Sun, Dec. 15

Arizona's rocky road to statehood

John Charles Fremont

John Charles Fremont

In one year (February 2012) Arizona will be celebrating its 100th anniversary as a state. But when one takes a look at its territorial history, it is amazing that it ever made it to statehood.

As a result of the Gadsden Purchase in 1853/1854, what is now southern Arizona became one with New Mexico.

Although the size of this combined territory spoke to a need to separate the territory of Arizona from the territory of New Mexico, Congress was loathe to create this separation along an east-west border.

The Civil War was looming. Legislators believed that folks in the western part of the New Mexico Territory were southern sympathizers (they were right), but could be kept at bay if Arizona was not a separate territory.

In 1861, the Confederate Army successfully took possession of this territory, running east-west with its northern border along the 34th parallel [about the northern border of present day Maricopa County], in the name of the Confederacy.

Arizona Territory then seceded from the Union. In 1862, the southern sympathizing population of the territory officially declared that it was part of the Confederacy.

And on February 14, 1862, the Confederate Territory of Arizona was officially created by President Jefferson Davis.

Congress realized this was a big "OOPS." The Confederacy now had a direct route through friendly territory to California and its gold. A big rush was made to remedy this situation, and in 1863, the bill establishing the Arizona Territory with an eastern border along the 107th meridian was passed by the House, the Senate, and signed by President Lincoln. This Act would become the Organic Act of Arizona Territory.

Then came the effort to create a territorial government. Ohioan John Gurley was appointed governor, but died before he could actually take office.

John Goodwin of Maine was named governor in his place. Now all these easterners just needed to get to this territory they were overseeing. Easier said than done.

In September of 1863 the Territorial party headed out to Arizona. They separated into two groups, one coming through Yuma under military escort, and one through Kansas roughly along the Santa Fe Trail.

The first group headed to Tucson, mistakenly thinking that was to be the capital. The second group took the wrong road and got lost less than 10 miles from their starting point. Finally, by December 29, they all found their way inside the territory and officially organized the government of Arizona.

Arizona has had "interesting" governors.

John Gurley died before getting here. John Goodwin got lost getting here; Richard McCormick was a newspaperman who brought his wife here. Anson Safford actually granted himself a divorce.

John Charles Fremont had been an explorer, a governor of California, a senator from California, a general in the Union Army.

He legalized gambling in the Territory, and started a lottery to pay for public buildings and schools.

Conrad Zulick was held in a Mexican jail at the time of his appointment, but would later sign the order moving the capital from Prescott to Phoenix.

Lewis Wolfley established what would become the "Arizona Republic" to further his political ends.

Arizona was finally on its long road to statehood.

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