Arizona State History

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General State History
Historic Figures

General Arizona State History

Man lived in the Arizona area 20,000 years ago. Traces of early agricultural civilizations are found throughout the state. High, almost inaccessible cliff dwellings still stand in silent evidence of another prehistoric race. Even the vast irrigation system surrounding Arizona capital city, Phoenix, follows a ancient patterns of canals used to irrigate the Hohokam farmlands with water from the Gila and Salt Rivers.

From tree rings studied, we know that from 1276 to 1299 A.D. there was a great drought which ended the prehistoric civilization. When Columbus discovered America, Arizona was inhabited by ancestors of present day Indians. The written history of Arizona began when the Spaniards sent exploration parties northward from Mexico. The first was a Franciscan priest named Marcos de Niza, who entered the territory in 1539.

Other Spanish missionaries followed and established missions to bring Christianity to the Indians. Tumacacori Mission, north of Nogales, was founded by Padre Kino at the center of an Indian settlement. This mission is now a National Monument. Padre Kino also laid the foundations for San Xavier del Bac Mission on the outskirts of today's Tucson, still used for regular services by the Tohono O'Odham Indians who live nearby.

After Kino's death, Spanish development of this area came to a halt. In 1821 Mexico declared its independence from Spain and eventually went to war with the United States. This war ended in 1848, and the land north of the Gila River became United States territory. In 1853 the rest of the area was acquired by the Gadsen Purchase. Then the great westward movement of our early pioneers began, and Arizona entered the phase of its history which has provided so much story material for books and movies.

Men came West to seek their fortunes - adventurers, prospectors, farmers, businessmen, builders. To protect them against the Indians who fought fiercely to keep back this change in their land, the army also came and built its forts. Only the most brave and hardy pioneers came until the last of the Indian uprisings were finished and final peace won in 1886. Development of the state then surged forward.

Back in the ages of its creation, there had been formed in Arizona land great deposits of gold, silver, copper and other minerals which were now uncovered by the prospectors. Lusty new towns sprang up near the mines.

Great fortunes were made and lost, sometimes in a single 24 hours. While prospectors were "striking it rich," other pioneers saw their fortunes of the future in another aspect of Arizona land aspect of Arizona land. Farmers cultivated crops along rivers and streams as had the Indians before them. Others brought in cattle to roam the range land. Still others saw Arizonans an ideal place to raise sheep.

Law and order were slow to catch up with the sudden growth of the frontier. Bitter gun battles broke out between the cattlemen and sheepmen, each wanting the grazing land and water rights.

With the leadership of the pioneers themselves, United States Marshals finally made a peaceful territory of Arizona, where crops, cattle and sheep, as well as mining, all became important in building the future of the state.

In 1912, its lawless, boisterous frontier days behind it, Arizona became the 48th state to join the Union and its modern advance began.

Arizona Historic Figures

1812-74: Chiricahua Apache chief; born in present-day Arizona or New Mexico. Initially friendly toward whites, he embarked on a campaign against them in 1861 after he had been imprisoned on the false charge of having kidnapped a white child. With the murder of his father-in-law, Mangas Coloradas, in 1863, he became the main war chief of the Apaches. For many years he engaged in a series of violent actions against white settlers and the U.S. Army, but he was gradually isolated in a smaller and smaller mountainous region. After winning assurances from the U.S. government that he and his band could remain in the Chiricahua Mountains, he surrendered in 1872.

Sandra Day O'Connor
1930 - Present: Supreme Court justice; born in El Paso, Texas. After taking her law degree from Stanford (1952), she had a private practice in Arizona; serving in the Arizona Senate (1969-74), she was the first woman in America to be elected majority leader of a state senate (1972-74). She was elected to a county superior court (1974--79) and was then appointed to the Arizona Court of Appeals (1979-81). When President Ronald Reagan selected her, she became the first woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court (1981). Generally conservative in her legal views, she occasionally took independent positions and for long held the "swing vote" on the issue of abortion.

Wyatt Earp
1848-1929: (Berry Stapp) Gambler, gunfighter, and lawman, born in Monmouth, IL. He drifted through the West working at a variety of jobs from confidence trickster to assistant marshal. During his stay in Tombstone, AZ, he befriended Doc Holliday, who joined with the Earp brothers against the Clanton gang in the famous gunfight at the OK Corral (1881). Earp collaborated in the writing of his biography Wyatt Earp, Frontier Marshal (1931), published after his death. The book portrayed him as a heroic frontiersman of the Wild West.

Cesar Chavez
1927-93: Labor leader; born in Yuma, Ariz. A migrant farmworker in his youth, he attended 65 elementary schools and never graduated from high school, he became a community and labor organizer of agricultural workers in the 1950s. In 1962 he started the National Farm Workers Association, based in California and the Southwest among the mainly Chicano (Mexican-Americans) and Filipino farmworkers; in 1966 this union would be chartered by the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations as the United Farm Workers of America; he remained its president until his death.

Barry Goldwater
1909-Present: U.S. senator; born in Phoenix, Ariz. Grandson of an immigrant peddler in the Western mining camps, he inherited a prosperous department store business of which he became president in 1937. An active sportsman, he was one of the first white men to navigate the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. During World War II, he was a pilot in the U.S. Air Force (1941-45). A conservative Republican, he served in the U.S. Senate (Ariz., 1953-65, 1969-87). He was chairman of the Armed Services Committee. He ran for the presidency (1964) but was defeated in a landslide by Lyndon B. Johnson