Tucson/Sonora Freighters Arizona
Freighting is one economic activity that Mexicans from Tucson and Sonora enjoyed a monopoly over for several decades. For more than two hundred years, Hispanics traders and packers, the arrieros (mule drivers) and the mayordomos (wagon masters) had navigated the ancient roads of the Southwest. Bartlett mentioned an encounter with three Mexican packers who had brought goods from Tucson to trade with the Gila River Pimas. In the mid-nineteenth century, independent Mexican freighters and merchants transported most of the goods across Arizona until the arrival of the railroads. Dozens of teamsters hauled grain to stations between Tucson and Yuma. In Tucson, trains of government wagons were always heading east or west, to the Rio Grande or to Yuma. In the 1860s, Tucson became an important trade center. Olives, oranges, lemons, cigars, and silver coins were imported from Sonora; clothing, shoes, and groceries were taken back on the return trip, and from Magdalena, a prosperous town of about 1,500 people, American dry goods were distributed out to the Sonoran mines. Because of the scarcity of gold on the frontier, the Mexican peso, or "'dobe dollar," was used as a medium of exchange. Hispanic freighters hauled provisions to mining camps and army forts across the territory. They also supplied army posts with locally produced wood, hay and beef, and brought hides to Yuma for export. James H. McClintock claims that as late as 1883, long trains of ox-drawn, wooden-wheeled carretas from Sonora were still bringing fruit, panocha, and serapes to Tucson and Phoenix. Much of the freighting business in Arizona was eventually dominated by Anglo entrepreneurs who established mercantile companies in the 1860s, but old firms, such as Tully, Ochoa & Company, and Contreras & Amabisca, continued to prosper.
The presidio of Tubac was established along the Santa Cruz River in 1751. This frontier fortress housed a garrison of Spanish soldiers to protect the missions and settlements in the area. In 1775, the garrison was moved north, and the new presidio of Tucson was built. A small civilian settlement was started next to the presidio. Soon the adobe-walled fortress was surrounded by a community of farmers, ranchers, craftsmen, and laborers. The soldiers were kept quite busy defending the town against frequent Apache raids.
There was a brief period of peace with the Apaches, but when the Mexican government withdrew military support from the northern region in the 1820s, Apaches again waged a bitter war across Sonora. The Santa Cruz Valley had grown become a prosperous center of trade, farming, and ranching, but Apache raids eventually caused many people to flee to the south. In 1850, there were less than a thousand Mexicans in the Tucson area. Most of those had taken refuge within the presidio walls. The village of Tubac was completely deserted, and haciendas on the San Pedro River and Babocomari Creek were abandoned.
The United States acquired Tucson with the Gadsden Purchase. On January 1, 1856, the U.S. Army formally took possession of the presidio of Tucson as Adjutant Inspector Ignacio Pesqueira directed the transfer of the Mexican soldiers and their families from Tucson to Imuris. The civilian residents of Tucson each faced an important personal decision: they could stay and become U.S. citizens, or they could move south and try to re-establish their homes, farms, and businesses in Mexican territory. Some chose to retain their Mexican nationality, and left with the soldiers, but many decided to stay in Tucson.
By mid-1856, there were only about three hundred Hispanic residents remaining in Tucson. When Charles D. Poston and Samuel P. Heintzelman started developing silver mines near Tubac, the region was quickly repopulated as former residents returned to work for the Sonora Exploring and Mining Company. An "American" town was built on the site between 1858 and 1860. Within a few years, the population of the Tucson-Tubac area had grown to nearly two thousand.
By the 1880s, Tucson was a growing prosperous commercial center serving all areas of Arizona Territory. Prominent Hispanic residents of Tucson in the early territorial period included brothers Juan and Jesus Maria Elias who both served as legislators, businessmen such as Leopoldo Carrillo, Manuel H. Amado, and Ramon Pacheco, and freighters with ranching interests, such as Mariano G. Samaniego, Estevan Ochoa, and Yjinio Aguirre. For a more detailed history of Tucson's Mexican American community, see Thomas Sheridan's Los Tucsonenses (University of Arizona Press, 1986).
The exact date of the founding of the village or city of Tucson is somewhat uncertain. Some writers claim that it was first located about the year 1555, and that it is the oldest city in the United States. Others, however, claim that it was not a settlement until the latter part of the seventeenth century, when the missions along the Santa Cruz were established by Father Kino, and that Tucson was a visitation attached to San Xavier del Bac. Of one thing, however, there seems to be no doubt, and that is that Tucson, whatever the exact date of its founding may have been, was the first and only walled city ever existing in the United States.
The descriptions of this wall differ in some details, but the fact remains that the town was walled for many years, probably not less than one hundred and fifty, and was built in the form of a square, the wall rising about five feet above the flat roofs of the houses, affording fine breastworks for the defense of the Pueblo; the rear ends of the houses were built into and against the heavy wall surrounding the little settlement. The only door allowed was the one opening into the open square in front. The flat roofs, in the summer time, furnished fine family sleeping rooms. The little fort was also built in the form of a square, with a tower at each corner, fitted with loopholes or small windows for outlooks, and for firing on raiding Indians or other enemies, and these towers or bastions were so constructed as to enfilade the walls, as well as to intimidate the approaching enemy. Artillery was suggested by two small cannon, which one writer naively says, ‘‘were more dangerous, however, to the garrison than to the enemy.’’
