Sunday, July 21, 2013

Homesteading's role in settling Arizona Territory

Days Past: Jasper and Sarah Cartwright were early homesteaders in the Arizona Territory of the late 1870s. (Photo courtesy of Patrick Grady)

Special to the Prescott Daily Courier

This is a summary of a presentation Patrick Grady will make at the 10th annual Western History Symposium at the Hassayampa Inn Aug. 3. The symposium is co-sponsored by the Prescott Corral of Westerners and the Sharlot Hall Museum and is open to the public free of charge. For more details, visit the Corral's website at or call Fred Veil at 443-5580.
Homesteading. The word evokes sod houses in Nebraska or the fabled Okla-homa land rush or the novels of Laura Ingalls Wilder. But what about the desert and mountain regions of Arizona Territory?

Homesteading is often ignored in the stories of the settlement of Arizona. While historians have generally downplayed the overall impact of the 1862 Homestead Act on western migration, an estimated 1.7 million homesteaders found opportunity that might otherwise have eluded them, successfully claiming 270 million acres.

In Arizona from the 1870s through 1940, more than 21,000 patents, covering 4.1 million acres, were issued. That number is rather small when contrasted with the 87,000 patents issued in New Mexico, covering 19.4 million acres. Yet all across Arizona there are inspiring stories of homesteaders creating new communities in a wild land during the latter part of the 19th century. A brief overview of that history reveals the significance of homesteading to the future of many a prominent settler and to the establishment of a surprising number of new towns in Arizona.

Take Sedona for example. Several notable landmarks today are on former homestead property - Crescent Moon Park; Slide Rock State Park; Indian Gardens; Junipine; Chavez Ranch; and Los Abrigados. Frank Owenby later sold his homestead to T. C. Schnebly, whose wife, Sedona, provided the town's name.

A similar story unfolded in early Tucson. More than 280 patents were issued in three townships surrounding the Tucson townsite from 1874 to 1900. Early prominent pioneers included William S. Oury, Sidney DeLong (first mayor of Tucson), miller Solomon Warner, merchant and farmer Samuel Hughes, Hiram Stevens, Ramon Pacheco and Pedro Aguirre. In those three townships, 208 patents were issued to Mexican pioneers. Further east, Mexicans were early homesteaders in the San Pedro Valley.

Look at Phoenix. In the 1870s alone 93 homesteaders successfully claimed land near the Salt River. Expansion continued along new canal routes and related irrigation ditches, providing valuable water to this young farming community. Early Phoenix pioneers included prominent community leaders - John Alsap, Darrell Duppa, William Hancock, William Hellings, and the Isaac, Cartwright, Osborn, and Orme families. From 1872 to 1900, 399 patents were issued in Phoenix in the six townships surrounding the townsite. Only 31 of those were patented by Mexicans. Several 160-acre homesteads would become Phoenix's first subdivisions in the 1880s.

Further east along the Salt River, the Mormon colonizers of 1877 utilized homesteading laws to establish their colony in the Lehi-Mesa area. From the early 1880s to 1900, 145 patents were issued in the single township. Mormon leaders like the Jones, Rogers, Crismon, Pomeroy, and Sirrine families were among that group. Nearly 80 percent of the Mesa township land was patented by 1900. Moreover, Mormon colonists were prevalent throughout the Arizona Territory (and frequently used the Homestead law) along the Gila River, in several White Mountain communities, the Arizona Strip and elsewhere.

In Prescott, from 1870 to 1900, only 73 patents were issued in the two townships adjacent to the townsite. But this does not include the 1864 -1865 flurry of Pre-Emption filings by the early arrivals, including Van Smith, Richard McCormick, George Lount, King Woolsey and others. Even Paulino Weaver, reputed to be Prescott's first settler along Granite Creek, filed a Pre-Emption claim (signing his name with an "X"), although it was located in Walnut Grove, not in Prescott. The list of successful homesteaders using the 1862 law, however, includes Levi Bashford, Hezekiah Brooks, Henry Fleury, Jacob and Samuel Miller, Andrew Moeller, Albert Noyes and the Simmons, Dickson, and Sanders families - all prominent Prescottonians. That number included three women but only two Mexican homesteaders.


Come to the Western History Symposium Aug. 3 to learn more about the trials and triumphs of a number of the early Phoenix and Prescott homesteaders. Topics include settlement patterns, family histories and the homesteading experience of the Miller brothers, Henry Fleury and the Dickson, Sanders, and Mitchell families of Prescott, as well as the Hancock and Cartwright families of Phoenix. Their engaging stories and journeys, found in homesteading files, family letters and reminiscences, reflect the many facets (some untold until recently) of the pioneer spirit that contributed to the settling of the Arizona Territory.

Days Past is a collaborative project of the Sharlot Hall Museum and the Prescott Corral of Westerners International. This and other Days Past articles are available at Submit articles for Days Past consideration to Scott Anderson via email at