Genealogy Trails

Graham County, Arizona
History


Graham County has an area of 6,500 square miles, nearly the size of Massachusetts, and is bounded on the north by Gila, Navajo and Apache Counties; on the east, by New Mexico; on the south by Cochise, and on the west by Pinal and Gila Counties, and is bisected from east to west by the Gila River.

Solomonville, the county-seat, is situated on the south side of the Gila River, and a line of railroad connects it with the Southern Pacific at Bowie Station. This line of road strikes into the valley of the Gila at Solomonville, and continues on down the same to the San Carlos, some fifty miles, where it crosses the Gila to the north side, and is finished as far as Globe in Gila County. At some future day this road will be extended from Globe to connect with the Atlantic and Pacific system at some point which may then be deemed most advantageous to the interests of those who may then be concerned.

Along the Gila River from Solomonville, down to the San Carlos Indian Reservation, are thriving towns and many fine farms; a very thriving settlement, principally Mormons, who by their industry and thrift, have made this valley to blossom as the rose. This is a great mining county; the extensive mines of Clifton and Morenci are within its boundaries. These mines produce, and have been producing for several years, a revenue to the fortunate owners which many an eastern principality might deem to be a sufficient cause of congratulation.

There is a railroad from these mines connecting with the Southern Pacific at Lordsburg, in New Mexico, some forty- one miles of this railroad are in this county. There will, eventually, be many other mines in this county worked at a large profit as the mining interest is in its infancy, excepting at two or three points. This county was created into a separate county by the eleventh legislature in 1881, by taking a part from Pima and Apache Counties.

The county is mountainous, with many rich valleys and fertile tracts along the foothills. The Gila River runs entirely through the county with many windings, but a general west course, and along it is much fine land well adapted to the raising of fruits and cereals, and much of it, in the last twenty years has been highly cultivated.

Fort Goodwin, some thirty-five miles below where Solomonville now is, was established by order of General James H. Carleton in 1864 for the purpose of overawing the Chiri- cahua and Pinal and White Mountain Apache Indians under their renowned leader, Cochise, who during those years, and up to 1872, kept the whole country in a state of terror.

The first settlers upon the Gila in this county were of Mexican descent and pitched their camp at San Jose about one and one-half miles above Solomonville, and the same year a settlement was commenced at that place. The settlement was first called Munsonville on account of William Munson starting a little store there. Munson soon sold out to I. E. Solomon and the place changed the name to the present one.

The Latter-day Saints (Mormons) came in from Utah and settled in the valley in 1880, and formed several settlements upon the Gila River below Safford; dug irrigation canals and began developing the resources of the valley until at the present time, by their thrift and industry, they have that portion of the Gila Valley as productive as any portion of the West. The valley of Salt River about Phce- nix is larger in area but not more productive per acre. The population of this county by census of 1900 is 14,162, an increase of two hundred and fifty per cent in a decade. Mount Graham which is but a continuation of the Chiricahua Range on the northwest, is at the highest portion, 10,318 feet above sea level. Mount Turnbull, a separate peak, but a prolongation of the range upon the northwest trend is nearly as lofty. The elevation of the valley of the Gila is, at the San Carlos, about three thousand feet, while at the eastern line of the county, some seventy miles to the eastward the altitude will reach about four thousand feet. In hottest summer the weather gets quite warm and at midday or a little later in the day the thermometer frequently indicates in the shade 100° or even a few degrees over that, but high mountains being so close at hand on every side nights are cool and pleasant even at this season of the year. In winter, snow sometimes covers the ground, though it does not lie on any great length of time.

Graham County is well supplied with schools, and the Latter-day Saints have paid particular attention to this requisite of an intelligent people. They not only have public schools at short intervals along the Gila Valley, but have established an academy in the valley under able instructors, where a classical education can be obtained at a reasonable cost. Of churches there are many; the different sects being well represented; perhaps, the Mormons in the agricultural portions predominate. Of newspapers there are several ably edited. Secret societies as Masons, Odd Fellows, and Elks, are well represented and W. C. T. U. is in a flourishing condition. This county bids fair to be the banner county of Arizona in population and productive wealth at the next census decade. Assessed valuation of property in 1903 for taxation, $3,953,255.15.

