As the largest city in southern Arizona, Tucson has a rich history that dates back over 10,000 years. In fact, it is one of the oldest cities in North America due to the presence of Hohokam Indians who lived along the Rillito and Santa Cruz Rivers as far back as 300 A.D. While the Tucson we know today was founded around the 1600s when the Europeans arrived, Sentinel Peak is commonly considered the birthplace of Tucson due to its indigenous history.
Europeans Arrive in Tuscon
Spanish Europeans founded what was then referred to as the Presidio San Agustin del Tucson on August 20th, 1775, but the city was actually visited first by a Spanish Jesuit missionary who met the “Desert People” at the mountain range. The indigenous tribe was actually the Tohono O’odham who peacefully lived in the Tucson area and met their needs via farming and foraging. After the land was declared a city in 1775, the presidio wall was used to mark where the Spain colony started and was home to soldiers and their families for the next eight decades. Today a reconstruction of part of the presidio wall stands in downtown Tucson and offers visitors a chance to watch living history demonstrations.
Tucson Graduates from a Presidio to a Pueblo
By the time 1800 rolled around, there were enough people living behind the fortress wall that the fort became a pueblo (or a village). The mid-sized village continued to grow and quickly grew outside the walls of the city. The population at this point was composed of Native Americans, Americans, and Mexicans who all shared their traditions freely influencing daily life and the culture of the area heavily. Many Pascua Yaqui people moved into the Tucson region from Sonora, Mexico during the early 1800s, the influence of which is still evident today.
Tucson Becomes Part of the US
In 1854 Tuscon was officially declared a United States’ state following the Gadsden Purchase and the city was incorporated into the southwest lands. This makes Tuscon the oldest incorporated city within the state. It is also one that would see a great deal of change over the next century including the arrival of the Southern-Pacific Railroad, the opening of gold mines, and the American Indian Wars.
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