History of Public School Education in Arizona/Chapter 1


Chapter I.


The territory of the present State of Arizona is embraced within 31° 20′ and 37° north latitude and between 109° 02′ and 114° 45′ west longitude. It covers an area of 113,956 square miles, of which 146 miles are water surface. The part north of the Gila River came into the possession of the United States under the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848, and that south of the Gila as a part of the Gadsden Purchase of 1854. Arizona was at first included in the Territory of New Mexico, and the census of 1860 gives to Arizona County, N. Mex., a total of 1,681 families, representing 6,482 free individuals.

Efforts made to draw the southern section of New Mexico within the boundaries of the Southern Confederacy were defeated, but perhaps hastened the act of February 24, 1863, under which that part of New Mexico west of 109° was organized as a separate Territory. In December of that year the officers that had been sent out to complete the Territorial organization entered the Territory and established the government with Prescott as its first capital.

For the purpose of this study it is hardly necessary to review the more than 300 years of exploration, including the “exploring entradas from the south and east,” that preceded the American occupation. That period can not be characterized as one of settlement or growth. There were a few mission stations in the southern part of the Territory, founded mainly by missionaries who came up from old Mexico and organized religious centers (1687–1828) like San Xavier del Bac, gathered into their fold some of the less savage Indians, and taught them a little of the elements of Christianity and something of secular learning of the more practical kind—farming in particular. Under the influence of the padres the Indians brought large bodies of land into cultivation, sheep and cattle were introduced, comfortable houses were erected, and order and industry to some extent took the place of savagery and sloth.[1]

When the Jesuits were expelled in 1767 the Franciscans took their place, but the missions declined and were finally abandoned in 1828 by order of the Mexican Government. The influence of their teachings was largely lost on the Indians as a race; for the converts remained largely pagan at heart, and the amount of secular learning, in the narrowed use of the term, acquired by them may be regarded as an entirely negligible quantity. Further than this the Spanish missionaries came in contact in the main only with the tribes of the south—the Papagoes and Pimas—sedentary, agricultural, and peaceful Indians; but from the time the Territory was first occupied by the United States down to its organization as a separate self-governing Territory and from that time down to 1874 its history was one of more or less continued Indian wars. Even as late as 1886 the menace was not entirely removed, for in that year occurred Geronimo’s last outbreak. The country in the northeast was occupied by the brave and warlike Navajoes; the central and southern portions by the savage Apaches—brave, fierce, bloodthirsty, and cruel. For the first generation of its American existence the Arizona iliad of Indian horrors was almost unbroken. Indeed during the Civil War period, when the pressure of Confederate arms necessitated the withdrawal of Federal troops, the savage reigned supreme, and the lowest point in civilization since the American occupation was attained.

Prior to the American occupation all the inhabitants of this region were Mexicans and Indians; and all the educational institutions, general in character and purpose, proposed in the past for this country by the Spanish Government had failed of realization.

Thus early as 1777–1789 the founding, of a missionary college, perhaps at El Paso, was ordered by the King and the Pope,[2] but nothing was accomplished. About the same time industrial education was proposed as a remedy for the ills of the country, but this, too, came to naught,[3] and while educational reforms were demanded by Pedro Bautista Pino, the New Mexican representative in the Spanish Cortes of 1812, his efforts were without results.[4]

The less ambitious educational undertakings at the missions, conducted and controlled by the missionaries who came up from Mexico, were a little more successful, but they were intended for the Indians only, and were later abandoned.

Hamilton, in his Resources of Arizona, says:

After the abandonment of the missions, and up to the time of the Gadsden Purchase, there was not a school or educational establishment of any kind within the territory.

There was, however, at least one such school in operation during the earlier years of American dominion, for Gov. Goodwin mentions it in his message to the first assembly in September, 1864. This was the mission of San Xavier del Bac, near Tucson.

