Nestled in the Texas Hill Country, on the banks of the Verde Creek, just a short scenic drive from Kerrville, the Camp Verde store was first established in 1857. The present day, two story stone structure of Southern colonial design was constructed after a flood swept away the original building around 1900. Originally, the general store was established to offer goods and services to the soldiers stationed at Fort Verde, a mile to the west. By the time the US Army deactivated the Fort, the Camp Verde General Store and post office had become an important part of the community, serving the growing number of pioneer ranchers in the area.
In 1854, Secretary of War Jefferson Davis (who later became President of the Confederacy) petitioned Congress to appropriate $30,000 for the Army to experiment with using camels for supply transport and other military purposes. With the support of President Pierce, the bill was subsequently approved by Congress on March 3, 1855. Major Henry Wayne and Lieutenant David Porter were put in command of securing the camels from the Middle East. The first shipment from Egypt (of nine swift dromedaries, twenty burden camels, plus four others of mixed breed) arrived via naval supply ship in April of 1856. Four native drivers (who were given “American” names of Greek George, Long Tom, Mico and Hi-Jolly) accompanied the camels to the New World.
It was late August of 1856 when this group of camels finally arrived at Fort Camp Verde. The second load of 40 animals arrived during the spring of 1857. By the time the Civil War had begun, there were over 50 camels in residence at the Fort. During the winter of 1861, the Fort was captured by the Confederacy. When the Fort was recaptured by the US Government in 1865, there were more than 100 camels. The animals passed every test of their ability – carrying heavier loads and traveling longer distances than the mules and horses used in the area. However, the War Department sorely needed funds for Reconstruction after the Civil War. The Fort was deactivated in 1869 – ending the experiment. While a fire destroyed the buildings of nearby Fort Camp Verde in 1910, the courage and bold spirit of the Great Camel Experiment survives to this day.
Camp Verde evokes a feeling of stepping back in time to a place full of history, yet is welcoming and new. Half way into its second century, this unique store occupies a special setting along the Verde Creek, offering the surrounding community a link to the past and a place for today.
Since 2003, Camp Verde General Store has been gradually undergoing a sort of renaissance, introducing a new spirit to this part of the Texas Hill Country. Everywhere, there are distinct touches that add to the historical setting of this remarkable venue. The spectacular outdoor patios are perfect for a gathering with friends or family. The shade trees surrounding the store have offered shelter for hundreds of years. Great care has been taken to honor the past while continuing to embrace the future of this remarkable place.