Help us Preserve the Tubac Presidio State Historic Park

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February 2013 Events!




preswrdprsSouthern Arizona’s Historic Farms & Ranches – Saturday, February 2, 2pm

Travel writer Lili De Barbieri will discuss her new book “A Guide to Southern Arizona’s Historic Farms & Ranches: Rustic Southwest Retreats.” Our region’s historic guest ranches include Spain’s first mission in the continental U.S., a World War II prison camp, a boys’ boarding school, and a Butterfield Stagecoach stop. Intimately connected to Arizona’s land and legacy, these unparalleled retreats have hosted artists, movie stars, and politicians and continue to enrich our present-day communities by sharing their rich southwestern heritage, culture and cuisine. $7.50 fee includes admission to tour the Presidio Park.


And on Tuesday, February 5, at 10:30 we will be offering a guided tour of the Barrio de Tubac Archaeological site. If you haven’t yet taken this tour or want to share our rich archaeological heritage with visiting houseguests. Tour guide Phil Halpenny gives a superb interpretation of the area history based on his life as a professional hydrographer.

Guided Tour of the Barrio de Tubac Archaeological Site – Tuesday, February 5, 10:30am

Special tour by local experts of the Spanish colonial archaeological site just south of the Park which preserves the remains of the original Tubac town site, including residence foundations, plaza area, refuse area and partial irrigation ditch. Meet at the Park’s Visitor Center. Tour involves a walk of about 1-1/4 miles. Bring walking shoes, sunscreen and hat. $7.50 fee includes admission to tour the Presidio Park. Tour limited to 15; call for reservations, 520-398-2252.


If you plan on coming to the Tubac Festival of the Arts, Arizona’s longest running arts festival,  next week from Wednesday to Sunday, be sure to tell the Rangers and parking guides that you want to park in the Presidio lot.

Tubac Festival of the Arts – February 6 -10, 10am-5pm

Southern Arizona’s longest running art festival! Festival visitors who park in the Tubac Presidio’s paid parking lot ($6 per car) will get an extra bonus – a pass for 1 free admission to tour the Park that day. The paved parking lot is conveniently located to Tubac village. Proceeds from the Presidio’s lot will benefit “Save the Presidio.”

Visit our online Gift Shop and check out the new items

When you purchase, all proceeds go directly to efforts to 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!

Previous Posts

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.

The Father of Arizona-Charles Debrille Poston

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.

Zazzle and the Tubac Presidio State Historic Park Join Forces

     On January 5, 2011, The Tubac Presidio Historic State Park and the world’s top print-on-demand company, Zazzle, became partners in an enterprise for the sole purpose of raising money for the preservation of the Park. We join the ranks of many charitable institutions (the Humane Society, U.S., the March of Dimes, Peta) and many historical and educational foundations and organizations (the Library of Congress, the Boston Public Library, the Heritage Center) in choosing Zazzle to host our site.
     Our role in the process is simple. We use our historical maps, photographs, and images, as well as donated artworks, to design products offered by Zazzle that people might be interested in purchasing. These designs are uploaded onto the Zazzle site and posted in our own store, The Tubac Presidio Park Shop, where people from around the United States and from around the world may see them, along with their descriptions. These products are now ready to be purchased.
     The role of Zazzle is to manufacture, package, and ship the product once it is purchased. The team at Zazzle is a large one, consisting of technical personnel, customer service personnel, and all those involved in the manufacture and shipping process. Our Tubac Presidio Park Shop pays nothing-no annual fee, no dues, nothing. Zazzle pays us a 10-25% royalty on products that have been purchased from our shop every 30 days. It is so beautifully simple, and is part of the reason Zazzle has grown so fast. They currently have over 35 billion products posted in shops, like those mentioned above, on their site, all of which are guaranteed to please or send it back for a full refund of the purchase price. That’s the Zazzle guarantee. Many rock bands, Celebrities, artists, photographers, and individuals looking for a creative outlet, are taking advantage of all Zazzle has to offer.
     One more role must be filled, however, for this venture to be a success: promotion and advertising. The Park has no money for this and, therefore, must rely on us, the friends of the Presidio, to spread the word. Through word-of-mouth, emails, this blog, and any publicity opportunity, we must get the word out. If you have an interest in seeing this cultural treasure continue to be preserved, please let everyone know that there is an online merchandise shop with gifts, artwork, and greeting cards out there that would benefit so much from a purchase. Suggestions and ideas to help us are welcome, so feel free to contact us. And, of course, come visit the Tubac Presidio State Historic Park to see for yourself why it is worth preserving.

