Arizona State History
Arizona has a rich history dating back over 20,000 years. When Christopher Columbus discovered America, Arizona was already inhabited by the ancestors of today’s Native Americans. Recorded history for Arizona essentially began when the Spanish sent explorers north from Mexico to scout the land. The first Spanish explorer to set foot in Arizona territory was priest Marcos de Niza who arrived in 1539.
Soon after several Spanish missionaries followed Niza and set up missions to introduce Christianity to the Indians. One of the most influential missions was Tumacacori which is north of Nogales. The mission is now a national monument. Tumacacori was founded by Padre Kino who also was instrumental in founding Xavier Mission located outside of Tucson and is still used today.
Becoming U.S. Territory
In 1821 Mexico declared independence from Spain and the settlement of current day Arizona had come to a standstill. Mexico eventually went to war with the United States in 1848 and the land became part of the United States territory. A few years later in 1853 the rest of the area was purchased and became a part of the United States. It was during this time that the move westward brought many to Arizona.
The move west was rugged and difficult. A lot of lawlessness took place as people were fighting over land with each other as well as taking it from the Indians who were already living there. Many who came to seek their fortunes out west were businessmen, prospectors, farmers, adventure seekers and builders.
Significant deposits of gold had formed in Arizona and word spread quickly of people who had “struck it rich” by finding gold. Other minerals such as copper and silver were also found. Small mining town began to spring up all over the territory.
Other people made a living farming, raising cattle and tending sheep. Fights over valuable land and water began to break out between farmers, cattlemen and sheepherders. Often times these battles were violent, bloody and ended in death.
Finally the U.S. Marshalls came in and brought law and order the territory near the end of the 1800s. Soon after Arizona became the 48th state admitted to the Union on February 14, 1912.
Cotton farming and copper mining were two major industries in the state during its infancy. When the Great Depression hit these two industries suffered tremendously. It was during the economic recovery that tourism became a major part of the Arizona economy.
Arizona was thought of as cowboy country and many people set up dude ranches and hotels. People came to Arizona to get a taste of the “Old West.” Some of the most popular locations built during these times are still used today. The Arizona Biltmore and Wigwam Resort are still successful tourists spots.
Today Arizona is home to nearly 6.5 million people making it the 16th most populous state. Phoenix is its largest city and serves as the capitol. The states gross domestic product is approximately $250 million. If Arizona were its own country its economy would be in the top 65 in the world. The state’s largest employer is the government. Wal-Mart is the largest private employer with over 18,000 employees.
Some of the most important cities in Arizona include:
Each of these cities plays in important role in shaping industry and culture within the state. In 2010 Arizona passed the toughest illegal immigration laws in the nation and has become a source of much debate.