By Jill “MamaBug” Frier
On Valentine’s Day, Arizona will celebrate its 109th birthday. It took 49 years for Arizona to become a state from the time it was first declared a territory, but the 48th state finally was admitted to the Union on February 14, 1912. One of the many things we love about the great state of Arizona is it’s wild and wooly past. The tales told about the special places in this state make learning about the history of the Wild West a rootin’ tootin’ hoedown!
Arizona had its share of controversy and mayhem on the journey toward statehood, but our history pre-dates the beginnings of the United States. Oraibi, a village on the Hopi reservation, was settled prior to 1100 A.D. and is one of oldest continuously inhabited settlements within the United States. Prehistoric ruins of native people date back thousands of years and are widespread throughout Arizona. One of the oldest standing European structures in the country, San Xavier del Bac mission in Tucson, was built in 1699. And our most famous landmark, the Grand Canyon, is not only around 17 million years old, but is also one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, and the only one located within the United States.
Here are few fun facts about State 48, the Grand Canyon State, that you might not have known:
• The first barrel of tequila ever was produced in Nogales, Arizona, in 1936.
• Arizona has the two largest man-made lakes in America: Lake Mead and Lake Powell.
• Lake Powell has a shoreline of 2,000 miles, more than the Pacific Coast.
• Donkeys are not allowed to sleep in bathtubs.
• It is illegal to refuse a person a glass of water.
• You can be put in jail for up to 25 years for cutting down a Saguaro cactus.
• The first McDonald’s drive-thru window was opened in Sierra Vista.
• The world’s oldest rodeo is in Prescott.
• The FAA was created in 1958 as the result of two airplanes crashing over the Grand Canyon.
To see some of our Old West history up close and personal, check out a few of these popular day trips from Phoenix to get a flavor of Arizona before it became a state:
Pioneer Living History Museum: The Pioneer Living History Museum in north Phoenix, just south of Anthem on I-17, is an Old West village made up of authentic buildings and accurate reproductions of real historic structures from different locations around Arizona.
Sharlot Hall Museum: The Sharlot Hall Museum in Prescott is located on the site of the first Territorial Governor’s residence and offices and features historic exhibit buildings, artifacts, and gardens. The museum was named for Sharlot Mabridth Hall, a well-known poet, activist, politician, and Arizona’s first territorial historian.
Fort Verde State Park: Camp Verde in the central Arizona’s Verde Valley, is full of historic sites, including Fort Verde State Park, a well-preserved example of the Arizona Territory in the wild west era of the late 1800s, and the nearby Montezuma’s Castle National Monument, an 800-year-old legacy of the Sinagua people who lived in ancient Arizona.
Jerome: Jerome, west of Camp Verde, was once a thriving copper mining town and is today well known for its hauntings.
Besh Ba Gowah: Just outside the city of Globe, east of the Superstition Mountains, is Besh Ba Gowah, an archeological park featuring the ruins of the ancient Salado people who lived in the Globe-Miami area almost 800 years ago.
Tombstone: Tombstone, located south of Tucson, is home of the infamous OK Corral and is one of the most famous and celebrated towns of the historic Old West.
These are just a few of the many spots in Arizona to learn about our Wild West past. If you want to check out a piece of Grand Canyon State history up close, take a day or weekend trip to one of these great historic spots.
Be sure to check Ladybug’s Blog at ladybugsblog.com for more ideas for great places to get your kids out of the house to enjoy historic and fun adventures throughout the state of Arizona.