From the Beginning:

People have lived in the Santa Cruz Valley for thousands of years. No one knows exactly when the first humans arrived to see the broad expanse of land encircled by mountains on all sides, but the signs of Hohokam villages and farms and found all over the valley. These ancestors of the Pima Indians were probably the first to settle here, basing their largest village at the western end of the valley along the shores of the Santa Cruz River. They called their village 'Shuk-son' (the spelling varies depending upon the source), or 'city at the foot of the black mountain' (now called Sentinel Peak or - more popularly - 'A' Mountain). Artifacts of settlements have also been found along the Tanque Verde Creek. All of these small waterways were just that when civilization began. Farms soon dotted the banks of these creeks and life was good for the peaceful tribes, except for the constant vigilance needed to protect themselves against the marauding Apaches who would come from beyond the Rincon Mountains to steal the fruits of their labors.

The Spanish were the next group to arrive in the area - at least they were the first to stay or survive. Small bands of soldiers accompanied such missionaries as Father Kino and others who were converting the natives and building the vast chain of missions in Arizona and California. Our own San Xavier del Bac, built in more or less its present form in the middle of the 18th Century, is a handsome example, as is the mission at Tubac, some miles to the south.

Charged with protecting the missionaries and others seeking gold in the legendary 'Seven Cities of Cibola', the Spanish soldiers took over the area at the foot of the black mountain and built a Presidio in 1775 on the site of a smaller fort built by the Pimas to protect themselves. Many of these friendly Pimas remained in the area, living outside the walls of the fort under the aegis of and providing food for the soldiers and their families. The walls of the Presidio still exist to some extent. Archeological digs have located the remains of the old wall, cutting right through the courtyard of the Old Pima County Courthouse. The next time you go downtown, walk through and follow the marble strip that runs from south to north and delineates the line of the eastern wall. There is also a recreated section of the wall in the lobby of the Treasurer's and Assessor's offices. Some of the old wall also makes up part of the old Meyers House on Main Street north of Alameda, now part of the Tucson Museum of Art.

Some years ago, work being down downtown necessitated digging up Alameda Street from Church Avenue west and archeologists unearthed what was probably the Presidio chapel's cemetery. Some of the bones were found to be Spanish soldiers, and others were likely Pima Indians and even Apaches, either killed in one of several raids on the Presidio or among those who converted and joined the burgeoning community around the Presidio. Other digs have revealed many more treasures of the past - pottery shards, metal objects such as uniform buckles and the foundations of the buildings of an earlier day. During the excavation of the Old Courthouse courtyard, later relics of a previous courthouse were found, including an outhouse.

In 1821, following Mexico's independence from Spain, the Presidio raised a new flag. Mano fo the formerly Spanish troops changed their allegiance and became citizens of the new nation to the south. Some of these families have stayed on to this day and their names are familiar to all who drive the old streets or look at the names on local schools.