Entertainment Magazine: Arizona: Tucson: History

Tucson During the 1600s

Tucson, Arizona's history had it roots in the Spanish occupation of the New World. As they explored farther north towards the Gila River, they discovered many groups of local natives, each with their own distinct language and culture living mostly peacefully in the desert lands. This was called Pimeria Alta– the Northern Land of the Pimas.

By the time the Spanish arrived, the Hohokam were long gone_ leaving only the ruins of the Casa Grande (Large House) near the Gila RIver. Peaceful Sobaipuri tribes lived throughout the Tucson basin for centuries.

They roamed from the Santa Cruz River to the Canada del Oro to the Rillito Rivers and lived in the foothils of the Santa Catalina Mountains, depending on the seasons and available water. Even though they fought with neighboring tribes, when the Spanish first trekked through in the 1550s, they had no idea of the changes that would come from these outsiders visits and eventual conquest.


1687 Jesuit Father Eusebio Kino (birth name: Eusebius Chinus) arrives in Pimeria Alta (now present day Southern Arizona and Sonora, Mexico) in support of a royal cédula issued by the King of Spain. Kino uses this edict to promise the natives that they would not be forced to work in the mines– if they converted to Christianity.

The “missionary (is) named for the reduction and conversion to our Holy Faith of the Seris, Huaymas, and Pimas in the province of Sonora, Kingdom of Nueva Vizcaya, regarding taking Indians under seal to work in mines, undated, but passed on by the Audiencia December 16, 1686; and petition of Father Azcarasso, undated, but considered May 2, 1687.” (From Kino’s “Memoir of Pimeria Alta,” page 107)

1689, May 11 In a letter from Juan Bautista de Escalante to Gen. Blas de Castillo letter concerning the state of the Sonoran frontier, he writes that the mines are being abandoned because of Indian ambushes in Sonora. (UAiR #041-00751).

Sgt. Escalante was part of the Volante Compañia, the military “Flying Company” that roamed the Pimeria Alta frontier and provided military escorts for the missionaries. It was too dangerous for Kino, and most anyone, to travel without an entourage.

“That the Northern Piman Indians had some experience with slave raiding and forced labor in the mines is indicated in their behavior toward Father Eusebio Francisco Kino, the founder of the first northern Piman mission.

When he tried to interest some Indians north of his mission in forming a visitation station, they refused. They as much as accused the Jesuit of being an advance-man for the mine operators seeking new labor. They had heard, they told him, that he carried a cedula from the king exempting the northern Piman converts from repartimiento.

They did not believe him, they said, because if he had one he would have shown it to the civil officer in charge of the mine camp nearest them, Bacanuche.” (Bolton 1948:I:114; “Tubac Four Centuries: An Historical Resume and Analysis, iv, A”) Bacanuche was a Spanish settlement about 20 leagues northwest of Dolores, Sonora where Kino made his home base.

1692 Captain Francisco Ramirez de Salazar, who had been serving the king for 60 years, visited the Pimería Alta, arrives at the fortified village of Quíburi (near present Tombstone, Arizona) and verifies that the Pima Sobaípuri natives live in peace. He visits several Jesuit missions of Pimería Alta and meets with Father Eusebio Kino in Dolores, and then marches to Mexico City to receive instructions from the viceroy of the Sonora Volante Compañia. (CH)

Kino enters the valley of the Santa Maria (now Santa Cruz) in August through September, where he visits the Papago Indians (today called Tohono O'odham) in the village of Wak or Bac (meaning “near the well,” an outcropping of the Santa Cruz river near present day Tucson, Arizona). The village, also called San Xavier del Bac, had more than 800 souls including nearby Stjukshon or Chuk shon, (latter called San Cosmé de Tucson), the present site of Tucson. (CH)

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1694 In November, Kino leaves on his 5th expedition to Pimería Alta where, for the first time, he goes beyond San Cosmé del Tucson to visit the nearby Indian villages of San Agustín del Oiaur and Santa Catarina de Cuituabagum. He travels further north to discover and name the pre-Columbian ruins of Casa Grande (next to Gila River in Arizona).

The massive ruins were built during the classic period of Hohokam culture and abandoned since at least 1450. After arriving at the Gila River (the border between the Apaches and the tribes that will become friends of the Spaniards) he returns to Dolores by the same route. (CH)

1697 In November, Father Kino leaves Dolores, Sonora with Captain Juan Mateo Mange to visit his friend, the head of the Pima Choza Sobaípuri Indians, in Quíburi, a town of 486 souls. On November 7th, Kino introduces the first 100 cattle into the valley of Santa Cruz de Gaybanipitea.

