The site that was known as Fort Mason or Mason's Fort was
first known as The Water Holes in the 1860's, when it was developed by
Virgil Mastin. Mastin was killed in an Apache raid at Pinos Altos, New Mexico,
southwest United States, in 1868. Captain John D. Slocum, a Civil War California
Volunteer, bought the structures in 1870 when the Mastin estate was put out for
bid. He paid $258 over nine months for it. The Butterfield Trail (by then
out of operation) had passed the site--located 7 miles from the Butterfield
Station of Rough and Ready, and about 7 miles from Goodsight Station,
some miles east of Cook's Spring.
Slocum hauled in building materials and built a stronghold where eighteen rooms
faced the inner courts. Two large corrals gave security to animals and wagons.
High adobe walls, loop-holed east and west, made Slocum's impregnable to Indian
attack. The Captain and his family lived within the walls. Separate quarters
housed servants, cowboys and travelers over the trail. Hay and grain and a
commissary furnished supplies to wagon trains moving east or west.
In 1876, a drought set in. Slocum drilled a well, which turned out to be
brackish. Later, he leased the site to Richard Mason, also a California
Volunteer, and a comrade in arms. Mason advertised in the Las Cruces newspaper
(about 25 miles away) that he could accommodate travelers and supply water,
stating that it was the only water between Las Cruces and Fort Cummings. He
wrote that the facility was operating as a Stage Station.
"Here in good seasons 300 to 400 animals could be watered and
packtrains and freighting outfits with jaded oxen and mules camped. Travelers
pursued by Apaches have tore into safety as the big gates swung inward, and
rifles popped from loopholes. A family that failed to reach the gates was shot
by Chief Victoia (sic) in 1879, the baby picketed on a bayonet cactus. They were
buried at the southeast corner of the compound."
Mason also had problems with dry seasons, and kept mule teams hauling water
from the Rio Grande. Sometimes a military guard escorted the water
wagons...Private Thomas W. Fetridge was shot while on duty at the Water Holes.
He was buried in the old Mesilla cemetery, now lost under shifting sands.
Mason won the contract to run a ferry at Fort Selden in May, 1877. But the
railroad came in 1881 and overland traffic was gradually discontinued and Mason
abandoned the site and moved to Mesilla. He died in 1891 and is buried in the
Catholic cemetery in Mesilla under a government headstone. It was during Mason's
tenure that "Slocum's Ranch" became Mason's Tanks or Mason's
The military, and anybody else needing water as they passed by, stopped at
Mason's Fort. But it was never an official U. S. Army military fort.
A present day resident of Fort Mason exhibiting his opinion of our presence.
Atop Magelena Peak. Breathtaking.
The Organ Mountains from Magdalena Peak.
These look like Wood Tin, but they're actually Hemetite.
Part of a fossil shell.
Don't know what it is, but it sparkles in the sun.
An old bottle, probably dating to the 1800's, china, including part of a tea
cup handle, flat nail, and purple glass.