Random Tucson

Tucson 2013 201You’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.

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Tucson 2013 189Fort 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.

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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.

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The day we were there, Ft. Lowell was having a military encampment experience, with reenactors dressed as Indian War soldiers.

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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.

Post Script: Thanks to Mr. Bailey, who was nice enough to comment and let me know that the uniform that I thought was from WWI is actually a Cavalry uniform from the late Indian period.

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6 Responses to Random Tucson

  1. Something of a culture shock seeing a WWI soldier among the Wild West Cavalry? 🙂

  2. That Apache tale is sad. How we mistreat each other. On the other hand, while I don’t agree with missionaries, I love that building. Beautiful.

    • Yes, the US has done badly by the Native Americans. The good news about Father Kino was that he was anti-slavery and brough useful things — like farming methods — to locals. And while he built many missions, I’m not sure that he had many converts.

  3. PatriotParatrooper says:

    Your WW1 reenactor is actually a US Cavalry from the late indian war period. Originally, the brown uniform was used for stable duty, but was found to be more comfortable out west and didnt show stains, I believe it was standard issue by 1884. The give away is the headgear. If it was WW1 it would look like a drill sgt’s hat.

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