Entertainment Magazine: Arizona: Sonoita-Elgin

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Prime Vineyards and Wineries in SE Arizona

Sonoita Rodeo photo by Carl Sparfeld

Southeastern Arizona is well known for its highly prized collection of vineyards and wineries spread throughout the Sonoita-Elgin valley.

Sonoita, Arizona is a located about an hours drive south of Tucson, AZ., at the intersection of US Highway 82 and 83.

About 2,300 people live in and around the area, according to the Sonoita-Elgin Chamber of Commerce. Most homes are large ranch houses on five or more acres each. The Sonoita-Elgin area is well known for its vineyards.

There are eight major vineyards and wineries in the Sonoita/Elgin area in SE Arizona. Three times a year, Sonoita Vineyards Winery Festivals are among the most popular annual events.

Photo right: Sonoita Rodeo photo by Carl Sparfeld

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The Sonoita, Arizona area has rolling grasslands at a 5,000 foot elevation, surrounded by the Huachuca, Whetstone, Santa Rita and Mustang Mountains.The Sonoita Appellation is 60 miles southeast of Tucson and west of Sierra Vista, AZ. From Tucson, take I-10 east and turn right on HWY 83.

Since the Sonoita-Elgin, AZ. area has a lot of open land, there are vast opportunities for real estate development.

Sonoita: former military post during the Civil War

The present-day vine filled valley of the Sonoita area was developed long after Fort Buchanan (1856-61) became the first military post within the bounds of the Gadsden Purchase in 1853. The site, located over a mile west of Sonoita, protected settlers and attacks from Chiricahua Apache Indians.

In November 1856, Maj. Enoch Steen completed the formal establishment of what was known as Camp Moore. Lt. I. N. Moore was in charge of a company of infantry. The name was changed on November 17, 1856 to Fort Buchanan to honor James Buchanan, then President of the United States. (Source: Arizona Place Names, by Will C. Barnes, 1960).

"A detachment from the post, led by Lt. George N. Bascom, was involved in the episode with Cochise at Apache Pass that precipitated the Apache wars (1861-86). At the beginning of the Civil War, Regulars evacuated and destroyed it. The following year, General Carleton's California Volunteers occasionally camped at the site. To aid in the renewed effort against the Apaches, the post was reactivated as Camp Crittenden (1868-73) on a hill about one-half mile to the east" (Source: Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings, National Park Service).

Camp Crittenden was established on a hill above the site of the abandoned Fort Buchanan. There is often confusion between the two locations.

"In his annual report, Gen. Irvin McDowell on September 14, 1867, reported that "General Crittenden has recommended the building of a permanent camp near the site of old Fort Buchanan, where there are many adobes, made before the war and which can be used in new buildings. When built, the post at Tubac will be discontinued." McDowell was referring to Gen. Thomas Leonidas Crittenden, 32nd Infantry, who had served as a general of volunteers during the Civil War. The new camp, named for Crittenden, was established on March 4, 1867. On June 8, 1872, it was announced that Camp Crittenden was to be abandoned because of unhealthy conditions. Three weeks later a newspaper article stated that the camp was in the process of breaking up." (ibid, page 316).

The patent land where the sites of Fort Buchanan and Camp Crittendenis were located are now privately owned. They now contain homesites and are used for grazing. The only remains are scattered rocks. mounds of earth, and fragmented adobe ruins (ibid).

Fort Crittenden reference from Weekly Arizona Miner, June 8, 1872, 2: 1, June 29, 1879, 2: 1; 75, p. 130. Maps: C-3; E-20; GL-3.

Photo: The hills surrounding the Southeast Arizona communities of Sonoita, Elgin and Patagonia. This photo is from Hog Canyon, west of Sonoita and site for the former Camp Crittenden before it was moved east to Fort Buchanan. 2011 BZB.

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