You’d think that Tucson would have a lot of Wild West type historic sites but it doesn’t. There’s the Arizona Historical Society Museum, next to the main entrance of the University of Arizona. That’ll give you an overview of southern Arizona history if you don’t have time to see the sites themselves. But for a real flavor of the Old West, you have to leave Tucson and head southeast, toward the outlaw town Tombstone and the mining town Bisbee. They’re day-trips from Tucson.
Stuck in Tucson, I managed to eke out a couple more History Tourist sites in town.
Fort Lowell was an army fort built in 1873 on the outskirts of Tucson, in the final years of the war on the Apaches. Now it’s a city park smack dab in the middle of town. All that’s left of the 19th century fort is the officers’ quarters, which houses a small museum, and the ruins of a 19th century army hospital that they’re trying to preserve and reconstruct.
The museum, an outpost of the Arizona Historical Society museum, holds a couple of small rooms worth of objects — uniforms and weapons — and photographs. The photo above is of Chiricahua Apache Ba-keitz-ogie, aka Dutchy. He served loyally as a scout for U.S. troops until the day, in 1886, that he and the rest of the Apache scouts were sent to a prison in Florida with the rest of their tribe.
The Apache stronghold at Chiricahua National Monument, about an hour south of Tucson, definitely is worth a visit.
The day we were there, Ft. Lowell was having a military encampment experience, with reenactors dressed as Indian War soldiers.
I don’t know how this WWI doughboy ended up wandering amongst the Old West cavalry. Oh, and if anyone knows the origin of the term “doughboy,” I’d like to hear it.
Eusebio Kino was an Italian Jesuit priest who in the late 1600s/early 1700s roamed Sonora, Mexico and southern Arizona, trying to convert the native people and founding missions. He started about 25 missions in all, among them Mission San Xavier del Bac, nine miles south of Tucson on the Tohono O’odham reservation.
The current church was commissed by 1783 by Fr. Juan Bautista Velderrain, designed by architect Ignacio Gaona, and built by Tohono O’odham workmen. It was finished in 1797. In 1995, they began a major restoration of the church, that involved sending Tohono O’odham artists to Italy to train as conservationists. The restoration continues whenever they have money.
Within the past year, they’ve begun giving free guided tours but we wandered the mission on our own. There’s the church, a small exhibit area and a gift shop where you can buy candles. Occasionally, there are locals sitting around the grounds, selling flat bread and other edibles.
It’s on the road (I-19) to the Titan II Missile Museum. Also on I-19, if you keep going south for 30 minutes after the missile museum, is Tubac, an 18th century Spanish presidio turned artists colony, with lots of lovely craft shops. Five miles south of Tubac is the Tumacacori National Historic Park, home of another 17th century Father Kino mission, San Jose de Tumacacori.