The street named after Solomon Warner may be small, but his impact on Tucson was large.
Warner was born to Jacob and Gertrude (Kennedy) Warner, on Feb. 8, 1811, near a town now known as Warner-
ville, New York.
He left his birthplace in 1837 and like Mark Twain he worked on river boats on the Mississippi River for a time before drifting to California at the inception of the Gold Rush. A couple of years later, in 1851, he sailed to Panama and then to Nicaragua, staying there for two years before returning to California.
In 1855, he worked as a mason at Fort Yuma, on the California side of the Colorado River. The following year, after obtaining a stock of goods from George F. Hooper & Company in Yuma, he brought it to Tucson by mule train. He arrived on Feb. 29, 1856, and opened the first store in town to sell American-made merchandise on March 10. The store was on Main Street, just north of Pennington Street, across from the old Cosmopolitan Hotel.
The wagon trains that carried Warner’s merchandise were commonly attacked by Apaches. In 1870, he was attacked near Fort Crittenden, near Sonoita. He was shot three times in his right arm, breaking the arm near the shoulder, and an arrow hit his left wrist.
During the Civil War, he refused to take an oath of loyalty to the Confederacy and had to leave his store and goods in the hands of Confederate Capt. Sherod Hunter. He headed to Santa Cruz, Mexico, and married a wealthy Mexican widow. He returned after the Confederate troops had left.
On Oct. 17, 1874, he obtained the right of way for a water ditch across the “Mission Gardens,” in a contract with Bishop John Baptist Salpointe, “for a mill that the said party of the second part intends building.” His mill, which was set up in early 1875 and lasted until the 1880s when the venture was abandoned, bore the name Mission Flouring Mill but is commonly referred to as Warner’s Mill. The remains exist today at the bottom of “A” Mountain, and the house just north of the remains, Warner’s old house, is now a private residence.
Warner had one son who he adopted in 1871, John Solomon Warner, (born Francisco Luges) who was postmaster at Redington, , in 1899 when Warner died. Some descendants still live in Tucson today. Actor Paul Harvey played Solomon Warner in the 1940 movie “Arizona.”
The first record of the existence of Warner Street (sometimes referred to as Warner Alley) is in the 1872 S.W. Foreman survey of Tucson. The street still exists without the name, to the immediate west of the Pima County building at 150 W. Congress St. downtown.