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Where the past and present meet to create a future as wide as the open range

 

THE HISTORY OF FLORENCE

Arizona became a territory under the signature of Abraham Lincoln in 1863. When the Civil War ended two years later, the U.S.Cavalry came to protect the new territory from bandits and marauding Apache resistant to the increased settling of the land. Farmers soon settled the banks of the Gila River to raise cattle and hay using prehistoric HoHoKam irrigation canals to water the thirsty desert. Families from Mexico moved north to escape wars in northern Mexico as settlers came from the east seeking fortune and adventure. So began Florence.

Florence boomed in the 1870’s as wagonloads of ore from the Silver King Mine passed through town. Single men swarmed to work the mines and spend their money in Florence, while cowboys from local ranches celebrated payday here as well. Twenty-eight establishments such as the Nichols and Tunnel Saloons served these men who would quench their thirst, gamble and enjoy female companionship.

Homes and commercial buildings were constructed of sun-dried, or adobe, and shade by cottonwoods trees growing along small ditches of flowing water beside the streets. The sounds of Mexican music could be heard many evenings in this small oasis in the desert.

Needless to say, single men from Boston, New York, and Ohio found the senioritis who had been educated in Mexican convents very enchanting. Descendants of the resulting marriages still live in town. As stage lines came to Florence and news of the abounding opportunities spread, Florence grew. Businessmen from Mexico and the United States established themselves here and prospered. Eventually, early Victorian ladies ventured west to live on the frontier.

The good people in town finally demanded law and order. Florence became the county seat of the newly created Pinal County in 1875 and a new brick courthouse and jail was built (now McFarland State park). That didn’t stop citizens vigilantes from storming the courthouse believing two jailed men were murders and hanging them from the ceiling joists.

While miners and cowboys whooped it up and the ex-sheriff and his ex-deputy shot it out on Main Street, the more sedate citizens tried to bring civility, culture and religion to Florence. There were always dances at the courthouse or musicales at Mrs. Clarke’s house. Townsfolk worshipped at the chapel of the Gila or gathered for Protestant services at the adobe courthouse.

By 1891, the town constructed an early fired red brick American Victorian courthouse to meet expanding needs. The building ran over budget and funds for the clock in the tower were diverted to build a new jail. The clock face is only painted on and always reads 11:44. This courthouse appears on the town seal and is a visible landmark as one enters the town from all directions. County government offices provide many jobs. By 1909, the territorial prison was moved from Yuma to Florence and is now a large complex of buildings. Other private prisons, an immigration center and a juvenile detention center add to the economic basis of Florence.

As the Coolidge dam was completed in 1930, farming became a major industry with the access to irrigation. Ranching and feed lots gave birth to vibrant rodeo culture. The Junior Parada is a major national rodeo that continues to this day. Florence launched the careers of many well known rodeo stars and deserves its name as the COWBOY CRADLE OF THE GREAT SOUTHWEST.

A natural scenic location, a rich Wild West heritage and in a position for large growth and development, historic Florence welcomes all visitors. Whether you drop by for a day or a weekend or make Florence your home, the door to Florence friendship is always open.

 

 

2007 all rights reserved by Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce

Website created by Karen Seltrecht Virtual Assistant, LLC

 

 

 

2007 all rights reserved by Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce

Website created by Karen Seltrecht Virtual Assistant, LLC