What’s in a Name?

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On Wednesday, November 12 the Oro Valley Historical Society featured a talk by Arizona Star columnist, David Leighton.  David discussed the origins of many Tucson street names.  His column “Street Smarts” focuses on that subject and is a favorite of many readers.

Some note worthy names?  Super Chicken Drive, Ina Road (pronounced Eena), and Limberlost.

Check out this site for information on these and other street names:


Thank you to David for his talk and to Jim Williams our Speakers Bureau coordinator!

Christkindlmarket Booth at Steam Pump Ranch

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See the Nutcrackers at our Christkindlmarket booth!

Many cities around the world have adopted the festive Christkindlmarket during the holiday season.  The fairy-like Christkind (grounded in German culture) visits children, bestowing gifts to them once they are in bed and fast asleep. Thus, Christkindlmarkets celebrate German culture and feature “Old World” gifts, food and activities.

As many of you know, George Pusch and John Zellweger established Steam Pump Ranch in 1874.  George was an immigrant from Germany and John hailed from Switzerland.  The Oro Valley Historical Society (OVHS) decided to celebrate their Germanic heritage this holiday season. As a result, we are presenting our first Christkindlmarket!

The Pusch House will be decorated in traditional German holiday style.  Tours will be given and exhibits will feature the Pusch family history.  Our Christkindlmarket booth will offer unique ornaments of many holiday traditions including; German, Native American, and Southwest.  Buy a great hostess gift, trimmings for your tree and even something for the pooch! There will be some yummy treats (while they last) and activities for the kids, too!

So, mark your calendars!  The Pusch House and Christkindlmarket booth will be open on Saturdays beginning November 9 through December 21 from 9 a.m. to Noon and on Second Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

 Don’t miss this great opportunity to connect with local history, traditions, and your community.  We hope to see you there!  And it’s free (but donations are always appreciated)!


When Rocks Are Not “Just” Rocks!

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What a great morning it was for a hike!  How many times have you walked over a pile of rocks and had no knowledge of their history?  Local author and historian, Jim Williams, led a tour of sites in Catalina State Park; Romero Ruins and two other homesteader foundation sites…some of them now just a pile of rocks.

Romero Ruin Hike

On the first part of the hike, Jim gave a history of the Hohokam archeological site and its connection with the Francisco Romero homestead of 1869.  He pointed out the  border wall of the Hohokam village that actually crosses the trail path and the remaining ruins of the Hohokam/Romero buildings. Jim is a wealth of knowledge and gave a broad overview of the history as well as interesting little known details.

Stone border of Hohokam compound

The Hohokam Village


Francisco Romero Homestead

The group then moved to another location of the park that was the 1940 property of Margaret Love.  A teacher at The Arizona Desert School for Boys, Margaret lived in the 600 sq. ft. home and employed local legend, Buster Bailey, as a handyman until he was drafted for the war effort.  There is still evidence of the foundation as well as a trough engraved with her name and dated 1940.

Foundation rocks of Margaret Love home

Photo of Margaret Love home

Trough on property of Margaret Love home
circa 1940








Further along the trail we passed the homestead of Homer Magee.  Homer, a veteran of WWI, was able to get a deed to the property in 1937 in rather quick fashion due to his military service. The homestead included 650 acres.  There is a clearing near the Birding Trail that may have been the location of the home.  A huge tamarisk tree (not native to the area) is also a locator for the homestead site.  Off the beaten track you can see a water trough used during the tenure of Homer’s homestead.  Homer, a machinist by trade, established a machine parts company in Tucson.  After leaving the homestead, Homer and his wife, Mabel, lived in the Tucson area.  Homer died in Tucson in 1982.  And no, Magee Road in not named after this “Magee”.

Tamarisk tree on Magee homestead location

Clearing of one time corral site of Magee homestead

A BIG THANK YOU to Jim Williams for taking the time to lead the hike and to Sue Chambasian for organizing the details.

Stop by the Pusch House in Steam Pump Ranch for exhibits regarding local history and tours given by the Oro Valley Historical Society.  We also have monthly displays at the Oro Valley Public Library.  If you’d like more information regarding the history of homesteading in Oro Valley, be sure to get a copy of Jim Williams book, “Claiming the Desert”.  You can purchase one at the Oro Valley Historical Society booth at Steam Pump Ranch on Saturdays during Farmer’s Market hours.