The enclosure formed by this wall occupied space bounded as follows: Beginning at Washington Street, thence south to Pennington; up Pennington to about the middle of the courthouse; thence north to Washington Street, along Washington Street to the place of beginning. A map, herewith shown, was made by Major Ferguson of the California Column, in 1861 or 1862, which shows the boundaries of the wall practically as above set forth.
There were two entrances by immense doors made of heavy timber put solidly together, and these were invariably closed at night. One of these entrances, stood where Alameda Street enters Main, and some of the old wall has been used in the construction of modern buildings. It might be pertinent here to insert an article printed in the Tucson Citizen under date of June 21st, 1873, which is headed: TUCSON A CENTURY AGO, and which is as follows:
‘‘We met an old lady this week, who is supposed to be over one hundred years old, and was born in Tucson. Her name is Mariana Dias, and from her we obtained several historical items relating to old times, which were very interesting to us. She says as long ago as she can remember, Tucson consisted of a military post, surrounded by a corral, and that there were but two or three houses outside of it. The country was covered with horses and cattle, and on many of the trails they were so plentiful that it was quite inconvenient to get through the immense herds. They were valuable only for the hides and tallow, and a good sized steer was worth only three dollars.
This country then belonged to Spain and the troops were paid in silver coin, and on all the coin the name of Ferdinand I., was engraved, and money was plentiful. Goods, such as they were, were brought from Sonora on pack animals. They had in those days no carts or wagons. The fields in front and below Tucson were cultivated and considerable grain was also raised upon the San Pedro. With an abundance of beef and the grain they raised, they always had an ample food supply. They had no communication with California and she never knew there was such a country until she had become an old woman. San Xavier was built as long ago as she can remember, and the church in the valley in front of the town, and there was also a church in Court House square, which has gone to ruin and no trace is left of it. The priests were generally in good circumstances, and were supported by receiving a portion of the annual products, but for marriages, burials, baptisms and other church duties, they did not ask or receive any pay.
Among the leading and wealthier men who lived here at that time, she mentioned the names of Epumusema Loreles, Santa Cruz, Ygnacio Pacheco, Rita Soso, Padre Pedro, and Juan Diaz. On inquiry about the Apaches she spoke with considerable feeling and said that many efforts had been made for peace with them, but every attempt had resulted in failure; that whatever promises they made, but a few days would pass before they proved treacherous and commenced murder and robbery again; that they murdered her husband in the field about two miles below Tucson and that most of her relatives had gone in the same way; that she was now left alone and would be in want but for such men as Samuel Hughes.
She related the circumstances of one peace that was made about ninety years ago. It seems that the Apaches got the worst of a fight on the Arivaca Ranch; several were killed and the son of a chief was taken prisoner and brought to Tucson, and the Indians at once opened negotiations to obtain this boy. Colonel Carbon, in command of the Spanish forces, agreed with them that on a certain day the Indians should all collect here, and to prevent treachery and being overpowered, he brought in at night, and concealed within the walls of the fort, all the men he could get from all the towns within one hundred and fifty miles.
On the day appointed, the Indians came in vast numbers; all the plains around were black with them. The colonel then told them if they had come on a mission of peace they must lay down their arms and meet him as friends. They complied with his request, and then all the people inside the walls came out and went among them unarmed. The colonel gave them one hundred head of cattle and the boy prisoner was produced and turned over to his father, and they embraced each other and cried, and an era of reconciliation and peace seemed to have arrived.
The boy told his father that he liked his captors so well that he desired to live with them, and in spite of the persuasions of the old man, he still insisted upon remaining, and the Indians were compelled to return to their mountain home without him. The boy was a great favorite with the people. Sometime afterwards he went to visit his people, but before leaving he saw everyone in the village and bade them goodbye, promising to return, which he did in fifteen days. A few days after his return, he took the small-pox and died. Very soon after his death, the Apaches commenced to murder and rob the same as before.
The aged lady then remarked with apparently much feeling, that since her earliest recollection she had heard it said many times, ‘‘We are going to have peace with the Apaches,’’ but every hope had been broken and she did not think we would have any peace as long as an Apache lived.
When she was a girl, the Apaches made two attempts to capture Tucson. The first time nearly all the soldiers and men were away. The Apaches learning of this, took advantage of the absence of the defenders and attacked the town, and would have taken it and murdered every one in it, but for the timely assistance of the Pima and Papago Indians, who came to the rescue in large numbers, attacking the Apaches on two sides, driving them off and killing many. The next time the sentinel on the hill west of town discovered them coming; he gave the alarm, and after a severe fight, the Indians were driven off. The Apaches had no firearms in those days, and were armed with spears, bows and arrows.
She referred to the pleasant times they used to have when their wants were few and easily supplied, and told how they danced and played and enjoyed themselves. We asked her if she thought the people were happier than now; she did not seem inclined to draw comparisons, but remarked that if it had not been for the Apaches, they would hardly have known what trouble was. Crime was almost unknown and she never knew anyone to be punished more severely than being confined for a few days.
The law required all strangers, unless they were of established reputation, to engage in some labor or business, within three days after their arrival, or leave the town, and to this regulation she attributes the exemption from crime. On inquiry as to whether they had liquor in those days, she said that she never knew a time when there was not plenty of mescal, but it was only on rare occasions that anyone drank to excess, and then they acted to each other as brothers.