McClintock states that a Catholic school was established at Tucson in 1866 under a teacher named Vincent, and that in 1870 the Sisters of St. Joseph organized a girls’ school there and erected buildings.[5] Of this school for girls Hamilton says:

The first regular educational establishment was opened by the Sisters of St. Joseph, in Tucson. For years this was the only school in the Territory, and from many isolated towns and settlements parents sent their children to the Academy of St. Joseph. Although the institution was under the control of the Catholic Church, and the instruction given partook somewhat of a religious character, yet no discrimination was shown.[6]

In view of these conditions, and with the exception of the two schools mentioned above, one of which was for Indians and the other for girls, in matters of education, the men who organized the Territory of Arizona at Navajo Springs in December, 1863, and began laying the foundations for an American public-school system, found among the white settlers of American origin a field practically unoccupied. What, then, was the origin and race of the white settlers and what were the conditions which the advocates of the American public school found in Arizona?

Statistical view of the growth of Arizona’s population, 1860–1910.
Years. White. Colored. Total. Per cent of increase. Population per square mile.
1860 [Table 1]6,842
1870 9,581 26 9,658 0.08
1880[Table 2] 35,160 [Table 3]5,280 40,440 319.75 .35
1890 55,734 [Table 3]32,509 88,243 118.20 .77
1900 92,903 [Table 3]30,028 122,931 39.31 1.08
1910 171,468 [Table 3]32,786 204,354 66.23 1.80
  1. For Arizona County, N. Mex., population not differentiated by color, race, or nativity.
  2. In 1880 this included only the civilized Indians.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Includes Negroes, Indians, Chinese, Japanese.

Statistical view of the sources of Arizona’s population, 1870–1910.
Born in— 1870 1880 1890 1900 1910
New York 481 1,740 1,755 2,324 3,082
Pennsylvania 275 814 1,023 1,672 2,818
Ohio 235 954 1,234 2,100 3,549
California 156 2,177 3,142 5,099 6,101
Missouri 121 921 1,781 3,187 5,206
Illinois 115 688 1,328 2,659 4,700
Texas 114 525 285 4,510 10,139
Kentucky 107 451 700 1,189 2,168
New Mexico 93 1,153 1,274 3,351 4,477
Indiana 69 373 661 1,248 2,289
Tennessee 63 314 579 783 1,578
Arkansas 32 328 441 814 1,542
Utah 1 1,354 2,836 3,152 2,679
Canada (British America) 112 571 732 1,827 1,269
Germany 379 1,110 2,121 1,247 1,846
Great Britain 686 2,312 2,691 3,255 5,836
Mexico 4,339 9,330 11,534 14,172 29,987

From these statistics it is evident that the majority of the people who came to settle in Arizona were from States where the public school was already established, and for that reason, since these settlers had already been indoctrinated with the public school idea, little opposition from them was to be expected. This was also clearly the case with the immigrants from Europe and from Canada. Those who might be expected to show indifference were the Mexican immigrants from old and New Mexico, but experience has since proved that this assumption was erroneous. It would appear that otherwise little opposition was to be expected except such as was founded on physical and financial conditions and on the very pertinent difficulty arising out of the scarcity of children. On this phase of the problem McClintock remarks:

Schools were slow in coming to Arizona, probably because of the absence of children other than Mexican. Few of the pioneers brought families into the Territory. It is probable that most of the pioneers simply had an idea, like the first California adventurers, of “making their pile” and going “home.” Upon the groundwork they laid, however, was established a more permanent civilization, within which schools were a necessity. The first Territorial legislature passed a school code, but there seems to have been only one school, a small private one in Prescott, and that maintained largely by private subscriptions.[7]

  1. Buehman, Estelle M.: Old Tucson (1911), p. 12.
  2. Bancroft's New Mexico and Arizona, San Francisco, 1888, p. 274.
  3. Ibid., p. 278.
  4. Ibid., pp. 289, 304, 307.
  5. McClintock, James H.: History of Arizona, II, 495.
  6. Hamilton, Patrick: Resources of Arizona, 3d ed., 1885, pp. 247–48.
    There was another St. Joseph’s Academy located near the military hospital of Camp Lowell, near Prescott. The building was begun March 19, 1868; finished May 6, 1870; opened June 6, 1870, with 33 pupils; number now in attendance, 210; the building was 120 by 60 feet.—Arizona Miner, Nov. 18, 1824.
  7. McClintock, James H.: Arizona, II, 495.