We’re Back!

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After a long, hot, rainy summer the Oro Valley Historical Society is back!  After a long ,weary, year and many months of COVID, we have an indoor exhibit at the Pusch House Museum.  We are celebrating Hispanic-American Heritage Month.  Our shared cultures in the Southwest make this a very special place.  The exhibit opened on Saturday, September 11 and was enjoyed by many.  Stop by on Saturday, September 25 from nine to noon to discover some tidbits of cultural and local history you may not know.  We hope to see you!

A Tucson View of U.S. Independence

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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 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 a revolution?  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 as 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. As the newly appointed Chief Minister of King Charles II of Spain, the Count of Floridblanca wrote in March 1777, “the fate of the colonies interests us very much, and we shall do for them everything that circumstances permit. In the 1780s as revolution information became more available, Tucsonans  actually raised money to help the Patriot cause.  It was a common practice for monarchs to request money from their subjects to finance wars.


While there is much debate about who the founders of Tucson are, much can be said that Hugo O’Conór  (The Red Captain) certainly played an important role.

With a large Spanish force under his command, he spent the next few years fighting the Apache and Comanche tribes who were attacking the area along the vast northern boundary of New Spain.  O’Conór’s health began to fail and he did not linger in Tucson long.  He requested a transfer.  The request was granted but, instead of retirement, he was promoted to Brigadier General and appointed Governor of Spain’s Yucatán province in Mexico. On March 9, 1779, at the age of 45, Hugo O’Conór died at Quinta de Miraflores just east of the city of Merida in the Yucatán.

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


Hugo O’Conór, The Red Captain (due to his flowing red hair)



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

West of the Revolution/Claudio Saunt

Hugo O’Conor/Wikipedia


Happy Birthday Oro Valley

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Happy 47th Birthday Oro Valley!

The following article is from the Oro Valley Historical Heritage Guide, April 2009

The Making of a Town by Marjorie K. Kriegh, Town Historian

(Marjorie Kriegh, wife of Jim Kriegh and first Town Historian for the Town of Oro Valley)

It is fact that the Town of Oro Valley has been happily incorporated since April 1974.  But, perhaps, you have wondered how and why the Town of Oro Valley came to be.

Our story began long ago, way back in 1968.  Tucson Mayor “Gentleman” Jim Corbett made a statement, which , to some area residents could be likened to the “shot heard round the world”.  Well, ‘round Tucson, anyway.  Mayor Corbett said that they (the areas around Tucson) will be taken in (to Tucson’s city limits) “kicking, stamping and screaming, if necessary”.  The City of Tucson’s political climate, as it was at that time, was not to many people’s liking and many, many people living outside Tucson’s corporate limits wished to remain so.  Some concerned citizens began to look at the feasibility of forming their own town in order to avoid being “absorbed” by the City of Tucson.

The State of Arizona, however, had done its part to discourage incorporation of areas on the “outskirts” of larger municipalities.  A ruling came down from the legislature which stipulated that an area proposed for incorporation must have at least 500 inhabitants who all had to exhibit common goals and objectives.  Additionally, to protect the larger cities, an area proposed for incorporation had to be farther than six miles from another incorporated city’s boundaries.  If the proposed boundaries were not six miles apart, then permission by the incorporated city must be given.  Larger cities and towns lobbied long and hard for these incorporation rulings because they did not wish to be hemmed in by a proliferation of “bedroom communities”; to avoid competition.

Some residents northwest of Tucson were undaunted by these rulings.  With the competent legal advice of Mr. Ellsworth Triplett, for whom I served as legal secretary at the time, interested people began to organize. These people came from, not only the area later to become known as Oro Valley, but also, from the Catalina Foothills area.

There were obstacles to overcome.  The “six mile” rule made incorporation of the Catalina Foothills area impossible, but, as Mr. Triplett advised, the outlying area which included the Oro Valley Country Club Estates and the Highlands Mobile Home Park, could conceivably be incorporated since the area was six miles distant from the City of Tucson limits.  (Later, the Highlands Mobile Home Park was dropped from the incorporation effort because less than 50% of the people favored the incorporation.)  At this time, the proposed Town was to be named, The Town of Palo Verde.”

Because the Oro Valley Country Club Estates, under the direction of Mr. Robert Daly, President of the Homeowner’s Association, was undertaking street improvement, interest in the incorporation effort waned for a time, but was renewed when Mr. E. S. (Steve) Engle, the new Oro Valley Homeowner’s President became interested.  Together with my husband, Jim Kriegh, they gathered citizen support from all areas proposed for incorporation, including Shadow Mountain Estates East and West, Campo Bello Estates, Linda Vista Citrus Tracts, and Oro Valley Country Club Estates.

Citizens from all these areas worked long and hard for many years, the culmination of their efforts being the filing of a petition for the incorporation of the Town of Oro Valley with the Pima County Board of Supervisors.  As may have been suspected this petition was promptly rejected by the Board, leading to a four year court battle which ended in the Arizona Supreme Court.  The decision handed down by the Supreme Court directed the Pima County Board of Supervisors to incorporate our tiny 2.5 square mile Town of Oro Valley.

This decision signified the birth of the Town of Oro Valley on April 15, 1974 and the beginning of a Town which, it is hoped, all citizens may be proud of today*

*The resolution to incorporate Oro Valley was adopted by the Pima County Board of Supervisors on April 15, 1974.  The first Mayor and Council were appointed on April 17, 1974, so April 17th is the official Town birth date.

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 amazon.com or through the Oro Valley Historical Society (contact tcolmar@comcast.net).  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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