Cochise County, Land of Legends
In the nineteenth century, Cochise, Geronimo, Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday all were familiar with the Chiricahua mountains, Skeleton Canyon, the Tombstone hills, and the old San Bernardino ranch. But the story really began more than 11,000 years ago when the climate was moister, the Willcox playa was a lake, and Clovis hunters feasted on mammoth and bison near Naco and at Murray Springs on the San Pedro River. Numerous sites show evidence of these very early nomadic hunters.
Native American tribes continued to live in the area at various times before the Spaniards arrived. In 1540, Francisco Vasquez de Coronado entered the area with a large train of soldiers and horses, searching for cities of gold to compare with the wealth found in the Aztec kingdoms to the south. Ironically those conquistadors probably passed very close to the Tombstone mining district, which would later yield millions of pounds of silver. Some hundred and fifty years after Coronado, Father Eusebio Kino, a Jesuit missionary, came to Pimeria Alta in search of souls to save. Kino made his home in northern Sonora for more than twenty years and explored extensively what is now southern Arizona. He found Sobaipuri and Pima tribes living along the San Pedro River and in the valleys near Sonoita. For a brief period, Spain tried to exert a military presence in the far north in the form of presidios on the San Pedro River and at San Bernardino. Both Spain and Mexico made land grants in the area in hopes of establishing settlements, but the hopeful ranchers were driven out again and again by hostile Apache attacks. It was much later, after the Gadsden Purchase made the land south of the Gila River part of the United States, that the period of Anglo soldiering, cattle ranching and mining began.
The Clovis hunter sites, Coronado National Memorial, Terrenate presidio, Tombstone, Old Bisbee, Fort Bowie and Fort Huachuca all bear witness to the area’s colorful past.
View a list of Free E-books about Arizona History