The year was 1539. It had been over 180 years since the Hohokam structure called Casa Grande had been built and nearly 120 years since its builders had disappeared from the land. And now, for the first time, the land that would be known as Arizona was touched by Europeans. In 1539, an expedition led by the Franciscan friar, Fray Marcos de Niza, penetrated northward into Arizona in search of cities rumored to be rich in emeralds. The Spaniards were guided by the black slave Esteban, a survivor of the ill-fated 1527 expedition of Florida Governor Panfilo de Narvaez. At the Zuni pueblo known as Hawikuh, Esteban was killed and the expedition turned back toward Mexico. The following year, in 1540, the Spaniards returned. The famous conquistador Francisco Vasquez de Coronado led a full-scale expedition northward into Arizona. Following the ancient trail along the San Pedro River, the Spaniards eventually reached Hawikuh, which they took by storm. These first violent encounters between Arizona Indians and the white man were an omen of things to come. For the next 350 years, the history of Arizona would be dominated by raids, massacres, and counterstrikes with only a few interludes of peaceful coexistence.
During that summer of 1540, several detachments of Spanish soldiers were sent out from Hawikuh on missions of exploration and reconnaissance. Don Hernando Alvarado led one party eastward to the New Mexico pueblo known as Cicuye where they had a fateful encounter with a captive Plains Indian from Quivira called the "Turk". Don Garcia Lopez de Cardenas led another party northward to the Grand Canyon, becoming the first white men to witness that awesome sight. A third group of Spaniards led by Melchior Diaz journeyed westward toward the Gulf of California. Diaz, the discoverer of the Indian town known as Chichilticalli in 1539, had met the famous Cabeza de Vaca at Culiacan in 1535. Diaz received a first-hand account of the supposed existence of great cities far to the north from de Vaca. Four years later, Melchior Diaz was killed in a freak accident during the journey westward to the Gulf of California.
This first major incursion of Europeans into Arizona would be brief. In 1542, Coronado returned to New Spain. But the Spanish tide was inexorably advancing. The same year that saw Coronado leave Arizona also witnessed the discovery of rich silver deposits in Zacatecas, Mexico. The discovery of precious metals resulted in a surge of prospectors and explorers northward. In 1554, the rich mines of Mazapil were discovered near present-day Saltillo. That same year, the great silver lodes of Durango, Mexico were discovered by Francisco de Ibarra. By 1560, Spanish prospectors had uncovered rich silver veins at San Juan del Rio, Indehe, and Santa Barbara. Discoveries of rich silver and gold mines continued throughout the 1560's in Chihuahua, Mexico.
Finally, in 1582, a group of Spanish soldiers led by Antonio de Espejo entered Arizona in search of precious metal deposits. It had been 40 years since Coronado had left. Espejo journeyed northward to the land of the Hopi Indians, then turned southwest where he discovered the great copper and silver deposits near Jerome, Arizona. Fifteen years later, in 1598, Captain Marcos Farfan de los Godos collected ore samples from these very same deposits. Godos was a member of the famous expedition led by Don Juan de Onate.
It was Juan de Onate who, in 1604, named the Gila River "El Rio del Nombre de Jesus". During that
It was Juan de Onate who, in 1604, named the Gila River "El Rio
del Nombre de Jesus". During that same year, a third group of Spaniards
led by Captain Geronimo Marquez visited the rich mineral deposits
For the next 83 years, the only white men encountered by the native Athapascans of Arizona were Spanish slave raiders. By 1661, nearly all of the Athapascans were at war with the Spaniards. In 1666, a drought and famine struck the entire Southwest. Lasting for 5 years, the famine was followed by almost unceasing warfare between the Spaniards and the most aggressive of the Athapascan tribes - the Apaches. In fact, the entire northern frontier of New Spain was engulfed in warfare throughout the last half of the 17th century. From 1672 to 1680, the Apaches devastated the New Mexican settlements. In 1682, they struck the Casas Grandes region of Chihuahua. Two years later, most of the Indian tribes in Chihuahua rose up against the Spaniards. The 1684 revolt resulted in the destruction of Soledad, Santa Gertrudis, Torreon, and Carretas Missions. These missions were never restored. In 1686, the Spanish province of Sonora came under attack.
Finally, in 1687, a man of peace came to southern Arizona. The Jesuit priest Fray Eusebio Francisco Kino was truly one of the great men of the Southwest. In fact, from 1687 to 1693, Eusebio Kino was the only white man in all of Arizona. In 1687, Kino established the Mission Nuestra Senora de los Dolores approximately 100 miles south of present-day Tucson. In 1692, he founded the Mission Los Angeles de Guevavi near present-day Nogales. This was the first church in Arizona. Eusebio Kino eventually established 29 missions in the area, including the missions San Ignacio, Tubutama, San Xavier del Bac, and San Jose de Tumacacori. He became intimately familiar with the mountains and deserts of southern Arizona. On many of his journeys, he was accompanied by the renowned frontiersman Juan Mateo Manje.
Meanwhile, the Indians of Sonora continued to devastate the frontier. In 1688, a year after Kino's arrival in Arizona, the Pima Indians revolted. By 1690, most of the tribes of Sonora, Chihuahua, and southern New Mexico and Arizona were hostile. The province of Sonora was ravaged by war parties of Jano, Jocome, Chiso, Pima, Jova, Seri, Suma, and Apache Indians. Further south, the powerful Tarahumara nation was in revolt. This state of affairs lasted until 1698 when most of the hostile tribes in New Spain were broken. By that year, only the Apaches remained unsubdued. In fact, the Apaches would never be conquered by the Spaniards. This indomitable tribe would be one of the last in North America to be broken by the white man.
In 1711, Eusebio Francisco Kino passed away in the little town of Magdalena, in northern Sonora, Mexico. He was 66 years old when he died. With Padre Kino's death, the Jesuit missionary effort on the Gila River faltered. It wasn't until 1743 that Padre Ignacio attempted to return to the Gila, but he was driven out by the Apaches. Later that year, Padre Jacob Sedelmair led an expedition northward to the Gila but was also forced to leave. He tried again in 1748 but had no better luck. Finally, in 1752, the Spaniards returned in force and established the first Spanish town in the Gila River basin. Located near the Mission San Jose de Tumacacori, the town was named Tubac.