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Historical People and Events

Tubac Fireworks in Spanish Colonial Times

 In this photograph a boy is shown cutting carrizo  into open ended tubes for cohete powder cases.

In this photograph a boy is shown cutting carrizo into open ended tubes for cohete powder cases.

For centuries, sky rockets, fire-crackers and noise makers have enlivened both religious and secular life in the small towns of colonial New Spain. Tubac was no exception. Particularly in smaller, outlying towns and pueblos, people were extremely fond of noisy, evil-smelling rockets, squibs and firearms. When fireworks were not available, the soldiers fired their muskets at their own expense, or loaded the small cannon and boomed away to everyone’s delight.


Lighting the fuse in this photo

Lighting the fuse in this photo

Fiestas, royal birthdays, military victories, the arrival of a new viceroy in Mexico City, all of these and more were occasions to celebrate by burning gun powder.  Even during phases of the mass, men standing on the roof or outside along the walls of the church, exploded cohetas (sky rockets), triquitraques (firecrackers), and morteretes or camaras (small mortars).  The sky filled with small fleecy puffs of smoke and the air became alive with scores of sharp explosions. How ancient this practice is, it is difficult to say. Perhaps Jesuit priests, returning from China in times long past, brought this custom with them. The Chinese used fireworks to frighten away evil spirits during festivals and religious ceremonies.


Photo of cane castillo framework and basic figures of the gigantes under an open shed in a small Mexican town, ready to be refurnished for the next fiesta.

Photo of cane castillo framework and basic figures of the gigantes under an open shed in a small Mexican town, ready to be refurnished for the next fiesta.

One of our stalwart volunteers found the makings of a mini-exhibit when she was working in the museum last week. Originally, the exhibit occupied a case with 17 firework rockets attached to the wall and laid out on the floor. An entry on the inventory says, “Deaccessioned & destroyed on 12/30/93 on orders of Park Manager & SafetyOfficer due to dangerous & unstable qualities/condition of the explosives.” We include these 1950s era photographs showing the artisanal nature of Mexican fireworks manufacture, and they are great. We will display them on the big table in air conditioned Otero Hall on July 4th.


Some interesting information is contained in these photos:

Castillos are large cane frames covered with a variety of pyrotechnics and brilliant flares. They can cost between 20,000 to 250,000 pesos depending on size and complexity. Other cane frameworks are called Gigantes, large figures that are most often made to honor patron saints or Mexico’s patriot heroes. The cane is variously called carrizo or arundo.


Another cane work frame with the papier-mache shape of a bull is called a torito, (little bull). Generally painted a bright red and trimmed with green or yellow, these can be carried. During festivals, a man or boy holds the shell over his head and shoulders by the legs of the frame, and runs through the streets. Covered with small rockets, fire crackers and “busca pies” (foot seekers) the fireworks dart like fiery snakes from the torito and scoot along the ground or pavement with whistling sounds.

In this photo, another cane work frame with the papier mache shape of a bull called a torito, (little bull).

In this photo, another cane work frame with the papier mache shape of a bull called a torito, (little bull).


When hung over the door or fastened to a wall, they denote a firework maker’s house.  The fireworks industry was (and remains) artisanal, with production concentrated in family-owned workshops and small factories.


The home manufacture of all sorts of fireworks provides many workers with a means of livelihood, dangerous though it may be.  As with many Mexican crafts, much of the work is done in private homes by men and boys, who, in the course of years, become quite skilled.  Paper being scarce in the hinterlands, many of the cases for the rockets and crackers are small tubes cut from the ever present arundo, carrizo, or cane, which is then wrapped with tough twine and covered with pitch.


Join us on July 4th when admission is free from 10am to noon and step into Otero Hall to check out this mini-exhibit, but don’t stay too long or you’ll miss the free hotdogs and nachos, the lemonade and watermelon, and the various games and activities for the youngsters. A fun, safe and happy holiday to all of our readers!



Tubac Presidio Park online gift shop

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The Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail and the Tubac Connection


The Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail commemorates the 1775-1776 land route taken by Spanish commander de Anza as he traveled from the Sonora y Sinaloa Province of New Spain in Colonial Mexico through to the Las Californias Province.  The goal of the trip was to establish a mission and presidio on the San Francisco Bay and to facilitate the course of Spanish colonization of California by establishing a major land route north for future settlers and others to follow.  Used for about five years, the trail was closed down by the Quechan (Yuma) Indians in 1781 and remained closed for over 40 years.  The trail is a 1,210-mile National Park Service unit in the United States National Historic Trail and National Millennium Trail programs.  The modern trail extends from Nogales on the U.S.-Mexican border in Arizona, through the California desert and coastal areas in Southern California and the Coastal Central region to San Francisco. 


