Arizona History Timeline

Important Dates, Events, and Milestones in Arizona History

Offers a chronological timeline of important dates, events, and milestones in Arizona history.

The land that is present-day Arizona is one of the oldest inhabited areas in the United States. Pueblo people lived on the land and the Hopi village was founded in 1200 AD.

Arizona, the Grand Canyon state, achieved statehood on February 14, 1912, the last of the 48 coterminous United States to be admitted to the union. Arizona was originally part of New Mexico, being ceded to the United States in 1848, and became a separate territory in 1863. Copper was discovered in 1854, and copper mining was Arizona's premier industry until the 1950s. After World War II, the widespread availability of refrigeration and air conditioning caused Arizona's population to boom and Phoenix to become one of the fastest growing cities in America. Arizona is the sixth largest state in the country in terms of area.

16th Century Arizona History Timeline

1527-1536 - Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca, an early Spanish explorer of the New World, and Esteban Dorantes, a Moorish slave, were shipwrecked off the coast of present-day Texas. During their eight-year-long trek to Mexico City, they encountered natives along the way who told them about cities with great riches. Marcos de Niza, a Spanish Franciscan friar, supposed that the stories pertained to the "Seven Cities of C√ƒ¬≠bola."

1528-1821 - Spanish Period

1538-39 - Marcos De Niza led an expedition to find Cibola and took Esteban as his guide. They entered what is now Arizona near the New Mexico border. Continuing northward, they met the people of Zuni in west-central New Mexico who coincidentally did have seven pueblo cities. Estevan was killed by Zuni Indians and Fray Marcos abandoned the mission after visiting only one village, but believed he saw in the distance what appeared to be a city as great as Tenochtitlan, capital of the conquered Aztec empire, shimmering in the sunlight.

1540-42 - Francisco Vasquez de Coronado led a large armored military expedition to take possession of the wealthy city that the monk had described. Coronado claimed all of the land as part of New Spain and conquered the Zuni pueblo. Coronado sent Pedro de Tovar to lead an expedition westward, and they visited the Hopi pueblos. Garcia Lopez de Cardenas left from there in search of a river that the Hopi had spoken about, and was the first European to view the Grand Canyon. Coronado continued eastward on his epic journey, discovering the Rio Grande and continuing as far east as the Great Plains of Kansas.

1558 - Marcos died in disgrace, everyone having blamed him for leading Coronado's army on a fruitless quest.

1598-99 - Juan de Onate, the first governor of Spain's New Mexico territory, led colonists up the Rio Grande and established El Paso del Norte and a fort at Santa Fe.

17th Century Arizona History Timeline

1609 - Santa Fe is established as the capital of New Mexico.

1629 - Franciscans, the first Europeans to live in Arizona, tried to establish missions in the north around the Hopi, but their venture failed.

1680 - A Pueblo rebellion against the Spanish drove the colonists, priests, and soldiers out of New Mexico.

1691 - Father Eusebio Francisco Kino, a Jesuit priest, established Mission Tumacacori, the first European settlement in Arizona.

1692 -

  • Diego de Vargas goes north to reclaim earlier settlements in New Mexico.
  • Father Kino starts work and founds Guevavi mission.

18th Century Arizona History Timeline

1700 - San Xavier del Bac mission (White Dove of the Desert) is founded.

1752 - After many revolts from the Pima and Papago tribes, the first permanent settlement was established in Tubac.

1776 - A Spanish presidio (fort) is built at Tucson.

19th Century Arizona History Timeline

1821 - Mexico gained military control of Arizona. That same year, trappers and traders from the United States came into the area.

1848 - United States won the Mexican War and gained all of Arizona north of the Gila River..

1853 - By Gadsden Purchase, rest of Arizona becomes part of United States.

1854 - Copper is discovered in Arizona.

1857 - First stagecoach in Arizona.

1858 - Gold is discovered on Gila River.

