A Timeline of Northern Arizona History

At first glance, Northern Arizona may seem stark and desolate but a closer look reveals an abundance of plant and animal life. People live here, too, and have done so for more than 1,000 years. Much of the area is dry and desert-like but settlers to the area have always found clever and innovative ways to make life sustainable. An even deeper look into the area can be awe inspiring. The breathtaking beauty of the land formations are like none other on earth and the plants and animals who live here are just as unique. So are the people who’ve called this place home.

1000 – A Native American tribal people, the Cochise, settle near the town that we know today as Brisbee, Arizona.

1100 – To bring water to their crops and their homes, the Hohokam dig more than 200 miles of irrigation canals through the desert.

1200 – The Anasazi are the first “apartment” builders in North America, carving out communal dwellings from caves in the walls of the canyons of Northern Arizona.

1250 – After 500 years of prosperous living, the Mogollon peoples seem to have simply vanished without an apparent reason and without leaving a trace.

1398 – After many years of living along the Salt and Gila Rivers, the Hohokam leave these valleys.

1526 – Spanish explorer Don Jose de Basconales is one of the first Europeans to reach the area, crossing through part of modern-day Arizona on a journey into Zuni territory.

1536 – After landing on the west coast of Florida, Spanish explorer Cabeza de Vaca travels through Southern Arizona on his way to Mexico. Along the way, he hears wondrous stories of the legendary Seven Cities of Cibola. Also this year, a black slave from Morocco named Estavan begins exploration of the Southwestern United States, including Arizona.

1539 – Enticed by tales of Cibola, a Francsican friar named Marcos de Niza, sets off for Arizona to investigate further.

1540 – Francisco Vasquez de Coronado leads a Spanish expedition into the region and he and his men make many exciting discoveries: Cardenas finds the Grand Canyon, Alarcon travels by boat to the lower end of the Colorado River as far south as the Gila River; and Diaz explores the area by land.

1581 – In the Colorado and the Bill Williams Rivers, Antonio de Espejo and Faran discover copper and silver near the present-day town of Jerome.

1582 – Espejo discovers more silver west of today’s city of Prescott.

1583 – Espejo begins mining operations in the area after his discoveries of copper and silver.

1599 – Following closely in the footsteps of Espejo, Juan de Onate reaches Arizona by traveling westward along the Rio Grande River.

1620 – As Pilgrims land at Plymouth Rock in New England, Franciscan missionaries travel to Northern Arizona on missions to convert the Hopi to Catholicism.

1680 – Father Kino leads missionary expeditions into the San Pedro and Santa Cruz Valleys.

1700 – Kino founds his first mission, San Xavier del Bac.

1752 – Tubac, the first European settlement in Arizona, is established by Spanish troops.

1768 – While presiding over the mission at San Xavier del Bac, Father Francisco Garces explores the tribal villages along the Colorado and Gila Rivers. Also, British forces negotiate with tribal leaders of the Cherokee, Creek, and Iroquois to establish treaties that grants Native land to the British.

1770 – Garces continues his exploration throughout most of Arizona’s southwestern region.

1774 – Anza and Garces travels the Gila River to further explore Southern Arizona. Garces extends his explorations into the Hopi villages of Northern Arizona. Meanwhile, colonists adopt the First Continental Congress of the new nation.

1776 – Arizona’s first Spanish fort is established at Tucson. Expeditions led by Fathers Dominguez and Escalante discover a place where safe crossing of the treacherous Colorado River is possible. The Declaration of Independence is signed.

1781 – Yuma warriors attack; Father Garces and most of the inhabitants of the settlement are slain in this invasion, which becomes known as the Yuma Massacre. British forces surrender to the revolutionary colonists in Yorktown, Virginia.

1782 – Mexico sends military forces to conquer the Yuma.

1783 – The cornerstone for the church at San Xavier del Bac is laid; the church still stands today. The Treaty of Paris is signed, ending the American Revolutionary War.

1790 – Peace treaties with the Apache are signed; this peace lasts 32 years. In the upper land of the Pima, mining and ranching prove so prosperous the time becomes known as the Golden Era of Pimeria Alta.

1797 – After almost 14 years of construction, the church at San Xavier is complete.

