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Arizona Buffalo Soldiers Association

History of Camp Naco

By Debby Swartzwelder

Photo courtesy of the Bisbee Mining & Historical Museum

We are finally making a bit of progress at Camp Naco. The EPA grants to remove the asbestos are underway right now.

Also, in October 2012, Camp Naco was officially listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Now the Buffalo Soldier history of the Camp is formally documented.

I am working on a press release and hope to have it published in the Sierra Vista Herald within the next few days. If it is published, I will send a copy.

Updates and photos are being added to the Friends of Camp Naco Facebook page, and we welcome everyone to look through these and like us, is possible.

I am spreading the word about the work in progress because we are trying to raise funds to cover the adobe building roofs. Since the asbestos tiles protected the adobe, now that these are being removed there is a significant risk of erosion from the upcoming monsoon rains.

There is a link in the Facebook page to the Archaeology Southwest fundraiser page for Camp Naco. Donations are tax deductible. I also included the link below.


Any assistance you can provide in spreading the word about our progress and efforts at Camp Naco is greatly appreciated.


Debby Swartzwelder

Naco Heritage Alliance


Preserving Historic Camp Naco (Camp Newell)


     Camp Naco, or Camp Newell, consists of 23 buildings on seventeen acres in the northwest section of the border town of Naco, Arizona.  Of the many names used to identify the camp, Camp Naco seems to be the most likely name of the compound during the military’s use of the area.  The name of Camp Newell was probably attached to the barracks after the Army transferred the buildings to John J. Newell via the Naco Real Estate and Improvement Company.  This military compound was constructed between 1919 and 1923 as part of the War Department’s Mexican Border Defense construction project, a plan to build a 1200- mile “fence” along the southern U.S. border.  American soldiers were the primary component of this “fence,” and the construction project was to establish or to upgrade border military posts to protect the soldiers against the elements and to protect U.S. citizens and economic interests.  In 1919, the plan for the camp in Naco, part of the Tenth Cavalry Patrol District, was to construct 35 adobe buildings, the only site of the nine western camps to be constructed of adobe and the only site in Arizona largely intact today. 


     The beginning of the Mexican Revolution in 1910 raised concerns that rebel activity would spill over onto American soil, and in response to this potential threat, the U.S. Government sent troops to protect the border.  Naco had a military presence from 1911 until the end of 1923, with troop strength ranging from 50 to over 5000 through the years.  While the War Department stationed elements of many units in Naco, the primary presence was the Ninth and Tenth Cavalry Regiments, and later the 25th Infantry Regiment, all Buffalo Soldier units.  The Ninth and Tenth Cavalry Regiments were commended for their service during the Battle of Naco in 1914, receiving a special commendation from the President for their exceptional service in preserving the Neutrality Laws despite being under almost constant threat of gunfire.  In 1922, the 25th Infantry Regiment took over for the Tenth as guardians of the border until closure of this station in December 1923. 


     Camp Naco now stands empty, a rapidly fading chapter in this region’s history; preservation is the key to ensuring the Camp is not lost forever.  Based on an initial nomination for listing in the National Register of Historic Places, the Arizona State Historic Preservation Office determined the Camp to be eligible as a military district, with the provision that additional documentation was needed to verify the construction and use of the compound.  Recent discoveries have narrowed the construction time line and the purpose of the barracks and have verified the co-existence of Buffalo Soldiers and the barracks in Naco; however, additional time is needed to continue the research on these abandoned barracks- time which is running out.  A recent fire destroyed four buildings, emphasizing the fragility of the compound and the urgency of preservation.  While the Camp achieved recognition in the 1930s as a Civilian Conservation Corps site, its original purpose as a military camp has particular historic significance as it serves as a reminder of all of the soldiers who stood watch on the border protecting American interests. It is now our turn, every citizen of this country, to protect the memory of those soldiers by protecting this monument of their service.





E-MAIL: azbsa@juno.com

This work is the property of the Arizona Buffalo Soldiers Association