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  1. Tubac, located in Santa Cruz County and settled in 1752 as a Spanish presidio, was the first and oldest European settlement in Arizona. The name of this little town is an English bastardization of the Spanish name, Tubaca, which in itself is a bastardization of the O'odham name of Cuwak, which translates into English as the word “rotten.” The town has a long history of violence being committed upon its residents by both raiding Apaches and rogue Mexican banditos. It was also one of the few places in the southwest where a Confederate flag flew during the American Civil War. Tubac’s most famous resident of Spanish descent was Juan Bautista de Anza, who built the chapel of Santa Gertrudis. The foundations of this building now sit underneath St. Anne’s Church. There is plenty of material out there written about the history of the town, so the focus of this article will be on some of the people and incidents of Tubac. In the Arizona Weekly Star (Tucson, AZ) dated September 26, 1878 we read about Sabino Otero and his visit to the Paris, France exhibition…. “Sabino Otero, of Tubac, arrived from the Paris exhibition last week, having been absent from the territory several months. He was born in Tubac, and had never been outside the territory. He has seen many grand sights, on his trip, and now knows more of the world, but is content to remain at home, which he considers the best place after all.” Sabino Otero was born at Tubac in 1844, to parents Manuel Otero and Clara Martinez. His death certificate gives a birth date of December 30, 1842. Sabino was the great-grandson of Toribio Otero, who, in 1787, had been granted property by the King of Spain, to build a home and farm plots, making the Oteros the First Family of Tubac. In 1861, during the Civil War, Tubac was briefly under the control of the Confederacy, but since neither side in the war stepped up to offer protection to the town Tubac soon found itself under constant attack by Apaches. The 19 year old Sabino, now the official head of his family, feared for their lives and safety, so packed his family up and moved them across the border to Buzani. It is claimed that at this time Sabino had a wife named Concepcion and a son named Manuel. The family returned in 1870, and Sabino soon began to build a cattle empire that would grow into thousands of head of cattle, earning him the esteemed title of “Cattle King of Arizona.” In the 1870 census, we see him listed as the head of his household, with occupation listed as farmer. It appears that his mother and his siblings were all reliant upon him to support the family. Family members listed in his household include his mother Clara and the following siblings… Francisca, Gabriela, Fernando, Theofilo, Anna & Brijida. It appears that Fernando and Anna were twins. Sabino was responsible for helping to found St. Mary’s hospital in Tucson, which sits on land that he donated for the cause. He was also fundamental in helping the Sisters of Carondelet to found the orphanage. His sister Gabriela later joined the order as a nun. Sabino died on January 22, 1914, cause of death listed as Cirrhosis of the liver. He died in Tucson, Arizona and is buried at Holy Hope cemetery. His death certificate lists his marital status as “single,” and not widowed. Sabino_Otero_death.pdf From the March 6, 1887 edition of the Tombstone Daily Epitaph (Tombstone, AZ) we learn that someone had it in for T. Lillie Mercer, who was postmaster of Tubac at one time… “Sometime Thursday night, an unknown person blew up the store and dwelling house of T. Lillie Mercer at Tubac. Everything in the building was destroyed and all of his goods were ruined. Giant powder was the substance used. It is generally supposed that the party who placed the giant powder under the premises, also set the house on fire, as it was burned to the ground with all of his household effects. The inmates barely escaped with their lives.” T. Lillie Mercer was born in 1841 at Connecticut, with the full name of Thomas Lillie Mercer, a son of Scottish immigrants, James & Dorothia Mercer. By 1850 the family have moved and settled at Abington, Massachusetts, and before 1855 the family had moved again, this time to Cambridge, Massachusetts. Thomas had fought in the Civil War, enlisting with Co. D 45th Regiment of Massachusetts. Historical accounts state that T. Lillie Mercer showed up in Tubac about 1876, coming down through Prescott. Upon arrival in Tubac he purchased the Miner’s Hotel and a store from Sabino Otero. The August 12, 1876 edition of the Arizona Citizen newspaper announces the arrival of T. Lillie Mercer, a recent arrival from Boston, Massachusetts. It is believed that he is the same “Mercer” who, in April 1877, sent a letter to the New York Herald in an effort to scare off Capitalists from coming to the Territory. By all accounts the people of Tubac were very angry with this letter writer who, at a time when the people of the territory were seeking new money and relief from unemployment, seemed to be doing his best to prevent this much needed financial relief. This was the same month and year in which he was appointed as postmaster. In 1879 Thomas Lillie Mercer was a made a Justice of the Peace for Tubac, and on July 26, 1883 he married Isabella “Reta” Newton at Tucson. The St. Johns Herald newspaper, dated September 8, 1892 informs us that a judgement was found against T. Lillie Mercer, and the deputy sheriff had to confiscate and sell off Mercer’s cattle in order to satisfy a debt to pay a Mr. Wolfe. In the April 27, 1893 edition of the same newspaper there is a small mention about the Santa Rita Land & Cattle Company trying to evict T. Lillie Mercer from his grant of land. Santa Rita lost and Mercer was allowed to continue living on his land grant. In 1893 T. Lillie Mercer filed a claim for an invalid’s pension based on his service during the Civil War. In May 1893 Mercer was the publisher and editor of the Daily Nogales newspaper. One year later the May 17, 1894 edition of the St. Johns Herald informs us of the death of T. Lillie Mercer. In 1895 his wife Isabella filed a widow’s claim for Mercer’s