Arizona tells an interesting story. Some of our state’s most interesting historical events happened in its smallest towns. Here are 8 examples:
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1. Bisbee – Wide-scale miner deportation in 1917.
We've mentioned it before, but it's still an interesting and unfortunate event to have occurred.
In 1917, unionized miners had a major labor dispute with mining companies and eventually began a strike after companies refused to meet demands. The companies retaliated by deporting thousands of miners from Bisbee (and a few dozen in Jerome). They loaded the miners by gunpoint onto trains headed out of state and prevented them from taking any personal belongings, money, food, or water as they traveled in the middle of summer.
2. Colorado City – Raids on polygamist community occurred as early as the 1950s.
The mere mention of Colorado City conjures plenty of opinions and images, nearly all centered around the drama of the Fundamentalist LDS church. Founded as Short Creek by a breakaway group of the mainstream LDS church, the city has seen its fair share of polygamy raids by law enforcement.
One early example was the Short Creek raid in 1953, where the state governor sent public safety officers and the Arizona National Guard. Similar stories of child brides and abuse that we hear today of some polygamist communities made the news at the time, which prompted Governor John Howard Pyle to take action. At the time, it was considered one of the largest mass arrests since nearly 400 people were taken into custody, including 263 children.
3. Douglas – Missing evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson turns up in Douglas in 1926.
Douglas seems to be well attributed to the story of Pancho Villa threatening to attack the city and later riding his horse up the staircase of the Gadsden Hotel. Only the first part of that story is true so let's instead take a look at a story that actually made headlines: the emergence of missing evangelist, Aimee Semple McPherson. Affectionately known as “Sister Aimee,” McPherson was a popular evangelist in the 1920s and helped set the stage for later televangelists with her use of broadcasting over the radio.
In 1926, McPherson went missing from Venice Beach in Los Angeles after a swim and was presumed dead until five weeks later when she emerged from the desert into Douglas. She claimed that she had been kidnapped by three people who drugged, tortured, and held her for ransom before she managed to escape. While her story was heavily sensationalized by the media and scrutinized by Los Angeles courts, her fans were ever supportive of her, with more people showing up to her homecoming than did to the President's visit a few years earlier.
4. Fredonia – A 5.6 earthquake was recorded in Fredonia in 1959.
The earthquake recently experienced in Black Canyon City wasn't the first to occur in the state and certainly won't be the last. While rare events, earthquakes and related tremors have been recorded in the state as early as the 1850s. One such event happened in the morning hours of July 22, 1959 in Fredonia. The quake measured 5.6 on the Richter Scale and was felt in Flagstaff, Page, and Kanab, Utah. According to
an article in the Salt Lake Tribune
, damage seemed to be limited and no one was injured.
5. Leupp – Housed one of the Japanese internment isolation centers during World War II.
Most Arizonans know that our state had two internment camps where Japanese Americans were forcefully relocated and incarcerated during World War II: one on the Gila River Indian Reservation and another on the Colorado River Indian Reservation. Further up north in the Navajo Nation, the Leupp Isolation Center was established to house “noncompliant” and “troublesome” inmates.
In 1942, a clash occurred between internees and guards, resulting in two dead inmates, nine injured inmates, and one injured guard.
6. Naco – The first aerial bombardment to occur on U.S. soil took place here in 1929.
During one of Mexico's northern conflicts, rebels hired an American cropduster named Patrick Murphy to drop bombs on Mexican soldiers. Murphy packed a few suitcases with explosives and got started on his new job. While he did manage to hit a few of his targets, a few of them also accidentally fell in Naco, Arizona, destroying a few buildings.
7. Tombstone – The gunfight at the O.K. Corral happens in 1881.
Okay, maybe this wasn't anything significant at the time, it did help establish Tombstone's notoriety and make a place for the Earp brothers in history. The gunfight between an outlaw cowboy gang and Tombstone's lawmen lasted only 30 seconds and actually escalated the conflict between the two groups.
8. Tubac – The first permanent European settlement on land now Arizona was established in 1752.
While other western Europeans colonized the eastern part of the continent, the Spanish were still moving upwards from Mexico to establish settlements and reap resources to send back to Spain during this time period. They faced placed plenty of justified conflict from the Indigenous peoples, including the O'odham Uprising in 1751, who faced violence and loss of autonomy at the hands of the colonizers. In 1752, the Spanish managed to establish Tubac, then known as Presidio San Ignacio de Tubac, which operated as a fort.
What other major events do you know of that happened in small Arizona towns? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.