In early November, Ignacio Pacheco, the mayor of Tucson, reported that "the Gila Pimas, represented by a village governor and two of his men, arrived at this presidio with news of sixteen foreigners bearing arms along the banks of their river. The Gila governor demanded papers of identification...their leader replied that they came only to visit the Indians along the Gila in order to obtain mules and horses from them and to find out where there might be other rivers abounding in beaver."
The foreigners Pacheco referred to were a group of Anglo American trappers led by Ceran St. Vrain and William Sherley Williams, better known to his fellow mountain men as Old Bill. The movement of American trappers and traders blazing the Santa Fe trail soon became a torrent. Ten years after Pacheco warned about foreigners in Arizona, Anglo rebels took Texas from Mexican hands, and, in 1848, Mexico ceded more than half its territory to the United States, including Arizona north of the Gila River. By 1856 the United States expanded past Tucson. In Pacheco's time, Arizona was already a part of the American frontier.
Despite their romanticizations by later generations, the first American frontiersmen in Arizona were adventurers and businessmen rather than mountain men. They entered Arizona from their headquarters in Taos, New Mexico, to hunt the beavers between the upper Gila River and the Colorado delta. Independent trappers like Old Bill flourished in the Southwest until people in the eastern United States began to wear hats made from silk rather than beaver felt.
The first American trappers to set foot on Arizona soil were Sylvester Pattie and his son James, who spent the winter of 1825-1826 trapping along the San Francisco, Gila, and San Pedro rivers. James left an account of his travels that described encounters with bears, "panthers," Indians, and "wild hogs," or javelina. Pattie was the first Anglo to describe Arizona and the first of many to exaggerate the ferocity of its human and animal inhabitants.
Despite its embellishments, Pattie's narrative constitutes the most extensive firsthand account of early trappings in the Southwest, which was much different from trapping in the North, where Indians participated in the trade and formed close relationships with many non-Indian trappers. During the winter of 1826-1827, Pattie returned to Arizona with a group of French trappers led by Miguel Robidoux, one of six brothers who had grown up trapping and trading along the Missouri River. After visiting a village of Spanish-speaking Pimas who cultivated corn, wheat, and cotton along the south bank of the Gila, Robidoux and his companions made their way to a "Papawar" settlement about a mile up the Salt River. The Indians were likely Yuman-speaking Maricopas, allies of the Pimas who had engaged in extensive warfare with their Mohave and Quechan enemies for centuries. That evening they killed all of the trappers except for Pattie, Robidoux, and another Frenchman. After fleeing, the three men met another group of trappers led by Ewing Young, and returned to exact their revenge. Pattie claimed that 110 Indians were killed in the incident. Similar hostilities broke out whenever trappers traveled through the Apachería or trapped beaver in Mohave territory along the Colorado.
Trappers continued to explore Arizona and travel to California, where they sold the furs to ships trading with the Mexican settlements of the Pacific Coast. By the time the Southwestern fur trade had declined in 1833, most of the famous mountain men in Western history had passed through Arizona. Because they exported their furs through northern New Mexico and California, they had little reason to visit Tucson and Tubac, causing them to avoid confrontations with the Mexicans along the Santa Cruz. The mountain men had little effect on Arizona's economy and ecology. Beaver populations had recovered by the next decade.
During the 1830s and early 1840s, Apaches threatened the Mexican settlers of Arizona. As early as 1824, Apaches began running off horse herds from Tumacacori and other Santa Cruz communities. Then, to the south, a Yaqui leader named Juan Banderas envisioned a pan-Indian nation taking shape in northwestern Mexico and launched a series of revolts in Sanora. Antuna, chief of Tucson's Apache Mansos, warned that the Yaquis were planning to attack Tucson with Tohono O'odham, Yumas, and Western Apaches, and though the assault never materialized, this marked the end of the peace of the late colonial period.
During the following decades, the Republic of Mexico plunged into bankruptcy and civil war. The first to collapse was the provincias internas, which had centralized political and military power in the north under the authority of the comandante general. In 1824, Mexico dismembered the system and partitioned itself into states, which frequently acted independently of one another even in military affairs. In April 1835, for example, Chihuahuan authorities negotiated a peace treaty with Chihuahua Apaches (so-called Mimbreños, Gileños, and Mogolloneros) led by "General" Juan José Compá and sixteen other chiefs at the mining community of Santa Rita del Cobre in southwestern New Mexico. That left the Chiricahuas free to raid Sonoran communities like Sahuaripa on the western slopes of the Sierra Madre. Sonoran officials protested the treaty and mounted a counterattack against the Chiricahuas, but Chihuahuan forces did not join their countrymen. Mexican authority became almost as diffuse as authority among the Apaches.
