formed in 1881 by the 11th Territorial Legislature, was created from
parts of Apache and Pima counties. The Legislature broke with the
tradition of naming Arizona counties after local Indian tribes when the
new county called
Graham was named after the
10,516 foot Mount
Graham, the highest peak in the area. The mountain, in turn, had been
named Graham after Lt. Col. James Duncan Graham, a senior officer in
Brig. Gen. Stephen W. Kearney's U.S. Army Corps of Topographical
early history was one of exploration rather than settlement there
were no notable Spanish or Mexican communities. Most of its inhabitants
were Apaches. Camp Goodwin was established in 1866, but abandoned when
the troops moved to establish Fort Apache in 1871.
In the 1870s,
farming communities began to appear along the Gila River, which
traverses the county from east to west. Munsonvilie, now San Jose, was
established in 1873; Safford followed in 1874; Solomonville in 1876;
Smithville, now known as Pima, in 1879. In the next decade, Thatcher,
Eden, Central, and Bryce were settled all within a few miles of each
other. This was, and is today, a rich agricultural area.
Safford was the
first county seat, but it was moved to Solomonville after two years. In
1915, after an election, the county seat was returned to Safford where
was almost twice its present size prior to the formation of Greenlee
County. The county now measures 4,630 square miles, of which 22 square
miles are water. The San Carlos Indian Reservation covers approximately
one-third of the land, with San Carlos Lake a popular site for its
excellent fishing and camping. Recreation and tourism follow farming
and ranching as the principal industries in Graham County.
corporate ownership accounts for 9.9 percent of land ownership; the
U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, 38 percent; the
state of Arizona, 18 percent; Indian reservations, 36 percent. All of
Graham County is an Enterprise Zone.