Val Verde County Historical Commission

Val Verde County Historical Commission

Camp Michie:
A World War One Era Training Camp in Del Rio

Doug Braudaway
Southwest Texas Junior College
207 Wildcat, Del Rio, Texas 78840

Del Rio, Texas was once home to a World War I era U.S. Army post named Camp Michie. Formally, the post was listed as "Del Rio, Tex., Camp U.S. Troops: Semi-permanent camp, located on outskirts of Del Rio, Valverde [sic] County. Established incidental to border patrol activities during Mexican Revolution, 1911-1920. Cantonment for one regiment of cavalry constructed, 1918; salvaged 1919. Headquarters, Del Rio District, Mexican Border Patrol."1 War Department records show that a camp at Del Rio, Texas, was constructed to accommodate a regiment of cavalry during 1917-1918.

The camp was named Camp Robert E.L. Michie, or Camp Michie, in honor of Brigadier General Robert E.L. Michie who died in France on June 4, 1918, by Section I, Paragraph 1, of General Orders No. 38, War Department, Washington, dated June 24, 1920. General Michie served as Adjutant of the Twelfth Cavalry during 1901-1903, at Fort Clark, Texas.2 The post was established as a result of the "frequent raids upon border towns from Mexican revolutionists." The first unit at the camp was the U.S. Fourteenth Cavalry. The troops had the duty of protecting the border and railroad bridges up to Langtry, including the key bridge at the Pecos.3

The second decade of this century saw the Revolution in Mexico and the Great War in Europe. With the general military buildup to prepare soldiers for overseas deployment and the concern about border security prompted the army to station several military units in Val Verde.

The camp appears to have been organized quickly, without a proper planning of logistics. One camp commander, a Major Treadwell, and his wife lived in Del Rio because there were no quarters for them on the post. Other soldiers were housed in tents due to a shortage of wooden buildings; nevertheless, there were enough soldiers to have a marching band. The hospital was one of the few permanent structures because of its importance; the hospital was located in the vicinity of the intersection of Gibbs Street and Bedell Avenue, very near where U.S. Highway 90 crosses San Felipe Creek.

A Troop at Camp Michie

A Troop at Camp Michie

As many as four regiments trained at Camp Michie. Two of the cavalry regiments, the 307th and 3l3th, were organized here. Later units stationed at Camp Michie were the Twelfth Cavalry and the Third Infantry.4 One of the most important jobs of the military was the guarding of the Pecos High Bridge. Because the railroad linked ports on the Pacific Ocean with those on the Gulf of Mexico, the tracks became a vital link in moving men and munitions around the country--the bridge had to be protected. During the war soldiers were stationed on the Pecos River to prevent sabotage of the High Bridge. (They were assisted by Texas Rangers.) The patrols actually began patrolling around the High Bridge several years before, in 1914 "when trouble along the Mexican border resulted in a battalion of coast artillerymen being moved in to protect the structure."5 Some of the men stationed at Camp Michie were later deployed to El Paso and assigned to General Blackjack Pershing's command and sent into Mexico after Pancho Villa. During and after the World War, men from Camp Michie patrolled the Big Bend as well as the border in the Del Rio area.6

A Troop at Camp Michie

A Troop at Camp Michie

The Pecos High Bridge was also protected during Second World War. The troops were headquartered out of Houston rather than locally, however. As many as seventy-five or a hundred armymen lived in barracks in a small camp near the bridge, and machine gun nests were placed at each end as well as under the bridge. "Around the bridge at strategic points were heavy gun emplacements, mostly anti-aircraft. Ranchers in the vicinity were often treated to a taste of war when the men engaged in firing practice. Not one shot, however, was fired at an actual enemy."7

The U.S. Fifth Cavalry occupied the post in 1921 early in 1922. This unit appears to have been the last military occupation of Camp Michie at Del Rio.8 "On March 28, 1923, the Secretary of War by indorsement [sic] to the Quartermaster General declared Camp Robert E.L. Michie, Del Rio, Texas, surplus and directed the Quartermaster General to take "proper steps looking to the disposal of the buildings, utilities, and lands, law and regulations governing."9

The post was built to the east of the Del Rio townsite. It overlooked San Felipe Springs and the upper part of the creek on both sides of the creek. The camp sat on four-hundred acres of land that had been donated to the American government. When in operation, it was contiguous with today’s San Felipe Golf Course. Camp sites also included the stables at the location of the area one block south of the Val Verde Regional Hospital on Bedell Ave; officers’ country—housing and a swimming pool—sat on the site of the current Rotary Club public housing at 405 Bedell Ave.; recreational areas near the barbecue pits at the south end of Moore Park; and the quartermaster corps warehouses, offices, and bakery near the at Moore Park and the nearby parking area, on a wedge of land between the creek, U.S. Highway 277, and the Southern Pacific Railroad line (a short distance north of those barbeque pits).10

Today, landmarks are difficult to find. Most exist only in memory. Apparently, those "proper steps" of disposal cleared the site rather effectively. Despite the lack of present-day physical presence, Camp Michie is remembered; and the Val Verde County Historical Commission and the City of Del Rio are ready to place a historical marker for the post.