Struggles for power within the Mexican states compounded disunion among the states themselves. In Sonora, a series of military strongmen dominated politics during the nineteenth century. These strongmen, including José de Urrea and Manuel Mariá Gándera, who owned a hacienda at the old mission of Calabasas, manipulated factions among the Yaquis, Opata, and Apaches to advance their own ends. They also drew presidial forces into their interminable civil wars, leaving the northern frontier exposed and defenseless for months at a time. In 1832, many families had to abandon Tubac because its garrison had been reduced to the captain, his aide, and three retired soldiers. The Tubaqueños probably sought refuge with their Tucson neighbors, hoping that strength of numbers would keep the Apaches at bay.
The biggest blow to Arizona was the dismantling of the Apache rationing system in 1831. Ethnohistorian William Griffen estimated that 2,496 Apaches received weekly supplies of beef, corn, sugar, and other foodstuffs from presidial commanders in Chihuahua, Sonora, and New Mexico in 1825. Such rations had been an important part of the economy of many Apache groups since the 1790s. Their abrupt withdrawal forced Apaches to leave their peace camps and return to raiding.
One particularly brutal incident occurred on April 22, 1837 when a group led by John Johnson, an Anglo living in Sonora, pursued an Apache raiding party that had stolen Sonoran cattle. Johnson's party followed the cattle tracks into the Animas Mountains in southwestern New Mexico, where it encountered the camp of Juan José Compá, the same Apache who had made peace with the Chihuahuans the year before. For two days Johnson and the Apaches talked, and then Juan José and other chiefs relaxed enough to gather around some brown sugar and parched corn Johnson offered. When they did, Johnson turned what may have been a swivel gun upon them and cut down at least twenty Apaches including Juan José.
The cycle of attack and counterattack accelerated during the 1830s and reached its peak the following decade. The attacks were particularly devastating because of the Anglo American gunrunners in New Mexico. With the opening of the Santa Fe Trail in 1821, Anglo American traders began exchanging firearms and ammunition for stolen horses and mules. Comanches received the weapons first, followed by Navajos, Apaches, and Utes. While Mexico reeled from one coup to another, Indian access to firearms transformed the balance of power in the Southwest. The Apaches lost the battle against the Commanches for control of the Southern Plains, but held their grounds in the mountains of Arizona and New Mexico long after the Apachería became part of the United States.
Not all Mexican-Apache alliances broke down during the 1830s. When Apaches from most peace camps rose in revolt, many Apache Mansos in Tucson under the leadership of Chief Antuna resisted the call to arms. At a parley with the Pinal Apaches, a band who lived near modern Globe, violence erupted when the Tucson contingent refused to join their kinsmen. One Manso and one Pimal were killed. Thereafter, Antuna and his people served as scouts for the Tucsonese, extending the effective range of the Tucson presidio far beyond the valley of the Santa Cruz.
Tucson in the 1830s was as much an Apache as a Mexican community. Sonoran census of 1831 listed only 465 Mexican inhabitants, whereas Tucson's Apache Manso community in 1835 was said to include 486 individuals. Many lived north of the presidio along the east bank of the Santa Cruz. Some cultivated their own fields or occasionally worked for Mexican farmers, and they also moved freely back and forth between Tucson and the surrounding mountains, hunting deer and bighorn sheep, gathering cactus fruit, and roasting agave. During the first half of the nineteenth century, their way of life remained Apachean despite the fact that they were allies, not enemies, of the Mexicans living along the Santa Cruz.
Relations between the Mexicans and the Pimas steadily declined. Hispanic settlers had been moving onto O'odham lands across the Santa Cruz River since the eighteenth century. Following Mexican independence, the pressure grew more intense, especially after the Franciscan missions began to wither and decay. By 1843, the fields at Calabasas, Guevavi, and Sonoita were completely deserted. At San Xavier only about one-eighth of the land previously cultivated for mission purposes lay under the plow. Throughout the colonial period, missions served as a buffer between Indians and Hispanic settlers in the Pimería Alta. When the mission system crumbled, O'odham land tenure disintegrated as well.
