Arivaca History

“Compiled from historical timeline by area rancher Fred Noon.”

Pre History

Geological studies of Arivaca show evidence that there was a large body of water held back by a sedimentary or shale dike. The Arivaca townsite is situated on this ancient geological feature, which today still forces water to the surface in the Arivaca Creek. People probably have lived in the area during all the time that water was available.

300 B.C to 1400 AD

The area was inhabited by the Hohokam Indians. Much evidence of their presence has been found


The O’odham (Pima and Papago) Indians, possibly descendants of the Hohokam, had occupied the valley for many years, giving it the name ARIBAC. “Ari” [Ali] means “little” and “vaca” [wahia] refers to a well or a place where water comes up. (it does not mean dry cows.) The early Spaniards recorded the name as Aribac.

Recorded History


Father Eusebio Kino, missionary and explorer, traveled through Aribac and included the vista of San Martin de Aribac on his map of Pimeria Alta.


A silver strike, a few miles south of the present international boundary and known as the “Planchas de Plata’ encouraged prospectors to move north in search of silver and gold.


The Pima Indian uprising against the Spaniards and their missions. A decisive battle was fought in the vicinity on January 6th, 1752.


The Tubac Presidio moved to Tucson after Arivaca was first considered but rejected because of poor water quality and plentiful mosquitoes (both problems now solved)


The Gadsden Purchase puts Arivaca in the United States of America.


Discovery of rich silver ore nine miles northeast of Arivaca became the famous Heintzelman Mine. Tomas and Ignacio Ortiz sold their Aribac Land Grant to the Sonoran Exploring & Mining Company headed by Charles Poston and Samuel Heintzelman. Samuel Colt of revolver fame was an investor. A shipment of books sent by him to the mine was one of the first libraries in Territorial Arizona. A telegraph line from the mine to the smelter near Arivaca was the first in the Territory.


Anglos began to arrive in larger numbers after the Civil War.


Pedro Aguirre makes Arivaca a stop on his stage line from Tucson to Altra, Sonora Mexico.


The first grocery store opens.


During a short-lived mining boom Arivaca became a town. The Arivaca Mining District encompassed the Guijas Mountains. Prominent mine promoters were John McCafferty, John Arey and W.F Witherell.


A Post Office established with Noah Bernard as Postmaster. The post office was once housed at the Mercantile. Mail was brought from Tucson by horse-drawn stages.


Pedro Aguirre, enterprising merchant and freight, built the first schoolhouse in Arivaca at his own expense. It is the oldest standing schoolhouse in the state. Dr. Adolphus Noon arrived from California and for the next 20 years gives medical aid to the residents, while also mining and raising cattle.


A “splendidly equipped stage line” delivers mail and passengers from Tucson.


An Apache Indian attack kills one rancher and wounds another in Bear Valley 15 miles southeast of town. The Indians also raided the Jalisco Ranch to the east, but the rancher and family had already fled after being warned of the danger.


An earthquake rocked Southern Arizona causing cracks in building walls and merchandise to fall off store shelves. The Arivaca area was a huge dust cloud and large slabs of rock broke off Montana Peak near Ruby. The epicenter was in Sonora, Mexico. A smallpox epidemic in Arizona prompted Dr. Noon to vaccinate area residents.


Rand-McNally Altas shows Arivaca population to be 236.


The railroad is completed between Tucson and Nogales. Amado was the new freight and passenger station — mail was delivered to Arivaca via mule-drawn buckboard.


First automobiles begin to arrive in Arivaca including a King 8, a Chalmers Packard, and a Ford.


Arivaca Townsite surveyed for federal patent — granted in 1916.


Connecticut National Guard Cavalrymen arrived in Nogales because of unrest in Mexico. They were stationed for a month in Arivaca while they rode the trails along the border. The Utah Cavalry followed them shortly thereafter. The 10th Cavalry, from Camp Little in Nogales, was stationed at the outpost camp at Arivaca from 1917-1920. Three barracks buildings were erected, a new well and pumping plant installed east of town and a telephone line connected the Army Post to Amado.


The influenza epidemic claimed the lives of 30 area residents.


A severe drought severely reduced cattle herds. The only stock water left was in the valley, which became a boneyard. A bone dealer hauled several truckloads away for processing into bone meal.


The first major improvement of the Arivaca Road was 6 miles of grading and draining between the old Sopori Schoolhouse site and the Cerro Colorado Mine using horse-drawn dirt scrapers and prairie plows.


The Eagle Pitcher Co. of Joplin, MO began development of the Montana Mine at Ruby providing jobs for area residents. Dr. J.H. Woodward, the company physician, was available to everyone.


The State Health Department investigated the mosquito problem in the valley after two cases of malaria were reported. Gambusia fish were planted in the ponds and sloughs. They have thrived and provided protection from mosquitoes to the present day.


Arivaca had a population of 66 people according to the Arivaca Briefs newspaper.


Arivaca Mercantile store was gutted by fire. Within hours, the post office was reestablished with equipment from the abandoned Ruby Post Office. Trico Electric Cooperative power line arrived in the valley uplifting Arivaca from the dark ages into modern times.


December rains of over 8″ caused the earthen dam of Arivaca Lake to collapse and flood the Cienega. A concrete dam now holds back the lake.
Arivaca Lake


Arivaca Ranch sold 11,000 acres to a land developer who subdivided the land into 40-acre parcels.


The dirt Arivaca Road was paved.

1980s & 90s

The many new residents in the area, a result of available homesites, together with the old residents of the townsite were witnesses to a new chronology of events, which included the formation of a medical clinic, fire department, art council, human resource office, community center and public library gained through the efforts of the local populace.


Tightening of border security brought a new era of highly visible law enforcement with its pros and cons.


TS Quarter Horses as well as Emerge Supplements arrive in Arivaca. Lets see what the future holds (-:

I want to give a big THANK YOU to Maggie Milinovitch, owner of The CONNECTION, in publication since 1983, for giving me permission to copy this information from the Arivaca Visitor’s Guide. Also thank you to Maggie for allowing me to use her image of the Arivaca Lake. This article is a contributed by Fred Noon & Mary Noon Kasulaitis. THANK YOU!!!!

Be sure to check back as I will be posting more about Arivaca and the area surrounding it.

If you are in the area be sure to check out the Caviglia-Arivaca ~ Pima County Public Library which offers you the following:

  • WiFi access on the patio plus public computer/internet access
  • Resources on Arivaca History
  • Information on local flora and fauna
  • Picnic areas
    • They are open Tuesday and Wednesday 11-8,
      Thursdays 10-6
      Friday 11-5
      Saturday 9-5
      Closed on Sundays and Mondays. (520) 594-5235