There are many books about Tucson history, but the newest one on the scene is a spinoff of another, seemingly unrelated, project.
John P. Warnock, professor emeritus of English at the University of Arizona, has been working on a five-volume project that is a memoir of his education combined with an education about nuclear weapons and the arms race from 1939-1989.
As he worked on it, he developed an extensive chronology that included Tucson events and which took on a life of its own, as he puts it.
Warnock had a new project. “Tucson: A Place-Making” was published in 2016 as volume 58, number 3, a special issue of the Journal of the Southwest, put out by the Southwest Center.
With some updates, it will soon be published as a book, “Tucson: A Drama in Time.” The chronology begins about 1 million years ago and ends in 2014 with the notation, “To be continued,” because, of course, Tucson isn’t throwing in the towel any time soon.
Warnock says that when he is out and about and people learn of his book and chronology, most have a story to tell of their family connection to the history of Tucson.
Warnock’s book is a history of the people of Tucson, the land, the cultures that made it and the community it was and has become.
Warnock has great praise for the Southwest Center and its mission. The center is part of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Arizona. It facilitates and sponsors research on the Southwest, publishing that research, and outreach and education.
Excerpts from “Tucson: A Drama in Time”
Most of us know Tucson was “born” Aug. 20, 1775, when the presidio was started. But the presidio didn’t just spring up. Before it was completed with adobe walls in 1783, it was the sight of two battles.
1775 August 20
On the east bank of the Santa Cruz, across the river from where the San Agustín Mission Church will be built at the foot of Sentinel Peak, Spanish Commandant Inspector General Hugo O’Conor founds the presidio “San Agustín de Toixón” as part of a campaign that has been ordered by the viceroy of New Spain to fortify the northern border from the Gulf of California to the Gulf of Mexico. The wood palisades that are erected at first are replaced by adobe walls starting in 1777, a job that is completed in 1783. The walls are 10 to 12 feet high and 3 feet wide at the base (before the rain erodes them). The walls of the presidio are said to have run along Washington Street on the north, Church Street on the east, Pennington Street on the south and Main Avenue on the west (current street names). Each side of the presidio will be about 750 feet long, with gates in the west and east walls, about where Alameda Street is now. Inside the presidio along the east wall a church (also named for San Agustín) and cemetery will later be built, with the commandant’s house in the center. The interior walls are lined with homes, barracks, stables, and warehouses. In the center of the presidio will be an open space called Plaza de las Armas. By 1779, the armas on the post include four bronze cannon for which 66 balls are available and enough powder that the captain could sell some to the settlers.
1779 November 6
Allande (Capt. Pedro Allande y Saabedra) has recruited Pimas, Papagos, and Gileños to serve as soldiers in campaigns against the Apaches. While the adobe walls of the presidio are being built but before they are finished, the First Battle of Tucson takes place between the presidio’s soldiers and Apaches. Not much is known about the battle, but it does represent a change in the Apaches’ typical practice of raiding.
1782 May 1
With the adobe walls not finished, the Second Battle of Tucson takes place, in which Allande’s soldiers defeat an even larger force of Apaches (Allande says 600) who this time come in from the north and surprise the presidio. In a change from their raiding tactics, they made a concerted and almost successful effort to breach the still-open entrance. Allande himself, despite a serious wound in his leg, with a few other defenders, manages to fight them off.