Pima County is one of the largest and most populous counties in the state of Arizona. Known as the home of the bustling city Tucson, Pima County is a desirable residence and tourist destination. For people both within and outside of Arizona. Pima County is also rich in history as one of the oldest continuously occupied areas in the United States. With a long and storied history, Pima County is also firmly anchored in the present as one of the fastest growing areas in Arizona. Today’s Pima County is home to a rich assortment of museums, restaurants and parks which makes it an appealing area for all.
The History of Pima County and its County Seat Tucson
The history of Pima County dates back long before the present to prehistoric times. The earliest dwellers in the area have been reported to be Paleoindian and Archaic hunters and gatherers who had a presence in the area as early as 10,000 B.C.E. There is evidence of continuous habitation of the area that dates as back as far as three thousand years. The area was occupied by Native Americans as early as 200 CE. The Hohokam Indians were the residents of the area in that time. The Hohokam were one of the major Indian tribes of the Southwestern region. The Hohokam lived in the area of South Central Arizona that is now Pima County as well as its surrounding counties. They lived where the Gila and Salt River basins are.
The early Hohokam lived in small villages in what is now Pima County. They were farmers who raised corn and beans on what was the little land in the area that was suitable for farming. Although the land is mostly desert, there is some arable land. As their farming progressed, their villages became more advanced with what could be considered technological advances for the time. The Hohokam built canals and irrigation systems in the area. Around 1400, the Hohokam society declined and they disappeared.
The Pima Indians were among the descendants of the Hohokam, and they also lived in the area that is now Pima County. The Pima built an intricate society that was centered in their villages. There were also multiple other Indian tribes and communities that occupied the area with the Pima being the largest and most influential tribe in the area.
The Native American hegemony over the area began to erode in the late 1600s with the interposition of colonial powers. Father Eusebio Kino, a Jesuit explorer and missionary, visited the area in 1694. This led to an era of Spanish colonization and mission-building in the area. The area eventually came to be under the rule of the Spanish, although contacts between the Pima and the Spanish was not necessarily hostile. The Pima Indians had a reputation of being peaceful and friendly. The Spanish soon settled the area in large numbers, and the population was mixed between the Native Americans and the Spanish. The area became further transformed when silver and gold were discovered in the area in the mid-1700s. The area was under control of Spain when the Tucson Presidio was founded. When Mexico fought a war for its independence from Spain, the settlers in the area that is now Pima County were engaged in the conflict on behalf of the Mexicans. However, Mexico did not maintain control of the area for long.
Dramatic change came to the area after the Spanish-American war of the late 1840s. Once Mexico was defeated in the conflict, the United States purchased much of the land in the Southwest from Mexico. The Gadsen Purchase was completed in 1853 and was initially intended to secure land on which to build a southern transcontinental railroad. In this transaction, the United States bought almost 30,000 square miles of land that is now South Central Arizona and part of New Mexico for $10 million. All of what is now Pima County was included in the area that the United States purchased from Mexico.
Now that the area was under American control, the entire character of the area began to change. The United States Army took control over the area and established forts. The presence of the Army benefited the area since the economy was devoted to providing the Army with necessary supplies. In addition, trade routes and links were established, and Pima County was in a desirable geographic location. Pima County was along the route that farmers drove their cattle on from Texas to California which brought many visitors to the area. In addition, many prospectors on their way to California for the Gold Rush passed through the area. Their presence brought economic benefits for the area, and some of the prospectors settled in Pima County instead of making their way on to California.
The area of Pima County briefly became a Confederate territory. The area was conquered by Texans and Arizona militia on behalf of the Confederacy at the start of the Civil War. There were numerous efforts to restore to the area to Union control over the next two years. In 1863, an army of Californians finally drove out the Confederates and the area that is Pima County again became a part of the Union.
In 1863, the Pima County area became a part of the Arizona Territory. The following year, Pima County was incorporated and its borders were established. Pima County is the oldest county in Arizona. The original area made for a large county that exceeded 30,000 square miles. In the following years, its territory has since been subsequently been reduced to under 10,000 square miles as other counties were formed from its territory.
The twentieth century brought about immense change and growth of the entire area. Two things combined to spark tremendous growth in the county. First, the clean air in the desert helped contribute to the growth of the area by drawing people hoping to take advantage of it for health reasons. After World War I, the federal government constructed a rehabilitation facility for veterans of the war who were injured by nerve agents. In addition, the VA Hospital that was constructed became a major growth engine for the county. Second, the growth of the University of Arizona helped drive development in the county as the University established itself as a leading public institution. Arizona achieved statehood in 1912, and Tucson and the surrounding Pima County immediately were integral parts of the state.
The area continued to grow as the twentieth century progressed. In 1940, the Tucson Army Air Field was constructed, bringing more of a military presence to the area. Pima County also began to grow as a cultural and architectural destination.
By the second half of the century, Pima County was a growing area whose growth mirrored that of the entire state of Arizona. The population of the area has grown by leaps and bounds as its reputation as a Sun Belt destination became established. By the beginning of the present century, Pima County’s population surpassed a million residents since the last Census was conducted in 2010. Given the expansive area of Pima County, there is even more room for the county’s growth.
The History of the County Seat Tucson
The history of Tucson dates as far back as 1775. In that year, the Presidio San Augustin Del Tucson was built by Spanish soldiers that were in the city. Tucson had a Spanish military presence thereafter, which eventually became a Mexican military presence after Mexico gained its independence from Spain in 1821.
The area was the site of conflict prior to the Spanish-American War. A Mormon battalion had marched through the area in 1846. They occupied the Garrison of Fort Tucson without firing a shot as the Mexicans fled before any conflict could ensue. The occupation was only temporary as the Americans left after a couple of days and the Mexicans reestablished occupancy of the Garrison.
