A Look at Arizona's Past provided by an Arizona Land Surveying Company

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This weeks Look at Arizona's Past...

Chapter 121 - From #18 ; THERE are places in Arizona, when the sun is shining where a man may go coatless with comfort in mid-winter. There are other places in the state where the camper-out, if he would keep the shivers from his back, must have an evening fire throughout the entire summer. These extremes in temperature are caused by differences in altitude, and as in the lowest altitudes the rainfall is not over five inches for the entire year, and in places in the mountains it is five or six times that amount, the variations in plant life are even more striking than the climatic differences.

Topographically, Arizona falls naturally into three distinct physical divisions. The southwestern part of the state is, for the most part, a flat desert, out of which gaunt mountains rise, whose rocky surfaces, save where cacti or hardy shrubs find footing in fissures in the sandstone or lava rock, are devoid of vegetation. In the northern part of the state there is a plateau, averaging in height about a mile above sea level, with mountains here and there, whose snow-capped peaks reach an elevation of twelve thousand feet. Between these two extremes comes the foothill country.

Each of these divisions has its own particular flora, and included among its trees, shrubs, grasses, flowers and even ferns are nearly 3,000 species of plants, representing almost every plant family in our large country. Some of these have been recognized quickly as worthy of places in our yards, gardens and conservatories, and in time many others, through merit, are sure to find their way into cultivation to become a help to mankind. There is almost no season of the year when one can not find flowers somewhere in Arizona.

On the low, desert floor to the south, in order to maintain existence, plant life must ever protect itself both against the hot, dry, scorching air that would wring from it the little water it obtains from the infrequent rains, and animals that in a country of sparse vegetation seem ready to consume almost anything that grows.

The methods the different plants take in their struggle for existence are full of interest. Some of the cacti store water in their thick, stalky trunks or fleshy stems, others in bulbous roots. Several of the shrubs have varnished leaves, which greatly lessens evaporation, and on nearly all of the trees there is a greatly reduced leaf surface.

The protection the desert plant has against animals is equally efficacious, though botanists tell us that desert conditions are largely responsible for their characteristic growth. Examine almost anything that grows on the desert, whether it be shrub, cactus or tree, and you will find that it bristles with thorns or spikes that say to the marauder, "Beware! Disturb me at your peril!"

Perhaps the most characteristic growth to be found on the desert floor is the creosote bush, though it is found to some extent on mesas and in the foothills. It stands any amount of heat, and covers much of the country from the mountains, south and west, beyond the borders of the state. The bush is about five feet in height, and its small, varnished, glossy leaves feel sticky to the touch. Always attractive in appearance, it is at its best in March and April, when it is covered with little yellow flowers, followed later by white, fluffy seed balls.

Except after winter or early spring rains, the ground between the bushes is wholly bare, the brown, hard soil looking sterile enough, yet when the seeds which lie within its hard crust are quickened by rains, myriads of flowers and grasses spring into life to bloom and seed before the scorching sun of summer shall end the short cycle of their existence.

With seasonable rains in the winter and spring the barren foothills and semi-desert areas of southern and western Arizona are carpeted with a wealth of golden poppies, purple phacelias, blue covenas and larkspurs, orange and yellow mariposa lilies and bright flowered gaillardias and paintbrushes. Usually these form a mosaic broken here and there, though in more favorable locations they grow in vast beds, where the poppies and mariposa lilies give their colors of gold and orange to the landscape for miles along the foothills. Other flowers less in evidence at this season are tidy tips, cream cups, anemones, desert stars, daisies, borages, fairy dusters, gilias, wild flax, evening primroses and desert holly. There are more than two hundred of these early blooming flowers, most of them small annuals, growing and flourishing during the cool, moist weather of late winter and spring.

All through the desert country and foothills, up to three thousand feet, among characteristic desert growths rises the giant cactus, which the Arizonan calls the "suhuaro" and the botanist the "Cereus giganteus." Nothing within the borders of Arizona is more picturesque or striking than these sentinels of the plains, which rear their fluted columns to a height of from thirty to fifty feet. Their few branches, thick and sturdy, rise candelabra-like close along the sides of the parent stalk, and, like it, are protected with little rosettes of thorns. During May and June handsome white, wax-like flowers form at its crown, and from these grow oval fruits with crimson flesh and black seeds. This great tree of a cactus is unique among plants, and its blossom was well chosen as the State Flower of Arizona. Woodpeckers make holes high up on the trunks of the suhuaro for nests, afterwards these holes are often used by the tiny elf owl.