For other Oro Valley Historical Society events be sure to check our Events calendar at www.ovhistory.org or our Oro Valley Historical Society Facebook event page.


Meet Tootsie!

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Did you see the question on our Facebook page? Here’s the answer!

Tootsie was a turn of the century doll from the Henry G. Zipf Collection. She was presumably owned by Gertrude Pusch Zipf (1883-1974), who was the daughter of George and Mathilda Pusch. The Pusch family were the original owners of Steam Pump Ranch.


Ruth Fahden a member of the Tucson Doll Guild, the Doll Artisan Guild and the United Federation of Doll Clubs researched the doll and the clothing era. She learned the doll was produced in Germany by Henrich Handwerck and his wife, Minna, who made dolls from 1876 to 1902. Heinrich and Minna Handwerck dolls were produced in Waltershausen, Thüringia, Germany beginning in 1876 until they were purchased by Kammer & Reinhardt in 1902 after Heinrich Sr. passed away at the young age of 44.  After 1921 Heinrich Handwerck Jr. re-founded the factory in Gotha near Waltershausen.

Ruth designed the outfit which includes fabric from Gertrude’s wedding dress.

The doll’s name was suggested by Barbara McIntyre (great-granddaughter of George and Mathilda Pusch). She recalled that the family called Gertrude, “Aunt Tootsie”.

“Tootsie” made her debut October 2017 at Steam Pump Ranch in the Pusch Ranch House where she continues to be on permanent display.

A member of the OVHS Collections Committee, Peg O’Connell, took on the Tootsie restoration project.


Romero Ruin Hike

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Romero Ruins

Romero History Hike 

Oro Valley Historical Society    

Friday, October 25, 2019

Registration: Contact Sue Chambasian at   schambasian@gmail.com no later than noon on October 23. Limited to 20 people on a first come, first served basis.  All participants must sign an OVHS waiver at the meeting place on October 25.

Hike: Walk several paths in Catalina State Park and hear about the history of the Francisco Romero family.  He and his descendants resided in this immediate area between 1869 and 1930.  The family had a cattle ranch and orchards in this area.

Leader: Jim Williams has led history hikes and recently researched the Romeros as part of his book, Claiming the Desert.

Time: Meet at 7:30 am at hike starting point

Location: Catalina State Park. Drive through the entrance gate on the main road until you see the sign for “Romero Ruins” on the right side of the road. Park in the lot on the immediate left of the road.

Length of Hike: 3 miles (2-3 hours)   Participants can choose to do the first Romero ruins hike, about 1 mile, and then stop.  Others can go on a further hike to another Romero site for approximately 2 miles.

Elevation gain:  150 feet 

Gear: Wear long pants, hiking boots or athletic shoes, and a hat.  Bring water and sunscreen.

Cost: If you have a state park pass, entrance to the Park is free. If not, a maximum of four people can arrive in one car and pay one $7.00 entrance fee.  Fee for the hike: a suggested donation of $10 per person to the Historical Society, payable when we meet at the parking lot.

Have a Funtastic Day!

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Second Saturdays at Steam Pump Ranch

Now that fall is here and cooler temperatures are on the horizon (?), things are in full swing at Steam Pump Ranch!

Come from 9am until 1pm for all the fun activities.

Take a tour of the Pusch House (9 – Noon).  Docents will provide information on the ranch house and property.  The special exhibit this month will feature the history of the Romero family and their homestead (now part of Catalina State Park).  Don’t miss this opportunity to explore the history of your town!

Visit the OVHS booth.  Find out what’s happening and how you can get involved!  Buy a Jim Click Raffle ticket to support OVHS, a gift item, water, or just say “Hi”!

Explore the Heritage Garden.  There’s always a fun arts and crafts project for children, Hands on Archaeology with Archaeology Southwest, and garden demonstrations and information.

Stop and Shop. Heirloom Farmers Market, Commerce Corral and the Historic, Western and Americana Artisan and Antique Fair.

Listen:  Awarding winning Country and Western artist, Carol Markstrom, will be onstage from 10:30 to Noon.

See you on Saturday, October 12 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. What a FUNTASTIC way to spend the day!

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