Patricia Grady Cox
February 20, 2019
We celebrate the birthdays of Presidents Washington and Lincoln in February. Schools close, some of us get a day off from work, and the stores advertise big sales. Today I want to remember another big February birthday: The State of Arizona!
When President Taft signed a Declaration of Statehood on February 14th in 1912, Arizona became the last of the contiguous 48 states allowed into the Union, Sometimes it’s good to be last—it gives a claim to fame. What can New Mexico say about being the next-to-the-last state? That doesn’t hold much allure (no offense—I love New Mexico).
Opinions vary as to what kept Arizona a territory for so long. Resident politicians had been agitating for statehood status since the 1860s. Of course, the territory had a reputation for lawlessness. An example would be Tombstone or Stanton or, let’s be honest, just about anywhere. And outbreaks of violence between unreasonable landowners probably didn’t help pleas for statehood. The feud between the Tewskburys and the Grahams would be a good example. Known as the Pleasant Valley War, it raged for over a decade, leaving at least twenty dead by 1897. Depredations by renegade Apache continued into the late 1880s.
But the territory slowly showed signs of becoming more refined. The cities of Prescott and Phoenix and Tucson had each served as the capital and continued to grow as population hubs. Copper mines, large ranches, and irrigated farming all brought a civilized sort of prosperity. The University of Arizona established itself in Tucson in 1885.
However, my theory is that the completion of the Theodore Roosevelt Dam, 75 miles northeast of Phoenix, offered the final proof that Arizona had grown up and become a settled, well-organized community, capable of creating massive public works projects and cultivating a vision for the future. Is it a coincidence that President Roosevelt dedicated his name-sake dam in March of 1911, and statehood granted less than a year later?
While I’m on the subject of February birthdays, there are two more notable ones. My brother was born on Ground Hog Day, and his lovely wife on Valentine’s Day (a date she shares with Arizona). Happy Birthday, Dennis and Maryanne!
I welcome you to visit my webpage at http://www.patriciagradycox.com/ There you can find information on my novels and short stories (excerpts, reviews, and awards). You will also find a button to join my e-mail list and received a free PDF download of my anthology, Ramblings.