About The Historical Texts

Following is the list of uncopyrighted publications used for the History of Arizona and the Southwest. All can be easily found on-line in PDF format. Sorted by publication date they are:

  1. The Memoir of the Proposed Territory of Arizona - 1857 | By Sylvester Mowry
  2. Arizona and Sonora - 1863 | By Sylvester Mowry
  3. The Territory of Arizona_1874 | By Arizona Legislative Assembly
  4. Resources of Arizona - 1881 | By Arizona Legislative Assembly
  5. The History of Arizona and New Mexico, Volume 17 - 1889 - (Arizona Portion) | By Hubert Howe Bancroft
  6. Titan of Chasms the Grand Canyon - 1906 | By C.A. Higgins, J.W. Powell, Chas.F.Lumins
  7. Reminiscences of a Soldiers Wife - 1907 - (Arizona Portion) | By Ellen McGowan Biddle
  8. The First Through the Grand Canyon - 1915 | By Major John Wesley Powell
  9. The History of Arizona, Volume 1 - 1915 (starting Chapter VII) | By Thomas Edwin Farish
  10. The History of Arizona, Volume 2 - 1915 | By Thomas Edwin Farish
  11. The History of Arizona, Volume 3 - 1916 | By Thomas Edwin Farish
  12. The History of Arizona, Volume 4 - 1916 | By Thomas Edwin Farish
  13. The History of Arizona, Volume 5 - 1918 | By Thomas Edwin Farish
  14. The History of Arizona, Volume 6 - 1918 | By Thomas Edwin Farish
  15. The History of Arizona, Volume 7 - 1918 | By Thomas Edwin Farish
  16. The History Of Arizona, Volume 8 - 1918 | By Thomas Edwin Farish
  17. Arizona the Wonderland - 1917 | By George Wharton James
  18. The Story of Arizona - 1919 | By Will H. Robinson

The majority of the publications listed here were written with the intent to be historically accurate. This is not an attempt to make a point of historical fact by providing this information. It is intended to simply share what is documented about the American Southwest, primarily on the Arizona Territorial area.

There are no living people to speak for the time period related here. We must use recorded information to look into that era. The point-of-view of today is different from those living then. The intent here is not to provide an opinion. If one spends time reading the material listed, it will be enlightening as to life in the untamed Territory of Arizona as it was in the minds of the people of at that era.

Regarding the stories of the all of people in the Territory of Arizona it can bring out all emotions. From sympathy to anger and sadness to admiration, you will feel something. It is difficult to imagine what it would be like to be living here, or traveling through, at different times in the past. It is hopeful that all will find a least find some amusement looking through the window of the past provided here.

A little about the Arizona Land Surveyors of yester-year

It was a rough life for the Land Surveyor of yester-year. The Survey party that was sent out then consisted of a large crew. Usually between 5-7 men. There was a head Land Surveyor along with a couple of Land Surveyor trainees which pulled the chain. The chain was an actual 66 foot long chain, with 100 links, used to measure distance. It looks similar to what holding the flags at the base of the page. There were laborers to help clear trees and brush out of the way. Given the crude equipment of the time, it is amazing how accurate some of the old Land Surveyor's measurements were.

Land Surveying in Arizona Started in 1866. From a report in 1867 by Joseph S. Wilson, Commissioner of the General Land Office : "A contract was entered into with Deputy Surveyor William H. Pierce on the 15th day of December, 1866, for the survey in Arizona of 96 miles of the Gila and Salt River Meridian; 36 miles of the base line and standard and exterior township boundary lines, to amount in the aggregate to a sum not exceeding $7,500. Mr. Pierce completed the survey of the meridian from the initial corner north 24 miles, the base line from the same corner east 36 miles, and the first standard parallel north along the south boundary of township 5 north, east 42 miles, and west 42 miles, when the military protection which had been furnished him was withdrawn, and he was compelled to quit the field, the Indians infesting the country, rendering it unsafe and impracticable to continue the work without military escort. At his request, and by your order, Mr. Pierce has been released from further obligation to prosecute the work under his contract."

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Our Weekly Look into the Past of Arizona...

Chapter 121 - From #18 ; THERE are places in Arizona, when the sun is shining where a man may go coatless with comfort in mid-winter. There are other places in the state where the camper-out, if he would .........Continue to complete Chapter

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