Fort Grant was established as a United States Cavalry Post in 1872. (Yes, it was named after the Union General and 18th President Ulysses S. Grant.) Positioned at the base of Mount Graham in Graham County and next to a stream of spring water, it became a supply and operations base for the military during the Indian Wars in Arizona, in particular the pursuit and eventual surrender of Geronimo in 1886.
In 1888 it housed the Buffalo Soldiers of the 10th Cavalry, who were assigned to civil duties and chasing bank robbers. In 1900 it was used as a staging point for soldiers on their way to the Philippines to fight in the Spanish-American War. In 1905 Fort Grant was left to a caretaker and the soldiers were transferred to Fort Huachuca in Sierra Vista.
Upon Statehood in 1912, the federal government deeded the site and approximately 4000 surrounding acres to the new State of Arizona to be used as the State Industrial School for Wayward Boys and Girls. Arizona transferred the Industrial School at Benson to Fort Grant to form the Arizona State Industrial School for delinquent boys.
Soon after, girls were housed there too. Children as young as 8 were committed to the Industrial School, often because of neglect or abandonment.
In 1941, the Legislature adopted the State Juvenile Code, (Laws 1941, Chapter 80), which made important changes to the laws affecting children. It provided that a child could be committed to the Industrial School only by court order. Children younger than 12 could not be sent to the Industrial School, unless the court made findings that it was in the interest of the child and the welfare of the community. In addition, the Board of Directors of state institutions for juveniles had the discretion to release a child. Adjudication of a juvenile was not a criminal conviction unless the court ordered criminal prosecution, and the juvenile records were destroyed if the juvenile was not convicted of another offense. By 1944, vocational training was part of the rehabilitation program at the Industrial School. Recreation, sports, and a school band program were added later.
A Progress Report was published in 1964 describing the rehabilitation efforts of boys committed to the Industrial School and statistics. By this time, girls were housed separately, at the Good Shepherd School for Girls in Phoenix.
The Fort Grant Industrial School became part of the state Department of Corrections in 1968, (Laws 1968, Chapter 198) but continued to operate as a school for juveniles.
One of the most notorious incidents out of the Fort Grant Industrial School started on August 19, 1971, when two 17-year-olds from the Industrial School escaped and, along with one of their brothers, went on a crime spree. The three were armed. They beat and abandoned an Arizona Highway Department employee to steal his car, robbed a service station and beat the attendant, shot a Sheriff’s deputy in the face, and beat a woman and killed a neighbor who rushed to help her.
To learn more about Fort Grant and the State Industrial School, you can read the History of Fort Grant, 1872-1990 or The History of Fort Grant 1872-1972, which was published to celebrate the Centennial of the establishment of Fort Grant.