Sunday, April 26, 2020

Adamsville, Arizona and the Gila River Memorial Airport

The FJ Cruiser (now named Calamity Jane) at the Gila River Memorial Airpark
So before I begin this blog - I want to post loud and clear - we were inadvertently trespassing at the Gila River Memorial Airport.  We did not know we were on the reservation - we did not see the sign on the way in (but saw it on the way out after it was pointed out to us - by the Tribal Police).  However, THE GILA RIVER MEMORIAL AIRPORT IS ON THE GRIC ("GILA RIVER INDIAN COMMUNITY") RESERVATION AND THIS IS TRESPASSING.  It is a criminal activity, and you can be arrested and your vehicle impounded by Tribal Police.  DO NOT GO HERE WITHOUT APPROPRIATE PERMITS AND/OR PERMISSION.  The fines range from $150.00 to $4,000.00 and that does NOT include the price to get your vehicle out of impound.  Be careful, be smart.  

Old Watertower at Adamsville

So Saturday morning was an exciting morning for me and my FJ.  First, I need to mention that my baby has a name now - we're calling her Calamity Jane.  I LOVE this name for her.  Well - Calamity Jane got new underwear!  Haha!!  My BudBuilt skid plates came in and Paul and I installed them on Saturday morning (okay, well, mostly it was Paul, but I DID tighten down one bolt on the front plate so I could say I helped - and I fetched tools and ice water!!).  So now I'm feeling like Calamity Jane and I are growing up!!  

Remnants of one of two adobe buildings
in Adamsville - look at the lush farmland behind it!
It was the first day of 2020 to reach 100 degrees.  We were dying, so we spent a bit of time at my brothers cooling down, then we decided to go take a trek down to Adamsville, AZ by Coolidge and Florence.  

Adamsville A.O.U.W. Cemetery Sign
Adamsville was one of the first two towns formed in Pinal County, Arizona.    There is evidence that shows that Adamsville was established along the Gila River as early as 1866.  It was officially established in 1871.  But in 1866, Charles Adams, for whom the town is named, dug some ditches from the Gila River and started watering a quarter section of land that became quite prosperous for farming, and the village/town of Adamsville was born!  In the early part of 1871 they got a post office.  The first flour mill in the "valley" was here in Adamsville.  But it burned down.  Then, in 1900, the Gila River flooded and swept most of Adamsville away...and numerous floods then continued to wreak havoc on the adobe town of Adamsville.  The roadside marker for Adamsville states "In the 1870's, a flour mill and a few stores formed the hub of life in Adamsville, where shootings and knifings were commonplace, and life was one of the cheapest commodities."  

While there wasn't a great deal left of Adamville the town, the Adamsville A.O.U.W. Cemetery was a true delight to walk through, and is clearly being lovingly maintained and restored.  

Adamsville Cemetery
As is normal in pioneer cemeteries, Paul and I found lots of children's graves.  Someone has placed teddy bears and toys at many of them, and out of respect, Paul would turn them right side up and put them with the headstones again.  It's always sad to see so many children buried in one place.  

There are a number of "famous" pioneers buried here in Adamsville - Captain Granville H. Oury - a District Court Judge of New Mexico, Territorial Legislator, Pioneer, Confederate Soldier and hero (with a lovely Confederate memorial); Judge Hiram Bell Summers - first Judge appointed in Pinal County - and was rumored to have sentenced the first man to hang in Pinal County - and when the sentencing came through, the man tried to shoot the Judge!  

Butte View Cemetery

There are some 69 known burials in this cemetery - however it is clear there are many, many more.  The headstones are few and far between.  But it's a lovely little spot with trees lining the North side of the cemetery and thick covering of what looked to me like crested wheatgrass, but who knows.  What I do know is it took my brother's air compressor and tape to get it all off my hiking boots.  

Paul and I wandered slowly around the cemetery - reading all the headstones, thinking about the different people buried their and their lives back then.  We then hopped back Calamity Jane and went over to the other cemetery - the Butte View Cemetery.  

Interesting Grave - Butte View Cemetery
Now - I had read somewhere that the Butte View Cemetery had some "witches" graves.  I knew right where they were, and as we walked through the lovely trails that have been carefully created by a restoration group, we headed to the "witches" graves.  Three concrete covered graves surrounded by a white metal fence and white crosses at the top of each concrete cover.  Well - two of them have been identified.  They are Benjamin Morrell and Franklin Morrell II.  I think local lore has gotten into the heads of some people on the internet.  I know that the markings/identifications are recent as the Butte View Cemetery is currently being researched.  

We did find a weird grave tho - with no identification.  I've never seen a grave that is stacked up with bricks like the grave on the left.  The only signage is one asking people not to desecrate the grave (seriously - people - we shouldn't need these kinds of signs - leave the bricks alone - geez).  

