is known of its origin." The set of antique gold scales speaks of the area's mineral past. One artifact that looks like a gas cylinder or even a bomb is actually a mercury flask. Mercury was used to extract the gold from the ore.

Instructive handouts are also available in the foyer.

A description of the happenings at Fort Whipple, Arizona in 1869. Hapless at locating the Indians, the undermanned force reached out to the local community to boost the morale of both.

The trip through the rest of the house tells of the various stages of the fort's history. In the living room one will find "a Minie bullet, percussion cap, bayonet scabbard tip, epaulet and cartridge box plate." These are representative of the early Indian Conflict years.

Another exhibit box represents the fort during the 1870s and 1880s. A "match safe and buckles were recovered from areas around Ft. Whipple and were used there." An additional exhibit case contains a number of US Army weaponry artifacts too numerous to list. These were also recovered around Fort Whipple.

A field desk, folding chair and table are reproductions of the ones used by General Crook when he was at the fort. (The original being at the Sharlot Hall Museum.) "Visitors are encouraged to explore the desk and its contents" while at Ft. Whipple.

As one passes into the former dining room, two beautiful original fireplaces are noticed. The exhibits in the dining room include a glass telegraph insulator "from the original military telegraph line." Made by a San Francisco company, it is considered "extremely rare."

Appropriate for display in the dining room is the mess gear issued by the army from 1874 to circa 1908. Many uniform artifacts are contained here as well. "The flat iron and reproduction clothespin represent the role of the laundress in Army life." Another interactive display includes all the things necessary to wash clothes back then as well as reproduction uniform parts--all touchable for the young and the young-at-heart.

The Spanish-American War is remembered with "a souvenir piece of the USS Maine." There is also a display showing the fort's relationship with the community. Copies of programs of events as well as musical instruments are featured. An exhibit on early medicine is also presented.

Included are dates, locations and the reason behind each post's name. One cannot fully understand the Indian Conflicts in Yavapai county without a general understanding of the military posts of the time.

The second floor features the transition of Whipple from a military post to a hospital. First as a tuberculosis facility up to today's VA health center. Featured artifacts that were found on the grounds include kitchen items, calvary items, an antique wheelchair, a Veterans Administration pitcher and an advertising cup from Floyd Williams Service Station.

Also on the second floor consideration is given to non-anglo history. This includes the Yavapai people and reservation and the role of African-American soldiers, particularly the story of Jeremiah Jones, the only African-American enlisted man stationed at the fort. The upper story also has a full-sized diorama of a sewing room.

Fort Whipple is located on the grounds of the VA Hospital on Hwy. 89 in Prescott and is only open on Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 10am to 4pm. with Living History programs on the third Saturday of February, May, August and November. Details of upcoming Living History programs can be found by CLICKING HERE.

"The Museum is a joint project of Sharlot Hall Museum and the Bob Stump Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Sharlot Hall Museum provides the exhibits, and the Hospital provides the building. Painted in the original crème with green trim, the museum building is the only structure on their campus done in an authentic color scheme. Signs direct you to the parking lot at the bottom of a small hill. A verdant lawn with large native trees invites you to stroll up the sidewalk to the building." Admission is a donation. 

If you are interested in seeing several pictures of the exhibits, CLICK HERE and scroll down the page.


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Fort Whipple Museum website
"Fort Whipple Museum" Notebook; Sharlot Hall Museum Archives.
Personal visit to the museum.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Drew; I enjoy reading your articles. I retired from the VA and docent at Sharlot Hall Museum and Fort Whipple Museum. The web site for Sharlot Hall Museum and in particular Fort Whipple Museum was updated too https://www.sharlothallmuseum.org/fort-whipple-museum/