Civil Government at Tubac


Only an incomplete sketch of civil government at Tubac can be presented for lack of extensive documentation on the subject in available form. Yet the bits of information available on the subject certainly indicate that Tubac enjoyed civil government and a separation of powers between military and civil officials which had never existed in colonial times.  However haltingly, the foundations of republican government were being laid at Tubac and experience gained in self government by its citizens.

5721. Special Legal Status

The frontier military posts enjoyed a somewhat anomalous position within the state political structure. General laws could not always be fairly applied to these forts. For one thing, post commanders exercised not only military but also judicial, police, and civil executive powers (Velasco 1850:17).

In terms of legislation, for example, the State of the West legislature in mid-summer of 1826 exempted all the inhabitants of frontier forts from paying the ten per cent duty established by royal decree of Charles IV in the first year of the century. Not leaving the definition of "frontier fort" to chance, the legislators specified the beneficiaries of their legislation as all the inhabitants of Altar, Tucson, Tubac, Santa María Suamca (Santa Cruz), and Fronteras (Elías, July 10,9 1826, Art. 2).

Citizens of Tubac and these other frontier posts were subject to the ten per cent tax, however, if they lived on ranches outside the post military reservation (ibid., Art . 3).

Another example of the special legal status accorded frontier posts-Tubac among them-was a law passed on June 21, 1828, by the legislature of the State of the West providing for a new form of state militia.

This provided that every city council should proceed to enlist citizens to form a local militia (Gaxiola June 21, 1828:60: Art. 1). Exemptions were few but possible and were 573penalized by a financial levy on persons exempted:

Article 55. Every individual exonerated from service in the Militia because of advanced age, federal employment, or ecclesiastical state, or European birth, shall contribute four reales monthly for the Militia funds.

The howl which went up from the frontier posts when this law was published must have been loud and long, for it reverberated back to the halls of the legislature so in its next session a special law was passed containing only one provision:

Article 55 of law number 60 does not comprehend the residents of the forts and towns of the Frontier in the northern part of the State" (Gaxiola April 14., 1829 No. 112).

The state legislature of the separated State of Sonora continued to treat the frontier posts with special favor. In the summer session of 1835 the state legislators conceded the citizenry of Tubac and the other forts the right to collect rewards for the recovery of stock stolen by hostile Apaches (Escalante y Arvizu, July 14, 1835, Art. 1). Administration of state laws governing recovery of such stock and its conservation once returned to Mexican settlements (ibid., Art. 3) was also regulated by this act in terms of the special frontier post situation.

2. Local Self Government

The state legislature also adopted legislation providing for election of local officials in the villas and towns of Sonora. Local self-government of a republican sort was instituted to replace the old autocratic colonial system not only at the national and state but also the town level. A full picture of operation of civil government at Tubac cannot yet be framed, but it clearly functioned.

In 1833, for example, Atanacio Otero was the constitutional Alcalde of Tubac (Otero June 2, 1833:3), a position corresponding to mayor in a town in the United States. Otero had been a prominent citizen of Tubac since 1816 at least (Libro de las Tubac...f. 40). His office in 1833 involved some of the features of the position of notary public as well: Otero was busy on June 2 making a trip from Tubac to Aribaca to take sworn testimony from three witnesses in regard to the history of settlement at the latter place, by old-timers, as an opening step by the Ortíz brothers of Tubac in obtaining new title papers to Aribaca to replace those originally granted their father in 1812 (Otero June 2, 1833:3; June 3, 1833:3-5).

In the summer of 1834 the Sonoran state legislature created two new partidos in that northwestern state, the partidobeing an administrative district somewhat analogous to a county in the western United States of America. One of the newpartidos was that of San Ignacio (Escalante y Arvizu, July 1 5751834, Art. 2), after the former mission of that name. The settlements constituting this new partido included besides San Ignacio, Cucurpe, Túape, Magdalena, Santa Ana, Terrenate, La Mesa, Imuris, Cocospera, Santa Cruz, Tumacácori, Tubac, San Javier del Bac and San Agustín del Tucson (ibid., Art. 4).  The partido capital was fixed at Cucurpe rather than at San Ignacio (ibid., Art. 4), probably because Cucurpe was the larger community. (It certainly was more politically active.)

On December 7, 1834, the Tubac election officials reported results of an annual indirect election of local officials held under provisions of state law. Nine electors who had been chosen by the citizenry met and decided on the new officials. Tiburcio Campa was elected Justice of the Peace with Trinidád Yrigoyen as his substitute. Ramon Burruel was elected prosecutor (Elías December 7, 1834). The president of the election commission was Juan Bautista Elías, father of Jesus María Elías who became the foremost Indian-fighter in the Spanish-speaking population of Tucson under United States sovereignty whose lustre was tarnished by his becoming a prime mover in the Camp Grant Massacre (Contreras January 10, 1927:1 & Elías January 1, 1927:1). Secretary was Gerónimo de la Errán, who had acted as a witness in the testimony Otero took the year before, and was later a sergeant in the Tucson garrison detached to duty at Tubac (Ybarra October 28, 1842:3). The second elector was Trinidád Yrigoyan himself! Yrigoyen had been a prominent citizen of Tubac in late colonial 576times, at least as early as the end of 1819 (Libro de las Tubac..f. 8v), and resided at Tubac at least as early as December of 1814 (ibid., f. 2v).

