Arizona (; O'odham: Alĭ ṣonak) is a state in the southwestern region of the United States. It is also part of the Western United States and of the Mountain West states. It is the sixth largest and the 15th most populous of the 50 states. Its capital and largest city is Phoenix. Arizona is one of the Four Corners states. It has borders with New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, California, and Mexico, and one point in common with the southwestern corner of Colorado. Arizona's border with Mexico is 389 miles (626 km) long, on the northern border of the Mexican states of Sonora and Baja California.
Arizona is the 48th state and last of the contiguous states to be admitted to the Union, achieving statehood on February 14, 1912. It was previously part of the territory of Alta California in New Spain before being passed down to independent Mexico and later ceded to the United States after the Mexican-American War. The southernmost portion of the state was acquired in 1853 through the Gadsden Purchase.
Arizona is noted for its desert climate in its southern half, with very hot summers and quite mild winters. The northern half of the state features forests of pine, Douglas fir, and spruce trees, a very large, high plateau (the Colorado Plateau) and some mountain ranges—such as the San Francisco Mountains—as well as large, deep canyons, with much more moderate summer temperatures, and significant winter snowfalls. There are ski resorts in the areas of Flagstaff and Alpine. In addition to the Grand Canyon National Park, there are several national forests, national parks, and national monuments. About one-quarter of the state is made up of Indian Reservations that serve as the home of a number of Native American tribes.
Marcos de Niza, a Spanish Franciscan, explored parts of the area in 1539 and met some of its original native inhabitants, probably the Sobaipuri. The expedition of Spanish explorer Coronado entered the area in 1540–1542 during its search for Cíbola. Father Kino was the next European in the region. A member of the Society of Jesus, he led the development of a chain of missions and converted many of the Indians to Christianity in the Pimería Alta (now southern Arizona and northern Sonora) in the 1690s and early 18th century. Spain founded presidios (“fortified towns”) at Tubac in 1752 and Tucson in 1775. When Mexico achieved its independence from Spain in 1821, what is now Arizona became part of the Territory of Nueva California, also known as Alta California.
In the Mexican–American War (1847), the US occupied Mexico City and pursued its claim to much of northern Mexico, including what later became Arizona. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (1848) specified that, in addition to language and cultural rights of the existing inhabitants being considered as inviolable, the sum of US$15 million in compensation (equivalent to about $ in 2012) be paid to the Republic of Mexico. In 1853, the land below the Gila River was acquired from Mexico in the Gadsden Purchase. Arizona was administered as part of the Territory of New Mexico until southern New Mexico seceded from the Union as the Confederate Territory of Arizona on March 16, 1861.
Arizona was recognized as a Confederate Territory by presidential proclamation of Jefferson Davis on February 14, 1862. This is the first official use of the name. Arizona supported the Confederate cause with men, horses, and supplies. Formed in 1862 Arizona Scout Companies fought with the Confederate Army throughout the war. Arizona has the farthest recorded Western engagement of the war, the Battle of Picacho Pass. A new Arizona Territory, consisting of the western half of New Mexico Territory was declared in Washington, D.C., on February 24, 1863. The new boundaries would later form the basis of the state.
Although names, including “Gadsonia”, “Pimeria”, “Montezuma” and “Arizuma” had been considered for the territory, when President Lincoln signed the final bill, it read “Arizona”, and the name became permanent. (Montezuma was not the Aztec emperor, but the sacred name of a divine hero to the Pima people of the Gila River Valley, and was probably considered—and rejected—for its sentimental value before the name “Arizona” was settled upon.)
Brigham Young sent Mormons to Arizona in the mid- to late 19th century. They founded Mesa, Snowflake, Heber, Safford, and other towns. They also settled in the Phoenix Valley (or “Valley of the Sun”), Tempe, Prescott, and other areas. The Mormons settled what became northern Arizona and northern New Mexico, but these areas were located in a part of the former New Mexico Territory.