Juan Bautista de Anza, leading an exploratory expedition on January 8, 1774, with 3 padres, 20 soldiers, 11 servants, 35 mules, 65 cattle, and 140 horses, set forth from Tubac south of present day Tucson, Arizona. They traveled across the Sonoran desert to California via Mexico by swinging south of the Gila River to avoid Apache attacks until they reached the Colorado River at the Yuma Crossing, which was the only viable place to cross the Colorado River. The 2-3000 friendly Quechan (Yuma) Indians  he encountered there were growing most of their food using irrigation systems and had already imported pottery, horses, wheat and a few other crops from New Mexico. After crossing the Colorado to avoid the impassible Algodones Dunes west of Yuma, Arizona, they followed the river about 50 miles south (to approximately Arizona’s southwest corner on the Colorado River) before turning northwest to  today’s Mexicali, Mexico and then turning north through today’s Imperial Valley and then northwest again before reaching Mission San Gabriel Arcángel near the future city of Los Angeles, California. The Pueblo de Los Angeles would be established in 1781 by eleven families recruited mostly from Sonora y Sinaloa Province. It took Anza about 74 days to do this initial reconnaissance trip to establish a land route into California. On his return trip, he retraced his path to the Yuma Crossing of the Colorado River and then went down the Gila River corridor until reaching the Santa Cruz River (Arizona) corridor and continuing on to Tubac, Arizona, which is located on this river. The hurried return trip only took 23 days and he had now discovered a trail with sufficient water to make land access to California possible. On the Gila river he encountered several extensive villages of Pima (Akimel O’odham) Indians. These were a peaceful and populous agricultural tribe with extensive crops and irrigation systems located along the Gila River.  

In Anza’s second trip (1775-1776) he returned to California via the Gila River path with 240 Frairs, soldiers and colonists with their families. They took 695 horses and mules and 385 Texas Longhorn bulls and cows with them, establishing the cattle and horse industry in California. (In California, the cattle and horses had few natural enemies and plenty of grass.They grew and multiplied as feral animals, doubling roughly every two years.) The trip began in Tubac, Arizona on October 22, 1775 and terminated at San Francisco Bay on March 28, 1776. There they established the Presidio of San Francisco, followed by Mission San Francisco de Asís (Mission Dolores), the future city of San Francisco, California.

In 1779 Father Francisco Garcés was assigned to establish a mission at the Yuma crossing of the Colorado River. In 1780 the Spanish established two combination missions and pueblos at the Yuma Colorado River Crossing of the Anza trail: Mission San Pedro y San Pablo de Bicuñer and Mission Puerto de Purísima Concepción. Both these pueblos and missions were on the California side of the Colorado River near the mouth of the Gila River but were administered by the Arizona authorities.

The settlement of Los Angeles, California involved two groups totaling 44 persons which included 22 children. One group, under Alfèrez Ramon Laso de la Vega, crossed the Gulf of California on launches and then traveled overland to San Diego and up to the San Gabriel Mission.

The second group, under Fernando Rivera y Moncada, took an overland route over the Anza trail 1,200 miles (1,900 km) through the desert from Sinaloa Mexico. They passed through the new missions on the Colorado River, La Purísima Concepción and Mission San Pedro y San Pablo de Bicuñer. The group arrived at the Colorado River in June 1781. Rivera y Moncada sent most of his party ahead, staying behind to rest the livestock before continuing their drive across the desert. His party would never reach San Gabriel. In July Rivera was killed along with the local missionaries, settlers, and travelers with the revolt of the Quechan Indians (Yuma Revolt) in 1781.

The Quechan and Mojave Indians rose up against the party for encroaching on their farmlands and for other abuses inflicted by the soldiers. On 17-19 July 1781 the Yuma (Quechan) Indians, in a dispute with the New Spain government and church, destroyed both missions and pueblos, killing 103 soldiers, colonists and Frairs and capturing about 80 more. Included in the casualties were Fernando Rivera y Moncada, military commander and former governor of California, and Father Francisco Garcés, founder of the missions on the Colorado River. In four well supported punitive expeditions in 1782 and 1783 against the Quechans, the Spanish managed to gather their dead and ransom nearly all the prisoners; but failed to re-open the Anza Trail. The Yuma Crossing and the Anza trail were closed for Spanish traffic and it would remain closed until approximately 1846. California was nearly isolated again from land based travel. The only way into California from Mexico was once more a 40-60 day voyage by sea.  According to historian David Weber, the Yuma revolt turned California into an “island” and Arizona into a “cul de sac”, severing Arizona-California and Mexican land connections before they could be firmly established. 


