Early Settlement and Attempts at Organization of the Territory

The town of Yuma was surveyed in 1854, one year after the sale of the territory embraced in the Gadsden Purchase had been agreed upon between the two governments. In reference to this survey, Colonel C. D. Poston, in an article printed in the Overland Monthly, July, 1894, says:

”As the geography of the country was not well understood at the time, it was not known to the makers of the treaty that the boundary line would include both banks of the Colorado River in the American boundary, but it does. By a curious turn in the Colorado River, after passing through the gorge between Fort Yuma and the opposite bank, the boundary line of the United States includes both banks of the river to’ the crossing at Pilot Knob, nearly nine miles. When the State of California was organized in 1850, the constitution adopted the boundary line of Mexico as the boundary line of the State, and consequently assumed jurisdiction over the slip of land on the bank of the Colorado River opposite Fort Yuma. When Fort Yuma was established, the commanding officer established a military reservation including both banks of the Colorado River at its junction with the Gila.

“The boundary line between Mexico and the United States under the treaty of 1848, was run in 1850, and monuments erected on the southern bank of the Colorado, to indicate the possession of the United States.

“While we were encamped on the banks of the Colorado River, in the hot month of July, 1854, we concluded to locate a town site on the slip of land opposite Fort Yuma, and as we were well provided with treaties, maps, surveying instruments, and stationery, there was not much difficulty in making the location. The actual survey showed 936 acres within the slip, and this was quite large enough for a ‘townsite.’ A townsite is generally the first evidence of American civilization.

“After locating the townsite at Yuma, there was nothing to do but to cross’ the desert from the Colorado River to San Diego. We made the journey on mules, with extraordinary discomfort. At San Diego we were as much rejoiced as the followers of Xenophon to see the sea.

“The townsite was duly registered in San Diego, which could not have been done if both banks of the Colorado River just below its junction with the Gila had not been recognized as being within the jurisdiction of the State of California. The county of San Diego collected taxes from there for many years. After the organization of the Territory of Arizona in 1863, Arizona assumed jurisdiction over the slip, and built a prison there. Congress subsequently made a grant of land included in the slip to the ‘Village of Yuma’ so that it is a mere question of jurisdiction, not involving the validity of any titles. The question of jurisdiction still remains unsettled, as it requires both an Act of Congress and an Act of the State Legislature to change the boundary line of a sovereign state.”

Yuma was the only American occupation within what is now the State of Arizona in 1854. The United States did not take formal military possession of the Gadsden Purchase until 1856, at which time four companies of the First United States Dragoons were stationed at Tucson, and afterwards at Calabazas, some fifteen miles above Tubac on the Sonoita, a stream flowing into the Santa Cruz River from the east. Fort Buchanan was established in 1857. It was selected because it was the center of a fine grazing country, but was found to be unhealthy on account of malarial fevers which prevailed in summer during the rainy season, consequently no permanent buildings were erected. Late in the year 1856 Fort Mohave was established near Beale’s crossing of the Colorado, and was garrisoned by three companies of infantry, and in 1859 Fort Breckenridge was created below the junction of the Aravaipa and the San Pedro, and garrisoned by a part of the troops from Fort Buchanan.

The military at these posts, commanded by able and energetic officers, had many encounters with the Apache Indians, and did much good in protecting the country from the incursions of these savages.

Tucson was the most populous town in Arizona, but was without any civil government, Arizona, at that time, being a portion of Dona Ana County, New Mexico, the county seat of which was several hundred miles distant. Being thus left without courts or judicial or civil officers, the necessity for a separate territorial government was urgent. In 1854, New Mexico memorialized Congress for the organization of the territory of Arizona. There were three names suggested, namely Pimeria, Gadsonia and Arizona. The latter was adopted because it was supposed to be the most euphonious. Nothing was done by Congress in reference to this memorial.

Futile attempts were also made by a few citizens of Arizona to have Congress’ organize a territorial government, the first of which was in 1856, shortly after the United States had taken formal possession of the territory. On August 29th, 1856, a mass meeting or convention was held in Tucson, that being then the most important point in Arizona, there being, at that time, no settlements north of the Gila River, and one Nathan P. Cook was chosen as delegate to Congress, but he was not admitted to a seat. His credentials were presented to the House of Representatives in 1857, referred to the Territorial Committee, which reported them back adversely, and also reported adversely to a territorial government because of the sparse population of Arizona at that time. The Committee, however, called attention to the unfortunate condition of the people, without any recognized government, and recommended that a bill be passed organizing a judicial district south of the Gila River, the appointment of a surveyor-general, and the providing of representation at Santa Fe, New Mexico, as well as for the registration of land claims and mining titles. In February, 1857, such a bill was passed by the United States Senate, but was not reached in the House of Representatives before final adjournment. In his message in 1857, President Buchanan recommended a territorial government for Arizona, and Senator Gwin, in December, 1857, introduced a bill to organize such a government for the Gadsden Purchase, under the name of Arizona.

