Editor’s Pick

East/West in 1776

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By the time the Declaration of Independence was adopted, signed and printed on July 4, 1776, much had already transpired to move the Patriots toward revolution.  In the spring of 1775, “the shot heard round the world” at Lexington and Concord had already been fired.  In that same summer, a colonial militia under Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold took over Fort Ticonderoga, George Washington was appointed by the Second Continental Congress to establish and lead an army, and the Battle of Bunker Hill (Breed’s Hill) had taken place. Tom Paine published “Common Sense” in January of 1776, a persuasive argument for independence.  It sold 150,000 copies with numerous printings ultimately reaching half a million (the population in American at the time being about 3 million).

On June 7, 1776 Richard Lee of Virginia proposed a resolution to declare the colonies independence.  A committee was formed to draw up the document and included among others, John Adams, Ben Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson.  Jefferson’s writing skills were widely known and he cloistered himself to quickly accomplish the task assigned him.  On July 2, Lee’s resolution was passed by the Congress. On the evening of July 4, the Declaration of Independence was adopted and signed.

But what was happening in the west while the colonies in the east prepared for war?  As the Spanish headed north from Mexico, settlements cropped up along the rivers.  A Presidio fortress protected new settlers in Tubac.  In 1775, an Irish aristocrat who had allegiance to Spain, Hugo O’Conór, was appointed Inspector General of the Interior Provinces of Spain.  He closed the Tubac fortress and determined a new fortress, Presidio San Augstin del Tucson, should be built.  When the Tubac residents relocated they found little to be desired at the new fort.  Focused more on survival and Apache raids than faraway politics, the Tucson Presidio residents were only mildly concerned with the revolution in the east.  That being said, their allegiance to Spain made them natural opponents of Great Britain.  In the 1780s as information became more available, Tucson residents actually raised money to help the Patriot cause.

While there is much debate about who, in fact, is the “founding father” of Tucson, much can be said that Hugo O’Conór certainly played a role.


Hugo O’Conor, The Red Captain

August 20, 1775

I, Hugo Oconor, knight of the order of Calatrava, colonel of infantry in His Majesty’s armies and commandant inspector of the frontier posts of New Spain

Certify that having conducted the exploration prescribed in Article three of the New Royal Regulation of Presidios issued by His Majesty on the tenth of September 1772 for the moving of the company of San Ignacio de Tubac in the Province of Sonora, I selected and marked out in the presence of Father Francisco Garces and Lieutenant Juan de Carmona a place known as San Agustin del Tucson as the new site of the Presidio. It is situated at a distance of eighteen leagues from Tubac, fulfills the requirements of water, pasture, and wood and effectively closes the Apache frontier. The designation of the New Presidio becomes official with the signatures of myself, Father Francisco Garces, and Lieutenant Juan de Carmona, at this mission of San Xavier del Bac, on this twentieth day of August of the year 1775.

Hugo Oconor
Fray Francisco Garces
Juan Fernandez Carmona

Research Credits:

“Don’t Know Much About History”/Kenneth C. Davis

“West of the Revolution”/Claudio Saunt

Come on down!

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Members, volunteers and interested parties!  We invite you to our Quarterly Information Meeting at 1:00 pm, on Wednesday July 10, 2019 at the Pusch House, Steam Pump Ranch, at 10901 N. Oracle Rd.

As part of the Oro Valley Historical Society we actively work with the Town of Oro Valley to promote research, preservation, education and dissemination of history related to the Greater Oro Valley area.  To that end, we have quarterly informational meetings with several of our docents and other volunteers presenting information about our mission and our presence at Steam Pump Ranch.

We will include tours of the property, including the Heritage Garden that typically features crops that were cultivated by Native Americans in the area, our collection of artifacts, the Pusch House, the Proctor-Lieber House and other property buildings.   We’ll touch on future possible uses of those buildings as part of the Town of Oro Valley Master Plan for Steam Pump Ranch.

If you are a current member, have interest in becoming a member or would like to volunteer put this on your “to do” list!  Hope to see you.

For more information contact:

Carol Bull, OVHS Volunteer Coordinator

Heritage Garden

Ranchin’ Display

Branding demonstration

On the Road!

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Summer vacation calls many to explore heritage sites. One of the best ways to learn about the roots of our country is to visit Historical Society Museums. While passing through Gothenburg, Nebraska I came across this “Sod House” replica and a Pony Express Station (though moved from its original location).
Sod Houses were the Midwest version of adobe houses. As homesteaders staked their claims, they had only six months to build a house so their claim would be valid. As a result, they used the heavily rooted prairie grass to build their homes quickly. Bundled cedar and other natural material were used for the roof and support structure.
The Pony Express began its run on April 3, 1860 as “Billy” Richardson emerged from a livery barn in St. Joseph, MO. Across the American wilderness, riders sped through Kansas prairies, Nebraska sandhills, snow-capped mountains, the desert and many streams to the western coast. By the last week of service, the Pony Express carried as many as 700 letters a week. The cost for a half ounce letter was $5, a great deal of money for the time.  Unfortunately, the cost of running the Pony Express was excessive and it was not able to make a profit. Along with the completion of the Overland Telegraph, the Pony Express was discontinued after just 18 months 
of service. In all, 308 runs were made by the Pony Express riders each way.


Historic site Gothenburg, NE












Pony Express Station in Gothenburg, Nebraska


Stop by and say “Hi”!

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June heat can’t keep Twink Monrad, Paul Loomis and Randy Blades from setting up the OVHS booth at the Saturday Heirloom Farmer’s Market at Steam Pump Ranch!  These stalwart OVHS members can answer many questions about Steam Pump Ranch and Oro Valley history.  Just stop by the OVHS booth and say “Hi”!  While you’re there buy a Jim Click Raffle ticket, a tote bag, a “Claiming the Desert” book, and/or notecards….all to support OVHS.

Thanks to Randy Blades for taking the pix!


Interested in finding out how to volunteer or become a member?  Stop by the monthly meeting on Thursday, June 27 at the Oro Valley Public Library at 3:00 p.m.

Summer Fun at SPR

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Summer time and the livin’ is easy and fun!  Several Oro Valley Historical Society members shared their expertise at the ART + STEM = STEAM@STEAM PUMP RANCH OV Parks and Recreation summer camp program.  Thanks to Twink Monrad for sending along pictures of some of the activities and this synopsis of some of the activities.

“Each year my metal detecting buddy Don Morin and I are asked to give the camp kids a demonstration of metal detecting. This year another detecting friend, Randy Blades joined us.  We show the difference in sounds between detecting for meteorites, gold and silver and other jewelry, coins and an Earth Rock which does not make any noise at all.  Then we loan the camp kids metal detectors and pin pointers for a 40 minute hunt for pennies and one dime which we hide just under the dirt in the OVHS garden managed by Joyce Rychener.  The children have a great time finding coins after instruction on the metal detectors.”   Twink Monrad

Out and About

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With warmer weather on the horizon, many Tucsonans will be seeking cooler climates.  If you find yourself headed north, you might want to take a detour to Florence.

Did you know that Florence has over 25 sites on the National Register of Historic Places? The area that became Florence had been a settlement of the Hohokam due to its proximity to the Gila River. The town was founded in 1866 by Levi Ruggles, an American Civil War veteran and Indian Agent.  In 1875 the Silver King Mine was discovered and the town bustled with activity.

Though times have changed and Florence is quieter than its early days, it is still a county seat of Pinal County and has a population of about 27, 500.

Enjoy some of Florence’s Historic Landmark Sites!









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