Territorial Status and Statehood

In 1863, Arizona was organized as a separate territory, with its first, temporary capital at Fort Whipple. Prescott became the capital in 1865. Charles D. Poston, who had worked to achieve Arizona’s new status, was elected as the territory’s first delegate to the U.S. Congress. The capital was moved to Tucson in 1867, back to Prescott in 1877, and finally to Phoenix in 1889.

The region had been held precariously by U.S. soldiers during the intermittent warfare (1861–86) with the Apaches, who were led by Cochise and later Geronimo. General George Crook waged a successful campaign against the Apaches in 1882–85, and in 1886 Geronimo finally surrendered to federal troops. When Confederate troops were routed and Union soldiers went east to fight in the Civil War, settlement was abandoned. It was resumed after the war and encouraged by the Homestead Act (1862), the Desert Land Act (1877), and the Carey Land Act (1894)—all of which turned land over to settlers and required them to develop it.

In the 1870s mining flourished, and by the following decade the Copper Queen Company at Bisbee was exploiting one of the area’s largest copper deposits. In 1877 silver was discovered at Tombstone, setting off a boom that drew throngs of prospectors to Arizona but lasted less than 10 years. Tombstone also became famous for its lawlessness; Wyatt Earp and his brothers gained their reputations during the famous gunfight (1881) at the O. K. Corral. By 1880 the Santa Fe and Southern Pacific railroads both extended into Arizona. Ranching began to thrive and sheep raising grew from solely a Navajo occupation to a major enterprise among white settlers. After 1897, the U.S. Forestry Bureau issued grazing permits to protect public land from depletion.

In 1912, Arizona, still a frontier territory, attained statehood. Its constitution created a storm, with such “radical” political features as initiative, referendum, and judicial recall. Only after recall had been deleted did President Taft sign the statehood bill. Once admitted to the Union, Arizona restored the recall provision.

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