Annual Meeting

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Please note that the OVHS Annual Membership Meeting will take place at Steam Pump Ranch (10901 N. Oracle) on Thursday, March 25 at 2:00 p.m.  The meeting site will be  near the Procter-Leiber House.  Please note that social distancing requirements will be in effect at this outdoor meeting.

The proposed Bylaws changes that were presented at the Membership meeting in November, will be voted upon at this meeting.  The Annual Membership Meeting minutes of November 12, 2020 will be presented and voted to accept at this meeting as well.  Members in good standing for 2021 are encouraged to attend and vote.  Guests are welcome to attend and find out about OVHS (but cannot vote unless they take out a membership).

Oro Valley Wonder Woman!

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Ina Road.  You’ve probably used this local thoroughfare many times, but perhaps you don’t know how its name came about.  The following excerpt from Claiming the Desert – Settlers, Homesteaders and Ranchers in Oro Valley, Arizona 1865-1965 by James A. Williams provides the explanation.


Ina Gittings was an early women’s educator, a community volunteer and a homesteader.  She was born in 1885 in Wilbur Nebraska.  Ina was a professional woman ahead of her time.  She earned a university degree from the University of Nebraska in 1906.  She led a successful, independent life and never married.

Ina Gittings, University of Nebraska in 1906, is shown in the earliest photograph of a woman vaulting.

She was a trailblazer in women’s athletics.  Gittings came to teach and serve as a Director of Women’s Physical Education at the University of Arizona in 1920.  She completed a Master’s Degree there in 1925 and continued to teach at the university until 1955.  Men’s sports received the vast majority of athletic funds.  “We struggled to get everything they (the girls) wanted, to keep them interested.  It was quite a battle sometimes, but we succeeded,” she later remembered.  She introduced female students to archery, track and field, horseback riding and other sports.  At one point , the women needed an extra athletic field for newly introduced sports.  Only the Department of Agriculture’s onion fields were available.  Ina won the battle and obtained the onion fields, but she and the female athletes had to harvest the onions themselves.

UP AND OVER – Ina Gittings (left) and an unidentified woman compete in an annual women’s track meet.

She was also one of this area’s pioneers.  She claimed two parcels of federal land totaling 480 acres under the Homestead Acts in 1928 and 1931.  One parcel of 160 acres was located in what is now Rancho Vistoso, along Rancho Vistoso Boulevard and includes what is now most of the Vistoso Vista subdivision.  The other parcel, along what is now Ina Road, totaled 320 acres.  This was located east of La Cholla Boulevard, between Magee Road and Ina Road.  Her residence was at the second parcel.  Homesteaders were not required to live full time on their claim.  Gittings  had a home near the university and probably visited the homestead on weekends, as many Tucsonans did.


Professor Gittings stepped down from her university position in 1951.  She kept her professorship and some teaching duties until fully retiring in 1955.  Richard Harvill, president of the University in the 1960s said: “Miss Gittings served the University with complete dedication and competence for 35 years” and her influence on young women “was well known and widely recognized.”  She often delivered talks on physical education and health to local organizations into the 1960s.


Ina Road was named for her.  It was an unpaved highway when she homesteaded in the early 1930s.  Gittings pronounced her name “EE-nah” but our local Ina Road has come to be pronounced “EYE-nah”.  She wrote several letters to local newspapers complaining about people mispronouncing “her” road.



Ina Gittings died in 1966.  The Gittings Memorial Fund at the University was established in her honor.  She is listed on the Women’s Plaza of Honor on the University of Arizona campus, and Gittings Hall was built there in 1964 and named for her.  When you drive on Ina Road, remember a women’s education pioneer and Oro Valley homesteader, Ina (EE-nah) Gittings.


Jim Williams, author of Claiming the Desert, is a local resident, retired teacher and historian.  He is an Honorary Member of the Oro Valley Historical Society (OVHS) and former president of the same.  If you would like to learn more about Oro Valley homesteaders you can purchase his book at or through the Oro Valley Historical Society (contact  Jim generously donates profits from his book to OVHS!



A “Garden of Earthly Delights”

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A  “Garden of Earthly Delights”!

Gopher Plant/Euphorbia rigida

You might remember this tag line from Clairol Herbal Essence shampoo from the 1970s (it smelled wonderful!) but it could also easily describe the Heritage Garden at Steam Pump Ranch.  Joyce Rychener and her volunteer team have been hard at work urging the spring crops to peak above the soil.


The Heritage Garden is part of the Native Seed/SEARCH grow out crop program.  As such the Heritage Garden grows out heirloom seeds that might otherwise be lost or cross pollinated (destroying their generational purity).   The San Ildefonso Fava Bean is one such plant that has not been “grown out” since 2005.  With lots of coaxing and care, Joyce hopes to see it successfully propagate.  If the weather cooperates, corn, gourds and chiltipins will be sowed next.