The Anza Days celebration is held in Tubac, Arizona each October and features  a living history presentation on Juan Bautista de Anza’s life. On Sunday, Anza (portrayed in the accompanying picture by Don Garate of Tumacacori National Historical Park) and his troops attend mass at Tumacacori mission and then ride up the Anza Trail from Tumacacori Mission and arrive in Tubac. Anza gives a presentation to the awaiting crowd illustrating the journey that he, his troops and courageous settlers will begin in order to establish the Presidio at San Francisco in October 1775.


Along the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail route, visitors can experience the varied landscapes similar to those the expedition saw; learn the stories of the expedition’s events, members, and descendants; better understand the Native American diversity of cultures in their homelands and their guidance on the expedition; and appreciate the extensive influences of Spanish colonial settlements in present day Arizona and California. The Trail was designated a National Historic Trail in 1990 and a National Millennium Trail in 1999.

In 2005, Caltrans began posting signs on roads that overlap with the trail route, so that California drivers can now follow the trail.

The National Park Service has developed a printed and online brochure map for driving as well as guides for auto tours, hiking sections, and designated Historic sights, landmarks, and museums open to the public. Schedules of Anza celebrations and other historic events are on an updated NPS: What to Do-Events Guide. The detailed Trail Maps by County show more points of interest, trailheads, and local lore.

The Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail “project” is ever growing as local, state, and NPS efforts establish more trails, signage, and interpretive programs. The Trail is inspiring activities at existing municipal parks, neighborhood greenbelts, regional parks, and large open space preserves. The ever changing opportunities can be discovered and tracked at the official Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail website.

Material for this article has been taken from Wikipedia, the Arizona State Parks website, and the Bureau of Land Management.

Tubac Presidio Park online gift shop and de Anza gift items

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Don Carlos Siguenza y Gongora-Astronomer and Intellectual

One of the first great intellectuals produced in the Spanish viceroyalty of New Spain was Don Carlos Siguenza y Gongora.  Born in Mexico City in 1645, Don Carlos was the youngest of eight children.  His father was a Peninsular (a privileged residential colonist born in Spain) who had been a tutor for the royal family while living in Spain.  He was also related to the famous baroque poet, Luis de Gongora.  Don Carlos was a polymath and writer who held a number of colonial government and academic positions during his lifetime.


Don Carlos took simple vows and entered into the Society of Jesuits at the age of 15, leaving (or possibly expelled) in 1667 or 1669.  In 1672, he was named to the chair of mathematics and exact sciences at the University of Mexico and was ordained as a priest the following year.  He was the chaplain of the Hospital del Amor de Dios (now Academia de San Carlos) from 1682 until his death.


In 1681, Don Carlos wrote the book Philosophical Manifest Against the Comets, citing authors like Copernicus, Galileo, Descartes, Kepler and Brahe, in an attempt to dismiss the people’s fears incited by the arrival of Kirch’s Comet, which was reputedly so brilliant that it could be viewed in the daytime.  Superstitions and predictions of impending disaster that were based on astrology surrounded comets and, in this work, he tried to separate the fields of astronomy and astrology.  For this he was strongly criticized by jesuit Father Eusebio Kino, himself a learned man, because the views expressed by Don Carlos contradicted the established Catholic beliefs in the Heavens.  Don Carlos audaciously defended his work by publishing Libra Astronomica y Filosofica in 1690.


Don Carlos prepared the first-ever map of New Spain in its entirety and drew hydrologic maps of the Valley of Mexico after which King Charles II named him official geographer for the colony in 1692.  As royal geographer, Don Carlos participated in the expedition to Pensacola Bay, Florida led by Andres de Pez later that same year.  He mapped the area as well as the mouth of the Mississippi in 1693.


While chaplain at the hospital Amor de Dios, Don Carlos became acquainted with the last king of Texcoco, Juan de Alva Ixtlilxotchitl, who put at his disposal a rich collection of documents of his ancestors.  Included in the ancestry were the historian Fernando de Alva Cortes Ixtlilxotchitl and the kings of Texcoco.  Don Carlos began his study of Aztec history and Toltec writing in 1668 and devoted the later years of his life to the continuous study of Mexican history.  Ixtlilxotchitl bequeathed his documents to Don Carlos upon his death.  These valuable documents later became part of the Boturini Collection sometime between 1735 and 1743.

