Genealogy Trails

Gila County, Arizona
History


Gila County has an area of 7,247 square miles, about equal to that of the State of New Jersey. This county is quite irregular in shape, and is bounded on the north by Coconino and a portion of Apache Counties; on the east by Apache and Graham Counties; on the south by Graham and Pinal Counties; on the west by Pinal, Maricopa and Yavapai Counties. The county-seat is Globe, the center of a large mining region, and the terminus of the Gila Valley and Globe Railroad, which connects with the Southern Pacific Railroad at Bowie Station in San Simon Valley, Cochise County. Gila is almost exclusively a mountain county, and the great industry for many years will be mining and work in connection with mines.

The population by census of 1900 was 4,973 and of Globe, the county-seat, by same census, 1,495. This county was created in 1881, at the eleventh legislative session of the Territorial legislature, by taking territory from Yavapai and Pinal Counties, its name is derived from the River Gila, which forms a portion of its southern boundary; after its first formation some 965 square miles were added from Yavapai County.

Much of the best agricultural lands of this county are embraced in the San Carlos Indian Reservation. The county is largely mountainous and in many places abounds in minerals, mostly copper, though the more precious minerals, as gold and silver, are found, also.

The Salt River flows through the northern portion of the county and farther in are some flourishing settlements, dependent upon the land they cultivate for their subsistence. The Rio Solado or Salt River receives its name from the salty or brackish taste of its waters, and many statements have been put forth to account for this peculiarity of a mountain stream. Some who would wish to have others think they knew all things, and could give reasons off hand for everything, have told of a vast bed of salt that the river ran over on its course from the mountains to the valley, and that the constant scouring and erosion wears off enough of the rock salt to give all the waters of the lower stream a saline taste. Upon investigation, however, it has been ascertained that about north of the city of Globe is a small mountain or hill of pure rock salt from which flows quite a stream of very salt water, this stream flows into Salt River and impregnates its waters from this point, as above this junction the main stream is fresh. This stream of salt water ought, if possible, to be diverted from flowing into Salt River, as it may be that so much salinity in water used for irrigation may impregnate the soil to such an extent as in time to render it unproductive. One great remedy after land has become sterile through the salinity of water used for irrigation is to grow beets for several crops, though it might be very inconvenient to many to do this.

This county has many natural wonders: in the northern part the natural bridge, which spans Pine Creek, far surpasses the world-famed Natural Bridge of Virginia.! Beneath this bridge are numerous caves, some not yet explored. In this portion of the county many beautiful waterfalls are found, and springs from which flow a sufficiency of water to drive heavy machinery. There are warm springs upon the San Carlos Reservation, believed by the Indians to possess almost marvelous curative qualities. There is much, also, to interest the scientist: evidences of a race of humanity having lived here in the ages long past, the cliff dwellers; and as for beautiful and imposing scenery, it is here mapped out in rocky splendor for his admiration.

The Pinal Mountain Range crosses the county south and west and is heavily timbered; the Sierra Ancha and Mazatsal Ranges on the north are covered also with a heavy growth of pine, oak and juniper.

The main industry of this county is mining and from its southern to its northern boundary minerals abound. The Globe Copper Mines have paid largely from the start when everything in connection with the mines had to be hauled by mule wagons to and from Willcox upon the Southern Pacific Railroad, a distance of about one hundred and fifty miles. There is also within the bounds of this county the San Carlos coal fields though but little has been done towards developing this deposit.

The San Carlos Indian Reservation embraces much of the county and probably fully one-half of the agricultural land; small portions are tilled by the Apaches in a desultory manner. Down Pinal Creek about twelve miles from Globe, at a point where is living water at all seasons, is what is known as the wheat fields. This land was cultivated, to a considerable extent, by the Apache Indians, who here planted corn, pumpkins and beans long before there were any white settlers in the vicinity. The land now by reason of its productiveness and nearness to market is valued at a higher figure. Within sight of this mountain divide lies nearly all the farming land of the county. From the mouth of Pima Creek it is about fifteen miles to the Box Canon of Salt River. There are about four thousand acres of land fenced in, and of this some two thousand acres are devoted to the raising of grain. Much attention is also given to the raising of stock. Tonto Creek joins the Salt River just above the Box Canon from the north; the valley of Tonto Creek is broad and is occupied for some twenty- five miles by stockmen, who raise little produce excepting hay.

