CAMPO’S STRATEGIC LOCATION PROMPTS
ESTABLISHMENT OF CAMP LOCKETT FACILITY
The early Native American culture in this region is several thousand years old. The Native American bands ranged from the Yuma territory to the Pacific Ocean, and the northern range was around Escondido to as far south as Ensenada. This was so, prior to the early European settlers arrival. The Campo we know today was once known as Milquatay Valley. As the year 1869 closed, the area had such a large influx of settlers from Texas that it was referred to as little Texas, the population was 400.
In 1875 Campo’s Gaskill brothers were involved in a famous shootout with the Cruz Lopez gang. The brothers defeated the gang with some help from the locals. In May 1876 a large group of bandits gathered in Mexico with the intention of seeking revenge for the Cruz Lopez defeat. The plan was to attack in Jacumba at the Larkin Ranch & Stage Stop and ride to Campo and loot the Gaskill’s store. Twenty settlers and a small cavalry detachment stationed in the Campo valley made ready. The soldiers were in the area to protect the telegraph and stage lines. Colonel Barnard the officer in command at San Diego was summoned and arrived in Campo with additional troops. They skirmished with the bandits near the Larkin stage stop in Jacumba. The troopers prevailed and the bandits were dispersed back into Mexico. Colonel Barnard left a squad of soldiers in Campo to bolster the forces and he and the remaining troops returned to San Diego.
In December 1906 John Spreckels and his group began building a railroad from San Diego east, to open rail traffic to the east coast. The San Diego & Arizona Railway reached Campo September 19th, 1916. The eastern buildout of track from Campo through the Carrizo Gorge was completed November 16, 1919. There, it was connected to track laid from the Imperial Valley town of Seely, thus providing a direct link to the East. The train ran many years and the final passenger run to Calexico was January 11, 1951. Freight service continued but was interrupted after a storm damaged the tracks in 1976 and ended when several trestles burned in a 1983 wildfire. They were not restored and this ended the use of the tracks to the valley floor.
By 1911 Campo had a new two-story hotel with a Customs House on one side and an Immigration Office on the other. Campo was the area headquarters for U.S. Customs and still has facilities in use today near the old site. The Camp Lockett site was first used as a cavalry camp in 1878 when 16 troopers bivouacked for several months in the Campo Valley. E Troop of the 11th Cavalry was stationed there in 1918 and a succession of “horse soldiers” utilized the valley until ground was broken for Camp Lockett on June 23, 1941.
The night of December 10, 1941, 70 officers and 1351 enlisted men rode into Camp Lockett under wartime organization. The thought was an attack from Mexico might occur and the patrolling of the border became a high priority. The camp of the WWII years 1941-1945 was officially named for Colonel James Lockett a highly respected cavalry officer with a brilliant career spanning 44 years of service. During the war years as many as 5000 troopers of the 10th, 11th, and 28th Cavalry Regiments were based at the camp. With the Army’s mechanization, the 11th Cavalry was sent to the European theater and Camp Lockett’s 10th and 28th cavalry became the last horse soldiers in the U.S. Army. These troops known as the “Buffalo Soldiers” departed the camp during the war and it was then converted to Mitchell Convalescent Hospital. Here, as many as 200 Italian and German prisoners of war were housed at the camp. They worked in the hospital, helped with food service and performed road maintenance. The Italian prisoners are responsible for the placement of the statue of “Our Lady of the Most Sacred Heart” that is encased in the rocks at the north edge of the camp. The General Service Administration declared the Camp Lockett complex surplus in June 1946. In 1949, 39 acres with all the improvements had been transferred to the Mountain Empire School District for use as a junior and senior high school. In 1976 the school moved to its present location on Buckman Springs Rd. and in 1950 the County of San Diego acquired 600 acres along with the improvements and administers them currently.
THE COMMANDER’S HOUSE aka THE FERGUSON HOUSE
In 1907 Frank Ferguson arrived in Campo. He was the first assistant to the chief engineer E.J. Kallright who was charged with the design and construction of the San Diego & Eastern Railroad. Mr. Ferguson opened a construction office in Campo to dispatch workers to the camps that sprung up from San Diego during the laying of the tracks eastward. While in Campo, Frank Ferguson met the local ranching family, the Davies. The family included two sisters who would become his wives. The younger sister married Frank. She died shortly after the birth of their son and in 1910 and in 1914 he married her older sister Isabelle, who was managing the hotel in Campo for her father. Frank and Isabelle settled in Campo in a house overlooking the valley. It had a large stone fireplace and a garage; and just below the house was a pond.
Isabelle became the school teacher at the Campo school. The home they lived in is now county property and the location of the CLEEF Museum and board of directors. The Fergusons raised his son and their daughter while Isabelle was the local school teacher. During the war the house served as the main residence of Camp Lockett’s commanding general. In the latter part of the war it housed officers that oversaw Camp Lockett operations. Mrs. Ferguson died in 1976 at the age of 101 and her memories were published in an article of the San Diego Evening Tribune April 29, 1975.
THE EVENT AND EQUESTRIAN FACILITY
The southern end of the Campo Valley is the county property acquired in 1950. On this property is the Ferguson House which is being renovated to be the headquarters of the Camp Lockett Event and Equestrian Facility and a museum for the Cavalry and Buffalo Soldiers. The grounds to the south of the house are where the event center is located. Construction of the arenas and the parking area is a process in progress. The area is rich in the history of cattle and horsemen who settled Campo and traversed both sides of the border in the early years. This outline of the area’s early history was prepared so that you would understand how locals today wish to pay tribute to their past as we carry on the tradition of equestrian events and acknowledge the great heritage the horse and rider created in our early days as a nation.
CLEEF owns 167 acres; our original lease of 83 acres plus an additional 84 acres having been transferred, through escrow, to CLEEF last year. Our property is owned and managed by CLEEF as a community asset and non-profit. With no paid Board Members or staff, we rely totally on volunteers for property maintenance, and donors for improvements.
Please see “About Us” for more history and our plans for the future.
For more progression and updates please visit our Facebook page.One of the first trails rides at the Camp Lockett Event & Equestrian Facility.