It was in 1755 that the name "Arizona" first came into use for the region north of Sonora. The name may have been derived from a little mining camp established in 1730 by Don Gabriel de Prudhom near present-day Nogales, Mexico. This mining camp was called "Arizonac". In 1735, a chunk of nearly pure horn silver was discovered here by a local Indian. In the ensuing rush, hundreds of silver-rich cerargyrite masses were found. One silver boulder weighed nearly 2 tons! Unfortunately, this unique deposit was quickly depleted, but the name of the mining camp survived.
In 1767, a new religious order replaced the black-robed Jesuit priests throughout the Spanish Empire. The Franciscans, now in favor with King Carlos III of Spain, took over the Jesuit missions in New Spain. In 1768, a Franciscan priest named Francisco Tomas Hermenegildo Garces arrived in Arizona. Francisco Garces would prove to be as energetic and resourceful as Eusebio Kino was 70 years before. When he arrived at San Xavier de Bac on the last day of June, 1768, he found the mission in ruins. Just prior to Garces' arrival, the Apaches had burned it to the ground. The mission was rebuilt and served as Garces' headquarters until 1774. Padre Garces roamed the length and breadth of the Arizona and California frontier. On his journeys, he was frequently accompanied by Juan Bautista de Anza, commander of the military garrison at Tubac and another famous name in the history of the Southwest. In 1776, Garces journeyed across central Arizona to the Mojave Desert in California where he established contact with the Mojave Indians. During this same year, the town of Tucson was officially established. Padre Garces continued his efforts in southern Arizona until his tragic death in the great Yuma revolt of 1781. He was clubbed to death by Yuma Indians on July 18, 1781. The death of Francisco Garces signaled the decline of Spanish influence in the Gila watershed. The impetus that had once driven the conquistadores to discover new lands had long since faded. The Spanish presence in southern Arizona was now limited to the small settlements at Tubac and Tucson, and the missions at San Xavier and Tumacacori.
In 1821, forty years after the death of Padre Garces, Mexico gained its independence from Spain. A new flag now flew over the Arizona settlements - that of Mexico. The 1820's would also see the arrival of the American fur trader and trapper in the Gila River country. Probably the first Americans to trap the Gila River were Sylvester Pattie and his son James Ohio Pattie in 1824. The Patties were the vanguard of a distinguished bevy of mountain men who trapped the tributaries of the Gila River and made their headquarters in Taos, New Mexico.
Early in 1826, the Patties returned to southern Arizona on a trapping expedition. They hunted for beaver along the San Francisco River in southwestern New Mexico and the San Pedro River in Arizona. 1826 was a banner year for American trappers in the Gila River country of Arizona. Several parties of mountain men were known to be working in the Gila River region during the 1826-1827 season. John Rowland, Ceran St. Vrain, William S. "Old Bill" Williams, Ewing Young, William Wolfskill, Maurice LeDuc, Alexander Branch, Solomon Stone, George C. Yount, Milton Sublette, and Thomas L. Smith were all present on the Gila River in 1826. One party of French trappers led by Michel Robidoux and James Ohio Pattie met disaster at the mouth of the Salt River. Papago Indians killed all of the trappers except Pattie,
Robidoux, and one unnamed Frenchman. The survivors fled eastward
where they were fortunate enough to run into Ewing Young's
company of trappers on the Gila River. The mountain men descended
on the Papago camp where they killed over 100 Indians.
The following year, the trappers returned to the Gila River country, but in far fewer numbers. Beaver were already getting scarce; in fact, the hunting would never be as good as it was in 1826. In 1828, James Kirker arrived on the Gila River. He would soon gain a reputation as the greatest scalp-hunter in the Southwest. In 1829, a party of trappers led by Ewing Young and Thomas L. "Peg-leg" Smith were operating in northwestern Arizona, near the mouth of the Virgin River. When they reached the Colorado River, Tom Smith and Maurice LeDuc were assigned the task of transporting the accumulated furs to California. It was during this journey that "Peg-leg" Smith discovered his legendary mine. Somewhere west of Yuma, Smith stumbled onto a curious deposit of heavy, black-stained nodules that turned out to be pure gold coated with manganese oxide stain. He was never able to locate the deposit again.
In the fall of 1830, the veteran trapper Joshua Griffith led a small trapping expedition into the Gila River country. This party, which included William Bent, Robert Isaacs, and Joshua Reynolds, was attacked by Apaches and driven out of the country. The following year, Ewing Young returned to the Gila River with a group of mountain men that included Pleasant Austin, Powell Weaver, James Wilkinson, Cambridge Green, James Anderson, Job F. Dye, Moses Carson, Benjamin Day, William Day, Joseph Gale, and Mariano Garcia. This group of trappers eventually reached California although it is known that at least one of them, Powell Weaver, returned to the Gila River country in 1832. Weaver left his name on a wall at Casa Grande. During the 1950's, it was still visible:
" P. Weaver 1832 "(Note: the above should be an image made from Comic Sans or some other scrawled lettering cut into a rock)
In 1833, Powell Weaver again journeyed to California, this time as a member of Joseph Reddeford Walker's famous expedition. Walker's party also included Zenas Leonard, William S. Williams, Levin "Colorado" Mitchell, George Nidever (said to be one of the best shots in the West), Bill Craig, Joe Meek, and Stephen Hall Meek. Joseph Walker and Powell Weaver would soon win fame in the annals of Arizona mining history. Both would demonstrate a remarkable ability to locate mineral deposits.
In 1835, a tragic event occurred which would have a lasting effect on American-Apache relations in southern Arizona and New Mexico. During that year, the Sonoran government made scalp-hunting a legitimate trade. A bounty system for Apache scalps was established throughout the province - 100 pesos for an adult male, 50 pesos for a female, and 25 pesos for a child. A number of Americans gave up trapping and took up the lucrative business of scalp-hunting. Four of the most notorious scalp-hunters were James Kirker (whose band killed nearly 500 Apaches), John Joel Glanton, Charles Gleason, and John James Johnson.