There are many evidences of a pre-historic race having inhabited this country long before the advent of Europeans upon this continent. Upon many of the hilltops there are to be found the remains of stone structures, circular in form, which seem to have been used either as a watch tower or temple for sun worship, maybe for both purposes. Is it to be wondered at that these primitive inhabitants should worship the sun, to them the great creative power, their darkened minds not having risen to a comprehension of the Invisible,—"Him who kindled and who quenchest suns." Upon many of the jutting cliffs are remains of what were undoubtedly fortresses, constructed so as to overlook the valley below and exterior defenses which commanded all approaches.

A short distance below Greenback Creek are the remains of an immense ruin on the mesa or plateau. The walls of this ruin are yet standing to the height of six or eight feet and are covered with debris. This structure was built of gypsum; a large deposit of which underlies the country in the neighborhood, cropping out when the upper covering has been eroded sufficiently either through the action of wind or water. Several irrigating canals can be traced which must have required no mean engineering skill to bring the water to the top of the table lands. Along the small streams in the vicinity are marked out in cobble stones long stretches of connected enclosures that must have been rooms of houses. Some of these houses are as long as half a mile, though narrow. Here in the long past must have existed the inhabitants of a populous city. The washings of centuries have mostly covered these antique dwellings until the sites now are but slightly marked on the edges of the lowest plateau. Some very interesting remains, evidencing that there have been here an ancient people, are to be found to the south a few miles from Armer Post office.

Far up a narrow canon and reached only after an exhaustive climb, a number of cliff dwellings are found. They are all constructed after much the same plan. In the contact between the sandstone stratum and more ancient formation which underlies it, several large caves have been worn out by action of wind and water. Across the wide mouth was built a wall of cement, somewhat the shape of an open oyster shell, and the interior was divided off into rooms by partition walls of the same material. The manner by which the primitive inhabitants entered their dwellings was by means of a ladder or notched stick or log, up the face of the cliff maybe fifteen or twenty feet to the level of the roof, then through a hole in the roof by drawing up the ladder and placing it down this aperture, a descent could be made into the dwelling, then by letting down and fastening the trap door and removing the ladder all would be secure against external foes. Nothing short of heavy ordnance would prove effective against these fortified dwellings, even up to the present day. The largest cave of this group is about one hundred feet long, by forty feet deep, and twenty feet in height at the face; there were within, some dozen rooms arranged upon three floors; the floors were of neatly dressed cedar logs upon which were laid, crosswise and close as they could be together, ribs of the giant cactus, and upon these, flags and a clay dressing. The woodwork in these caves is in an excellent state of preservation, the condition for preserving relics of a long past era could nowhere be found nearer perfection.

The climate is free from humidity and through the long lapse of ages not a drop of moisture has reached the interior of these caves. The probability seems to be that they were used as a place of refuge, a denier resort by those people who cultivated the valleys, and these fortresses were kept victualed and guarded so that on the approach of a foe too strong for them to encounter in the open field, the inhabitants withdrew into these strongholds until the storm of invasion should pass on.

The mountain scenery of this county is very grand and fully equal to that of Switzerland which has been the theme for ages of the historian, the tourist and the poet. The schools are good and well attended, showing that education is not neglected by her energetic and prosperous people. The churches, also, are well attended and supported. When Gila was first created a county organization (1881), there was not a single church within its boundaries, though the Latter-day Saints (Mormons) held meetings in private houses. Since that time many of the different denominations have erected houses of worship, until the religious requirements of the people are fairly well attended to. There are some thirty-three public schools within the county, employing about forty competent teachers. At Thatcher is located an academy maintained by the Mormon Church organization; so a fair business education can be obtained by every child without leaving the Gila Valley.

The secret orders are ably represented and have many valuable buildings and their humanizing influence, as always, has a powerful effect for the good of society. The most prominent are, perhaps, in about the order named: Masons, Odd Fellows and Elks. Of benevolent societies the A. O. U. W. stands prominent. There are two weekly papers published at Globe and both seem to be doing well. Assessable valuation of property of this county for 1903 amounted to $1,541,924.

Source: The History of Arizona: From the Earliest Times Known to the People of Europe to 1903 By Sidney Randolph De Long, Arizona Pioneers' Historical Society Published by The Whitaker & Ray company, 1905

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