While Lt. Col. Green was on his second expedition into the White Mountains the wheels were beginning to turn in Washington, D.C.
In January 1870, General E.O.C. ORD the Department of California Commander, sent his positive recommendation for the creation of a reservation to the Adjutant General in Washington. A formal description of the boundaries for a new reservation was drawn up and by the end of March it was approved by Ely Parker, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs and by Secretary of War, William Belknap. It was intended to provide protection for the White Mountain people until the Secretary of the Interior could provide them with an agency and an agent.
On Jan 20, 1870 Major Clendenin, 8th Cavalry, 2nd Lt. Upham 1st Cavalry with a company of Cavalry and a detachment of infantry left Camp Goodwin to determine a suitable route for a wagon road to the new post to be established on the White Mountain River. On Feb. 6 Brevet Major H.E. Smith left Camp Goodwin with Co. ‘B’ of the 21st infantry to begin construction of a road of approximately 65 miles to the new post. The road ran about 10 miles downstream on the left side of the Gila River, then crossed over to the right side for another two miles before before turning north and climbing out of the valley across the western end of the Gila Mountains.
From there it crossed a broad plain with good water and grass to the foot of the Natanes Mountains. To reach the summit of the Natanes Mountains the road followed a narrow rocky canyon for about five miles. From the crest of the mountain it descended across rolling country another 13 miles to the Black River. The road dropped down a steep bank of the river and crossed on a loose rocky bottom. After climbing out the northern side the way was fairly easy across what is now known as Bonito Prairie before descending Seven Mile Canyon to the site of the new post. By the end of February, 30 miles of the road had been completed.
On March 6, 1870 Lt. Colonel Green was ordered to take command of Camp Goodwin with instructions to push forward the road construction rapidly as possible and to requisition materials and supplies necessary to established a four company post at the place he selected. The troops and supplies at Camp Goodwin were to be moved to the new post as rapidly as the means provided would permit. Four six-mule teams and wagons were sent from Tucson for his use.
On April 17 Brevet Lt. Colonel James C. Hunt with Company ‘M’ 1st Cavalry was ordered to establish a camp on the grassy plains about half way to the White Mountain River. As soon as the camp was established his men would work on the road at places he thought necessary.
On May 12 Brevet Major Smith and Company ‘B’ 21st infantry were ordered off road construction duty and sent to the site of the new post to began its construction. They would then send the wagons back to move Capt. JC Hunt and his troop ‘M’ 1st Cavalry forward to report for duty at the new post to be known as Camp ORD. They set up their tents about a half-mile east of the construction site.
On May 27 Captain Hawley with 55 enlisted men of the 3rd Cavalry and Dr. Milan Soulé left Camp Verde to locate a wagon road that could connect Camp Verde along the top of the Mogollon Rim to reach Camp ORD from the north. On June 27 they returned to Camp Verde having found a practical route to connect the two posts.
On June 8 Lt. Colonel Green left Camp Goodwin with a small escort from Troop ‘L’ 1st Cavalry to assume command of Camp ORD. With him was Dr. John C. Handy who would serve as the first Post Surgeon of the new camp. The rest of Troop’L’ would follow and become one of the Cavalry units station at the new post.
On July 1, 1870,Green and Handy supervised the First census of Indians in the area. There were 320 men, 452 women, and 271 children, a total of 1,043 people each of whom was issued a ration of beef. Earlier in the year a late frost had destroyed the crops and many of the local Apaches were hungry. They were afraid to go south to the Pinal Mountains and harvest mescal, one of their main wild foods, for fear of being attacked.
Major Smith had begun issuing rations on June 1 before Lt. Col. Green arrived to take command on the 15th. In exchange for the food the Apache brought in hay and firewood for the post. The hay was cut with knives and carried in on their backs. By the time fall came they had provided enough hay and firewood to last the post for the entire winter.
The officers and men continued to live in their tents while they started constructing buildings from rough pine logs. The first buildings erected were the quartermaster’s quarters and the post trader’s (Aaron Huey) store. They were both stockade-type building made of logs set upright in the ground. The post trader’s store also held a brewery which was producing lager beer before the rest of the building was finished.
On Aug. 1, 1870 the name of the post was changed to Camp Mogollon, named for the Mogollon Rim to the north and the Mogollon Mountains to the east. On Sept. 12, 1870 the name was changed again to Camp Thomas. It was named for Major General George W. Thomas who had passed away earlier in the year.