Special Topics & Publications
The Negro of Tucson, Past and Present
by James Walter Yancy
Images from James Walter Yancy Thesis Photographs
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Mr. Richard Holt, Mr. Henry Ransom and Mr. Thomas Grant (photo taken: March 1, 1933)
Three of the five remaining 19th Century African American pioneers to Tucson are shown above (circa 1933). Richard Holt and Thomas Grant originally came to Arizona with the U.S. Army in the late 1800s and after their discharge chose to remain in the Tucson area. Henry Ransom arrived in Tucson in 1881 and became "within the course of years, Tucson's most famous transfer driver."
Richard Holt was born in Charlotte, North Carolina in 1865 and came to Tucson in 1884 as a soldier in E Troop of the 10th Calvary. E Troop is likely best known for it's involvement in the 1886 campaign against Chief Geronimo, which ended in the Apaches surrender after a nine-month standoff. During this campaign Holt carried mail from the railroad to the interior. Discharged in 1889, Holt worked on a cow ranch until 1897 and then took a series of jobs with different mining camps, hotels and private families. Although he never married, Holt fathered two children with his French common-law wife while working in the mining camps.
Thomas Grant was born in Germantown, Kentucky in 1848. After arriving in Tucson in 1892 he immediately retired from the 10th Calvary and began working for attorney John L. Martin, for whom he still worked in 1933 when the Yancy thesis was published. In 1910, Holt homesteaded 22 acres of land at Fort Huachuca from the government. After recuperating from an illness in California, however, he returned to Arizona to find he had lost everything but the land which he later sold. Although Grant was once married he had no children and at the time the Yancy thesis was written, no surviving relatives.
Born in Ozark, Arkansas in 1855, Henry Ransom moved to Arizona when he was 26 years old. After arriving in Tucson, Ransom hauled freight and ore for three years before leaving to take a position as a foreman on a cellar digging contract. Later he worked as a cook at the Cosmopolitan Hotel (which became the Orndorff Hotel ) and as a yardman and porter at the San Xavier Hotel. During his employment at the San Xavier, Ransom began planting Cottonwood trees from the Santa Cruz River area along the front terrace of the hotel. At the time he was interviewed in the early 1930s Ransom claimed that the tree shown below (the single surviving Cottonwood he had transplanted) was the oldest tree in Tucson.
The oldest tree in Tucson (circa 1933)
Henry Ransom's last job, which he held from 1892 until his retirement with a life pension in 1931, was with the Tucson Transfer Company as a driver (see photo below). Ransom was originally employed as a freight driver for a private individual in Tucson in the late 1880s. After the business changed owners and names several times it was purchased by the Pioneer Transfer Company from Phoenix, Arizona, which was in turn bought out by the Tucson Transfer Company in 1892.
Tucson Warehouse and Transfer Company's first wagon
Continue with more images from Yancy's thesis