The most blatant land grab occurred in 1844. Far to the south, in the port of the Guaymas, the Mexican government declared that the mission lands of Tumacacori had been abandoned and auctioned them off for five hundred pesos to Francisco Alejandro Aguilar. The few Pimas who had not been driven away by Apache depredations neither knew about nor consented to the sale. Aguilar was the brother-in-law of Manuel Mariá Gándara, one of the most powerful military strongmen in Sonora. He turned Calabasas into his own private hacienda, and by the late 1840s Pima disposession along the Santa Cruz was nearly complete.
During the 1820s and 1830s, Sonoran ranchers strove to colonize the grasslands of southeastern Arizona. Their legal tool was the land grant and their instrument of occupation was the mixed-breed longhorn cow. These longhorn, or their descendants, roamed the range as feral survivors long after their masters were gone.
Before Mexico won its independence from Spain in 1821, the Spanish government had made a few small grants of land in southern Arizona. In 1789, Toribio de Otero petitioned for a lot from the Tubac presidio in return for military service. The land remained in the Otero family until 1938. In 1807, the O'odham of the Tumacacori mission received title to a long strip along the Santa Cruz River south of Tubac encompassing the former mission lands of Tumacacacori, Calabasas, and Guevavi. Part of this grant was the land auctioned off in Guaymas in 1846. In 1812, Agustín Ortiz purchased the site of Arivaca, an important mining and ranching center since the mid eighteenth century, at public auction. Charles Poston purchased that hacienda from Ignacio Ortiz in 1856 for $10,000.
However, most grants in Arizona were made after Mexico gained independence. In 1821, Tomás and Ignacio Ortiz received a total of about 17,000 acres (69 km²) of land known as San Ignacio de la Canoa and located between Tubac and modern Sahuarita. The following year, the ranch of San Bernardino east of modern Douglas became the property of Lieutenant Ignacio Pérez. It totaled more than 73,000 acres (300 km²) in Arizona and northeastern Sanora. León Herreros acquired San José de Sanoita in 1825, while "Ramón Romero and other shareholders, their children, heirs, and successors received title to San Rafael de la Zanja in the San Rafael Valley the same year. The Mexican government issued five more grants, including Buenavista, San Rafael del Valle, San Juan de las Boquillas y Nogales, Tres Alamos, and the Babocómari ranch, between 1826 and 1831.
Hispanic Arizona was again making an effort to roll back the borders of the Apachería. The land grants established Mexican title to much of the Santa Cruz and San Pedro valleys. They also extended Mexican domain over the plains south of the Chircahua Mountains. Most of the cattle country ended up in the hands of the Elías-González family or their relatives. During the colonial period, the Spanish government supported the mission and the presidial systems in order to insure royal control over the northern frontier. By the 1820s, however, private capital had become the usual method of colonization, and most of that capital belonged to a network of elite families who dominated northern Sanora at the time. They provided the livestock and took the risks.
If the Elías-Gonzálezes and their neighbors had received the land grant twenty years earlier, when they would have been protected by the presidios and the Apache peace program, they might have succeeded, but beginning in the 1820s, the Apaches began to burn their buildings and kill their cowboys, run off their horses, and slaughter their beef. By 1840 most of the grants had been abandoned. Even though the U.S. Court of Private Land Claims eventually confirmed eight of the Spanish and Mexican land grants in the early twentieth century, none of the descendants of the original grantees managed to hold on to their titles. John Slaughter owned the San Bernardino Ranch north of the U.S.-Mexico border, and Colin Cameron's San Rafael Cattle Company had acquired the San Rafael de la Zanja grant. Largescale ranching did not return to the area until the 1880s after most of the Apaches had been confined to reservations. When it did, American land-and-cattle companies, not the Mexican elite, held them.
Some presidial soldiers became so poor that they had to sell their weapons to feed their families. In 1840 and 1841 the Mexican government campaigned against the Tohono O'odham of the western deserts, their former allies. The colony reached its nadir at midcentury. In 1843 the Apaches killed at least thirty shareholders of the San Rafael de la Zanja grant at La Boca de Noria near modern Lochiel. Ranching ceased in the San Rafael Valley. Five years later, at least fifteen Tucsonenses, including nine presidial soldiers, rode into ambush in the Whetstone Mountains. By the time the bodies could be recovered, they were so decomposed that the remains had to be carried back to the presidio of Santa Cruz in sacks. Tubac itself was abandoned once again after an Apache assault in January 1849.
