Arizona History

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The following important events in the history of Arizona affected political boundaries, record keeping, and family movements.

1539:  Marcos de Niza a Spanish Franciscan Friar was first to explore Arizona.

1776:    :The Spanish established a garrison at Tucson. The Spanish established a garrison at Tucson.

1821:  Arizona became a part of Mexico. Apache troubles eliminated white settlements except in Tucson.

1846:  The Mormon Battalion built Cooke's Wagon Road, south of the Gila River. The road became a favorite route into Arizona and California for early prospectors and pioneers.

1846: U.S. Military under command of Col. Alexander W. Doniphan engaged the Navajo at Bear Springs.

1848-1853:  Mexico ceded the portion of Arizona north of the Gila River to the United States. This became part of New Mexico Territory in 1850. In 1853, the Gadsden Purchase added the area south of the Gila.

1862:  Indian battle of Apache Pass

1864: Kit Carson, led a U.S. army against the Navajo Indians.  The army killed the sheep and burned their crops forcing the tribe to surrender or face starvation. The Navajo were marched to Fort Sumner at Bosque Redondo, New Mexico. The march became known as "The Long Walk". Eight thousand survived the march but many others died.

1863-1866:  Arizona was organized as a separate territory. The first four counties were organized in 1864. In 1866, the northwestern part of Arizona Territory was transferred to the new state of Nevada.

1886:  (September 4) Apache Indian Chief, Geronimo, captured by Federal Troops under General Miles in Arizona, ending the last major Indian War. Geronimo had led his band on a six month escape from San Carlos reservation in Arizona. 

         Battle of Bull Run (Indian & federal troops)

         Battle of Picacho Pass (Indian & federal troops)

  Battle of Skull Cave (Indian & federal troops)

1871:  Camp Grant Massacre

1873:  Apache removal by U.S. Army under direction of Kit Carson.

1882:  Battle of Big Dry Wash

1870-1910:   The non-Indian population of Arizona increased from fewer than 10,000 to over 200,000 as settlers moved in from many states and countries.

1912: (February 14,) Arizona became a state.

1917–1918  More than 26 million men from the United States ages 18 through 45 registered with the Selective Service for World War I , and over 4.7 million American men and women served during the war.

1930s  The Great Depression closed many factories and mills. Many small farms were abandoned, and many families moved to cities.

1940–1945  Over 50.6 million men ages 18 to 65 registered with the Selective Service. Over 16.3 million American men and women served in the armed forces during World War II.

1950–1953  Over 5.7 million American men and women served in the Korean War.

1950s–1960s   The building of interstate highways made it easier for people to move long distances.

1964–1972  Over 8.7 million American men and women served in the Vietnam War.

Historical Sources

You may find state or local histories in the Family History Library Catalog under Arizona or the county or the town. For descriptions of records available through Family History Centers or the Family History Library, click on Family History Library Catalog  . The descriptions give book or film numbers, which you need to find or to order the records.

Local Histories

Some of the most valuable sources for family history research are local histories. Published histories of towns, counties, and states usually contain accounts of families. They describe the settlement of the area and the founding of churches, schools, and businesses. You can also find lists of pioneers, soldiers, and civil officials. Even if your ancestor is not listed, information on other relatives may be included that will provide important clues for locating your ancestor. A local history may also suggest other records to search.

Most county and town histories include separate sections or volumes containing biographical information. These may include information on 50 percent or more of the families in the locality.

For descriptions of bibliographies for Arizona available through Family History Centers or the Family History Library, go to the Family History Library Catalog. Look under BIBLIOGRAPHY or HISTORY - BIBLIOGRAPHY.

Sources for studying the history of Arizona include:

Farish, Thomas Edwin. History of Arizona. Eight Volumes, San Francisco, California: Filmer Brothers Electrotype Company, 19--? Reprint of Phoenix, Arizona: N.p., 1915-18. ( Family History Library book 979.1 H2f; v. 1-4; on film 934825 items 1-4.)

Wyllys, Rufus Kay. Arizona: The History of a Frontier State. Phoenix, Arizona: Hobson and Herr, 1950. ( Family History Library book 979.1 H2w.)

A bibliography that includes some local histories is Donald M. Powell, Arizona Gathering II, 1950-1969: An Annotated Bibliography. Tucson, Arizona: University of Arizona Press, 1973. (Family History Library book 979.1 A3pa).