Fort Churchill was built in 1860 along the Carson River on part of the Buckland Ranch after early settlers demanded protection against Indian attacks. Two hundred acres served the fort and grounds with a view of the valley in both directions. This U.S. Army outpost served as the largest calvary battalion in the West, and was the main supply depot for all expeditions against the Indians.
For several months after October 1860, Fort Churchill was the eastern terminus of telegraphic communication for California. Important dispatches sent from the east by Pony Express were removed from the rider's pouch and telegraphed to Califonia to speed their delivery, although dispatches were frequently delayed because of downed wires.
Sir Richard Burton gave the following description of the fort on October 19, 1860:
"Fort Churchill has been built during the last few months. It lodged about two companies of infantry and required at least 2,000 men. Captain F.F. Flint (6th Regt.) was then commanding, and Lieut.-Col. Thomas Swords, a deputy quartermaster-general, was on a tour of inspection. We went straight to the quartermaster's office and there found Lieut. Moore, who introduced us to all present, and supplied us with the latest newspapers and news. The camp was Teetotalist, and avoided cards like good Moslems. We were not however expected to drink water except in the form of strong waters, and the desert had disinclined us to abstain from whiskey. Finally, Mr. Byrne, the sutler, put into our ambulance a substantial lunch, with a bottle of cocktail and other of cognac, especially intended to keep the cold out."