WWI

Camp Brookes - Early Military Encampment - by C.A. Gustafson

Desert Winds Magazine - January 1990

Deming was founded as a railroad town and maintained that designation throughout its early history. This factor was instrumental in the town being chosen as site for two major military camps and, more recently an army air base. These installations bolstered the economy of the community for short periods and their withdrawals, of course, had the inevitable reverse effect. Previous to the establishment of Camp Deming and Camp Cody, there was another military bivouac of short duration that no doubt influenced the location of the aforementioned principal camps. This was a joint encampment of the state guard and the federal army, and it was known as Camp Brooks. The year was 1914.

It was an eventful tithe in world affairs, as well as in the annals a New Mexico. On July 28, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia, thus initiating a world conflict that would involve 29 nations and account for over eight million dead. On this continent, American sailors became Involved in an incident in Tampico, Mexico. As a result, the United States Navy landed in Veracruz on April 21 and occupied that Mexican city until November The initial skirmish resulted In 18 dead U.S. sailors and marines, while the Mexicans lost 200. During the occupation, the navy conducted its first air mission against a foreign power with the use of AB-3 Carrier flying boats.

The Republic of Mexico in the throes of a ten-year revolution was juggling presidents with irregular regularity. At the beginning of the year, Pancho Villa made the prophetic statement that he would never be president. However he would become a dominant figure in Mexican politics this year and enjoy the recognition given him as a military leader. Villa also demonstrated his astuteness as a businessman by making an arrangement with the National Film Corporation of New York City to photograph his battles for $25,000.

The 13th Cavalry was moving into Columbus, New Mexico during this time. Troop strength would approach 1,000 mark by year's end. Border patrol was an increasing factor due to the revolutionary activity to the south. American investments in Micron were estimated at ore billion dollars. This included Interests in oil, railroads, timber, mining and agriculture.

In May, Brigadiers General Perishing moved his entire brigade of 3,000 men from the Presidio in San Francisco to Mexican border at El Paso. Some troops were transported by the Santa Fe Railroad through Albuquerque, but the majority was moved by the Southern Pacific by way of Deming.

On June 1, Adjutant General Harry T. Herring of the New Mexico National Guard announced that joint maneuvers by the Guard and The U.S. Army would be held In Deming from July 11 to July 21. Ordinarily the state guard held their summer camp at Las Vegas, N.M. but Deming was chosen this year because of its proximity to the border in view of the Increasing possibility of war with Mexico. The camp would consist an about 750 state guardsmen, a battery of artillery (133) and an infantry battalion (180). Thus the joint maneuvers would be carried out by over 1,000 soldiers, the largest such exercise In the United States this year.

The encampment site, to be named Camp Brookes, was located north of the Santa Fe roundhouse and west of the town. It had been chosen by Adjutant Herring on a visit earlier in the year. The Chamber of Commerce would provide water for the camp by running a two-inch pipe and accommodate each street with a shower bath. The original plan to stake out 15 streets was expanded to 20. The rifle range was located at the Atkins Ranch' a few miles west of the camp and near the railroad.

Camp Brookes would operate under the command of a federal officer, Colonel D. A. Frederick. He was a native of Georgia and a graduate of West Point. Frederick had seen action in the Indian wars in Colorado and South Dakota. He had served In the Cuban campaign and was later stationed In the Philippines, Masks and Fort Bliss.

Deming was represented in the National Guard by Company 1. It bad been mustered into service in early February with 62 local men, with expectations of expanding to 75. The Company drilled on Tuesday nights at the Crystal Theater. Company I was led by Captain Arthur Brock. The Deming contingent mustered at Camp Brooks on July 11. The remainder of the N.M. Guard companies were due to arrive the following day -- Sunday. The local company was resplendent In newly Issued khaki uniforms which replaced the older olive drab.

The first battalion of the Sixth U.S. Infantry left Fort Bliss July 2, while Battery C of the Sixth U.S. Artillery departed two days later. Both units marched to Deming camping enroute on legs of 10 or 12 miles per day on the 90-mile route.

Deming was a town on the move in this year of 1914. The 1910 census listed the population at 1,864 Now, four years later, some optimists claimed it to be over 4,000 At the years beginning, Deming ranked third in the state with operating automobiles, listing 83.

Roswell clamed first with 309 and Albuquerque tallied 215. The state had a total of 1,699, compiled by 110 different makes. Ford was most popular with 530, their run-about selling for $500, F.O.B. Detroit. This year a number of Saxons appeared on Deming streets. This four cylinder 15-horsepower car made 34 miles on a gallon of gas and sold for $395. It made a trip to Columbus in about 90 minutes.

A unique theatre, the Airdome, opened In Deming late in May. This new entertainment center was located on Sliver, north of the Baker Hotel. The open-air cinema presented two-reel features and Keystone: comedies under a canopy of stars. Admission was a dime for adults and a nickel for children. The sealing capacity was 500.

Maneuvers at Camp Brookes got underway Monday, July 13. Emphasis was placed on scouting, patrolling, parading and small target practice. The Auto Bus Line ran a passenger service daily from town to due camp. A roundtrip cost 50 cents with specials rates to the soldiers. Thursday was ladies day and the gals were transported at half price.

Friday, July 17 was Governor's Day. The state's chief executive arrived in Deming on the Santa Fe at 9:50 a.m. Company I was giving the honor of escort. Governor McDonald - - with baldpate and walrus mustache - - reviewed the troops in the afternoon A reception was given the governor that evening by the Chamber of Commerce at the Adelphi Club. Music was furnished by the military orchestra.

A boxing program was presented at the Crystal Theatre on Saturday night. The main event featured Charles Scheidigger, a lineman for the Deming Electric Company, versus Bart Gordon, a soldier from Roswell. This contest was billed for the heavyweight championship a New Mexico. Scheidigger weighed 187 and Gordon topped the scales at 172. It was a lively match with Scheidigger taking the decision due to his longer reach add superior height.

There was fistic action in the neighboring state to the north also this year. In Montrose Colorado, Kid Blackie knocked out his own manager, Andy Malloy, in three rounds. This rather unorthodox match took place as a result of a lack of opponents. Some 42 knockouts and five years later, this same Kid Blackie was internationally famous as the heavyweight champion of the world. However he fought his later years under the name of Jack Dempsey.

At 1 p.m. Tuesday, July 21, a bugle sounded through Camp Brookes to signal the breaking of camp. In a brief three hours, tents were downed, rolled and packed aboard the freight train. All the additional equipment that made up this bustling camp of 1,000 soldiers was also stacked in the cars for shipment back to El Paso. Streets were policed, sinks filled, debris burned and the campsite was surrendered back to Mother Nature.

At the inception of the camp, it was figured that a ration of 25 cents a day would feed each soldier. The meals were simple and wholesome, including the standard fare of meat, bread, potatoes, cereals, coffee and a few delicacies. Of course, many cakes and cookies were delivered to the camp by local organizations. At The conclusion of the encampment, Company I had a surplus of $30 from its allotment.

The officers, attendant at Camp Brookes judged the operation a huge success. They were much impressed with the location and the facilities afforded the camp. It was Deming's initial military encampment of this magnitude Its successful execution undoubtedly was a factor In the later location of Camp Deming and Camp Cody In the same general area.

Text is the copyright of Desert Winds Magazine & C.A. Gustafson.

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