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An Early History of Tucson and the University

First, a brief general history of Tucson and the reason for the establishment of the University.

Towns and communities evolve because of specific circumstances. There is an interesting story of the start of my hometown of Tucson and of the University Neighborhood.

For the earliest beginnings of settlements along the Santa Cruz River we could go back at least ten thousand years to the first people who camped along the river as they hunted the mammoth. Later there were those who farmed in this area. More recently, in 1776, the Spanish Presidio was established.

The place chosen for the Presidio was one the native people called "schukson" meaning "the spring at the foot of the black hill." Tumamoc Hill, a small mountain of dark colored volcanic rock west of the river, is probably that hill. Beside it is Sentinel Peak, also covered with volcanic rocks, a good place for a lookout over the valley. In 1916 some University students constructed a large letter A on the conical hill, so now it is also known as "A" Mountain. The springs no longer runs and the Santa Cruz River has water only after rainstorms.

The Presidio of Tucson was located on high ground to the east of the river. Because of hostile Apache raids a wall was soon constructed around the presidio. Tucson was the end of El Camino Real, the northernmost Spanish colony on this particular "Royal Road."

The Gadsden Purchase of 1853 provided a reliable winter route for a trail from the eastern United States to California. In 1863 the act creating the Territory of Arizona was signed by President Abraham Lincoln. From 1867 to 1879 Tucson was the territorial capital.

In 1885 the Territorial Legislature, the so-called "Thieving Thirteenth" for its many expenditures, was to choose sites for several territorial institutions. These included the capital, an asylum for the insane and a university. Tucson sent attorneys C. C. Stevens and Selim Franklin who were told to return the capital back to Tucson or at least get the insane asylum with its generous appropriation of funds.

The citizens of Tucson were extremely angry when they learned that Prescott kept the capital that had formerly been in Tucson; Phoenix was given the asylum and $100,000; Yuma, the prison; Tempe was given $5,000 for a normal school to train teachers; and Tucson and Pima County were given $25,000 to build a university if forty acres as a location for the school would be donated within a year.

Just before the year was over, Jacob Mansfeld, Tucson businessman and member of the University's first Board of Regents chose suitable land northeast of town. The low hill was the highest ground in the area, so it would be safe from flooding. It had arroyos on either side and a ridge of high ground leading to it. He and Selim Franklin managed to persuade the owners to donate forty acres.

The next problem was funding the University. Territorial Governor John Goodwin believed that universal education and self-government were inseparable and that common (grammar) schools, high schools and a university should be established. He told the lawmakers that Arizona was entitled to a donation under the Morrill Act of 1862 for a land grant school.

The United States Congress passed the Hatch Act (1887) giving $15,000 for an agricultural experiment station at any school of agriculture at a land grant institution so a School of Agriculture was created on paper in July 1889. The second Morrill Act (1890) provided another $15,000.

Looking Southwest 1889 toward the incomplete Main Building, Tucson and Sentinel Peak and the Presbyterian church-sponsored Tucson Indian Training School.
Looking Southwest 1889 toward the incomplete Main Building, Tucson and Sentinel
Peak and the Presbyterian church-sponsored Tucson Indian Training School. This
picture by W. P. Haynes is famous as it is the first picture of the new school. Far right
on the horizon is the court house dome. Photo courtesy Special Collections, University
of Arizona Library Old Main, N-114. Photograph by W.P. Haynes, 1889.

Since the mining industry could be a source of funds, the School of Mines was established. The School of Mines is the original name for the Main Building; after 1927 it is officially called Old Main, the name used in this book.

Illustration showing 1889 Old Main, location of the Indian School, downtown Tucson, and the Court House
Illustration showing Old Main, Indian School, downtown Tucson,
and the Court House in relation to the above photograph.

In October 1887 construction was started on the School of Mines building designed by James Miller Creighton, but money ran out before the building had a roof and windows. Four years later the legislature gave enough money to finish it.

Since the only Regent with a college degree was Selim Franklin, he was made the first Professor of Agriculture and Director of the Experiment Station of the proposed institution. This proposal looked good enough on paper to get $30,000, enough money to hire two paid faculty members. So with Frank Gulley, who had an agricultural college degree, Theodore Comstock, the Dean of the Mining School, and four faculty members the University opened October 1, 1891. The initial enrollment was six college freshmen and twenty-six preparatory students, the name given to the high school students.

At that time there was not a high school in the entire Territory of Arizona. For the next twenty-five years the preparatory students, especially in the early years, far outnumbered the university students. They lived in the same dormitories and participated fully in activities such as band and varsity sports. This is the reason many of the students look so young in the early university pictures. However, some of the prep students were adults returning to get a high school education, then a college degree.

In 1898-99, the University Register listed two graduate students, twenty-seven collegiate and 132 preparatory students. The two graduate students were Mark Walker and Louise Henriette Foucar. Louise would stay to build a University Neighborhood. This is the story of her neighborhood and mine.

Continue with A View to Campus in 1900