Apparently the small community of Tubac was not abundantly endowed with political leaders to fill its few elective offices, for Trinidád Yrigoyen apparently succeeded Campa as Justice of the Peace, which office he held in 1838 (Mattison 1946:283). The community ejido or reserved land area was nine square leagues at that time.

Some years later Tubac may not have been able to participate directly in election of state officials. When the governor sent out his call for elections in the fall of 1848, the small population (only 249 persons) of Tubac did not entitle it to even one primary elector in the Partido of San Ignacio, which was allotted a total of fourteen (Gándara September 27, 1848:2). Tubac was the smallest settlement listed in this Partido, being less than half the size of Santa Cruz which rated a single elector and less than one-third the size of Tucson which had two.

D. Economic Production at Tubac

The river bottom soil around Tubac was regarded as fertile and able to support crops under intensive cultivation (Nye 1861:73). The irrigable lands at the post were quite extensive (Velasco 1850:113). A detachment of United States 577dragoons which marched down the Santa Cruz River in 1848 found pumpkins and melons growing in several patches along the stream (Couts 1848:66-67) which were probably planted by Pápago farmers visiting the river seasonally although Lt. Cave J. Couts thought they had escaped from cultivation and were propagating themselves. His troopers helped themselves to both on this proposition.

The cultivation of cereal grains undoubtedly continued much as in colonial times at Tubac, although after the Apaches returned to serious raiding a couple of armed men had to stand guard over one working a field in order to plant and cultivate (Franklin 1896:19).

1. Horticulture

The Mexicans felt that fruits of all kinds could be grown at Tubac (Nye 1861:73) and several varieties were.  Six miles down the Santa Cruz River from the town of Santa Cruz an abandoned ranch still sported peaches, apples, pears, quinces and pomegranates in the fall of 1849 (Martin 1925:143). Very likely most or all these fruits were grown at Tubac, but peaches seem to have been the major orchard variety and to have produced very well. The ripe fruit was comparatively small, about an inch and a half in diameter (Graham 1853:42), probably a freestone mountain type peach such as still yields delicious fruit in August and September in southern Arizona mountain valleys. The peach trees of both Tubac and Tumacácori 578yielded abundantly (Bartlett 1854:I:392) beginning to ripen about mid-August (Dumke 1945:148) reaching a peak around September 1 (Martin 1925:143), but lasting into mid-month (Graham 1853:41). The Tubac peach orchard consisted of approximately fifty bearing trees (Hayes 1849).

One of the sometimes limiting factors on agricultural production at Tubac was the existence of flourishing farming settlements upstream from it. Some three miles south lay the thirsty fields of the Tumacácori Indians whose drought-year water requirements and slovenly irrigation practices had created friction with the Tubac farmers since the establishment of the first posts. A few miles farther upstream lay a large tract cultivated at Calabazas in republican times (Bartlett 1854:II:308) and throughout late colonial peaceful years.

2. Ranching

The uplands on all sides of Tubac supported a growth of tall native grasses which the Mexicans regarded as excellent pasture for livestock (Nye 1861:73). After independence, citizens of Tubac took advantage of the rich natural range resources of grass and water and enjoyed a period of affluence based on beef cattle and horses. Besides the land grant outposts at Sonoita, La Canoa, Sopori, etc., the Mexicans established a large cattle ranching operation based at Calabazas which flourished as late as 1832 (Bartlett 1854:III:307-308). This condition of general prosperity endured only until the 579resurgence of Apache raiding after the Apaches settled at the forts by and large returned to marauding about 1832 (Velasco 1850:238). After that date there is great doubt how efficiently the rich pasturage was utilized because the threat of Apache ambush tended to keep herdsmen close to the post, overgrazing the near grass and not touching that farther away.

The livestock which had been numbered in the thousands (Franklin 1896:19) dwindled away in repeated Apache raids until ranching became virtually impossible. Many of the cattle were not driven all the way home by raiding Apaches but simply escaped into wild country and turned wild (Graham 1853:40).

3. Mining

The rich ores in the mountains surrounding Tubac were mined to some extent during the period of grace immediately following independence. One such deposit was located at or near Calabazas, but it is likely more distant lodes were abandoned after open warfare with the Apaches recommenced (Velasco 1850:113). The Calabazas working was reportedly a gold mine (Bartlett 1854:II:304)

The Sopori settlement which survived into the 1840's was a mine camp as well as a cattle ranch.

One of the resources of the general area was considered to be virgin iron found in Madera Canyon. A chunk of this had been taken to Tucson (Velasco 1850:221) but it was evidently 580one of the famous meteorites and of little real economic significance.

4. Hunting

There was a great abundance of wild game in the Santa Cruz River Valley near Tubac, and even more in the mountains roundabout. A Forty-niner killed a deer in the valley near Tubac (Martin 1925:143), and a few years later the holiday table of Colonel Charles D. Poston's Tubac principality was laden with wild turkeys and other game.

The extent to which this abundant game was utilized for food by the Mexican population at Tubac after 1832 was probably very small owing to the danger hunters ran of being hunted in turn by predatory Apaches. During the first years of independence the friendly Apaches and Pápagos very likely brought in an abundance of fresh game to barter for manufactured goods.

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