Some Arizona History

Two Journal of Arizona History articles published in spring 1999 and summer 2005  agree on the Basque definition of the word Arizona. The articles state that it first appeared in May 1736, not the 1750s. We hope to have an updated version of the article that follows.

time There are disagreements over the origin of the word "Arizona." There are four Indian versions of the word. "Arizuma" is an Aztec word meaning "silver-bearing." "Ali shonak" or "Ari-son" came from the Pima Indians and means "small spring." "Aleh-zone" also means "small spring" from the Tohono O'odham Indians. However, it is known that a Spanish missionary first used the word in print during the 1750s. Organized as a territory in 1863, admitted to the Union in 1912, Arizona is one of the nation's youngest states. It is one alive with the spirit of youth, yet it is a place that has been inhabited for nearly 20,000 years. The region began with cliff dwellings and has continued on to the present with high-rise condominiums. From this early beginning, Arizona has grown. All the towns throughout Arizona have a history. These pasts have woven together to create a colorful tapestry that makes this great state what it is today. Take a journey back in time and learn what life was like long ago. To find out more about Arizona's history, continue to look through You will discover more about the rich history of the Grand Canyon State.

Central Arizona History

Central Arizona's history began long ago with the Hohokam people. The Hohokam Indians date back to 300 B.C. They built canal systems in this region to sustain their crops. The reason for their disappearance is still unknown.
Today, you can see the remains of the Hohokam culture at the Casa Grande Ruins National Monument. The monument is located just northeast of Casa Grande, near Coolidge. These ruins are some of the best-preserved pieces left behind by this Indian community.

Not only, did the Indian culture leave their mark on this area, but also so did the early pioneers. Tempe, Queen Creek, Litchfield Park, and Chandler all had their beginnings in farming. The Salt River Valley offered rich soil and an ideal climate for the new settlers. These towns may have started out as fields, but they have grown to become popular residential spots.

It is time to find out more about the towns of Central Arizona and their history. You will learn who was responsible for creating each town and how every contribution has led to the establishment of a major metropolitan area.

Northern Arizona History

Millions of years ago, the Colorado River began carving at the earth's crust.  The constant erosion created Northern Arizona's jewel - The Grand Canyon.  The canyon walls reveal layers of the earth's history.  This wonder of the world is one place you must make time to see. In comparison to the creation of the Grand Canyon, the Sinagua Indians are a recent development.  The Sinagua Indians settled in this region hundreds and hundreds of years ago.  Scientists are continuing to search to find the reason for their mysterious disappearance.  Today, you can see what remains of their culture by visiting several national monuments established in the area.   Tuzigoot National Monument, Waptuki National Monument, and Montezuma Castle National Monument all offer visitors a glimpse into these Indian communities. During the mid-1800s, Prescott became a popular spot to settle.  For a time, the town became the seat of government for the state.  In 1864, the first legislature met at the Governor's mansion while construction was still working on the government building.  Prescott still holds onto the pioneer history with its architecture of the downtown district and historical museums. If you are interested in learning more about other Northern Arizona towns and their history, then it is time to sit back and explore 