Civil War pension, and then in 1905 his daughter Kate filed a minor’s claim on his pension. T. Lillie Mercer and Sabino Otero worked together to make sure a school was opened up in Tubac to educate the local children. This school still stands as a testimony of their dedication to the betterment of the town. Of course, not all who settled in Tubac would live a long, prosperous life. Underwood C. Barnett, born in Arkansas about 1833, married Laura Ellen Pennington on April 28, 1867, in Arizona Territory. They had two known children, an unnamed daughter who was born in 1868 and died by 1869 and a son named James who was born in late 1869. Underwood was a Legislator for Yavapai county for a period of time. Laura was a daughter of Elias Pennington and his wife Julia Ann Hood. The Pennington family were the first whites to settle in the Arizona Territory. A brief newspaper blurb in the Weekly Journal Miner (Prescott, AZ), dated July 17, 1869, gives us a glimpse into what will be just the beginning of this young family’s tragic story… “The many friends of U.C. Barnett, formerly of Walnut Grove, in this county, but now of Tubac, Pima County, will be pleased to learn that he intends to return here, with his family, at an early day. In a recent letter to us, he speaks of the recent murder, by Apaches, of his father-in-law and brother-in-law, Mr. Pennington and son, accounts of which have been published in the Miner. He also informs us that Major Stickney and Mr. Richardson were living at Tubac, and that much sickness prevailed in his portion of Pima.” Laura’s brother James had been killed the previous year, in August 1868, by Apaches. Then, in June of 1869 her father Elias and brother Green were also ambushed and killed by Apaches on the warpath. This excerpt from the book The Penningtons, Pioneers Of Early Arizona: A Historical Sketch (1919) by Robert Humphrey Forbes sums up the tale… In June of 1869 Elias Pennington and his son Green Pennington were killed by Apaches while working on their farm about fourteen miles south of Fort Crittenden. Elias was plowing, with his rifle slung to his plow handles, while Green was repairing an irrigating ditch some distance away. Just after Elias had turned his back on his land, the Apache Indians in ambush shot him down from behind. Green might have escaped, but not knowing his father was dead, remained to fight off the Apaches. He was mortally hurt, but finally reached the ranch house where he remained until rescued by cavalry from the fort, to which the alarm had been carried meantime. Green and his father's body, were brought to the Fort, where eight days later the young man died. Both were buried in the same cemetery near Fort Buchanan, Arizona. Mr. Sidney R. DeLong, then quartermaster of the Fort, read the burial service over them.” The family’s bad luck continued when, five months later, Underwood C. Barnett died suddenly on November 29th, 1869, from chronic dysentery. His obituary in the Weekly Arizona Miner provides us with more information… “DEATH OF U. C. BARNETT.- The many friends of U.C. Barnett, will learn with sorrow that he departed this life, at Tubac, Pima county, Nov. 29, 1869. Deceased was well and favorably known all over the Territory. He was twice elected to the Legislature- once from this county, and once from Pima county- and served in the Legislatures in 1866-1867. He formerly resided at Walnut Grove, in this county. He was a native of Arkansas, and aged about 37. He leaves a wife and child to mourn his loss, buffeted with adverse circumstances, and maintain themselves in this cold hearted world.” Also, from the 1870 US census mortality schedule, AZ Territory, Pima County, Tucson, page 2, line 18… “U. C. Barnet," was 38-years-old, born in Arkansas, a carpenter, he died in November 1869 from chronic dysentery.” But still the tragedy did not end. One month later James, the infant son of Underwood and Laura Barnett died from acute dysentery and not too long afterwards, on December 30th, his mother Laura succumbed to pneumonia. The Apache raids and depredations on this small community were horrific and too numerous to cover even just a small percentage of the accounts. A report in the March 25, 1871 edition of the Arizona Citizen provides us with just one of many such incidents… “L.B. WOOSTER MURDERED AND TRINIDAD AGGERA CAPTURED BY INDIANS --- Indian murders continue all round, while Post-commanders are holding farcical peace talks and dispensing rations to the murderers. Dr. Lord received the following on Wednesday: Tubac, A.T., March 20, 1871, the Apaches have killed L.B. Wooster and taken Trinidad Aggera (a woman) prisoner. Have cleaned out the Bosque Ranch, and sweeping up and down the river in large force. Signed by Forbes, Smith & Totenworth.” The April 01, 1871 issue of the Weekly Journal Miner… “Mr. Jones, clerk in Fish & Co’s store, was out last week, to Tubac, and viewed the wreck the Indians made of the home of L.B. Wooster. Everything that could be ruined was laid in ruins, and Trinidad Aggerra, the woman reported captured, was murdered within 400 yards of Wooster’s place. Mr. Jones picked up a fresh scalp, evidently taken from a woman within a few weeks.” The April 22, 1871 issue of the Weekly Journal Miner tells us… “The lifeless body of Trinidad Agguera, the woman reported captured by Apaches, was found, recently, near Tubac. The brutes first outraged and then murdered her.” Leslie B. Wooster was born in Connecticut in 1843, according to the 1870 census for Tubac. Also listed in his household as a housekeeper was Trinidad Equirre (Aggera), aged 20 years old, and Ignacio Equirre, age 50 years old, farm laborer, presumably the father of Trinidad. Accounts state that Trinidad was his wife. Trinidad’s surname was actually Aguirre and she lived with L.B. Wooster as his common-law wife. L.B. served during the Civil War with the Company B, 1st Regiment, Connecticut Cavalry. Once considered to be a ghost town, Tubac now flourishes as an artist’s colony, as well as a historic park. http://www.tubacarizona.com/ http://www.tubacaz.com/ @ 2013 Cindy Nunn. All Rights Reserved.
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