This Day in Arizona History

Courtesy of our Official State Historian, Marshall Trimble!

*February is Arizona’s most historical Month*

February 4, 1903 the Salt River Valley Water Users Association was organized.

February 13, 1872 the town site of Phoenix, consisting of 380 acres was officially filed in the U.S. Land Office.

February 14, 1862 Confederate President Jefferson proclaimed Arizona a Confederate Territory.

February 14, 1871 Maricopa County was created in a legislative bill signed by Governor Anson P.K. Safford and Phoenix was made the temporary county seat.

February 14, 1908 the Carnegie Public Library was dedicated by Benjamin Fowler.

February 14, 1912 President William Howard Taft signed the proclamation making Arizona a state.

February 22, 1888 Two men holdup the westbound Southern Pacific Wells Fargo Express car at Stein’s Pass near the Arizona-New Mexico border. Deeply annoyed, Wells Fargo offers a $2,000 reward. The sheriff of Cochise County trails the outlaws to Mexico where he is arrested and spends two weeks in jail.

February 24, 1863 President Abraham Lincoln signed the congressional bill creating the Territory of Arizona.

February 24, 1901 the Capitol Building was dedicated by Governor Nathan Oaks Murphy.

February 25, 1881 the City of Phoenix was incorporated.

February 26, 1837 Scottsdale founder Winfield Scott’s birthday.

February 28, 1871 the first Maricopa County Board of Supervisors was sworn in.


March 4, 1930 Former President Calvin Coolidge dedicates dam on the Gila River named in his honor. Because of a long drought the “lake” behind it has no water. Humorist Will Rogers also a guest speaker quips, “If that was my lake I’d mow it.”

March 15, 1909 Dick Wick Hall, flamboyant entrepreneur, writer and teller of tall tales of Salome, Arizona (Where She Danced and Burned Her Feet) starts a gold rush in Phoenix with a sensational story of a gold strike in Salome. Railroads used full page ads offering special rates to the town. Prospectors arrive in droves but find no gold.

March 20, 1880 The Southern Pacific Railroad reaches Tucson. Over-enthusiastic Tucsonians send a telegram to the Pope Leo in the Vatican informing him of the great occasion. A response claiming to be from the Pope said he sends his benedictions and blessing but wonders “Where the hell is Tucson?”

March 27, 1883 James Addison Reavis files a claim in the office of the Surveyor General in Tucson to the “Peralta Grant” which runs 235 miles east and west and 75 miles north and south— some 12 million acres of the richest lands, towns and mines in Arizona. He will become known as the notorious “Baron of Arizona.”

March 28, 1884 Five Bisbee bank robbers, convicted of murdering several Bisbee citizens, are hanged in Tombstone. While waiting on the gallows one of the condemned men observed it was a hot day. Another replied, “It’s going to be a lot hotter where we’re going.


April 10, 1866 the Army established Camp Skull Valley in Skull Valley. You were thinking Skeleton Canyon?

April 16, 1912 Lee “Flame” Delhi from Harquahala pitched in a game for the Chicago White Sox becoming the first native Arizonan to appear in a Major League baseball game

April 26, 1890 The Tombstone Epitaph published a story of two cowboys who claimed they came upon a “winged dragon,” a snake-like bird with head resembling an alligator and a 92 foot long body and a wing span of 160 feet.

April 27, 1887 at Pantano, east of Tucson, outlaws pulled the first train robbery in Arizona history.


May 1, 1856 the first camels arrived in Texas to embark on the famous Camel Survey across northern Arizona to mark the path for the future Santa Fe Railroad and Route 66.

May 5, 1866 Congress, succumbing to pressure from of Nevada, took Pah Ute County away from Arizona and awarded it to the more politically-potent silver state. It became known as the “Lost Pah Ute County.

May 11, 1889 a band of masked men ambushed Major J.W. Wham and his military escort carrying a $26,000 Army payroll in near Safford. Several local cattlemen were arrested and tried but were found not guilty.

May 15, 1922 the last train robbery in Arizona occurred when three men using a Nash touring car instead of horses attempted to rob a train near Tucson  It went bad for the robbers when the messenger opened fire with his shotgun, hitting one.  The others jumped into the Nash and sped away.  There were five men in on the job, including a goat rancher. All were caught except one who escaped to Mexico.

May 19, 1892 a stagecoach line was established from Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon.

May 22, 1882 a saloon fire destroys the business section of Tombstone again.

May 25, 1881 the notorious outlaw Curly Bill Brocius was shot in the cheek by a cowboy named Jim Wallace in the outlaw town of Galeyville. The bullet struck Curly Bill in the cheek, went through and came out the other side of his mouth, taking some teeth.  It looked for a while like the outlaw king was going to die and his friends made plans to string up Wallace but Curly Bill managed to survive.

May 30, 1864 the territorial government moved the capital from Fort Whipple to Granite Creek and the citizens rename it Prescott.


