Pima is on the Gila River in north-central Graham County. It
was founded in 1879 by Mormon settlers seeking an attractive
canal site in the Gila Valley. In addition to locating a canal line, the
colonists laid out a town site and named it Smithville for Mormon
leader Jesse Smith.
The Gila River was one of the main waterways followed by
American fur trappers and mountain men in their search for pelts in
the 1820s and 1830s. The lands aside the river served as the Gila
Trail along which General Stephen W. Kearny brought a part of his
“Army of the West” in 1846. The town, at an elevation of 2,885
feet originally was in Pima County, and when it got a post office in
1880, the name was changed to Pima after the Indian tribe of that
Incorporated in 1884, Pima is approximately 134 miles from Tucson
and 160 miles from Phoenix. From Tucson, the route to Pima is east
on Interstate 10 to U.S. 191, turning north to Safford, then north-west
on U.S. 70. From Phoenix, Pima is reached via U.S. 60 to
Globe, then U.S. 70.
Agriculture is the predominant economic activity in Graham County,
with much of it centered in the Pima-Thatcher-Safford area. Pima
historically has been an agricultural center, with irrigation water
coming from the Gila River. Principal crops are cotton, alfalfa, and
grains. Cattle and beef are important, too. As a farm trade center,
Pima serves surrounding agricultural areas and other portions of
Pima is also becoming a popular retirement community. Partly due
to an increase in tourism and winter visitors, wholesale and retail
trade and services comprise a fourth of the county’s employment.
But the government, with 37 percent of the total, is the largest employer
in the county. This covers employment by county, state, and federal
offices, as well as by the community college in Thatcher.
Pima is approximately 15 miles north of a portion of the Coronado
National Forest, which provides numerous recreational facilities.
Two of the most popular areas are the Pinaleno Mountains and
10,720-foot Mount Graham. Swift Trail, a 36-mile tour (one of the
many scenic drives in the area), provides a route to the summit of
Mount Graham and features many picnics and camping sites.
Forty-nine miles away is the ranger station at Columbine and Riggs
Lake, which has facilities for fishing, boating and other water-oriented
activities. U.S. 70 connects Pima to the recreation areas at
San Carlos Lake and Coolidge Dam, as well as other attractions
such as Cluff Ranch, the frontier fortifications of Fort Thomas and
Geronimo, and the historic cattle-shipping point of Calva.