The Mexican War
The Spaniards had long feared that other European powers were planning to invade their sparsely populated northern frontier. They sparred with the French and English in the Mississippi Valley and watched the Russians expand down the Pacific coast, but after Mexico won its independence from Spain, it was the growth of the United States that proved most significant. The process began with Texas in 1836. Six years later, Mexico's secretary of state, Lucás Alamán, warned, "Where others send invading armies...[the Americans] send their colonists." Desperate to fill empty spaces, Mexico invited Americans and other foreign colonists to settle in Texas in 1824. By 1830 there were already more than twice as many Anglos as Mexicans there (7,000 to 3,000). By 1836 the ratio had risen ten to one. When Sam Houston led his rebels to victory at San Jacinto, Texas remained an independent republic until 1845. Mexicans of Texas soon became a minority in their native land.
Many citizens of the United States felt they had a God-given mandate to extend their "area of freedom" across North America. On December 27, 1845, John L. O'Sullivan, editor of the New York Morning News, wrote that it was "our manifest destiny to overspread and to possess the whole of the continent which Providence has given us for the development of the great experiment of liberty and federated self-government entrusted to us." Mexico had already broken off relations with the United States in March 1845 after the annexation of Texas. Six months later, President James Polk sent John Slidell to Mexico City to buy California and New Mexico. When the Mexican government refused to negotiate, Polk ordered General Zachary Taylor to occupy disputed territory between the Nueces River and the Rio Grande. A Mexican attack on U.S. troops preceded a U.S. declaration of war on Mexico in May 1846.
A primary U.S. objective in the war was the acquisition of California. Most American pioneers and politicians considered Arizona a wasteland, a desert, and an Indian-infested obstacle between Santa Fe and San Diego. Although several U.S. military expeditions passed through the area on their way to the west, they did so as quickly as possible, and none of them stayed.
General Stephen Watts Kearny, commander of the Army of the West, led the first group of soldiers. Following his conquest of New Mexico, Kearny and a detachment of "wilderness-worn dragoons" left Santa Fe on September 25, 1846. They were guided by Kit Carson, who had been impressed into service along the way. Under Carson's direction, Kearny and his men descended the Gila and spent the next two months following the river's passage to the Colorado. The expedition marched through the villages of the Gila Pimas, but completely bypassed Tubac and Tucson. It therefore avoided any confrontation with Mexican troops, but it first introduced American soldiers to the Arizona desert.
The next expedition swung farther south and went through Tucson on its way to California. This was the Mormon Battalion, a company of Latter Day Saints from the Midwest who volunteered for duty in order to prove their patriotism and diffuse the religious hatred of their neighbors. The main purpose of their journey was to blaze a wagon trail across the southern Great Plains and the Southwest. When they reached Santa Fe, Lieutenant Colonel Philip St. George Cooke took command and led the battalion to San Diego. The Mormons left Santa Fe in October 1846. They had to double-team their wagons to get over the Sacramento Mountains in south central New Mexico and lower them by rope down Guadalupe Pass in the northern Sierra Madre. While their encounters with the Indians were generally peaceful, the wild bulls of southeastern Arizona charged their caravan and gorged their mules.
Because of Cooke's firmness, wild bulls were the only antagonists the battalion had to face. The Mormons were the first representatives of the U.S. government to meet the Mexican population of Arizona. The initial encounter took place at a mescal distillery between the San Pedro and Santa Cruz valleys. There the teetotaling Mormons met a sergeant and several soldiers from the Tucson presidio. The sergeant politely requested that Cooke and his men make a detour around Tucson. Cooke politely declined.
Several days of sparring followed as Tucson's veteran commander, Antonio Camadurán, attempted to persuade the battalion not to enter the community. When all threats and pleas for an armistice failed, Comadurán withdrew his outnumbered garrison to San Xavier. The result was a peaceful day of trading between the Mormons and the Mexican inhabitants of Tucson. The battalion lumbered into town on December 17. The Tucsonenses offered the soldiers food and water, and the soldiers responded by bartering clothing for the beans and flour they needed.
