HISTORY OF FLORENCE
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.