1804 to 1806 – Spanish conquistadores invade and ravage Navajo villages in Canyon de Chelly. The Lewis and Clark expedition charts the Missouri River and reaches the Columbia River.

1821 – Mexico claims provincial rights to Arizona and a trade route known as the Santa Fe Trail is opened.

1823 – A peace treaty between Mexico and the Navajo is reached. The Monroe Doctrine is enacted, protecting the Western Hemisphere from rule by European governments.

1824 – Trading begins in earnest in Apache territory. Bill Williams, a trapper of note, extends his territory from Northwest Arizona and south into Sonora. Famous trappers of the Gila River Valley include Sylvester and James Ohio Pattie and Kit Carson. Construction of the Erie Canal is completed.

1830 – Pauline Weaver, a scout and trapper, sets up shop in Arizona.

1846 – Cooke’s Wagon Road is established when a Mormon battalion takes possession of Tucson, staking its claim by erecting an American flag. The road stretches from Santa Fe to the Pacific Ocean.

1848 – As a result of the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo, all land north of the Gila River, which was part of the Mexican province of Arizona, becomes property of the United States of America (US). The once-Mexican Arizona is now part of the current US state, New Mexico.

1849 – John C. Freeman and his survey party travels west along the Gila River. Charles E. Pamcoast and party travel the entire length of the Gila. Along the way, Gila Howard is born; the child, named after the river, is the first Anglo-Saxon baby born in the Arizona territories.

1850 – Steamboats begin commercial travels along the Colorado River. The US Territory of New Mexico is officially established. The Compromise of 1850 addresses conflicts that arose between slavery and the gold rush.

1854 – Peter Kitchen establishes the first American-owned ranch in Arizona. Charles D. Poston reaches the state; he will later become known as the Father of Arizona.

1857 – The San Antonio and San Diego Company establishes the first regularly scheduled stage coach line in Arizona.

1859 – Arizona’s first newspaper, the Weekly Arizonan, is published in Tubac.

1861 – Apache Chief Cochise leads a reign of terror against white settlers.

1862 – Picacho Peak becomes the only Civil War battle zone in Arizona as well as the westernmost battleground of the war. Carleton’s California Volunteers are on the front lines of that battle. Confederate President Jefferson Davis claims Arizona for the confederacy. The Homestead Act is passed, offering free land out west.

1863 – President Abraham Lincoln makes it official – the Arizona Territory is part of US lands, Prescott is its capital city, and John N. Goodwin is its governor.

1864 – The historical “Long Walk” begins, as the Navajo people surrender to white forces and begin the 300-mile journey into exile from Fort Defiance, Arizona, to Fort Sumner, New Mexico. Arizona establishes four counties: Mohave, Pima, Yavapai, and Yuma.

1865 – The Colorado River Indian Reservation is established for the Mohave and other native Arizona tribal peoples.

1866 – Juan Candelaria establishes the first domestic sheep herding operation of substantial size in the territory.

1867 – Arizona’s territorial capital is moved from Prescott to Tucson. Public schools are opened in both towns.

1878 – The Navajo Reservation is established in Northeastern Arizona, with parts of it extending into adjacent New Mexico.

1869 – Major John Wesley Powell leads the first full American exploration of the Grand Canyon the same year the famed golden spike is placed, completing the Transcontinental Railroad.

1870 – The rush is on as large deposits of silver are discovered in Mohave County as well as the Bradshaw, Pinal, and Tombstone Mountain ranges.

1871 – The Camp Grant Massacre occurs, the Arizona government declares a peace policy, and Maricopa County is founded.

1873 – Arizona’s first cotton crop is harvested.

1875 – Arizona’s first major copper mining operation begins in Clifton, Pinal County is founded, and the territory’s first prison is established at Yuma.

1876 – A party of immigrants, celebrating the 4th of July, declares the nameless site of the festivities Flagstaff, thereby giving name to the city bearing that name today.

1877 – Prescott once again becomes the territorial capital and the territory’s first bank, the Bank of Arizona, opens in Prescott.

1879 – The town of Tombstone and Apache County are founded.

1880 – The Southern Pacific becomes the first railroad to reach Arizona, with a Tucson destination. The copper industry enjoys expansion as a result.