Larcena Pennington (January 10, 1837-March 31, 1913)

Larcena Pennington

Larcena Pennington

Larcena Pennington, daughter of Elias and Julia Ann Pennington, was born in Nashville, Tennessee on January 10, 1837, and was one of 12 children.  After her mother died, the Pennington family moved to Texas in 1857, traveling by train.  During the trip they stopped in Sonoita Creek, which is now Benson, Arizona (part of New Mexico at that time), because Larcena had mountain fever.

The Pennington family lived and worked at Fort Buchanan for two years.  The women sewed soldier’s uniforms, while the men supplied hay to the government.  At the fort, Larcena met John Hempstead Page.  After falling in love, they became the first couple of American citizens to be married in Tucson.

On March 16, 1860, Larcena, along with William Randall and Mercedes Sais Quiroz, was kidnapped by members of the Apache tribe.  Mercedes had been the first to be kidnapped, and Larcena, hearing Mercedes’ screams tried to save her with a revolver, but found herself surrounded by Apaches, who told her they had killed her husband.

Being forced to walk, Larcena began to cut off pieces of her clothing in an attempt to leave a trail for rescuers.  The Apaches noticed and separated Larcena and Mercedes, and forced Larcena to walk for 16 miles.  She began to walk so slowly, the Apaches decided to kill her.  They stripped her , beat her, shot her 11 times, and threw her into rocks 17 feet below them, leaving her for dead.

Having fainted, she was unconscious for several days.  Hearing the voices of rescuers, including the voice of her husband,  she awakened, but could not make herself be heard because the beating, dehydration, and days without food had taken away most of her voice.  She fell back into unconsciousness, awakening days later.  She put snow on her wounds and began walking home, eventually crawling, due to extreme fatigue.

After 14 days, she made it down the mountain and happened upon a deserted camp where a fire was still burning, and finding a bit of flour, made bread, which was her first meal, other than grass and snow, in two weeks.  She crawled for one more day until some of the men from the deserted camp noticed her and, seeing she was bleeding, thirsty, hungry, and badly hurt, they took her to a doctor in Tucson.

She recuperated and was soon reunited with her husband.  She learned Mercedes was still alive and had been traded to Fort Buchanan military men in exchange for Indian prisoners.  Larcena was considered a heroine by many across the West, and her story of survival and hardship made the headlines of several important newspapers.  Not long after Larcena became pregnant with her only child, a girl, her husband was killed by Apaches (1861).

As the Civil War was about to begin, Larcena moved with her father  and family members to Patagonia where, during attacks of both smallpox and Cochise Indians, she gave birth to her daughter, Mary Ann.   The family moved again, this time to Tubac, where the men worked hard every day and the women cooked and cared for young ones.  By April of 1864, the Penningtons were the only residents of Tubac, protected by the long guns of Larcena’s young brothers.

A string of tragedies plagued the family.  In 1867, Larcena’s sister died of malaria, her brother Jim, was killed by Apaches in 1868,  and her father and another brother were murdered while working at a farm in 1869.  The remaining family members went to Tucson and attempted to move on to California, but had to return when Larcena’s sister, Ellen, contracted pneumonia 20 miles outside of Tucson.  Ellen died, survived only by Larcena and her brother, Jack, who moved on to Texas.

Despite all the hardships Larcena experienced in Arizona, she refused to leave.  She married William Fisher Scott, a Scottish lawyer and judge in 1870, became a newborn Christian and one of the first members of the Congregational Church in Tucson, was named president of the Arizona Historical society, and saw Arizona become a state in 1912.  She lived a relatively quiet life during her last years, and after her death in 1913, the city of Tucson honored her by naming a street after her.

Larcena Pennington epitomizes the pioneer spirit of the American West, and lives on as one of Arizona’s most remarkable early residents.   The Tubac Presidio Park Shop  has designed a postcard in her honor, and we invite you to see this collectable card, as well as other merchandise featuring historical maps, photographs and images from early Arizona.

CORRECTIONS AND ADDITIONS:  Larcena was stabbed 16 times, not shot, finally pierced by a lance and thrown over a cliff and left for dead. Secondly, she had 2 children, one of which was my grandfather, Wm Vernon Scott, by Wm Fisher Scott. My great great uncle was Robert H Forbes, of Tucson, who adopted Larcena’s and Wm Fisher Scott’s son, adopted name Pats Henry Forbes), and wrote the book on the Penningtons. Robert Forbes was married to Wm Fisher Scott’s sister, Georgie Hazel Scott.  Thank you Marsha Forbes (a family descendant) who has graciously submitted these corrections along with some additional information for which we are extremely grateful.

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