Camp Cody - Ghost Camp of a War Effort - By Tom Orzech

From page 36 of the May 1992 issue of Lost Treasure magazine.

As one travels across the high desert area of southern New Mexico through the town of Deming, it’s hard to picture a bustling Army camp of 30,000 men just to the north of the freeway. But in 1917 that’s exactly what was located there.

When the United States joined the efforts of WWI, there was a great need for additional Army training posts across the country. The town of Deming was chosen as one of these camps and preparations began to bring the soldiers in. Deming had been a major cattle shipping point and there were major rail connections at this town which would be vital for bringing in men and equipment. In an area located northwest of the town proper lay 1,800 acres of desert which would become Camp Cody.

Cost did not seem an important factor in building the camp. The war was on and trained men and trained animals were needed immediately for the war effort. The camp was constructed at a cost of over $2,000,000 and was laid out with 3 main streets running east and west with several cross streets intersecting them. These cross streets can still be seen today as long mounds extending at fairly equal intervals crossing the main streets. The streets were sprayed with crude oil to keep down the dust and there was also talk of coating the parade ground the same way.

The camp opened in October 1917. A weekly camp newspaper was published by the El Paso Herald titled the Trench and Camp. This newspaper described first-hand the daily life of the recruits and the hardships they encountered.

Entertainment was at a minimum at the camp. Movies, games, and speakers were provided at the “Y.” The camp library with 15,000 volumes did a demanding business with the majority of readers wishing to read about the great battles of the Civil War. Many men hiked out to old Fort Cummings to get a feel for Army life during the Indian Wars.

It was a Federal offense to sell intoxicating liquor to soldiers in uniform and this rule was enforced in the Deming area. Camp Cody soldiers found a way around this by purchasing large amounts of lemon extract, of which alcohol was a major ingredient. The street commissioner of Deming reported that the city had to repeatedly close down “comfort stations” until his workmen could get around to cleaning out the large quantities of extract bottles which clogged the “stations.”

Orders to dismantle and abandon the camp came in December 1918. The base hospital remained open as a military tuberculosis sanitarium until 1922 when it was transferred to the Deming Chamber of Commerce. A fire completely destroyed the complex in 1939.

SOURCES: Trench and Camp newspaper, “The Soldiers Handbook,” N. Hershler, Government Printing Office

Copyright © 1992, 2001 Lost Treasure, Inc.

Previous RETURN Next