1881 – Lumber becomes the territory’s newest established industry and Cochise, Flagstaff, Gila, and Graham become its newest counties. Helen Hunt Jackson writes A Century of Dishonor, the result of which is the founding of the Indian Rights Association. The American Federation of Labor (AFL) is founded.

1883 – The Santa Fe Railroad establishes lines across Northern Arizona.

1885 – Fort Whipple becomes home to the Tenth Calvary.

1886 – Tempe Normal School is established in Tempe; today it is known as Arizona State University. The infamous Geronimo and his Apache Raiders surrender to the US Army.

1887 – Arizona’s first train robbery puts $20,000 in the hands of the robbers.

1888 – Copper mining in Arizona proves to be more profitable than mining gold and silver.

1889 – The territorial capital is moved once again, from Prescott to Phoenix.

1890 – Settlements along the Gila River are ravaged by an epidemic of spotted fever and the US Census Bureau declares the days of the American Frontier are over.

1891 – The University of Arizona begins classes in Tucson, the large-scale commercial production of citrus crops begins, and Coconino County is founded.

1892 – Stagecoach service linking Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon begins.

1895 – Navajo County is established.

1898 – Three regiments of the First Volunteer Calvary are organized in Arizona, with Captain William (Bucky) O’Neill, of Prescott, leading the Rough Riders. The US Senate discusses admission of Arizona and New Mexico to the nation as one unified state but the Arizona people protest vigorously, wanting no part of New Mexico.

1902 – Santa Cruz County is founded.

1903 – The Tonto Basin Dam becomes the first major irrigation project undertaken by the US government, the Wright Brothers announce their first successful air flight, and the US government acquires rights to the Panama Canal Zone.

1907 – Arizona passes the Anti-Gambling Law.

1909 – Greenlee County is founded.

1911 – President Theodore Roosevelt is honored at the dedication ceremony for the Roosevelt Dam.

1912 – On February 14, Arizona becomes the 48th state in the union. George P. Hunt is elected the new state’s first governor; he will serve seven gubernatorial terms of office.

1916 – After Pancho Villa raids Columbus, New Mexico, the Arizona National Guard is called to action. Pershing begins his expedition into Mexico.

1917 – Arizona inaugurates its first Native American governor, Thomas E. Campbell. The Tenth Cavalry returns to Fort Huachua, after accomplishing the longest march into Mexico at the time in pursuit of Pancho Villa. When the US enters World War I, 25,000 men from Arizona enlist; 3,000 of them will be killed in action.

1918 – The US Supreme Court rules that George W. P. Hunt be inaugurated as governor of Arizona instead of Campbell.

1919 – Campbell wins the gubernatorial election. The Grand Canyon is officially recognized as a US National Park.

1920 – The Phoenix Junior College is founded.

1921 – A slump in the copper mining industry leads to economic depression in the state.

1923 – Hunt is once again inaugurated as governor of Arizona.

1924 – Native Americans win the right to be classified as US citizens.

1927 – Air service for both freight and passengers flying in to Arizona is established.

1928 – President Calvin Coolidge officiates at the dedication ceremony for the Coolidge Dam.

1929 – John Calhoun Philips becomes governor of Arizona.

1931 – Once again, Hunt is inaugurated as the state’s governor.

1933 – Benjamin Baker Moeur is elected Arizona governor. President Roosevelt signs into law his New Deal legislation, developed to end the economic stranglehold of the Great Depression. As part of the New Deal, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) is established as a means of providing training and employment opportunities for young men unemployed as a result of the depression. The first CCC camps established in Arizona work with development of recreation areas and they assist soil conservation and forest service personnel.

1935 – Construction is completed on Hoover Dam.

1937 – Arizona’s new governor is Rawghlie Clement Stanford.

1939 – Robert Taylor Jones wins the state governorship position.

1941 – Sidney Preston Osborn is elected governor of Arizona, becoming the second Native Arizonan to hold that office.

1946 – As Arizona’s right to Work Law goes into effect, the value of the state’s industry and manufacturing jobs becomes more evident.

1948 – Native Americans living in Arizona win the right to vote.

1950 – Arizona establishes a system of junior colleges. The Korean War begins, heralding the first military action after establishment of the United Nations organization.

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