1862 - Chief Cochise and Apaches attack soldiers at Apache Pass, beginning a ten year war with settlers.

1863 - Territory of Arizona is created by Congress, with Prescott as capital.

1864 - Kit Carson captures approximately 7,000 Navajo indians in Canyon de Chelly, forcing them to leave Arizona.

1867- The capital was first established in Prescott, in 1867 changed to Tucson, and was eventually moved in 1889 to Phoenix.

1869 - John Wesley Powell explores the Grand Canyon by boat.

1870 - Population is 9,658

1881 -

  • Railroad crosses state.
  • October 26 - Earp and three of his brothers, together with Doc Holliday, became famous in the O.K. Corral gunfight in 1881, when they killed several suspected cattle rustlers.

1886 - The great Apache Chief Geronimo surrenders to soldiers on September 4. Indian fighting is over.

1880 - Phoenix becomes capital of Arizona Territory.

1889- The capital moved to Phoenix.

20th Century Arizona History Timeline

1900 - Population is 122,931.

1911 - President Roosevelt dedicated a dam that was named after him. The Coolidge Dam, the Bartlett Dam, and the Hoover Dam followed.

1912 - February 14th, Valentines Day, Arizona becomes the 48th State: Capital is Phoenix, first Governor is George W. P. Hunt.

1917 - United States joined World War I against Germany. The Zimmerman Telegram was one reason we joined the war. It was sent from Germany to Mexico, and said that if Mexico helped Germany fight in the war, Mexico would regain Arizona.

1919 - Grand Canyon National Park is founded.

1930 - The planet Pluto is discovered by Clyde Tombaugh at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff.

1936 - Hoover Dam is completed.

1940 - Population is 499,261. Arizona is known as Grand Canyon State.

1948 - Indians obtain the right to vote.

1960 - Population has zoomed to 1,302,161.

1963 - United States Supreme Court decision maintains Arizona's right to large amounts of Colorado river water.

1964 - Barry M. Goldwater, Senator from Arizona, runs for president....but loses.

1965 - Judge Lorna Lockwood is elected as Chief Justice of Arizona State Supreme Court.

1968 -

  • London Bridge (which was falling down) is moved to Lake Havasu City, Arizona.
  • Congress authorizes Central Arizona Project to bring Colorado river water to Phoenix and Tucson.

1974 - US Congress divided the Hopi Reservation between the Hopi and the Navajo Indians.

1975 - Raul H. Castro became the first Mexican American Governor of Arizona.

1981 -

  • Population grows to 2,718,425.
  • Arizona Justice Sandra Day O'Connor becomes the first woman on the United States Supreme Court.

1985 - Central Arizona Project brought more water from the Colorado River by pipeline to Phoenix, and in 1991 to Tucson.

1988 -

  • Governor Evan Mecham becomes the first United States Governor in 59 years to be impeached.
  • Acting Governor Rose Mofford sworn in as the 18th Governor on April 5, the first woman in the state to hold the office.

1991 -

  • Fife Symington elected Governor in special run-off election.
  • Central Arizona Project brought more water from the Colorado River by pipeline to Tucson.

1997 - Secretary of State Jane Hull becomes Governor September 5, 1997, after Fife Symington resigns after being convicted of bank fraud. The conviction was overturned in 1999 and in 2001, President Bill Clinton pardoned him.

 21st Century Arizona Timeline

2001 - The Arizona Diamondbacks beat the New York Yankees in Phoenix, winning the World Series.

2003 - Lori Piestewa is the first woman to die in the Iraq invasion. A member of the Hopi tribe, she's also the first Native American to die in combat. Gov. Janet Napolitano stirs controversy while pushing for Phoenix's Squaw Peak to be renamed Piewstewa Peak, but the change is made.

2011 - Arizona plans a year of events leading to the centennial. Details can be found at

US History Overview
US History Guide
America's history is not static. It's fluid. It changes, grows, becomes richer, and more complex when any individual interacts with it.