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"Old Tucson; a hop, skip and jump history from 1539 Indian settlement to new and greater Tucson"

by Estelle M. Buehman



Were one, on the Eastern campus of our vast domain, to rise in an airship, far above the lower air currents, and speeding his way on favoring breeze, far to the westward, seeing, where the trail of the pioneer had already grown obscure, the mystic land of our present civilization, he would behold Tucson, a pearl set in a land of blazing sands, of fertile valleys, and lode- rich mountain treasures, surpassing the wealth of Croesus, a land where religious warfare, educational development, and Christian training, against savag- ery and cupidity, had brought to view glittering spires, pointing the way to higher living among the influences of schools, universities and churches.

Tucson, the oldest and largest town of Arizona, on the main line of the Southern Pacific Railroad, 312 miles west of El Paso, and 500 miles east of Los Angeles, has an elevation of 2,400 feet above sea level, and its dry, healthful situation, with a climate unequalled in any section of the country, renders it an enjoyable and famous winter resort; while the mountains surrounding the city, notably, Mt. Lemmon, 9,150 feet high, in the Santa Catalina range; Old Baldy, 9,432 feet, in the Santa Ritas; and Mt. Mica, 8,590 feet, in the Rincons, are equally unsurpassed as a summer retreat.

In all of these mountains, within a radius of thirty miles from Tucson, blankets are a necessity at night, even in the very hottest of weather.

That our present modern city, under various appellations of Tuquelson, Tuqueston and Tucson (sometimes spelled Tuczon, Tuigson or Tuyson) was for many centuries an old Indian village there can be no doubt, for more than a quarter of a century before the Spaniards founded San Augustine, Alvar Nunez, with two other Spaniards, and a negro, Estevan or Estevancio, had in the course of their wanderings set foot on Arizona soil, and finally landing at Culiacan, in Sinaloa, Mexico, so wrought upon the ambitions of the people, concerning the seven cities of Cibola (Moqui and Zuni villages) both for material gain, and the conversion of the natives, that an adventurous pioneer, Padre Marcos de Niza, determined to satisfy himself as to their truth or falsity so early in 1539 the good Father, with a few followers, and guided by Estevan, the Arabian negro who later came to grief, set out in search of the seven cities.

They passed through the country of the Pimas, down the valley of the Santa Cruz, by the present site of Tucson, thence across to the Pima settlements on the Gila. Tucson is a Pima word, and they pronounced it "Chook Son," and its meaning is said to be "Black Creek."

Diverging a moment from the direct history of the town, to see the end of this expedition, we find that at the Pima settlements the party being furnished with guides and provisions, pushed on to the North and East, until they came in sight of the first of the seven cities. Father de Niza sent forward Estevancio to notify the chief of their arrival, and peaceful mission, but the hardy negro, falling into the illwill of the Moqui Indians, who claiming that he bewitched their women clubbed him to death, and the pious Father, hearing of his guide's sudden demise, con- cluded that the heathen of that section were not in a suitable frame of mind to receive Christian preaching, so set up the cross, naming the country the new kingdom of San Francisco, and returned to Culiacan.

This Padre Niza was a Franciscan who, aside from the reason already mentioned in accompanying the ex- pedition, came also for the purpose of Christianizing the natives, and recording the progress and exploits of the journey.

If his account is true, it is more than likely that a mission was even then founded at Tucson, for in April of the following year, 1540, when Coronado marched out of Culiacan, with nearly one thousand men, most of them Indians by the same route as that taken by Alvar Nunez and his com- panions he found at Tucson an Indian Rancherio (settlement).

This statement corresponds with the account I saw elsewhere that a charter had been issued by the Spanish sovereign in 1552, for the Pueblo of Tucson, but the document was mislaid for a matter of three hundred years, or more, and then discovered in the archives of the present Church of San Xavier, which was erected on the site of an older structure.

However, this account may be mythical in character, though said to be in the handwriting of the old Padre Marcos de Niza; but while ques- tions of location and settlement may be more arch- aeological than practical in interest, yet when we, on, or near the Pacific coast, hear about the Dutch settlers of New York, the Pilgrim Fathers of New England, the F. F. V.'s of Virginia, and the Huguenots of Georgia, Louisiana and the Carolinas, we may be pardoned if we tell them that they were a generation too late to be accounted true pioneers, and that Arizona is entitled to the honor of being the earliest European settlement in what is now the United States of America.

Referring to Hamilton's Resources of Arizona we find the next exploration of the territory was in 1582, and though no special mention is made of Tucson, yet being so important a town on the highway from Sonora to the Pima settlements, we know that the little village enjoyed its full share of growth and prosperity.

This expedition was by Antonio de Espejo, who gave the first authentic ac- count of the discovery of precious metals in Arizona, and was considered the pioneer prospector. But as these various expeditions were for the purpose ? mainly ? of acquiring sudden wealth, like the con- querors of Mexico and Peru, no effort was made for another century to establish permanent settlements in what was then called Arizuma.

In 1686 the Jesuit missionary, Francisco Kino, joined by the Padre Salvatierra, journeyed north from the city of Mexico, and in 1687, founded the mission of Guevavi, thirty miles south of Tucson, and that of San Xavier del Bac (of the water) about the same time, at a point nine miles south of Tucson. The first mission building was a very unpretentious structure. In 1720, thirty-three years after the founding of these missions, there were no less than eight of them, all in a flourishing condition, within the pres- ent limits of the territory. Their names, respectively, were: Guevavi, San Xavier del Bac, San Jose de Tumacacori (which has been reserved by the U, S. as a national monument), Santa Gertrudis de Tubac, San Miguel de Sonoita, Calabasas, Arivaca and Santa Ana.

The converts of these missions, almost entirelj'' from the Pima tribes, took the name of Papago, which means baptized. They were a noble monument to the faithful labors of Fray Kino and his associates. This good father was a native of the Tyrol, and resign- ed the professorship of mathematics in the University Ingolstadt to do this unselfish work among the heathen.

These earnest efforts brought forth good fruit in the peaceful and industrious colonies that grew up around them. They were taught farming, and large bodies of land were brought under cultivation. Sheep and cattle were introduced, comfort- able houses were erected, and order and industry took the place of savagery and sloth. They were self sustaining, and doing good work, not only in teaching the truths of the Catholic religion, but in developing the material resources of the country.

During the regime of the missionary fathers, flour- ishing haciendos (ranches) at San Pedro, Barbacomari, Arivapa and Calabasas were established, many prospecting and exploring parties penetrated South- ern Arizona, and rich mines were opened and worked. Some of the silver ores were reduced on the ground by simple adobe furnaces, while the richest were transported to Sonora and Sinaloa, Mexico. Most of the gold and silver ornaments of the mission churches came from these mines, and at Guevavi the remains of sixteen arrastras (grinding machines) could be seen and counted only a few years ago.

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by Estelle M. Buehman

Available from Amazon.com: This is an EXACT reproduction of a book published before 1923. This IS NOT an OCR'd book with strange characters, introduced typographical errors, and jumbled words. This book may have occasional imperfections such as missing or blurred pages, poor pictures, errant marks, etc. that were either part of the original artifact, or were introduced by the scanning process. We believe this work is culturally important, and despite the imperfections, have elected to bring it back into print as part of our continuing commitment to the preservation of printed works worldwide. We appreciate your understanding of the imperfections in the preservation process, and hope you enjoy this valuable book. 82 pages. Publisher: Nabu Press (May 16, 2010).

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