The Challenge of Preserving History in the Face of Untruths

Latter-day Saints in Tucson
By: Catherine Ellis

Whether intentional or not, sometimes facts can get in the way of a good story. This was something author Catherine Ellis discovered in researching her book, Latter-day Saints in Tucson. She recounts her experience in this guest author blog post...

 In 2013, Arcadia published my book, Latter-day Saint in Tucson. I tried very hard to make all the statements accurate, but I did not overtly correct one error in the reminiscences that provided information. I simply left this statement out. My mistake! The recent Tucson LDS Cultural Celebration (for the dedication of the Tucson LDS Temple) has finally made me address this problem.

In 1900, Edna Bingham Sabin, as a five-year-old, came to Tucson with her parents, Nephi and Elizabeth Bingham.They settled along the Rillito near Fort Lowell. This area, later known as Binghampton, was separate from Tucson then, with several miles of desert between the two areas. Today both areas are part of the metropolis of Tucson.

Late life, Edna wrote a great history of these early settlers. However, in describing the area she said, "Tucson wasn't very large at that time. It has one street called Congress Street, not paved, two grocery stores; Ivancovich, and Wheeler & Perry. The dry goods stores were Rosy's and La Bananza and there was a watering trough for the horses."

Although Edna Sabin's statement, "Tucson wasn't very large at that time," could have been said about Binghampton, it unfortunately does not apply to Tucson proper. No city in Arizona had paved streets in 1900, and every town had a watering trough for horses. For example, Phoenix in 1910 had only graded dirt roads, some with gravel and some with oil to control the dust. The first paved streets were in January 1912.

Using this statement devalues the long and varied history of Tucson. In 1900 it had a population of 7, 531, and by 1910 the population had nearly doubled (13,913). Tucson was the largest city in the territory of Arizona and was the commercial and railroad center of the state. It also had the beginnings of a university, the only university in the territory.

Here is a timeline of some important pre-1900 events in Tucson:

1853 - Tucson officially became part of the United States with the Gadsden Purchase

1863 - merchants Tully and Ochoa began serving Tucson

1866 - L. Zechendorf opened store

1869 - St. Augustine Church built 1878 - newspaper in Spanish

1879 - Arizona Daily Star (English newspaper) began

1879 - Presbyterian Church built

1880 - Southern Pacific Railroad began serving Tucson

1880 - St. Mary's Hospital built

1891 - University of Arizona began

1898 - Cathedral of St. Augustine built

Three panoramic photos (from the Library of Congress) provide a glimpse of Tucson in 1909. The first shows the area around Tucson, the second shows the city proper, and the third shows buildings on the University of Arizona campus.

Of course, absolutely great photos can be seen in Arcadia's Tucson books, Tucson, Arizona; Early Tucson; Tucson Mountains; Arizona State Museum; Southern Arizona Military Outposts; etc., all of which I would recommend. 

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