Arizona History: Tubac

18th century map of Tubac and surroundings

The Hohokam Indians were the first people that lived here, sometime between 300 and 1500 A.D. Next the Pima and O’odham peoples lived here. The Spanish arrived as early as 1540. Father Francisco Eusebio Kino came in 1691 to convert the Indians. Missions, ranches, and farms were built. By 1732, Tubac had Mission Guevavi.

In 1751, the Pima went on the warpath and destroyed much of what the Spanish had accomplished. Spanish troops arrived and finally won against a Pima force of 2,000 warriors. The Presidio of San Ignacio de Tubac was established afterward. Fifty men were left there to permanently occupy the fort.

Captain Juan Bautista de Anza II built the chapel of Santa Gertrudis while stationed at the Presidio. Later he led expeditions to the west coast. He left Tubac on October 23, 1775 with 300 people and eventually established San Francisco.

In 1776, the Presidio was moved to Tucson. But in 1787, the former Presidio was preoccupied. This time it was named El Real Presidio de San Rafael. When Mexico won its independence from Spain 1821, Tubac came under Mexican rule. But during the Mexican War of 1846-48, most of its citizens deserted to take part. It was a virtual ghost town when the U.S. acquired the southwest territories in the Gadsden Purchase of 1853.

The town went through a miniature boom, when the Sonora Exploring and Mining Company was established by Charles Poston. The population surged to over 1,000. It was large enough to warrant a regular stage from the Butterfield line. It also had a weekly paper called The Weekly Arizonian, first in the state. By 1860, the mining boom ended. And the Civil War called away the soldiers stationed there. In 1863, Lincoln declared Arizona a s a territory of the United States. Indian raids increased over the next 20 years.

A town site was established in 1882 by T. Lillie Mercer, Sabino Otero and others. A school was built in 1885. In 1886 the Tubac Scouts were formed to fight the Apaches. After Geronimo’s surrender, the Indians no longer bothered Tubac.

In modern times, Tubac is town of art and history. Tubac Presidio State Historic Park was established in 1959. The first Tubac Festival of the Arts was in 1960.