Fort Ruby

Officer's Row at Fort Ruby

 At the southern end of the Refuge are the remains of Fort Ruby, operating from 1862 to 1869 to protect the Overland Stage and Mail Company stations and route. The Overland Stage was the main road crossing Nevada in the 1850s and 1860s with stage stations built about every 20 miles for changing horses. This route was also used briefly by Pony Express riders.  A station was established on the southeast side of Ruby Valley and Fort Ruby was built about 2 miles west of the station. 

Sept. 4, 1862

Fort Ruby was officially established by Colonel Patrick E. Connor of the 3rd California Infantry, a volunteer unit that had marched from the Presidio in San Francisco.

First few months

Men were busy cutting timber and quickly erecting shelter from winter weather.

Summer 1863

The men were distributed at stage stations and were involved in several skirmishes that resulted in seven men killed during June and July.  A cavalry unit was added to patrol the stage route.

October 1863

The Ruby Valley Treaty was prepared and signed at Fort Ruby.

June 26, 1866

The treaty was ratified, but the terms of the treaty were never fulfilled.


Captain George Thurston took command of the Fort with troops from Company B, 1st Infantry Nevada Territory Volunteers.  Several of the Nevada officers brought their families to Fort Ruby.

Sept. 20, 1869

Fort Ruby was officially closed and remaining men transferred to Camp Halleck.  The transcontinental railroad had been completed and the Overland stage route was abandoned as all travel shifted north to the Humboldt River corridor, today’s   I-80 route.


After the fort was abandoned, the buildings were auctioned off to local ranchers who hauled them away for use elsewhere. 


Joseph Tognini began ranching in the southern end of the Ruby Valley and used the old fort as his headquarters.


President Flanklin D. Roosevelt established Ruby Lake (north of the fort) as a “refuge and breeding ground for migratory birds and other wildlife.”


The Tognini family provided an easement to allow the Biological Survey (forerunner of the Fish and Wildlife Service) to flood part of their property for “migratory bird and wildlife conservation purposes.”


The ranch was developed to include a trailer park and bass fishing resort.


Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge acquired the ranch and began rehabilitation and clean-up efforts.  Turn to the next page to learn about the Fort Ruby Recommissioning Project.

 Fort Ruby area 1996

Fort Ruby Recommissioning Work Begins

 Hospital at Fort RubyThe U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began an archaeological investigation in 2004 to identify where the Fort Ruby buildings had been located and to ensure their protection during Refuge activities. The officers’ houses, a hospital, quartermaster building, and barracks for enlisted men are noted on a map and in photographs taken in 1868. There is also evidence of a brig, blacksmith shop, spring house, and stable or tack room, and possibly a sutler store. 


Mens barracks at Fort RubyThe buildings were constructed with logs and are loosely arranged around an open parade ground with no stockade around the fort.  Several types of construction methods were used: vertical logs set in the ground; horizontal hewn log; and sawn boards. Only the Commanding Officer’s house had a porch and front wall finished with board and batten to cover the logs.


 Passport in Time project 2007In 2005, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service partnered with the Forest Service, Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest to sponsor a Passport in Time volunteer excavation project. The project was successful and each year between 2005 and 2011 a one week volunteer project has worked to uncover foundations and artifacts related to Fort Ruby. 



Artifacts found at Fort Ruby siteWhile much of the Fort has been disturbed by the ranching and resort development, a small portion, including the Officers’ housing had intact foundations. Flat stones from the fire hearths, logs, nails, and window glass were discovered, along with fragments of household items such as ceramic plates and cups, glass bottles, and buttons. A porcelain doll’s head was a rare find and indicates that children were at the Fort. Only a few military buttons and ammunition have been found.



Springhouse masonry work A grant from the Southern Nevada Lands Management Act is providing funding for 1) the stabilization and restoration of the stone springhouse and a log cabin, 2) the construction of an interpretive trail, and 3) analysis and research of the recovered artifacts.  Restoration of the buildings and interpretive trail are scheduled to be completed in 2013.  Research and summary of the archaeological work will be completed in 2014.