In February, 1858, the Legislature of New Mexico’ passed resolutions in favor of this measure, but recommended a boundary line north and south on the meridian of 109° west from Greenwich, and the removal of all New Mexican Indians to Northern Arizona. Evidently New Mexico had but little use for the Apaches, and was willing that the entire northern part of Arizona should be set aside as a military reservation upon which these savages could be herded. Petitions went up from different States and communities, favoring the organization of Arizona into a separate territory.

In September, 1857, the people of Arizona had gotten up a new petition, and, in an election held at Tucson, Sylvester Mowry was chosen Delegate to Congress. Mowry was not admitted to a seat in Congress, and the bill of Senator Gwin for territorial organization, failed of its’ passage. Under this bill, the northern line for the Territory of Arizona extended north to 33° 45′, and included all southern New Mexico up to the parallel through to the western line of Texas. In 1860 Mowry got out a map of this Arizona, dividing it into four counties, not, however, attaching to them the names by which they are now designated. On the west, what is now known as Yuma County was called Castle Dome County; Pima County was called Ewell County, and extended east to the western base of the Chiricahua range of mountains, at Apache Pass. Mesilla County extended eastward to the Rio Grande and Dona Ana County eastward to the line of Texas. The remainder of what is now embraced in Arizona north of 33° 45′, was left to New Mexico, and to the savages inhabiting that wilderness.

If this bill had passed it would have been a very expensive affair, the territorial limits extending from Yuma to the border of Texas, a distance, I think, of something like six hundred or seven hundred miles. Evidently neither New Mexico nor Arizona wanted the Apaches. To use a modern vulgarism, the inhabitants of these two sections were willing to “pass the buck.”

In 1858 and 1859 Congress was again memorialized, and Sylvester Mowry was again elected delegate, but no success attended the efforts of Arizona to secure a territorial organization.

In 1860 an unauthorized Constitutional Convention met in Tucson, which held its session from April 2nd to and including April 5th. It was composed of thirty-one delegates, who proceeded “to ordain and establish a provisional constitution to remain in force until Congress shall organize a Territorial Government and no longer.” This convention chose as Governor, Dr. L. S. Owings of Mesilla, and three judicial districts were created. Judges were to be appointed by the Governor, as were also a Lieutenant-Governor, an Attorney-General, and some other officials. A Legislature, consisting of nine senators’, and eighteen representatives, was to be elected and convened upon the proclamation of the Governor. Measures were taken for organizing the militia, and a general election for county officers was called to be held in the month of May. The laws and codes of New Mexico were adopted. The proceedings of the convention, schedule and constitution, and the Governor’s inaugural address, were printed in Tucson in what was’, so far as known, the first book ever published in Arizona.

Under this provisional government the Governor made the following appointments:

Lieutenant-Governor, Ignacio Orantia;
Secretary of State, James A. Lucas;
Controller, J. H. Wells;
Treasurer, Mark Aldrich;
Marshal, Samuel G. Bean;
District Judges, Granville H. Oury (chief justice);
Samuel H. Cozzens and Edward McGowan (associate justices);
District Attorneys, K. H. Glenn, Rees Smith, Thomas J. Mastin;
Major General, W. C. Wordsworth;
Adjutant-General, Valentine Robinson.

Beyond the election of these, there are no records that the self-constituted list of officials accomplished anything. In November of that year, one of the associate justices, Edward McGowan, well known in California for his opposition to the Vigilance Committee in 1855, was elected as Delegate to Congress from the State of Arizona to succeed Sylvester Mowry, but he did not go to Washington, nor ask Congress to allow him to participate in national affairs.

In 1859, another bill was introduced to organize the territory of Arizona, the name having been changed to Arizuma, presumably to satisfy some element in Congress. This bill was reported from the Committee of Territorial’s in 1860. There was much debate upon it, the most of it being in reference to the slavery question, and the bill, like its predecessors, failed of passage.

Bancroft says Jeff Davis introduced this bill, which is an error. The bill was introduced by Senator Green of Missouri. Davis at no time fathered a measure to give a territorial government to Arizona.

Notes About Book:

Source: History Of Arizona Volume 1, By Thomas Edwin Farish, 1915, Printed and Published by Direction of the Second Legislature of the State of Arizona, A. D.

Notes about Online Publication: This manuscript has been ocr’d and heavily edited. Many of the Native American words have been reproduced as clearly as online publication will allow us, but not all are exactly the way they were in the original work. The structure of this manuscript has been changed to allow better online presentation.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Pin It on Pinterest

Scroll to Top