After US soldiers were fired on by Mexican federal troops, the American garrison then launched an assault into Nogales, Mexico. The Mexicans eventually surrendered after both sides sustained heavy casualties. A few months earlier, just west of Nogales, an Indian War battle occurred, thus being the last engagement in the American Indian Wars which lasted from 1775 to 1918. The participants in the fight were US soldiers stationed on the border and Yaqui Indians who were using Arizona as a base to raid the nearby Mexican settlements, as part of their wars against Mexico.
Arizona became a US state on February 14, 1912. Arizona was the 48th state admitted to the US and the last of the contiguous states to be admitted.
Cotton farming and copper mining, two of Arizona’s most important statewide industries, suffered heavily during the Great Depression, but during the 1920s and 1930s, tourism began to be the important Arizonan industry it is today. Dude ranches, such as the K L Bar and Remuda in Wickenburg, along with the Flying V and Tanque Verde in Tucson, gave tourists the chance to experience the flavor and life of the “Old West”. Several upscale hotels and resorts opened during this period, some of which are still top tourist draws; they include the Arizona Biltmore Hotel in central Phoenix (opened 1929) and the Wigwam Resort on the west side of the Phoenix area (opened 1936).
Arizona was the site of German POW camps during World War II and Japanese-American internment camps. The camps were abolished after World War II. The Phoenix area site was purchased after the war by the Maytag family (of major home appliance fame), and is currently the site of the Phoenix Zoo. A Japanese-American internment camp was located on Mount Lemmon, just outside of the state’s southeastern city of Tucson. Another POW camp was located near the Gila River in eastern Yuma County. Because of wartime fears of Japanese invasion of the west coast, all Japanese-American residents in western Arizona were required to reside in the war camps.
Arizona was also home to the Phoenix Indian School, one of several federal institutions designed to forcibly assimilate Native American children into Anglo-American culture. Children were often enrolled into these schools against the wishes of their parents and families. Attempts to suppress native identities included forcing the children to cut their hair and take on English names.
Arizona’s population grew tremendously after World War II, in part because of the development of air conditioning, which made the intense summers more comfortable. According to the Arizona Blue Book (published by the Arizona Secretary of State’s office each year), the state population in 1910 was 294,353. By 1970, it was 1,752,122. The percentage growth each decade averaged about 20% in the earlier decades and about 60% each decade thereafter.
In the 1960s, the establishment of retirement communities, special age-restricted subdivisions catering exclusively to the needs of senior citizens who wanted to escape the harsh winters of the Midwest and the Northeast began. Sun City, established by developer Del Webb and opened in 1960, was one of the first such communities. Green Valley, south of Tucson, was another such community and was designed to be a retirement subdivision for Arizona’s teachers. Many senior citizens arrive in Arizona each winter and stay only during the winter months; they are referred to as snowbirds.
In March 2000, Arizona was the site of the first legally binding election to nominate a candidate for public office ever held over the internet. In the 2000 Arizona Democratic Primary, under worldwide attention, Al Gore defeated Bill Bradley, and voter turnout increased more than 500% over the 1996 primary.
Note: Arizona was acquired from Mexico in 1848 and 1853. It was established as a territory in 1863 from New Mexico Territory, and acquired essentially its present boundaries in 1866. Arizona was admitted as a State on February 4, 1912. In 1850 present-day Arizona had no census coverage. The 1860 population is for Arizona County, New Mexico Territory, which comprised most of present-day Arizona south of the Gila River. Northern and central Arizona first had census coverage in 1870.. Population for 1860 is for Arizona County, New Mexico Territory.. Totals for 1890 and 1900 include population of certain Indian reservations not reported by county (1890: 28,623; 1900: 3,065).
Births, Marriages, and Deaths
Ancestry.com has digitized an Arizona Marriage Collection, 1864-1982 that is searchable online for subscribers.
FamilySearch.org has a variety of collections available for free online:
Outstanding guide to Arizona family history and genealogy (FamilySearch Research Wiki). Birth, marriage, and death records, wills, deeds, county records, archives, Bible records, cemeteries, churches, censuses, directories, immigration lists, naturalizations, maps, history, newspapers, and societies.