June 1, 1888 Joe Phy is shot and killed by Pete Gabriel in a gunfight over politics in a Florence saloon. The battle became known as the “Six-Gun Classic.”

June 14, 1941 Movie stars Dorothy Fay Southworth of Prescott and Tex Ritter were married. Dorothy Fay was Arizona’s first star in cowboy movies. She was also the mother of actor John Ritter.

June 21, 1967 set the record set for Arizona’s latest sunset (8:41) causing loud protests from restaurants. The following year the state legislature voted to opt out of Daylight Savings Time.

June 26, 1902 Sedona becomes an official US Postal stop and gets its name.  Named for first postmaster’s wife, Sedona.  First postmaster was T.C. Schnebly.


July 1, 1882 the first train rolled across the new bridge at Canyon Diablo east of Flagstaff on the new Atlantic and Pacific RR (Santa Fe).

July 4, 1876 A party of Boston colonists heading West camped at the foot of the San Francisco peaks and celebrated the nation’s 100th birthday. An American flag was hung from a tall pine tree to honor the occasion and the place eventually came to be called Flagstaff.

July 4, 1876 Corydon Cooley and Marion Clark played a card game to see who would remain and who would move on from a beautiful little valley. The game was called Seven Up and whoever drew low care of “showed low” won. Cooley drew the low card and said, “Show low it is and Show Low it became.

July 4, 1887 the first railroad train arrived in Phoenix from the Southern Pacific Mainline at Maricopa.

July 6, 1891 Gilbert was founded on as a rail siding for Arizona Eastern Railway, and the town that sprang up around it was incorporated in 1920.

July 14, 1900 a fire broke out on Prescott’s “Whiskey Row” destroying the towns business district. Patrons managed to save the backbar and all its contents at the Palace Saloon, along with the piano. While Prescott burned the bar re-opened across the street and the spectators drank and sang, “It’ll Be A Hot Time In The Old Town Tonight.”

July 15-16, 1862 the “Battle of Apache Pass” occurred when Union soldiers and engaged in battle with Chiricahua Apache in the largest battle fought on Arizona soil between the two foes.

July 16, 1964 at the Cow Palace in San Francisco Senator Barry Goldwater accepted the nomination of the Republican Party for the Presidency of the United States.

July 17, 1882 U. S. Army troops accompanied by Apache scouts defeated Apache warriors at Big Dry Wash, atop the Mogollon Rim, in what became the last battle fought on Arizona soil.

July 26, 1953 eighty-nine officers of the Arizona Highway Patrol closed in on the little town of Short Creek, a polygamist community located on the remote Arizona Strip along the border with Utah.

July 27, 1913 the Phoenix chief of police decried the rise of women’s skirts, claiming he would enforce a city ordinance that forbade a woman to expose more than 2 inches of ankle. The main issue wasn’t the length of the hemline, but rather, the newest rage from Paris, the slit skirt. A local entertainer, Beatrice Gonzales, decided to call the chief’s bluff. In the spirit of Lady Godiva she strolled down Washington Street in a dress that had a slit clear up to her knee. A crowd of anxious reporters and curious spectators gathered to watch but no arrests were made. News accounts reported the dress concealed more than it revealed.

July 30, 1978 one of the greatest manhunts in Arizona history occurred when convicted killers Gary Tison and Randy Greenawalt broke out of the state prison at Florence using guns smuggled in by Tison’s three sons. The so-called Tison Gang then went on a 12-day rampage.


August 1, 1967 the Apache Railway, running from McNary to Maverick in the White Mountains was abandoned.

August 2, 1892 the “Last Man,” of the two feuding Tewksbury/Graham families of the Pleasant Valley War, Tom Graham, was gunned down by Ed Tewksbury and John Rhodes in Tempe.

August 5, 1908 Arizona Ranger Billy Speed shot and killed notorious outlaw Bill Downing in Willcox/

August 10, 1887 outlaws robbed the Southern Pacific passenger train near Colossal Cave, east of Tucson.

August 11, 1911, President Taft vetoed the joint resolution giving Arizona statehood. Taft disapproved of the Recall of Judges in the state constitution.

August 13, 1878, founding father of Prescott, Wickenburg and Phoenix, Jack Swilling died of pneumonia.

August 15, 1941, the newly established Luke Field graduated its first class of aviators.

August 17, 1887,  eighteen-year-old Billy Graham is shot and killed During the Graham-Tewksbury Feud in Pleasant Valley

August 19, 1857, the first mail to go through Arizona was carried on horseback arrives in Tucson.

August 21, 1911 President Wm. Howard Taft signed the Flood-Smith resolution providing for statehood for Arizona providing the recall was removed.

August 27,1918, “The Battle of Nogales” broke out between Mexican and American soldiers leaving five Americans killed and 129 Mexicans.

