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Arizona State History

History | Symbols | Interesting Facts | Famous People


1540—Spanish Francisco Vasquez de Coronado explores Arizona

1752—The first European settlement in Tubac

1821—Arizona becomes part of Mexico

1848—Most of Arizona is given to the U.S. at the end of the Mexican War

1853—The Gadsden Purchase gives the rest of Arizona to the U.S.

1863—The Arizona Territory is created

1877—The first railroad enters Arizona

1886—The end of the Indian Wars

1912—Arizona becomes the 48th state

1936—Hoover Dam is completed

1948—Arizona Indians are given the right to vote

1991—The Central Arizona Project is completed

Hopi, Pima, and Papago Indians, descendants of the Anasazi and Hohkam, lived in Arizona when Navajo and Apache Indians migrated to the area.  A short time later, European exploration of Arizona began.

In 1540, Francisco Vasquez de Coronado of Spain came searching for the Seven Cities of Cibola.  Coronado never finds the cities said to be made of gold, but claims Arizona as part of New Spain.

In the 1600’s, Spain colonized the area with military posts and missions, attempting to convert the natives to Roman Catholicism and teach them Spanish civilization.  In 1752, after many revolts from the Pima and Papago tribes, the first permanent settlement was established in Tubac.  In 1776, another Spanish fort was placed in Tucson.  Both were built with thick adobe walls to protect the soldiers and their families.

In 1821, Mexico gained military control of Arizona.  That same year, trappers and traders from the United States came into the area.  In 1848, the United States won the Mexican War and gained all of Arizona north of the Gila River.  In 1853, the United States acquired the remaining land southward due to the Gadsden Purchase.

Miners discovered copper and gold and began settling the area.  They soon felt they were too far away from the capital of New Mexico to be rightly governed, and wanted a separate territory.  During the Civil War Arizona Southerners called a convention in Tucson and declared themselves a Confederate territory.  In 1863, after the war President Lincoln approved Congress in organizing the Arizona Territory.  The capital was first established in Prescott, in 1867 changed to Tucson, and was eventually moved in 1889 to Phoenix.

Mining towns exploded in the 1870s, finding much gold, silver and copper. In 1879 Wyatt Earp, settled in Tombstone.  Earp worked first as the deputy sheriff of Pima County and later as deputy U.S. marshal for the entire Arizona Territory. Earp and three of his brothers, together with Doc Holliday, became famous in the O.K. Corral gunfight in 1881, when they killed several suspected cattle rustlers.

The Indian Wars ended in 1886, with the surrender of the Apache Indians.  Most of Arizona’s Indians were now living on reservations.  As the army reduced the threat of raids, and the railroad reached Arizona in 1877, cattle ranching expanded into central and southeastern Arizona.  Farmers planted cotton, vegetable gardens, and fruit trees.  Religious settlers also started migrating from Utah.

The first bill for statehood was introduced and defeated in Congress in 1889.  Congress wanted Arizona and New Mexico to be a single state. Arizonians voted in 1906 to reject this plan, and in January 1910 they held a constitutional convention within the state to begin writing their state constitution.  In 1912, Arizona became the 48th state with Phoenix as the state capital. This completed the continental United States.

In 1917, the United States joined World War I against Germany.  The Zimmerman Telegram was one reason we joined the war.  It was sent from Germany to Mexico, and said that if Mexico helped Germany fight in the war, Mexico would regain Arizona.

In 1911, President Roosevelt dedicated a dam that was named after him.  The Coolidge Dam, the Bartlett Dam, and the Hoover Dam followed.

During World War II, Army Air Corps pilots trained in Arizona.  The resources of cotton, copper, and beef were needed to provide materials for the war.  These new job opportunities, and the introduction of air conditioning attracted people from all over the country to Arizona.

Since the 1950s, Arizona’s population has grown quickly.  It almost tripled from 1960-1990.  With this rapid growth came a need for more water.  In 1963, the Supreme Court decided on a proper division of water from the Colorado River, between Arizona, Nevada and California.  However, more water was needed.  In 1985, the Central Arizona Project brought more water from the Colorado River by pipeline to Phoenix, and in 1991 to Tucson.  The project includes 541 km (336 mi) of pipeline and cost $3.7 billion. 

In 1974 the US Congress divided the Hopi Reservation between the Hopi and the Navajo Indians.