 

Bibliography—
"Del Rio's Bygone Days," Del Rio News-Herald, various articles from a series on local history.
National Park Service, Amistad National Recreation Area, Cultural Resources Survey, 1994.
Judge J. J. Foster, “Del Rio’s Army Post” in “The City of Roses,” Texas Sheep and Goat Raisers’ Magazine, February 1922.
Dean Hildreth, personal interview, December 12, 2005.
Leslie Schmidt, personal interview, April 15, 1998.
"Pecos High Bridge," (untitled newspaper from Wilmington, Ohio), no date, no page.
Axcie C. Seale, “The Writings and Collected Papers of Mrs. Axcie C. Seale, Texas State Historical Survey Committee Member,” [1979].
Rosella R. Sellers, "The History of Fort Duncan, Eagle Pass, Texas," Sul Ross State University Masters Thesis, August 1960.
Bonney Vineyard, a long-time (from the 1930s) Southern Pacific Railroad conductor, personal interview, September 17, 1996.
Whitehead Memorial Museum and Val Verde County Historical Commission, La Hacienda, 1976.

 

Attachments—Copies of family photos from Dean and Mildred Hildreth with captions on pages following the photos.
Mildred Hildreth’s father, William L. Hershberger at Camp Del Rio/R.E.L. Michie and the cover of a Thanksgiving dinner invitation 1920, with third page showing the menu.
Four photos showing the bakery, mess hall, a cannon, and a horse at the stables.
Four photos of border camp activities: climbing La Loma de la Cruz, standing in front of Del Rio’s 1912 Old Federal Building, guarding the border, recreational boxing back at camp.
Four photos of troops on patrol: truck to Terlingua, the town of Terlingua, an abode house, the men at Santa Elena Canyon in Big Bend.

 

A Troop at Camp Michie
The caption (which is more visible in the original photograph) reads:
“A Troop 5th Cavalry, Del Rio, Texas, March 1922, #2.”

 

Endnotes-
1 Seale, Writings, page 115. This page is a letter from the National Archives and Records Service.
2 Seale, Writings, page 116. This page is another letter from the National Archives and Records Service outlining facts about the camp. There is, however, the suggestion that the camp was established "about 1914 or 1916." Seale, Writings, page 189. This is a letter written by Seale to the Dallas Morning News responding to a query sent to her. If the post were built at that time, it probably would not have had the name Camp Michie yet, which may explain why some refer to this twentieth-century Camp Michie as Camp Del Rio.
3 Del Rio’s Army Post, page 29. The Great War also brought the military to neighboring Maverick County. Camp Eagle Pass was reopened and garrisoned as Fort Duncan during the World War I years. Rosella R. Sellers, "The History of Fort Duncan, Eagle Pass, Texas," Sul Ross Masters Thesis, August 1960, page 29.
4 Del Rio’s Army Post, page 30; Leslie Schmidt; Dean Hildreth. Leslie Schmidt's father came to Del Rio as part of a cavalry regiment; Dean Hildreth’s father-in-law came to Del Rio as part of the quartermaster corps.
5 National Park Service, Amistad National Recreation Area, page 14-17; "Del Rio's Bygone Days," Del Rio News-Herald, May 13, 1976, no page number; "Del Rio's Bygone Days," Del Rio News-Herald, October 20,1975, no page number; "Del Rio's Bygone Days," Del Rio News-Herald, May 25, 1978, no page number; "Bygone Days," Del Rio News-Herald, March 31, 1983, page 13; Del Rio’s Army Post, page 30; "Bygone Days," Del Rio News- Herald, September, 26, 1982, no page number; "Pecos High Bridge," (untitled newspaper from Wilmington, Ohio), no date, no page.
6 Leslie Schmidt (tape 2); Dean Hildeth.
7 Pecos High Bridge; Bonney Vineyard
8 La Hacienda (page 420) says June 30,1921; Del Rio’s Army Post (page 16) says 1922
9 Seale, Writings, page 116.
10 Dean Hildreth; Del Rio’s Army Post, page 30; Seale, Writings, page 190.