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Street Smarts: 'Well, I hardly knew what to think of the place' was Tucsonan's first impression
Street Smarts

Street Smarts: 'Well, I hardly knew what to think of the place' was Tucsonan's first impression

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The journey to her new home in Tucson took Annie Hughes a month.

Annie was born around 1838 to Samuel and Elizabeth (Edwards) Hughes, farmers from Pembrokeshire, Wales, who left their homeland in 1837 to find a better life in America. Annie was one of 10 children.

In 1874, she left her home in Pittsburgh, and ventured to Lawrence, Kan., where she had some family. Soon after, she joined Hiram S. Stevens in Lawrence with the goal of reaching Arizona. Traveling by train she described the voyage: “We left Lawrence… (and) until we arrived in Denver, Colorado, saw nothing but prairie and sky, and a lot of buffalo... and the little antelope were trying to get ahead of the train, not a house or farm was seen, only a station now and then.” The next stop was Cheyenne, Wyo., then onto California. From San Diego she traveled by buckboard wagon to Tucson.

In 1926, reminiscing about her first impression of Tucson so many years before, Annie Hughes wrote, “Well, I hardly knew what to think of the place ... it was like some of the old pictures I saw in an old Bible, mud houses like the Israelites used to make.” She stayed for a few days with her brother Sam Hughes and his wife, Atanacia (Santa Cruz) Hughes, and their four children. Of the visits she wrote, “I was happy with the children as they were so perfectly grand. I thought their language was soothing, and I got to think that there is nothing more beautiful than the Spanish language.”

In 1875, she traveled with her brother Thomas and his wife, Elena (Martinez) Hughes, to Fort Bowie, where Thomas became the fort sutler (civilian merchant). She loved to hear the bugler at the fort play reveille and always left her door open for that purpose. After eight months the Hughes family returned to Tucson with a military escort.

Next, she moved in with her brother Louis C. Hughes, founder of the Arizona Daily Star, spending two years in his home. For the next 18 years, she lived with brother Sam, whose family had grown to eight children, for whom she helped care.

In 1893, Elena died, leaving Thomas to take care for their nine children alone. Soon after, Annie moved in with her brother to help care for his little ones.

For entertainment during her years in Tucson, she attended many dances at Fort Lowell and the downtown Levins Park.

Annie Hughes died in 1927 in California, at age 89. She had lived in Tucson for about 50 years.

On Oct. 23, 1903, Thomas Hughes recorded with Pima County his subdivision McKinley Park, (named for President William McKinley, who had nominated him for postmaster of Tucson), including Annie Avenue, in honor of his sister Annie Hughes.

He died in 1907, and on Dec. 7, 1911, his brother Sam Hughes rerecorded the subdivision, changing Annie Avenue to Anita Avenue. Anita (Spanish for Annie) was a nickname given to Annie Hughes by Elena Hughes, her sister-in-law. McKinley Park, in time, became Barrio Anita, taking its name from Anita Avenue.

Note: The 1903-04 Tucson City Directory shows an Anita Street that had recently become part of Ninth Street. It’s possible that Thomas Hughes didn’t originally call the street in his subdivision Anita Avenue to avoid confusion with Anita Street.


Special thanks to Wendy Hobbs and Max Crowell of the Rincon Rotary Club.

Interview with Richard Hughes (Great-nephew of Annie Hughes).

Annie Hughes, autobiography file at the Arizona Historical Society.

Regina Kelly, et al, “Visions of Barrio Anita,” Tucson Pima Arts Council, 1998.

Kitty Ehrenstrom, “Elena Hughes Killed Apaches With Lard,” Arizona Daily Star, unknown date (Richard Hughes family archives).

U.S. Congress, “Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States of America,” Government Printing Office, 1909 (pg. 588).

ASU website:

Pima County plat maps MP02001 & MP03026.

1903-04 Tucson City Directory.

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