Arizona History January 20, 2016
8 Shocking Things You Had No Idea Happened In Arizona
While writing these articles about Arizona, I find that I learn something new everyday about our state. Sometimes they’re mundane facts that I never knew or paid attention to, while others are just weird and induce some kind of incredulous reaction. Here are a few things I discovered over the last few months while writing for Only In Arizona.
1. In 1861, areas now part of southern Arizona and New Mexico were declared to be part of the Confederate States, which was passed and proclaimed by the Confederate Congress the following year.
The reasons for secession are many but here are a couple. Arizona business men had connections to the South at the time, so keeping the area slave states was beneficial to their wallets. The area was also neglected by the Union and American residents felt they didn’t receive enough support during the Apache Wars, who opposed settler encroachment into their homelands.
2. In 1871, Tom Barnum became the first sheriff of Phoenix after some interesting circumstances allowed him to run unopposed.
Long story short, Barnum’s two opponents became involved in a shootout that left one dead and the other dropped out of the race for sheriff’s seat.
3. In 1877, Henry McCarty shot Francis “Windy” Cahill following a poker game in Graham County, the first of a string of crimes by a man who would later be known as Billy the Kid.
As it typically goes with these kinds of events, it all started with name-calling.
4. In 1889, the Arizona legislature voted to move the state capital from Prescott to Phoenix, supposedly with the help of a local prostitute.
Although most likely a false story, it’s still strange enough that I couldn’t find a reason not to include the story.
The story goes that supporters of moving the capital to Phoenix approached “Kissin’ Jenny” to ensure the move passed since one of her regulars was a delegate who opposed. The man had a glass eye and, after spending a night with Jenny, he placed his glass eye into a jar of water and fell asleep. Jenny then drank from the jar, glass eye and all. (Can one really swallow a glass eye? I’m doubtful.) When the delegate woke in the morning, he realized his eye was missing and was too embarrassed to leave, let alone cast a vote in session.
5. In 1891, the Arizona legislature ended annual fiestas due to the gambling that took place.
Annual fiestas which originally focused heavily on religious feasts and celebrations around Saint Days
soon became hotbeds for drinking, gambling, and general partying
among southern Arizonans. In 1889, then acting governor N. O. Murphy called for the end of fiestas and the legislature passed a decree two years later outlawing them and imposing a monthly tax on gambling tables. Interestingly, local gamblers and dealers supported this decree as it would prevent competition from taking their business.
6. In 1934, Arizona nearly went to war with California over the Colorado River.
Okay, “went to war” is probably a bit of an exaggeration, but Arizona did heavily protest California’s diversion of river water, which included establishing a “navy” to patrol the waters for a few short days. State National Guard troops, infantry, and even a handful of machine-gunners blocked the construction of Parker Dam while a couple of steamboats were led by a member of the state legislature, Nellie T. Bush.
7. In 2011, Sheriff Joe Arpaio made a show of intimidation to arrest a cockfighting suspect with a tank and Steven Seagal.
Three things made this event even crazier. The suspect’s neighbors were so shocked at seeing the spectacle,
they called 911
. This arrest also happened to coincide with the filming of Seagal’s reality show at the time, who admitted to participating because of his stance against animal abuse. However, the tank driving also led to the family dog dying in
the process and Seagal getting sued by the suspect
8. In 2014, a Saudi Arabian company purchased over 9,800 acres of farmland to grow alfalfa hay for its dairy business back in Saudi Arabia.
I love learning about events like these. What other strange and potentially shocking things have you learned about Arizona?
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