William S. Oury spent his childhood in Virginia, but he made a name for himself in Texas and ultimately became an important figure in Tucson's early history.
Oury was born to Augustus and Katherine (Sanders) Oury on Aug. 13, 1817 in Abingdon, Va. In 1833, his family moved to Pike County, Mo.
The following year he was in Texas and became connected with the independence movement. On Feb. 23, 1836, he reached the Alamo at San Antonio, but was sent as a courier to Gen. Sam Houston one week later, a few days before the Battle of the Alamo. He fought with Houston in the decisive battle of the Texas War of Independence, the Battle of San Jacinto, on April 21, 1836.
In 1839 he joined the Texas Rangers, taking part in several skirmishes with Comanches. In 1845 he enrolled in the 1st Texas Mounted Rifles and fought in the Mexican-American War. In September 1849 he married Inez Garcia in Durango, Mexico. They traveled to San Francisco to join the Gold Rush and stayed in California until 1856 with very little financial success.
He and his family went by wagon from Sacramento to Tucson, arriving just two years after Southern Arizona had been sold to the United States by Mexico in the Gadsden Purchase. In 1857 he acquired a small ranch on the Santa Cruz River and was appointed as Butterfield Stage agent for Tucson. In 1859, he and Sylvester Mowry bought the Arizonian newspaper of Tubac from Edward Cross for $2,500 and moved it to Tucson.
He was appointed mayor of Tucson by Gov. John Noble Goodwin on May 11, 1864.
In 1871, Oury - along with Jesus M. Elías (some sources say it was his brother Juan N. Elías) and Francisco Galerita, the chief of the Tohono O'odham at San Xavier - led a force of 92 Tohono O'odham Indians, 48 Mexican-Americans and six European-Americans in a retaliatory attack against the Aravaipa Apache, in which 85 to 125 Aravaipa Apaches were killed. It came to be called the Camp Grant Massacre.
Oury served as sheriff of Pima County from 1873 to 1877.
He and Inez had three children: Frank, Dolores (Lola) and Louise.
William Oury died in Tucson on March 31, 1887.
Thomas Hughes Sr. named Oury Street in honor of William and Granville Oury in 1903 when he recorded his subdivision, McKinley Park - now called Barrio Anita. Between the I-10 and Barrio Anita is David G. Herrera and Ramon Quiroz Park, which was originally named Oury Park in 1931. It changed names in 2001.
Each week Street Smarts tells the stories behind Tucson street names. If you have streets to suggest or stories to share, contact writer David Leighton at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sources: Cornelius C. Smith, Jr., "William Sanders Oury: History-Maker of the Southwest," The University of Arizona Press, 1967 Regina Kelly, "Visions of Barrio Anita," Tucson Pima Arts Council, 1998 Dan Thrapp, "Encyclopedia of Frontier Biography," Arthur H. Clark Co., 1988 C.L. Sonnichsen, "Tucson: The Life and Times of an American City," University of Oklahoma Press, 1982 William S. Oury (Hayden Biofile: ASU Library) William B. Kessel & Robert Wooster, "Encyclopedia of Native American Wars and Warfare," Facts on File Pub., 2005 Howard M. Gabbert, "Ethnic Cleansing in Arizona: The Camp Grant Massacre of 1871," Copper State Journal, Summer 1999 Oury Park Info: www.library.pima.gov/librarianfiles/?kbid=221