Southern Arizona History

The history of Southern Arizona goes way back in time with the arrival of Marcos de Niza in 1539. His visit made him the first European to step into Arizona. Niza was a Franciscan priest traveling through the area, in search of gold. He would not be the last one to venture this way. In the years to follow, many people traveled to Southern Arizona in search of mineral wealth. In 1692, Father Eusebio Kino arrived in Southern Arizona. This marked the time that Europeans came to stay. The first European settlement was founded in Arizona in 1750. The Spanish fort was named Tubac Presidio. It is located in the town of Tubac. You can visit the town and fort today to discover more about the early history of Arizona. 
The Apache Wars began in 1860, when the Apache war chief, Cochise was falsely accused of kidnapping. Cochise began a rampage that eventually caused the government to create a fort in the area. Fort Bowie, near the town of Bowie, was established to protect the early settlers and to help gain control of the region. Not far from the wars, the town of Tombstone began to boom. Silver was found in 1877 and the town grew to become a big city. Then in 1898, Bisbee started attracting copper miners. Southern Arizona was the place to get rich. At the same time, the land surrounding Willcox was cattle rich county. It was said that "the grass was growing stirrup high." Willcox was the ideal place for grazing and cowboys flocked to the area. With the arrival of the railroad, in 1880, the town was able to transport the cattle across the country. Southern Arizona is a portion of the state filled with mining, cowboy, Spanish mission, and Indian history. Each town had its own influence. It is time to learn more about these colorful towns and will help you explore.
 Long ago, the Anasazi Indians lived in Eastern Arizona.  One of their communities was situated in Canyon de Chelly, near the town of Chinle.  No one knows why the settlement was abandoned around 1300, but their cliff dwellings can still be seen today at Canyon de Chelly National Monument. After the disappearance of the Anasazi, the Navajo tribe came to live in this region.  Later, pioneers and miners arrived to create towns and build railroads.  This invasion of the land caused problems with the tribes living in the area.  Soon, a war broke out.  A campaign led by Kit Carson in 1864 sent the Navajo to retreat into Canyon de Chelly.  Eventually, all of the members of the tribe were sent to a fort in New Mexico.  Later, they were returned to their homeland. Not only were the Navajos involved in the war, but so were the Apaches.  In 1873, the San times Apache Indian Lands were created.  Almost immediately afterward, a decision was made to send the Mohave, Yavapai, and Chiricahua Apaches to this same Indian Land to live.  This decision proved to be disastrous.  Not all of these tribes were on friendly terms.  It was only a matter of time before battles erupted.  In 1876, Geronimo began his raids in the region. It was during this same time that mining exploded in Eastern Arizona.  Clifton built a copper smelter in 1872 and the combination of Clifton and Morenci made this area one of the oldest copper mining districts in the state. Then a sliver strike in Globe caused more mining frenzy in 1876.  As a matter of fact, the discovery of minerals around the Globe caused an uproar.  The mineral wealth was located on the San times Indian Lands.  The government made the decision to take the 12-mile strip of land back from the Indians.  This reduced the size of the Indian Land and made way for mining operations. Finally, in 1873, the other Indian tribes were relocated and the San times Apache had the land to themselves.  The Indian raids continued until the last of the Indian chiefs died or were captured. To learn more about the towns in Eastern Arizona use  There are many more stories to be told, especially in the town of Young, where one of the worst feuds in Arizona's history began.

 Western Arizona History

The Yuma Quechan Indians were one of the first to inhabit lower Western Arizona. They began the region's history. Their culture dates back to 1540, with Hernando de Alarcon. Alarcon was a Spanish navigator traveling by land near the Colorado River.

This portion of Arizona really owes its early pioneer beginnings to the Colorado River. In 1850, Fort Yuma was established. It was created to protect the ferry service across the river and the settlers in the area. 

This new growth was beginning to cause problems with the boundaries of countries. Then, in 1854 the problems were resolved with the Gadsden Purchase. The purchase extended the land for the United States and guaranteed the stretch along the Colorado River. The marking of the new border began near Yuma and continued across the southern half of Arizona.

Not long afterward, the town of Ehrenburg was developed. It too was situated along the Colorado River. By 1871, Ehrenburg had a population of nearly 500. These river port towns were vital to the growth of Arizona. Supplies arrived by boat and were transferred inland to major towns like Prescott.

There were other towns in Western Arizona that experienced a growth surge, due to transportation. Kingman and Oatman were towns that Historic Route 66 passed through on its trek across the country. In the early 1950s, the "Mother Road" was constructed connecting Chicago and California. This road brought many travelers through the area, which boosted the economy and encouraged new residents to these towns.

Western Arizona has many unique towns and all of them have a special history. Take a moment and learn more through