Some sources reveal that man’s history in Tucson begins about 10,000 B.C. with the migrations of Paleo-Indian and Archaic hunters and gatherers. Whether or not there was continuous habitation is unclear, though evidence of agricultural settlements along the Santa Cruz River have been found dating from 1000 B.C.
The Tucson Presidio or San Augustin del Tucson was established by the Spanish in 1775 by Hugo O'Conor, about the same time the nation's forefathers were signing the Declaration of Independence, which also marks the official birth date of the City of Tucson. The Spanish settlers built the Presidio of San Augistin del Tucson as protection from the Apache. Part of this walled presidio still exists today, and you may hear some still refer to this old city as "The Old Pueblo". The Presidio, or as it is sometimes called, el presidio Del Tucson, would become the walled city of Tucson. Today downtown Tucson encompasses an area that represented the entire city before 1900. Today, Remnants of the presidio exist underground below modern government buildings, office towers, and the Tucson Museum of Art complex. Even before the European settlements, native peoples had settled the area for thousands of years, as shown by archaeological evidence.
Tucson became part of Mexico when it fought for its independence in 1821. Tucson fell under the jurisdiction of the United States after the Gadsden Purchase in 1853, a strip of land that included Tucson. Before 1863, when Arizona gained territorial status, Tucson briefly belonged to the Confederacy, and then became the capital of the Arizona Territory in 1867.
Tucson played an integral role in the romance of the Old West. The city was the scene of gunfights, brawls, and attacks by Native Americans; neighboring Tombstone was the site of the legendary gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Tucson also participated in the great gold rush when prospectors moved east from California into Arizona. The effects of this migration were lasting, since Tucson became the center of a mining industry that continued unabated into the 1970s.
Tucson is a very old settlement with rich layers of history. Archaeological excavations have revealed adobe huts, pit houses, and irrigation systems built by the Hohokam tribe who inhabited and farmed the area from around A.D. 200 to about A.D. 1450.Recent archaeological excavations near the Santa Cruz River have located a village site dating from about 4,000 years ago. The floodplain of the Santa Cruz River was extensively farmed during the early Agricultural period mentioned above. These people constructed irrigation canals, and grew corn, beans, and other crops while gathering wild plants and hunting animals. The Early Ceramic period occupation of Tucson saw the first extensive use of pottery vessels for cooking and storage and is also known for their red-on-brown pottery. The Hohokam have since vanished; in fact, their name, meaning "those who have vanished," was given to them by the Pimas, the Native Americans who occupied the site of present-day Tucson when the first white settlers arrived, and after whom Pima County is named. "Tucson" is also derived from a Pima word, "Stjukshon" or "Chuk-son," meaning "spring at the foot of a black mountain." The Tohono O’odham are also the descendents of that advanced civilization, and have inhabited the region since the Hohokam decline.
One of the first Spanish visitors was Father Eusebio Francisco Kino, a Jesuit missionary who arrived in 1687 and visited the Santa Cruz River valley in 1692, and founded the Mission San Xavier del Bac about 7 miles upstream from the site of the settlement of Tucson in 1699. It would not be until 1797 that it was completed. The Mission San Agustin, a "visita" of San Xavier, is established on the west bank of the Santa Cruz River in 1757. The construction of the mission and the convent is completed in 1790's.
It was the Spanish that established a fort on August 20, 1775 and the town came to be called "Tucson,” and thus would be officially a Spanish colony. Since its founding Tucson has operated under four governments: Spain, Mexico, the United States, and the Confederacy. Tucson became a part of Mexico after Mexico gained independence from Spain in 1821. Following the Gadsden Purchase in 1853, Tucson became a part of the United States of America, although the American military did not formally take over control of the community until March 1856. From August 1861, until mid-1862, Tucson was the capital of the Confederate Arizona Territory. Until 1863, Tucson and all of Arizona was part New Mexico Territory. From 1867 to 1879, Tucson was the capital of the Arizona Territory.
Tucson Arizona History is both long, and extremely fascinating. Tucson has had people living in it continuously for longer than anywhere else on earth. The rich history of Tucson is evident in Downtown’s residential neighborhoods, which include nine National Register Historic Districts that showcase a variety of architectural styles. Each style is a layer that tells a story of successive cultures in Tucson. The commercial core has its historic landmarks as well, including the St. Augustine Cathedral, the old Pima County Courthouse, the Fox and Rialto Theatres, two restored railroad depots, and many others. Add to the ancient history of the area the fact that Tucson is built in the Sonora Desert, and you end up with some really great history. Some plants and animals in the area are really quite rare. The capture of John Dillinger is part of Tucson history, as was the capture of Geronimo. The history of Tucson is also spiced up by the multi-cultural influences that have been at work in the desert community for thousands of years. From the exquisite basket-weaving of the regional Native American tribes, to the Spanish influences in architecture and cuisine – Over the past three centuries, Tucson has grown from a Native American farming community, to Spanish outpost, to dusty frontier town, to a bustling territorial days' railroad hub, to today's Southwestern metropolis of over a million people. Tucson history has helped to craft a truly modern,diverse, and interesting city. Tucson was a rough pioneer town that was forever changed in 1880 with the arrival of the railroad, which linked the Old Pueblo with civilization and provided an efficient means of moving materials and culture to the Sonoran Desert. Tourism is another major industry in Tucson, which has many resorts, hotels, and attractions. A significant economic force is the Sonorans, who travel from Mexico to Tucson to purchase goods that are not readily available in their own country. In addition to vacationers, a significant number of winter residents, or "snowbirds", are attracted by Tucson's mild winters and contribute much to the local economy.
Arizona becomes an official territory in 1863. Between 1867 and 1877, Tucson holds the title of territorial capitol. In 1880, the Southern Pacific Railroad reaches Tucson and the population reaches 8,000. By 1900, 7,531 people lived in the city. Arizona becomes the 48th state in the Union in 1912 a nd many veterans who had been gassed in World War I and were in need of respiratory therapy began coming to Tucson at this time, due to the clean dry air. The population increased gradually to 36,818 by 1940. At about this time, the US Veterans Administration had begun construction on the present Veterans Hospital. By 1950 Tucson's population has reached 120,000 and by 1960 it nearly doubled to 220,000. The City and Pima County officially recognizes the city's history by adopting historic district ordinances in 1972. Tucson becomes the 33rd largest U.S. city in 1990 as its population tops 400,000, and in 2006 the population of Pima County, in which Tucson is located, passed one million.
Places of Historical Interest in Tucson:
Visit the Arizona Historical Society Historical Information: Arizona Historical Society, Tucson Museum, 949 East Second Street, Tucson, AZ, 85719; telephone (520)628-577
The Arizona State Museum.
Stroll through a restored 19th century neighborhood and see Sonoran architecture and the site of the original Spanish presidio.