Virgin of Guadalupe Devotee

Among the Ixtlilxotchitl documents was a purported map, or codex, documenting the 1531 apparition of the Virgin Mary as Our Lady of Guadalupe.  Because of the association of Don Carlos with these early documents, he is credited with playing a significant role in the development of the legend.  He was a devotee of the Virgin and wrote poems to her as early as 1662.  His most lasting impact on the history of the apparition, however, was his assertion that the Nican mopohua, the Nahuatl-language rendition of the narrative, was written by Antonio Valeriano and this conception persists today.  He also identified Fernando Alva de Ixtlilxotchitl as the author of the Nican motecpana in response to a declaration made in Francisco de Floencia’s Polestar of Mexico, which claimed that the original Nahuatl account had been written by Jeronimo de Mendieta.

Near the end of his life, Don Carlos Siguenza y Gongora retired from the University and reentered the Jesuit Order.  He died of a kidney ailment in 1700 in the Hospital del Amor de Dios in Mexico City where he had spent so much of his career.  He left his body to science and his library to the Jesuit Colegio de San Pedro y San Pablo.  Don Carlos led a full, rich  life and left a valuable legacy of study, faith, creativity and exploration.

Information included in this article was taken from Wikipedia and an article previously published in The Villager and written by Shaw Kinsley.

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Tubac Presidio Park on-line Gift Shop


Edward Cross and Arizona’s First Newspaper

     Edward Cross, born in Lancaster, New Hampshire in 1832, began working as a printer for his local paper, the Coos Democrat, when he was 15 years old.  He then moved on to Cincinnati, Ohio, where he worked as a printer for the Cincinnati Times. Demonstrating writing skills, he served for a time as the paper’s Washington Correspondent.  He became involved with directors of the Sonora Exploring and Mining Company and moved west in 1857.  He settled in Tubac, Arizona Territory, where he invested in the company’s  mines and established the territory’s first newspaper,  The Weekly Arizonian.  The Washington printing press was brought to Tubac by Cross and his associate, William Wrightson, via the “Jackass Mail”, as the mule teams were called, and was used to print the first issue on March 3, 1859.


     Cross, serving as editor of the paper, had strong convictions.  He took exception to a number of articles written by Sylvester Mowry of Tucson that were published in Eastern newspapers. He criticized them for inflating the size of the local population and the magnitude of local mining operations.  Mowry challenged Cross to a duel, which took place on July 8, 1859. Using Burnside rifles, four shots were fired before Mowry’s gun failed, entitling him to another shot.  Cross stood waiting unarmed.  Mowry refused to fire at an unarmed man, thus ending the duel.  Both men exchanged apologies in person and in the Arizonian. The paper was sold a few weeks later, ironically to Mowry.  He moved the press to Tucson where it was used to print the first issue of the Citizen  and possibly the Star.  Later it printed the Tombstone Nugget.  In 1910, the press was donated to the Arizona Historical Society.  The press ultimately returned to Tubac after an absence of 120 years in 1980, where it was installed in the period print shop at the Tubac Presidio State Historic Park Museum.

The Washington Press comes home to Tubac 1980

     In addition to his writing and mining interests, Cross joined the U.S. Army scouts in their efforts against the Apaches.  In 1860, he crossed the border into Mexico to command a Sonoran army garrison supporting the insurgency of Benito Juarez.  At the outbreak of the Civil War, Cross returned to New Hampshire where he accepted a commission as colonel of the Fifth New Hampshire Volunteer Regiment. 

     Cross was reportedly an impulsive and colorful officer, occasionally striking non-commissioned officers with the flat of his sword when angry.  He was known to wear a red bandana on his head instead of the traditional officer’s hat. This was his way of making himself easier to spot on the battlefield by his men.  However, on July 2, 1863 Maj. Gen. Winfield S. Hancock noticed that his bandana was black rather than red.  Cross indicated that he had foreseen his own death and that black was more appropriate.  Cross fought in the Battle of Gettysburg that day and was mortally wounded while helping to stabilize the left flank as it entered the Wheatfield.  He fell near Rose Woods and died the next day at a field hospital.  His body was shipped home to Lancaster and laid to rest in the town’s cemetery.

Material for this article was taken from Images of America:  Tubac by Shaw Kinsley and Wikipedia.

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Washington Press Postcard from Tubac Presidio Park

Oral Histories Part II

The following is a continuation of an article by Shaw Kinsley  taken largely from taped oral histories and appeared previously in the Villager.

Personalities of Tubac-Maxine Guy Part II

Maxine Guy in Tubac

Maxine, having fallen in love with the concept of craftsmen/artists doing their own high-quality work, moved to Tubac in 1969, and, after sharing a studio on Tubac Plaza with Marcia Palmer, she opened her own studio and gallery, The Potted Owl, in 1972.  There, she threw her own clay creations and generously shared her skills with a number of young artists who later became successful potters themselves.  Maxine was especially proud of her specialty glazes.  (Tubac Historical Society would very much like to have photographs of Maxine’s pottery.  If you own a piece, please call 398-2020 so we can photograph it for our collections).