By the time Cooke and his troops had left the next morning, the only shots that had been fired came from one of the battalion's pickets, who mistook the returning civilians for Mexican soldiers during the night. No one was injured and no one died. Cooke sent a note apologizing to Comodurán for the inconvenience. With it he enclosed a letter to the governor of Sonora. The letter assured the governor that Cooke had not come "as an enemy of the people whom you represent; they have received only kindness at my hands."
After General Winfield Scott seized Mexico City in September 1847 following bloody hand-to-hand combat, Nicholas Trist sat down with Mexican authorities and helped to write the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo, which Congress ratified the following March. In return for $18,250,000 in cash payments and claims assumed by the U.S. government, the United States won confirmation of its title to Texas. It also annexed California and New Mexico, which included Arizona north of the Gila River.
The Gold Rush of 1849
The following year, commerce united people in both countries for a time. The Gold Rush of 1849 ignited the largest mining rush in American history. Since Coronado's expedition, Spaniards had dreamed of Quivara and the Seven Cities of Cíbola, but when gold was found at Sutter's Mill along the American River, Alta California belonged to the United States. The gold rush drew thousands of Americans and Mexicans, leaving many towns in Sonora nearly depopulated. Gold-seekers overwhelmed the little communities of southern Arizona. By the time the rush was over, 50,000 people had gone through the region on their way to the California goldfields.
The Gila Trail leading to the California mines crossed the Sierra Madre at Guadalupe Pass and swung down the Santa Cruz Valley through Tumacacori, Tubac, and Tucson. From there it followed Cooke's wagon road north to the Pima villages and west to the junction of the Gila and Colorado. Ninety-two miles of the trail were without water, and another was across the Mojave Desert west of the Colorado. As perilous as it was, however, the Gila Trail became the main path connecting Arizona to the United States.
Miners also provided valuable information about Arizona's Native Americans. Though they were impressed with the Gila Pimas, who gave them wheat and corn, they viewed the Quechans of the Colorado River with suspicion. Apaches left the Anglo Americans alone, viewing them as potential allies in their continuous war against the Mexicans. After one inconsequential skirmish near Guadalupe Pass, the Chiricahua war chief Mangas Coloradas even told a group of Americans that he loved them.
Despite their hatred of Mexicans, the Apaches depended upon Mexican livestock for food and to see them through hard times. At about 9:00 A.M. of December 16, 1850, a large number of Apaches, perhaps as many as 361, came out of the Catalina Mountains and caught Tucson by surprise. The Tucsonenses fled to the presidio or to the large adobe convent on the west bank of the Santa Cruz River. The Apaches rounded up their animals, killed four of their neighbors, and took two Mexican boys and Apache Manson women captive. Suddenly afterward the Apaches offered to make peace. A treaty might have been secured if the O'odham had not ridden in from San Xavier and descended upon the Apaches, driving them away. Apaches often made truces with one Mexican community in order to raid another, and livestock stolen in Sonora was often bartered in Chihuahua and New Mexico.
A cholera epidemic broke out in 1851. The establishment of "military colonies" in Tucson and Tubac by Americans aggravated the situation of Anglo American invasion. To prevent the loss of any more territory, the Mexican government decided to grant each recruit a plot of land in return for a six-year tour of duty. In Tucson, military officials confiscated land already being cultivated by civilians or retired presidio soldiers, turning farmers against the soldiers who were supposed to protect them.
The Gadsden Purchase
Many residents of Mexican Arizona greeted the Treaty of Mesilla with relief. In 1853, President James Buchanan dispatched James Gadsden, a railroad speculator from North Carolina, to present Mexican president Santa Anna with five different plans to purchase more of northern Mexico. The most ambitious offered $50 million for Baja California and much of Sonora, Chihuahua, and Coahuila. The least extensive sought Arizona south of the Gila River and the Mesilla Valley of New Mexico. That was the one Santa Anna accepted. In return for $10,000,000, the United States received nearly 30,000 square miles of deserts and mountains. With it came Tucson, Tubac, and Tumacacori.
When the House of Representatives ratified the Gadsden Purchase on June 29, 1854, Mexican Arizona became a part of the United States. Most inhabitants of the region welcomed the change. Mexican Arizona fell under U.S. law, and presumably, U.S. protection. There were possibilities of new markets for beef and flour, and of the Apaches finally being kept at bay. Mexican troops remained in Tucson until March 1856, but when they headed south, only a few civilians went with them. U.S. troops rode into southern Arizona in late 1856 to take possession of the region, and Mexican as well as Anglo immigrants began to trickle into the area.