Pima County, Arizona History

This county is bounded on the north by the Gila river; on the east by New Mexico; on the south by Sonora, and on the west by Yuma county. It is the oldest inhabited county in the Territory, and contains the most population. The western end of the county, to a line drawn north and south from the Gila river to the Sonora line, and passing a few miles west of Tucson, is uninhabited after leaving the Gila river, except by the Papago Indians, whose habitation will hereafter be described. This belt of country is composed of plains, covered with grass part of the year, and considerable portions of it with mesquite wood, and broken or detached chains of mountains. Wherever water can be found, grazing is excellent, and experience in sinking wells demonstrates that by this means water may be procured almost anywhere in Arizona-but without thus increasing the supply of water, much of this section must remain valueless. The south bank of the valley of the Gila extends the whole length of the county, and, as before described, has superior agricultural advantages. At Gila Bend, one hundred and fifty miles from the mouth of the river, the valley for a distance of twenty-five miles is from five to ten miles in width, and the soil is of the richest character. A company are now engaged constructing a very large ditch for irrigating purposes, and offer shares for sale at the cost of construction. Those who are not able to pay cash are furnished provisions and allowed to work for interests. There are many thousand acres of unoccupied land already surveyed, and subject to pre-eruption and entry at $1.25 per acre. There is a large volume of water remaining in the river, more than can be used through the ditch under construction. This section, in addition to being well adapted to raising vegetables and all the cereals, is undoubtedly, by soil and climate, favorable to growing oranges, lemons, figs and grapes.

Passing up the Gila forty miles, the Maricopa and Pima Reservation is reached. This reservation is 25 miles long and in width takes in the river valley, and will be referred to in the description of the Indian tribes of Arizona. Above this reservation, the river valley is extensively farmed for twenty miles, and is among the best producing lands in Arizona. The products and yield are about the same as described in the Salt River Valley. The county south of the Gila and east of that heretofore mentioned, is watered by the San Pedro and Santa Cruz rivers and several smaller streams, and is composed of plains, valleys and broken chains of mountains. Nearly every portion of it is covered with nutritious grasses; live oak and mesquite grows in abundance for fuel, on the plains and in the valleys, and many of the mountains are covered with excellent forests of timber. No better grazing country can be found, and it is nearly all yet unoccupied. The valleys possess excellent agricultural advantages; with irrigation two crops are annually produced on the same land. Many of these valleys were settled by the Catholic fathers over one hundred years ago, and a history of the changes that have since ensued would fill a large volume. It is sufficient to say that over a century ago, these fathers attracted by the salubrity of the climate and the fertility of the soil, established several missions, improved farms, introduced herds, and built churches, one of which is still well preserved (the San Xavier, nine miles south of Tucson), and for style of architecture and solidity of construction, is admired by all who see it. These fathers commenced the good work of teaching and Christianizing the Indians, and succeeded admirably with all the tribes save the Apaches, who, as Baron Humboldt writes in 1803, in his “Kingdom of New Spain,” that ” neither the soldiers stationed in the presidios, nor the monks posted in the neighboring missions, have been hitherto able to make the conquest over them.” Their treachery and ferocity could not be controlled by examples of Christian purity and love, nor had the forces of Spain the power to conquer them; and the deserted fields and broken walls of these missions can be seen to-day as undoubted witnesses of

these facts. Since the occupation of the country ‘by the Americans, a constant struggle has been going on ‘to hold possession of the rich valleys of the San Pedro and Upper Santa Cruz, but the slaughter has been so great each year, since 1863, that almost anew population has been introduced to fill the places of the dead. The soil is so rich and productive, and the desire of the people has been so great to live and make homes in these valleys, that with true American courage they filled the broken ranks and still continue the contest.

The present year, the Indians have swept over these valleys with unusual ferocity; many have been slain and their property destroyed or stolen, and unless a vigorous war policy is soon adopted that will prevent these savages from sallying forth from reservations, where they are well fed, to murder and rob at will, and then returning to be again fed and protected by the Government, these valleys will soon be abandoned and turned over again to the undisputed sway of the Apaches. These remarks may be considered out of place in a pamphlet of this character, but as the object is to give correct information to those who feel an interest or desire to emigrate to this Territory, these facts should be known. While there are many locations, such as along and near the Colorado river, the Salt river and settlements along the Gila, that are comparatively safe from Apache raids, yet the larger part of Arizona is insecure for life and property, on account of the hostility of the Apaches.


Nearly all the mountains contain veins of gold, silver, copper and lead, and long before the country was purchased from Mexico, gold and silver mining was carried on to a considerable extent. After the purchase, the attention of capitalists was attracted here and considerable money was invested with fair prospects of success. About this time the Great Rebellion broke out and the Confederate forces took possession and confiscated or destroyed all property known to belong to Union men; then the Union forces re-took the country and confiscated or destroyed all property known to belong to those in sympathy with the Rebellion, and the Indians and marauding bands took what was left irrespective of creed or parties. This effectually destroyed all mining enterprises, and to this day they have never been revived. The mines, or many of them, are undoubtedly rich and extensive, and the field for the investment of well directed capital is inviting.



Tucson is located in the Santa Cruz Valley, three hundred miles east of Arizona City, on the overland road from San Diego, California, to Santa Fe, New Mexico; is the capital of the Territory, and the county seat of Pima county, and according to the last census, has a population of three thousand two hundred. It has been a town of some importance for a century. The Mexican Government had a military post here before the country was ceded to the United States, and it is now the principal place for the exchange of commodities between Arizona and Sonora. The people of that country bring here wheat, barley, corn, fruits, salt, coarse sugar, tobacco, cigars and other products of their country, and exchange them for goods and money. The valley of the Santa Cruz, above and below the town for several miles, is under cultivation, and produces two excellent crops each year. Tucson contains a number of heavy mercantile houses, a tin shop, blacksmith and wagon shops, two flour mills, hotels and restaurants. – The town is built almost entirely of adobes, and is laid out and has the appearance of a Mexican town. Seven-eighths of the population are Mexican, and the Spanish language is more spoken than the English.

The Catholics have a church (the only one here), that is well attended and supported. The Sisters of St. Joseph have a Seminary for Young Ladies that is attended by about one hundred and sixty pupils; the Fathers also have a school for boys. An effort is being made that will probably soon result in establishing a free public school from Territorial and county funds.


This town is pleasantly located at the head of the farming settlement on the Gila river, about eighty miles north of Tucson. It contains several mercantile houses, blacksmith shops, and has a Catholic Church. Rows of trees have been, planted along the streets, and it is destined to be one of the pleasantest towns in the Territory.

Sanford or Adamsville

This town is located on the Gila river, four miles below Florence; is centrally located in a thriving farming settlement, and contains several mercantile houses and a flour mill, and is a thriving, growing place.


The climate of the valleys and plains is about the same as that of the Colorado river. Elevated portions of the county become cooler in proportion to the altitude. It is generally healthy except in a few locations on and near the southern border, where chills and fevers prevail to some extent during the Summer months.

Source: Resources Of Arizona Territory. Francis & Valentine, Steam Printers And Engravers. 1871.

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