Also odd in this cemetery - little white plastic balls nailed into things on the path way.  Paul finally figured out that they are nailed to stumps or other things that one might trip over.  Of course, I tripped over a little branch or something firmly embedded in the trail.  Figures.  There was no ball on it.  

1942 Douglas DC-4 and the 2007 Calamity Jane
At this point, Paul and I figured we were done for the day, so we walked back to Calamity Jane and on the walk back, we discussed if we had time to go to the Memorial Airport.  We decided to do it as it was on our way home and we really wanted to see these planes.  

So after a very long drive into the West side of Chandler, we got to the Airport.  Now, I'd like to mention again that we did NOT see the No Trespassing/Indian Reservation sign on the way in - it IS posted - but we were looking at the GPS and we were looking to the South at the planes that were just starting to appear.  The No Trespassing sign is on the North side of the road.  Ignorance is no excuse for breaking the law - I, of all people, know that.  But it is my excuse for why we were there.  

A 1942 Douglas DC-4
Paul and I went past the old hangar and started out at the grouping of four 1942 Douglas DC-4 (known as C-54 Skymasters in WWII) that have been retrofitted as crop sprayers.  They were beautiful, although I've seen pictures of them years ago when they were pristine - they were SO much prettier when they were shiny and clean.  But unfortunately, when the GRIC took over the airport land, the airplanes sat abandoned.   A few of them still have their engines, but not one has its props.  They are picked clean of everything, and from what we were told, up until a few years ago, this wasn't the case.  
1945 Lockheed PV-2D Harpoon

After taking some photos with the DC-4's, we then went over to the 1945 Lockheed PV-2D Harpoon (also known as a Lockheed Ventura - a twin engine patrol bomber of WWII - the PV-2 was a redesign used for anti-submarine work).  Now I particularly liked this plane - it sat all by itself, and while it was decorated like all the rest with a ton of graffiti, it has absolutely beautiful lines.  But someone has (recently) been shooting at the engine and it appears they busted through the crankcase (thanks to Paul for that information - I literally have no idea what I'm typing - I'm just regurgitating what he told me - LOL).  
Burned remains of the DC-7

After leaving the Lockheed - we went over to the hangar.  We parked outside of the fence, and there were no "No Trespassing" signs, so we went in the open gate to look for the 1957 Douglas DC-7 that I had seen pictures of.  Unfortunately, it was clearly in a massive fire.  It was just a mass of twisted metal, cables and one wing still holding on. I was really sad to see it so destroyed as this was the big plane - the one that still had an interior, and was so much larger than all the others.  Now its barely recognizable - ash and dust over everything.  

In the back of the fenced Hangar area is what appears to be another Lockheed PV-2D Harpoon/Ventura (also burned up inside) and a Howard 500.  

The Howard 500 is the only plane that still has its props - which made for a wonderful picture taking opportunity!  

Paul at the Howard 500
I'm going to take a minute here again to say this is Gila River Indian Community Reservation land.  You cannot be here without permission or permits.  We should not have been here.  

We did have an exchange with a Tribal Police officer, who was very kind and gave us a warning, but said that they have been having a lot of problems with people vandalizing the airplanes, and in fact, the DC-7 had gone up in flames 2 weeks earlier.  He spoke with us about how beautiful the planes were not so many years ago, and I've since read that the Tribe cites tons and tons of people every weekend going out there.  We were lucky this time - and now we will pay more attention.  Who would have thought an Airport in the middle of West Chandler would be on the Reservation?

The Howard 500
So a little history on the airport itself - In 1942, the airport was built as Williams Auxiliary Army Airfield #5.  After the war, it was renamed the Goodyear Air Force Auxiliary Airfield.  In the 1960's, the airport passed on to civilian control as Goodyear Airport, and then as the Memorial Airfield.  There were no hangars there until 1970.  By 1990, the airport was a boneyard - but oh what a boneyard!  If you look at the Google Earth time images - you will see all the planes and Sikorsky helicopters that were being stored there. In 2007, the GRIC regained control of the property, and all tenants were evicted, planes were moved, sold or scrapped, and this is what remains.  

If you are interested in this kind of thing, click HERE for more detailed information and TONS of historical photos of the airport and the planes that were there.  

As Paul and I left the Airport, we felt we had been given an opportunity to glimpse something that most don't know about - and it's practically in our back yard.  I got some great pictures, and all in all felt we had had a great day.

BUT - that's not all!  On Sunday morning I got up and sent a copy of this photo to my mother.  

My 2007 FJ Cruiser - 2020
My mother sent me back this photo:

Mom's 1951 MG-TD Roadster - 1996
I couldn't believe it!  There was my truck in front of what appears to be the exact same plane from 1996 (before the airport was controlled by the GRIC).  Look at that beautiful airplane - and look at the destruction done by human hands.  

I liked how Paul put it - "I kind of feel sorry for the plane and its former glory and how its now a vandalized shell of itself with its life blood spilled out all over the ground."  I don't think it can be said better than that...

Calamity Jane through a mass of twisted wings and tail pieces...

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