On September 28th, Captain Diego Carrasco received the oath of obedience from residences of Santa Catalina.

On November 10th, Kino and Manje start home by way of Santa Catarina de Cuituabagum (located near present-day Picacho Peak), La Valle de Correa, San Agustín de Oiaur, San Xavier del Bac, Tumagácori, Guevavi, Bacuancos, San Lázaro, Cocóspera, Los Remedios, and then to Dolores. (Kino Memoirs, 170)

On November 11th, Lieutenant Martin Bernal, ensign Francisco de Acuña who speaks the Pima language, and the military, accompanied by El Coro and 30 of his warriors, descend by the Catalina River (today called the San Pedro). South of the Gila River, by way of the Catalina mountains, they baptized people in the in towns of Cusac (San Marcos), Jiaspi (Rosario, where Chief Humari visits), Arivavia San Ignacio (November 15) and Ojio (Our Lady of Victoria, the seat of Humari, the only village to the east of San Pedro).

Kino had named the villages along the way, including Santa Catalina on November 23, 1697.

According to Padre Kino’s journal, "La Mision de Santa Catalina, sobre el Santa Cruz" was in the rancheria of Santa Catalina de Cuituabagum and its fields at Akohin. It was located some 15 leagues * northwest of San Augustin de Oiaur (“Tucson”) (Luz de Tierra Incógnita, libro ii, 60).

Although English translations used the spelling of Catarina, Kino’s own handwriting shows the original name of the village was Santa Catalina– with an l (Kino’s diary 1699, UAiR).

An introductory letter and report on 1697 expedition was made by teniente Capt. Cristobal Martin Bernal. He takes a company of twenty soldiers from Corodeguachi, Sonora into the Pimeria as far as the Gila. Participants included Juan Bautista de Escalante, (Sargento), Kino, Eusebio Francisco (Padre). Named among locations: Santa Catalina (Rancheria) (AUiR 040-00319).

They found that the mountains are full of hostile Apaches. They descend through the Gila River to the ruins of Casa Grande (abandoned Hohokam structure) and Tudacson (today Sacaton, Arizona and returned to Dolores December 2nd. (CH)

1699 From February 7th through March 14th, Kino travels again with Captain Juan Mateo Mange and the Jesuit Adamo Gilg to Sonoyta (Sonora) until they arrive at the passage of Yuma, in the Colorado. They journey up the Gila River and visit a ranchería of Indians (probably the Cocomaricopas, descendants of the Hohokam) called San Tadeo Vaqui, (today i Gila Bend, Arizona).

They return to Dolores by way of the Santa Cruz River. In another expedition on October 14th to November 18th, Kino and Mange descend the Santa Cruz River to Santa Catalina and back to Bac (now San Xavier del Bac).

They march through the Papagos territory, travel south to Sonoyta, and return by Tubutama to Dolores. (CH) 1699, November 17, Kino and Sr. Lt. Antonio Cortez pass through Santa Catalina del Cuitaubagum and found 300 men who represent 300 families, and more than 1,000 people, a journey of 15 leagues (51.78 miles) from San Agustin del Oyaut. (Kino Memoirs, 206). Cuitaubagum is the Pima word for “the well where people gather mesquite beans.” (Kino, v2, 310)

The village  of Santa Catalina is also called Cuytoabagum, Bolton; Caytuabaga, Manje; Coytoabagum; Ezell, Hispanic Acculturation, 334). Santa Catalina was closed around 1752 (Guide to Catholic-related Records Outside the U.S. about Native Americans, Marquette University) or in 1767 (Durango Archdiocese and Archdiocese of Mexico). The differences in dates depend on either after the Pima Indian uprising (1751) or when the Jesuits were expelled (1767).


Local Tucson History Books

These books are written by local author and publisher Robert Zucker. Read chapters and download a free PDFs from the books and purchase full copies on Amazon.com.

Entertaining Tucson Across the Decades is a collection of newspaper articles and original photographs covering 50 years of Tucson music and arts entertainment from 1950-1999. Read chapters and download a free PDF from the book.

Treasures of the Santa Catalina Mountains is one of the most comprehensive books written on the legends and history of the Catalina mountains, north of Tucson. Learn about the Iron Door mIne, Buffalo Bill Cody's mining interest in the Catalinas and how the lure of gold brought prospectors to the Cañada del Oro– the Canyon of Gold. The story of the the lost mine, the lost city and the lost mission. Download a free PDF sample of the book.

Tucson Gold Rush 1880 In the 1880s explores the history of numerous mining claims that were staked throughout the Santa Catalinas and nearby mountains by local pioneer businessmen, many reclaiming old abandoned Spanish and Mexico diggings.


Tucson Valley in the 1700s

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