There are in Graham County great possibilities that are but beginning to be developed. There is considerable fine land for agricultural purposes up the San Simon from where it enters the Gila River near Solomonville to the north line of Cochise County. What is required to make it very productive is that artesian water be developed as the San Simon River itself will not afford water in sufficient quantity oftener than one year in five to irrigate the bottom lands along it.

The main agricultural land of this county lies along the Gila River commencing some miles above Solomonville and extending down the river some forty miles, where it enters Gila County. For some twenty miles down the river from Solomonville, the Latter-day Saints (Mormons), have made of lands along the river an agricultural paradise. Land that was deemed of little value but a few years ago, has been reclaimed and rendered fertile by bringing water from the Gila River in sufficient quantities in aqueducts or ditches to irrigate the thirsty soil as needed. This has been done by these energetic and industrious people without asking aid of the Federal Government. Fine roads have been constructed; turnpiked, and wherever ditches or water channels crossed the line of road good and substantial bridges are put in. Trees have been planted on each side of the roads through their whole distance.

The fields are separated from each other by substantial fences and are kept in fine repair. Immense crops of grain and hay are raised every year, and have generally brought remunerative prices, so, as a general thing, these sturdy farmers are in independent circumstances. They live principally in fine brick houses, large and commodious, surrounded by gardens and flowers, and in almost every instance in a grove of beautiful trees.

There are several important towns along the river, the principal of which are Pima, Thatcher, Safford and Solomonville. Solomonville is, at present, the county-seat and has a population of about two thousand people. Safford, probably, has about the same number.

The old, reliable firm of Solomon, Wickersham & Company is much in evidence along the Gila River from Solomonville down to the county boundary. This firm has a wholesale house at both Safford and Solomonville and a bank in both places of which the firm owns the main portion, one partner, Mr. Wickersham, being president and Mr. Solomon, vice-president.

This county has some very valuable copper mines in the northeastern part, on some tributaries of the Gila River, that come in from the north, viz., the mining town of Mor- enci, upon the San Francisco River, and Clifton, where are the smelting works, upon the east branch of El Tularosa. These towns are about seven miles apart. Cliflbn is reached by a regular graded railroad from Lordsburg, New Mexico, and a narrow-gauge road through a canon up -to Morenci. Morenci is the great business town of fully six thousand people. The company store here among the mountains, inaccessible a few years ago by other than pack animals, is as fine as any in the southwest, excepting Los Angeles, and it may be doubted if surpassed there; it carries a stock of fully $500,000. The hotel here is fine and prices to match. In these two towns of Clifton and Morenci there are fully 10,000 people. Sometimes more in one town than in the other, as labor is required.

The sole dependence of this large population is upon the output of the mines as there is practically nothing else, there being no agricultural land in that vicinity. Metcalf is another flourishing town some miles further in the mountains, and the whole depends upon the mines. The capital expended in smelters, hoisting works, machinery of the most expensive kind, railroads, etc., would mount up to several millions, all depending upon copper. The ore is of low percentage in copper, but to compensate there are vast bodies of it. To make it remunerative to the stockholder requires the utmost economy in management, still the company has expended money upon a liberal scale. The mining companies have been having much difficulty with their workmen through strikes; laborers demanding the same pay for eight as for ten hours' work. Probably in a short time this matter will be adjusted satisfactorily and matters move on as usual.

A legislature, perhaps, had the legal right to say what number of hours should constitute a day's work, but the whole thing would seem to be one of those sumptuary laws not at this day considered as appertaining to the duties of law givers, and likely to be of more harm than benefit, even to those whom it was intended to favor. The valuation of assessable property in this county for the year 1903 was $3,953.255.15

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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