Influenced by her mother, Maxine developed a love for wildlife and often cared for injured creatures. Over the years, her experience and related knowledge in this vocation grew and veterinarians often asked for her advice.  She and her friend, Mae Hickman, wrote a book on the subject, Cure of the Wild, Feathered and Furred:  A Guide to Wildlife Handling and Care.  Lauded by Cleveland Amory as the best guide available, reprints are still found in the marketplace today.  She took in all sorts of animals, from hummingbirds to eagles, and was one of a very few people to be licensed by the federal authorities to care for wildlife.  She, herself, bore the expense, and she was often able to release animals into the wild with the help of Arizona Fish and Game.

In 1988 George McGill and Edith Bobbitt conceived a benefit evening they called “For the Love of It” to raise funds for the Maxine Guy Wildlife Trust Fund.  Maxine received certificates of appreciation from the United States Congress and Santa Cruz County as well as a Letter of Commendation from the Humane Society of Santa Cruz County.  Her work continues today at the Simpson Wildlife Sanctuary at Montana Vista in Green Valley and is run by Ken and Sue Simpson, who are grateful to Maxine for her help in getting them properly licensed and for all she taught and shared with them.

Maxine died at home on a Sunday in 1992 of an apparent heat attack.  She is sorely missed by all who knew her and by all the wild, feathered and furred creatures she helped.  Her impact is aptly expressed by Guy and Mary Ellen Blakeslee who said this, “Maxine Guy is a total package; a whole person in her attitude and action toward nature an in the clear aesthetics of her art”.  Thank you Maxine, for your lovely legacy.

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Tubac Presidio Park Gift Shop where proceeds from your purchases help preserve this cultural treasure.

Tubac Historical Society–Oral Histories

     The Tubac Historical Society has a fascinating collection of taped oral histories, and THS is looking for more individuals to conduct oral history interviews.  It is important to record the details of the lives of our Tubac residents, (whose common trait of “conspicuous individuality” has served to shape our unique village), so that their stories will be available in the future. 

     The following article by Shaw Kinsley is taken largely from these taped histories and appeared previously in the Villager.

      Personalities of Tubac-Maxine Guy

     It’s been said that “Tubacans, in spite of their conspicuous individuality, love to have fun.”  This is true for many personalities of Tubac, but it is especially true of Maxine Guy, the Nebraska native who came to Tubac as a potter and wildlife rehabilitator after a distinguished career in the Army.

     Maxine graduated from the University of Nebraska with a major in Art before moving to Chicago to attend the Art Institute after a brief spell as a furniture buyer for Marshall Field’s.  When the Second World War broke out, Maxine was in the first graduating class of officer candidates in the Women’s Army Corps.  She had a variety of jobs from quartermaster to processing officer before becoming one of eighteen WAC officers chosen to serve in the Far East.  After she completed a rigorous course of instruction in Asian languages, topography, and sociology, plus firearms training, she was appointed to the staff of General Douglas MacArthur during the postwar occupation of Japan.  Her job was to encourage trade between Japan and the United States in carefully chosen products, and in her oral history at the Tubac Historical Society, she takes great pride in the compliments she received from the Japanese artisans she assisted.  She also tells how she inadvertently slammed the door on General MacArthur himself as she was leaving headquarters in the Daichi building in Tokyo in addition to an amusing riff on the designers of women’s military headgear.

     Maxine rose to the rank of Major and took up the study of pottery in 1953 in Washington, D.C.  She found Tubac in 1965, thanks to the wife of the commanding officer at Ft. Huachuca, who told her about the fledging arts community.

Next week-Maxine Guy in Tubac

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Tubac Presidio Park Gift Shop where proceeds from your purchases help preserve this cultural treasure.

Arizona’s Tubac Presidio Park-Where History Lives!

The Park

The Tubac Presidio State Historic Park is Arizona’s first state park and is situated on the grounds of the state’s oldest European community.  Visit the underground exhibit of the Presidio ruins, tour the museum, see Arizona’s first printing press or visit the furnished 1885 schoolhouse. The schoolhouse, Otero Hall and Rojas House are all on the National Register of Historic Places.  The Anza Trailhead and a picnic grounds are also featured.