So, what happens to the crops once they are mature?  Here is Joyce’s response:

“In the past the produce from the Native crops were used for educational and demonstration purposes, e.g., ancient corn for display and corn grinding activities for children, harvesting and eating, tortilla making demonstrations, corn husk craft projects and botanical art lessons. For three years, the chapalote corn was used for science, experiments conducted by Jenny Adams on ancient corn and the Las Capas project. Many ears of corn were distributed to the public during Second Saturday for educational purposes as visitors wanted to grow or display the unusual ears. A third of the harvest was kept for seed saving, which I replanted every year. Also, the round tailed ground squirrels and other animals ate  their share.”


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Oro Valley Historical Society – “Keeping Oro Valley History Alive”


William “Curly” Neal –  (1849-1936) and Annie Box Neal (1870-1950)


Oracle Road, now known as Historic Route 80, was quite the thoroughfare in the late 19th and early 20thcenturies.  Someone that helped connect Tucson to both Oracle and Mammoth was successful businessman, rancher, and entrepreneur, William “Curly” Neal.  There’s no doubt Curly would have stopped at Steam Pump Ranch enroute to our neighbors to the north as he carried out his business endeavors.


William was born in the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma to a mother who had walked the Trail of Tears and a father of African-American descent.  William became self-sufficient at a young age working at odd jobs.  At nineteen he met Buffalo Bill Cody, who enlisted William as a military scout.  William left the army in 1878 but remained friends with Cody for the rest of his life.


After the army, Curly (due to his long wavy hair) settled in Tucson and took on a job as a cook in the Maison d’Arcy restaurant.  After accumulating some money and other financial support, William started a stage line and freight business.   Curly would have likely rubbed elbows with George Pusch in both Tucson and at Steam Pump Ranch.  George and Johann Zellweger opened a butcher shop in 1876 which provided meat to the public and restaurants in Tucson.   In 1874 Steam Pump Ranch was operating and was a popular stop as it allowed the stage lines a place to water and rest the horses and offered the services of blacksmiths.  Note the fare from Tucson to Steam Pump was $1.00!


Curly was awarded the mail contract for the Tucson-Oracle-American Flag route so Oracle Road would have been a routine path for the carriers.  Along with the stage line and the freight line  that carried  supplies from Tucson to Ft. Lowell, Curly carted ore, wood, and water to the mines in Mammoth and Oracle.


As noted in the Mohave County Miner news regarding Wm. Neal Freight:

“One of the largest freighting outfits in the world is used in connection with the mill at the Mammoth property.  The distance from the mine to the mill is three miles, all but half a mile downgrade.  Three teams move 145 tons of ore a day.  Each team consist of 20 animals, and they draw four wagons.  The wagons are immense affairs, almost as big as box cars.  Wm. Neal is one of the best businessmen in southern Arizona.”


While in Tucson, William met Annie Box, the daughter of the proprietor of the boarding house where he lived. Annie had similar heritage in that her mother was Cherokee and her father was of English and African descent.   In 1892 they were married and moved to Oracle when Annie’s mother deeded them property.  It was there that William and Annie established the Mountain View Hotel.  The hotel and health resort attracted a variety of visitors including celebrities (Buffalo Bill), dignitaries and those seeking the adventure of the “wild west”.  Annie primarily ran the hotel while Curly managed the other businesses and even a ranch in New Mexico. She was known for her lively and independent spirit and as a hostess, Annie made her guests feel welcome and comfortable.  Annie sold the hotel in 1939 shortly after a freak accident on the property took Curly’s life at the age of 87.  Curly and Annie’s remarkable and industrious lives make our local history rich and should never be forgotten.

Article references: “Copper Area News” and Annie’s Guests by Barbara Marriott


Interested in local history?  Stop by Steam Pump Ranch on the second and fourth Saturdays in February, March and April.  The Oro Valley Historical Society presents docent-guided tours from 10 a.m. to Noon.  No reservations are required for the 50-minute tour that leaves on the hour and every fifteen minutes thereafter.  Tours leave from the OVHS tent that is located just south of the Farmer’s Market ramada.  The suggested donation supports the cost of our displays, exhibits and ongoing programs.  We hope to see you!


The Oro Valley Historical Society is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit volunteer organization, whose mission is “To promote research, preservation, education, and dissemination of historical information related to the greater Oro Valley area”.

We invite you to become a member or volunteer or donate.. Visit us at and help keep Oro Valley history alive!

Happy Birthday Arizona!