The original capital of the Arizona Territory was established in Tucson, which was originally incorporated in 1871. The capital of the Arizona Territory was eventually moved to Phoenix. It was transportation that really contributed to the growth of the region. Those that were travelling from San Antonio to San Diego passed through Tucson on their journey. In 1880, the United States finally was able to construct the long-planned Southern Pacific Railroad, which passed through the heart of Pima County right near Tucson. This set the stage for dramatic growth in the area as more and more people settled in Tucson. The city received waves of Chinese immigrants who came to the area in conjunction with the building of the railroad and stayed after it was completed.
The growth and the traffic also meant that Tucson experienced some of the ills that more vibrant urban areas encountered. The city was a magnet for gamblers and those of lesser moral ilk. Pima County in the second half of the nineteenth century was a dangerous place, with numerous high-profile robberies. Still, the people kept on coming through Pima County, both as a destination in transit as well as a place to settle.
By the time that 1900 rolled around, Tucson had a population nearing 8,000. A major event that would set the stage for the later growth of Pima County occurred in 1885 with the founding of the University of Arizona. The University was established in Tucson. The city had initially hoped to be the location of the state’s psychiatric hospital since the hospital would have resulted in a greater appropriation for the city. The presence of the University of Arizona established Tucson as a center of higher learning and as a university town.
During the time prior to Arizona’s statehood, Tucson was the largest city and commercial center in the Territory of Arizona. However, right around the time that Arizona became a state, Phoenix surpassed Tucson in territory and population. Still, Tucson has grown exponentially over the years. In the time between 1950 and 1960, Tucson’s population practically quintupled. Tucson’s population today is more than ten times what it was in 1950.
Tucson is now a vibrant center of Pima County and Southern Arizona with a population that has passed a half a million residents, and it continues to grow by the year. Tucson has gone from a city with a population that could be measured in the hundreds in the 1850s to a city that is one of the 35 largest in the country. It is the second largest city in Arizona, behind Phoenix.
Overview of Pima County
Geography and Population
Much of Pima County is centered in Tucson, which is the heart and soul of the county as well as the center of the county’s government. Tucson is the largest city in the county with a population of approximately 520,000. Other population centers in Pima County include Oro Valley, Marana, Sahuarita and South Tucson. The population of the county just surpassed one million residents in 2016. Nearly all of the residents of the county live in and around Tucson. Virtually the entire population surrounds a corridor that travels along I-10 and 1-19 in the eastern part of the county. To the west of the urban areas lies the Tohono O’odham Nation Reservation, which fills most of the land area of Pima County.
Pima County consists of 9,189 square miles of land. The city of Tucson is only 236 miles of the county’s territory, but it holds half of the population. The Tohono O’odham Nation Reservation has an area of 4,486 square miles and most of the reservation in within Pima County. There are several other Indian Reservations located in the county as well as national monuments. Pima County is located practically entirely within the Sonoran Desert.
Although nearly Pima County’s entire population lives in an urban area, most of the county’s area in uninhabited. The county is also home to several mountain ranges that surround Tucson. These mountain ranges include the Santa Catalinas, Rincons, Santa Ritas and the Tucsons. Although Pima County is practically entirely desert, there are numerous rivers in the county, including the Santa Crux which flows through Tucson.
Tourism in Pima County
Pima County has become a top destination for tourism both in the state as well as the country. Pima County draws approximately seven million overnight visitors every year. The number of tourists to the area grows close to eight percent every year as visitors come to Tucson to enjoy the year-round nice weather. Pima County is known as a great home for golf as well as other nature activities.
In addition, Pima County has numerous racetracks and museums. Pima County possesses a unique ecology that features desert vistas combined with mountains. It has a rich mixture of flora and fauna. This is because Pima County has engaged in sound stewardship of its land and has developed in a manner that preserves the ecology.
Business in Pima County
Much of Pima County’s employment is driven by the University of Arizona which is Tucson’s largest employer. Tucson is regarded as a very favorable environment for businesses due to the tax rates in Arizona and a conducive regulatory environment. Pima County also has a robust job market with unemployment rates that are lower than the state of Arizona as a whole.
In addition to the University of Arizona, state and federal government also employ large numbers of people in Pima County. The county historically has had among the lowest unemployment rates in the state. In addition to education and government, construction and retail are also large employers in the county. Finally, health care and mining businesses also have large presences in Pima County.
Real Estate in Pima County
Pima County continues to grow in part because it presents favorable real estate opportunities for both those looking for a residence as well as investors looking to purchase property. There is quite a bit of available land in Pima County which make the real estate market vibrant and busy. In addition, businesses can rent space in Pima County at affordable rates, making it a conducive location to base a business.
Government in Pima County
Pima County is run by a County Administrator, although that person does not have executive authority. Instead, the County Administrator acts to administer the agencies of the county government. Currently, the County Administrator is Chuck Huckleberry. The Administrator is not an elected position. Instead, the County Administrator receives a contract at the direction of the Board of Supervisors. The County Administrator carries out the policies that are enacted by the Board of Supervisors and also administers and overseas all functions of the non-elected government. The County Administrator is a non-partisan position, but the partisan Board of Supervisors votes every four years on a contract renewal for the County Administrator. The Board of Supervisors has the power to remove the County Administrator.
The Board of Supervisors is the legislature of the county. There are five members of the Board of Supervisors. They are elected to serve four-year terms. The last election for the Board of Supervisors was held in 2016. The Board of Supervisors enacts policies and provides guidance for the County Administrator who runs the day-to-day operations of the government. The Board Members oversees all of the budget issues for the County, setting taxes and giving the various agencies of Pima County government their annual budgets. The Board of Supervisors also oversees some of the services provided by Pima County.