The History

The church and the military were the vanguards of Spanish frontier expansion throughout Mexico.  The Jesuit, Eusebio Francisco Kino, established missions in Pimeria Alta (part of which is southern Arizona) from 1687 to 1711 to convert and control Indians in the area. He established Tumacacori in 1691, and Tubac, then a small Pima village three miles to the north, became a mission, farm or visita.  Spaniards began to settle here during the 1730s, and eventually controlled the land and the lives of the Indians.

In 1751, Luis Oacpicagigua, a Pima chief stirred by many grievances, led a revolt which drove the Spaniards southward.  A military detachment was sent to the area, and peace was  reestablished within three months.

The Presidio (fort) de San Ignacio de Tubac was founded in 1752.  The fifty cavalrymen garrisoned at this remote outpost were to control the Pimas, to protect the frontier from Apaches and Seris, and to further explore the Southwest.

Juan Bautista de Anza II, the second commander of the presidio, organized two overland expeditions consisting of  240 colonists from the provinces of Sinaloa and Sonora (63 of whom were from Tubac), military personnel and 1000 head of cattle, horses and mules, which resulted in the founding of San Francisco in 1776.  When the military authorities moved the garrison from Tubac to Tucson, the settlers were unprotected from  the persistent threat of Apaches and soon left their lands.  In 1787, Spanish officers were once again posted at Tubac along with Indian soldiers.  Apache reservations were established and the government provided supplies in an effort to keep the peace.  In 1821, Mexico won independence from Spain and the new government lacked the funds necessary to continue supplying the Apaches, many of whom returned to a life of raiding .  Between the raids and the lure of California gold, the area was abandoned once again.

Tubac was included in the Gadsen Purchase of 1853, and was soon being resettled and developed by adventurers from the States as well as former landowners.  Charles D. Poston was instrumental in forming the Sonora Exploring and Mining Company, which acquired a printing press in 1859 which printed Arizona’s first newspaper, The Weekly Arizonian.

Tubac’s population grew steadily until , in 1860, it was the largest town in Arizona.  The American Civil War, however, drained the region of troops and Tubac was deserted again.  The town never regained its earlier importance.


In 1974, archaeologists from the University of Arizona excavated portions or the presidio and was then backfilled as a preservation measure.  In 1976, a section was reexposed in an archaeological display enclosure where visitors can view the portions of the original foundation, walls, and plaza floor of the 1752 structure.


Tubac Presidio State Historic Park is located amid art galleries, gift shops, clothing boutiques,  restaurants and the scenic beauty of Southern Arizona.  Visitors from around the world, as well as from all over the United States, come yearly to take in the mixture of historical charm and southwestern hospitality of this  fascinating place.

Take the Tubac Presidio Park Walking Tour

Enjoy the Park’s museum

See Arizona’s First Printing Press

Own a piece of history and help preserve this cultural treasure.  Visit the Tubac Presidio on-line Gift Shop and find postcards, t-shirts, stainless steel mugs, maps, historical photographs and more!  All proceeds from purchases go directly to the park and are greatly appreciated.

Donate your original drawing, photograph or art work by email ( giftshp@tubacpresidio,org ) and we will feature it on products in the gift shop.  You will be credited and your website promoted.  We could use anything from a nature snapshot to an artistic masterpiece.  This is a fun and painless way to help a worthy cause.  Thank you!

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Otho Kinsley and his Rodeo Ranch

Otho Kinsley with one of his pet African Lions. Is this the one who bit off the armrest in the backseat of Otho's Pontiac?

     Otho Kinsley was born in 1899, the son of a farming family that had moved from Michigan to Bishop, California.  His hopes of becoming a rodeo star were dashed when, after the family moved to Arizona, Otho maintained he was shot in the leg by one of Pancho Villa’s riflemen while riding a fence line.  His love for the rodeo never diminished, however, and he was involved with rodeos for most of his life. 

     During the depression, Otho worked on a highway gang on the road between Tucson and Nogales and purchased 450 acres of land near Arivaca Junction for less than $100, acquiring additional land during the ensuing years until he had a total of 600 acres in the Santa Cruz Valley (south of Sahuarita and north of Tubac) on which he raised cotton and livestock.  Not surprisingly, his specialty was raising bucking horses and bulls.  He also established a tavern-restaurant-grocery store-gas station there, later adding a swimming pool, famous for its ice-cold water, two lakes, and an airstrip making it a popular recreation area where movies were shown on balmy Saturday nights.  His most successful addition was a dance hall which was a large hexagonal building located where the Post Office is now.  After a rodeo held at rodeo grounds on the ranch, a rodeo dance was held at the dance hall where he charged a ‘dime a dance’ and folks would drop a dime in a box and go dance to music provided by the likes of Pug Scott and her fiddle and John E. Jones and his group. 