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Happy Birthday Arizona!
Arizona Statehood and the Oro Valley Connection

On February 14, 1912 the Arizona Territory was finally admitted to the Union as the 48th state. The road to statehood began in 1863. In that year on February 24th, President Lincoln signed the Organic Act dividing Arizona into a territory separate from New Mexico. The efforts for statehood took shape in earnest in 1904 when to the dismay of Arizona, Congress attached an amendment to the statehood bill calling for Arizona and New Mexico to be admitted as one state. In 1905, the Arizona (Territorial) Legislature passed a resolution objecting to joint statehood: “We believe that such is without precedent in American history. It threatens to fasten upon us a government that would be neither by, nor for the people of Arizona. It would be a government without the consent of the governed. It humiliates our pride, violates our tradition and would subject us to the domination of another commonwealth of different traditions, customs and aspirations…”

Bills in the U. S. Congress were written, amended and rejected several times before both political parties included platform statements favoring separate statehood for Arizona and New Mexico. Finally, a bill was passed in 1908 allowing Arizona to hold elections for delegates to a constitutional convention.
And now for the Oro Valley connection. In 1910, cattle rancher and businessman, George Pusch, was elected as one of the 5 constitutional convention delegates from Pima County. George, an immigrant from Germany, had already set up successful businesses in Tucson (ice storage and a butcher shop) as well as Steam Pump Ranch. (Steam Pump Ranch is on the National Register of Historic Places and is located in Oro Valley at 10901 Oracle Road). He was a member of the 1891 and 1899 Territorial Legislature and also on the Tucson City Council. “The 1910 Constitutional Convention lasted 60 days. The Democrats wrote a constitution that contained measures for the recall of all public officials, including judges, who were often viewed as being controlled by large companies and the railroads. They anticipated that Congress would approve it. The Convention Republicans disagreed with the proposed state constitution and all except one refused to sign it. George Pusch and the other Pima County delegates went home, so Pima County had no signatures on the state constitution document sent to Congress for ratification. (Patricia Spoerl, Oro Valley Historical Society Heritage Guide: George Pusch and Arizona Statehood).
The original state constitution reached President Taft’s desk after passing both houses of Congress, but Taft (like the Pima County delegates) vetoed it due to the inclusion of the recall proviso. Arizona relented by taking it out. Again, it passed both houses of Congress and Taft signed the proclamation granting Arizona statehood on February 14, 1912. Incidentally,Arizonans were hoping for Taft’s signature on February 12, Lincoln’s birthday but instead Taft signed it on Valentine’s Day. (Later that year the Arizona constitution was amended to allow for the recall of judges!)

Resources for article:
Oro Valley Historical Society Heritage Guide, Pat Spoerl, 2016 Claiming the Desert, James A. Williams
Arizona: An Illustrated History, Patrick Lavin
AZ Admission to Statehood by Archa Malcom Farlow

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Assembly of the delegates of the Constitutional Convention with signatures of the delegates. George Pusch is seated in the firow on the bottom right.
Photograph was donated to the Oro Valley Historical Society by Henry G. Zipf (Grandson of George and Mathilda Pusch)


President Taft signing the proclamation of Arizona statehood, February 14, 1912


Interested in local history? Stop by Steam Pump Ranch on the second and fourth Saturdays in February, March and April. The Oro Valley Historical Society presents docent-guided tours from 10 a.m. to Noon. No reservations are required for the 50-minute tour that leaves on the hour and every fifteen minutes thereafter. Tours leave from the OVHS tent that is located just south of the Farmer’s Market ramada. Suggested donation is $5 to assist in the cost of our displays and exhibits and ongoing programs. We hope to see you!

Out and About Tucson

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The Garwood Dam in the Rincon Mountains


Looking for an interesting outdoor activity?  A moderately difficult 5 mile trail will take you past the historic Garwood Dam in Saguaro National Park East on the Garwood Dam Loop.

Nelson and Josephine bought the property (about 450 acres) from two original homesteaders in 1945.  Though they named the property the Bar G Ranch, the property was never stocked with cattle but used only as a residence.  Nelson constructed a makeshift road by using dynamite and dragging railroad ties to flatten the rough terrain.  Nelson began construction of the dam in 1948 primarily to supply water to the one room house that was started the same year.  The dam eventually became a steel framed, poured concrete structure that fed two 20,000 gallon storage tanks supplying water to a second larger home that was built in 1950.

Little by little the Garwoods sold off parcels of the property to various entities.  In 1959 they sold the remaining acreage.  The purchaser spent little time on the property and the houses and other buildings fell into poor condition. In the 1960s the abandoned buildings were vandalized and in the 1970s fire consumed what remained of them.  Shortly thereafter, through Eminent Domain laws, the Park Service purchased the property from the owners.


Other metal storage tanks can be found in the area.  These tank sites were originally natural rock pool sites that were able to hold water most of the year.  Historically, these natural pools were used by Indigenous Americans and cattle ranchers, the latter leasing the land for grazing.  The last grazing lease from the park expired in 1979.

By the way, the Garwood Dam is in close proximity to the famed Tanque Verde Ranch.  The term tanque verde  or green tank refers to the reservoir tanks used by ranchers that would stagnate and fill with green algae.  Ranchers would often fill the tanks with goldfish or carp to eat the algae.  Who knew?!



Five Star Trails – Tucson by Rob Rachowiecki

National Park Service website – Garwood Dam history

Oro Valley Historical Society
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