August 30, 1882, two masked men held up the Black Canyon stagecoach traveling from Phoenix to Prescott. While the robbery was in progress another stage arrived, going in the opposite direction and it too was robbed. It was two-for-one for the robbers who escaped.


September 2, 1887, members of the Graham faction and Andy Cooper ambush and killing John Tewksbury and  Bill Jacobs During the Pleasant Valley War.

September 4, 1887 Apache County Sheriff Commodore Perry Owens, attempting to arrest Andy Cooper, guns down Andy and his fifteen-year-old brother and another man in Holbrook.

September 9, 1899 Willcox constable Burt Alvord and Billy Stiles, along with two others, rob the train at Cochise Station. Alvord then “deputizes” his cohorts and the posse goes off in pursuit of themselves.

September 16, 1927 the new MGM mascot “Leo” a 400 lb. African lion, was on his first tour when the plane crashed east of Payson. Leo survived and was rescued by Rim Country cowboys.

September 22, 1927 10,000 fans gathered along Central Avenue in Phoenix to listen to the Heavyweight Championship fight between Jack Dempsey and Gene Tunney.

September 22, 1927 10,000 fans gathered along Central Avenue to listen to the Dempsey-Tunney fight

September 25, 1887,  A posse arrives in Young at Perkins Store and gun down John Graham and Charlie Blevins.

September 29, 1918 Arizona aviator Frank Luke shot down two planes and three balloons in 10 minutes before he was killed.

September 30, 1923 the Union Station with the Mission Revival architecture you see today was dedicated.


October 8, 1962 “Trunk Murderess” Winnie Ruth Judd escaped from the Arizona State Hospital for the last time and remained free for 7 years. Soon after her capture she was pardoned.

October 9, 1905 Burt Alvord is released from prison after serving time for his part in the 1899 train robbery at Cochise Station

October 10, 1910 the Arizona Constitutional Convention began.

October 12, 1940 Cowboy movie star Tom Mix was killed on when his 1937 yellow Cord Phaeton convertible wrecked near Florence.

October 16, 1931 Winnie Ruth Judd allegedly killed two friends in a fight, stuffed their bodies in a trunk and shipped them to Los Angeles.

October 21, 1849 Gila Howard, was the first American child born in what would become Arizona. The Howard family was floating down the Gila River on a raft on their way to California.

October 23, 1993 “Trunk Murderess” Winnie Ruth Judd died at the age of 93.

October 26, 1881 the “Gunfight at OK Corral” occurred in Tombstone between the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday and the McLaury brothers and Billy Clanton.

October 28, 1880 notorious outlaw, Curly Bill shoots and kills Tombstone Constable, Fred White.


November 1, 1887 vigilantes hang Al Rose during the Graham-Tewksbury Feud in Pleasant Valley.

November 1, 1863 Henry Wickenburg first discovers what would become the famous Vulture Mine.

November 5, 1871 a party of Yavapai attacked a stagecoach a few miles west of Wickenburg killing the driver and six of seven passengers in what was known as the “Wickenburg Massacre.”

November 7, 1916 Thomas E. Campbell is declared winner in the governor’s race against George W. P. Hunt by 30 votes. Hunt protests and refuses to vacate the governor’s office in January. After nearly a year the dispute is resolved in Hunt’s favor.

November 15, 1926 the first mainline train arrived in Phoenix from Yuma.

November 15, 1986 the Central Arizona Project was completed to Phoenix. bringing 1.5 million acre feet into the interior of AZ through a system of aqueducts, canals and pumping stations.

November 24, 1909 lawman-outlaw Burt Alvord dies on the island of Barbados in the Caribbean.

November 29, 1936 Phoenix Mayor John Udall threatens to take over the police department and run it himself if something is not done to break up the gambling rings.


December 7, 1941 the battleship “Arizona” was sunk during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

December 8, 190, lawman-train robber Burt Alvord is sent to the Yuma Territorial Prison for two years for train robbery.

December 10, 1927 Phoenix Union High School dedicates its $80,000 new Montgomery Stadium and becomes the envy of all Arizona high schools.

On December 12, 1911 the Arizonans voted to amend the constitution to conform to Taft’s wishes. He would sign the Statehood Bill on February 14, 1912.

December 15, 1935 the town of Christmas loses its post office and will not use its famous postmark again.

December 15, 1902 stagecoach robber Pearl Hart is released from the Yuma Territorial Prison after serving her sentence.

December 17, 1903 Burt Alvord with the assistance of cohort Billy Stiles escapes from the Tombstone jail before he can be sent to the Yuma Territorial Prison.

December 23, 1881 the Bird Cage Theater opened in Tombstone.

December 28, 1881 Tombstone Marshal Virgil Earp is ambushed and seriously wounded by assassins from the “Cowboy” element.

December 30, 1916 both Tom Campbell and George W. P. Hunt take oaths as governor of Arizona in the most disputed gubernatorial race in Arizona history.

Celebrate Arizona

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