     Otho bought every outlaw horse he could lay hands on and channeled them to rodeo promoters in Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona.  He claimed that out of a random sampling of 146 horses, only one had the makings of a blue-ribbon bucking horse, willing to perform its meanest antics day after day.  Papoose and A-7 were two infamous Kinsley broncs.  He added that the odds on producing a good riding bull were better.  Out of every 20 bulls, six or seven generally qualify as being of rodeo caliber.  Some of his Brahmans and cross-Brahmans were called Little Snuffy, Paleface, Pieface, Buttermilk Sky, Oscar Thompson, Fearless Fosdick, Rotator, and Climbin’ High.  The most famous bull was called Speck, who began to spin right out of the chute.  He turned round and round in rough, short, fast circles, upsetting the balance of nearly everybody who tried to ride him.  Otho had so much faith in his rambunctious bull that he stood him ‘open to the world’ for any amount of money.  Speck put down such top riders as Jimmy Hazen, Mitch Owens and Chappo Valenzuela, but was finally humbled by Dick Griffith in a match that took place in Tucson on December 8, 1946. 

Otho Kinsley died too young in 1962 after having sold 450 of his acres for $421.000.  The old hexagonal dance hall had burned prior to the sale, which left the land open for the Lakeside Estates development, and the Cow Palace took over what had been an institution for decades.  A vital, fun-loving personality as open and expansive as the country he inhabited, Otho Kinsley will forever be a part of the Santa Cruz Valley. 

Kinsley sponsored rodeos and roping contests. This photo shows a crowd directly across from the wooen chutes constructed in 1950. Postwar prosperity is reflected in the shiny, early-1950s Chevrolet truck and older sedans.

This article has been adapted from a more complete version written by Shaw Kinsley and published previously in the Villager. 

Visit the website of Otho Kinsley Jr. for additional information about his father and the Kinsley Ranch.

Visit the Tubac Presidio Park on-line Gift Shop to find apparel and gifts featuring reproductions of historical maps, vintage photographs and southwest art.  Proceeds go directly to preserving the park. 

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How Art and History First Met in Tubac-William Caswell Morrow

    Art and history make Tubac a special place. These two elements combine to form the basis for the modern Tubac with which we are now familiar and can be credited to William Caswell Morrow, who, acting upon a suggestion from his eldest daughter, first landed his Piper Tri-pacer airplane here in 1956. Though Morrow was in Tubac for less than five years, he, along with Ross Stefan, envisioned and created the unique and beautiful art colony many of us call home today.

William Morrow met Ross Stefan on that first visit, handing him $1000 and famously instructing him to “Buy me something, kid”. Stefan made the arrangements for Morrow to purchase Lowe House, to which he made improvements including adding a swimming pool. Seeing potential, he also bought the historic Otero Ranch with the idea of making it into a country club. When he sold the ranch to a group of investors, which included Bing Crosby, his idea became a reality. Morrow bought a great deal of land in the area and the first to be developed was the twelve lots of Tubac Heights on the other side of the highway. He worked with the Recorder’s Office in Nogales to insert deed restrictions on all the land he bought and planned to re-sell, which included a ban on businesses in the residential areas, that only private one-story single family homes be built, and that both structures and landscaping must meet aesthetic standards of Spanish Colonial style.

Morrow also developed a plan for a central Tubac plaza, built the arch at the entrance to the Tubac Golf Resort, and encouraged a number of artists to move to Tubac. With his help, and that of the Garrett family, Frank and Gay Griffin donated the land that became Arizona’s first state park in 1958. This is when Art and History actually met in Tubac, and they have been co-existing happily ever since. Morrow’s grandson recalls what must have been the first or second Tubac Festival of Art and how ecstatic his grandfather was about everyone coming together and that things were finally rolling. Morrow, after working hard with much imagination and enthusiasm, left soon afterward, leaving the details and management in the capable hands of others. He had accomplished what he had set out to do.

The featured photograph shows Fr. Pat Callanan in front of the Tubac Art Center in 1959 with William Morrow, Sid Cedargreen and Ross Stefan.  This article takes its facts from a more complete version by Shaw Kinsley which appeared previously in The Villager.

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Charles Debrille Poston, continued

          Last week, Charles D. Poston, with the help of Major Samuel P. Heintzelman, had just managed to secure the funds for the founding of the Sonora Exploring and Mining Company. William Wrightson, Horace Grosvenor, Phocion Way, and others were recruited to join them, and leading a wagon train laden with men, supplies, and equipment, Poston set out from San Antonio on May 1, 1856, reaching Tubac in September. With the old Spanish presidio, recently abandoned by the Mexican garrison, serving as headquarters, they set about opening mines in the nearby Santa Rita mountains, and elsewhere in the area, and building a smelting facility.

