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The Father of Arizona-Charles Debrille Poston

Charles Debrille Poston     Charles Debrille Poston, “Father of Arizona”, was a prospector, explorer, author, politician, civil servant, and Arizona’s first sun worshiper. Possessing many talents and interests, and full of entrepreneurial spirit, he was a man on whom life was not wasted.

     Born on April 20, 1825 near Elizabethtown, Kentucky and orphaned at age 12, Poston was apprenticed to Samuel Haycraft, the local county clerk, following which, he moved to Nashville, Tennessee, where, while reading law, he clerked for the Tennessee Supreme Court. He married Haycraft’s daughter, Margaret, in 1848. They had one daughter, Sarah Lee, before Margaret became paralyzed in February of 1851. (She died of cancer on February 26, 1884 after being cared for by relatives during her prolonged illness).

     This same year he traveled to California as part of the gold rush and found a job as clerk at the San Francisco Customs House, and while there, became involved with a group of French bankers interested in the lands of the recently negotiated Gadsden Purchase. He secured their backing for an expedition into the territory Mexico was expected to sell to the United States and, along with mining engineer Herman Ehrenberg, set sail from San Francisco in 1853.

     After an arduous trip during which their ship was wrecked near the port of Guaymas, Mexico and the two were detained as suspected filibusters in Alamos, they headed north into the Gadsden territory. The expedition visited San Xavier del Bac and Ajo, collecting mineral samples along the way. They then traveled down the Gila River and to Fort Yuma where Poston first met Major Samuel P. Heintzelman. (Poston and Ehrenberg are credited with the initial town survey of Yuma.) This meeting proved fortuitous when in 1856, after Poston had traveled back to San Francisco and then to New York where his attempts to raise capital for a mining operation in the new territory had been unsuccessful, he again encountered Major Heintzelman. Poston, perhaps dispirited, was making his way home to Kentucky for a family visit, when, to his astonishment, he found that the Major had been transferred from Fort Yuma to Newport Barracks, Kentucky just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati. It was Heintzelman who found the Cincinnati investors and on March 24, 1856, US$2 million was secured to found the Sonora Exploring and Mining Company with Heintzelman as company president and Poston as managing supervisor.   Continued next week.

     Next week’s blog will feature the final installment of the fascinating life of Charles Debrille Poston.  See the featured artwork here.  This entire article has been adapted from an article published previously in The Villager, Tubac, Arizona by Shaw Kinsley and information found at Wikipedia.

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