Gila County

Gila County, located in the central part of the state of Arizona, has a rich and diverse history that reflects the broader narrative of the American Southwest. The county was officially established on February 8, 1881, carved out from portions of Maricopa and Pinal counties. Here’s a comprehensive look at the history of Gila County:

Prehistoric and Native American History

Before the arrival of Europeans, the region that would become Gila County was inhabited by several Native American tribes, including the Hohokam, Salado, and later the Apache and Yavapai. The Hohokam, known for their extensive canal systems, were some of the earliest settlers in the region, but by around 1400 AD, their culture had declined, and the Salado people emerged, leaving behind a legacy of cliff dwellings and pottery.

Spanish and Mexican Period

In the 16th century, Spanish explorers, including Francisco Vásquez de Coronado, passed through the area in search of the mythical Seven Cities of Gold. The Spanish influence in the region was minimal, primarily due to its remote and rugged terrain. After Mexican independence from Spain in 1821, the area became part of Mexico, but it remained largely uninhabited by non-Native people.

American Territorial Period

The region became part of the United States following the Gadsden Purchase in 1854. The discovery of gold and silver in the area during the mid-19th century attracted prospectors and miners. The establishment of military forts, such as Fort McDowell, helped to protect settlers and miners from Apache raids.

Formation of Gila County

Gila County was formed on February 8, 1881. It was named after the Gila River, which runs through the county. Globe, the county seat, quickly became a mining boomtown. The Old Dominion Mine, one of the most significant copper mines in the state, was established in Globe, contributing to the county’s economic growth.

Mining and Economic Development

The late 19th and early 20th centuries saw a mining boom in Gila County. Besides copper, silver, and gold, other minerals like turquoise were also mined. Towns like Miami and Hayden developed as significant mining centers. The construction of railroads facilitated the transportation of ore and brought more settlers to the area.

The Great Depression and World Wars

The Great Depression of the 1930s had a profound impact on Gila County, with many mines closing and people leaving in search of better opportunities. However, World War II brought a resurgence in mining activity, particularly for copper, which was essential for the war effort.

Post-War Period and Modern Development

In the post-war period, Gila County diversified its economy. While mining remained a crucial industry, tourism began to play an increasingly important role. The Tonto National Forest, with its scenic beauty and recreational opportunities, attracted visitors. The establishment of Roosevelt Lake and the Theodore Roosevelt Dam provided water for agriculture and contributed to the development of the region.

Contemporary Gila County

Today, Gila County is known for its blend of historical heritage and natural beauty. Globe and Miami maintain their historical charm with well-preserved architecture and mining heritage sites. The county continues to balance mining with tourism and recreation. Outdoor activities such as hiking, fishing, and boating are popular, drawing visitors to the Tonto National Forest and the surrounding areas.

Gila County’s history is a testament to the enduring spirit of its people, from the ancient Native American cultures to the miners and settlers who shaped its modern identity. Its rich historical tapestry and natural landscapes make it a unique and significant part of Arizona’s story.

Photograph take of Jacob Waltz after his arrival in New York.

Jacob Waltz the “Dutchman”

Photograph take of Jacob Waltz after his arrival in New York. Jacob Waltz, often referred to as "Dutchman," was a German immigrant whose life became…