     Poston was made acalde, or mayor, of the new town of approximately 800 residents, which gave him civic, paternal and religious authority. He became known as “Colonel” Poston and performed many marriages in Tubac, never charging a fee and even throwing in a turkey dinner for the newlyweds. He baptized many infants and authorized divorces as well. This came to the attention of Bishop Lamy in Santa Fe who sent Fr. Macheboeuf to investigate and to determine the sanctity of the unions performed by Poston. After much negotiating, and a donation of US$700, the marriages were declared valid and everyone was satisfied. Poston also printed his own currency on the Cincinnati-made Washington press that had been sent to Tubac. Pieces of pasteboard, about the size of a calling card, were used and depictions of different animals indicated the denominations of these boletas.

     By 1857, the mines were producing US$3000 per day in silver, which continued until the beginning of the Civil War in 1861, when the troops stationed in Arizona were called east, leaving them unprotected from outlaws and Apaches. Many of his employees were killed including his brother, John Poston, who was murdered at the Heintzelman mine near Arivaca. Poston’s dream of unbounded prosperity “vanished like a shadow” as the area was nearly depopulated by the Apache hostilities, with Poston and his mining engineer, Raphael Pumpelly, barely escaping with their lives.
     Forced to leave Tubac, Charles Poston made his way to Washington where he worked for General Heintzelman as a civilian aide. Heintzelman introduced him to President Lincoln, and Poston, using his skills as a bon vivant, gastronome and host,  organized an oyster dinner for the outgoing members of the 37th Congress of the United States in order to promote the simple two-page legislation he had proposed to create the Territory of Arizona. This legislation would create a number of official territorial jobs, and as none of these lawmakers had been re-elected for their districts, they recognized the opportunities and passed it. In 1863, President Lincoln signed the Organic Act, as it was known, into law. To mark the occasion, Poston presented Lincoln with a US$1500 inkwell commissioned from Tiffany & Co. and made from Arizona silver. Poston was appointed Indian Agent, during which time he helped pass legislation to provide funds to irrigate Indian lands. He was elected territorial delegate a year later in July of 1864, becoming the first man to represent Arizona in the Congress of the United States.
     After serving out his term as delegate, Poston spent a decade traveling the world. He had a particular interest in Asia, and, after wrangling an honorary position as “Bearer of Dispatches” for the Chinese Embassy to the Emperor of China, he traveled there with his old friend J. Ross Brown, who had been appointed Minister to China. The following year, he went to India where he became acquainted with the Zoroastrian religion and the sun worship of the Parsi community on the sub-continent. In Bombay, he was presented with a costume of the order of Sun Worshipers of Asia by the high priest, Sir Jamsetteje Jeejeeboy, which he wore in the United States when he lectured on Zoroastrianism. Poston attempted to develop a sun cult in Arizona, envisioning a temple to the sun on a flat-topped butte three miles northwest of Florence. This cult failed to catch hold and, since all the monies raised for the cult had been spent on the construction of a road to the top of the butte, the temple was never built and the undertaking became know as ‘Poston’s Folly’.
     During the following years, Poston wrote a number of books including The Parsees, published in 1872 and The Sun Worshipers,  published in 1877. Overland Monthly published in installments his work entitled Building a Sate in Apache Land in 1894. He also had a poem, Apache Land, published in 1878. His employment was varied, including a stint as a campaign worker for Samuel J. Tilden during the presidential campaign of 1876, as the register of the U.S. land office at Florence, Arizona, and as consular agent in Nogales.
     In 1899, the Arizona Legislature granted him a pension and Poston spent his last years in Phoenix, Arizona, where he died on June 24, 1902. He was originally buried in a Phoenix cemetery, but the Daughters of the American Revolution, in cooperation with the governor, arranged for his body to be exhumed and reburied atop Poston’s Butte beneath a pyramid of native stone in 1925. It is a perfect resting place for this intelligent, imaginative, and pioneering early Arizona resident. It is a place where his pyramid monument (expressed so aptly by Shaw Kinsley in his series of articles about the personalities from Tubac’s past), “catches the sun’s first rays and reflects its last glimmers”.  Charles Debrille Poston died without a penny in his pocket, but his rich legacy of exploring the world and living life to its fullest lives on in our imaginations today.

     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.

     Help us preserve our history.  All proceeds from purchases made in our Tubac Presidio Park store goes to preserving this cultural treasure.  New products added often, so stop by and see what’s new.

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