Thursday, March 16, 2023

Construction of the Presidio Museum began in early 2006, after the completion of archaeological work, design meetings, and architect Fe Tom's architectural plans were completed. Eric Means led the construction effort and it was decided to hold a cornerstone ceremony. This occurred on May 19, 2006.

At that time the foundations of the corner torreon had been poured and the concrete block wall interior was starting to be laid. The walls and towers of the Presidio Museum had to meet modern building requirements, which included being earthquake-proof.

A crowd gathered that day, some in period costume.

Susan Smith, soldier Tony Urias, and Sybil Needham.

The parking structure across the street has a good overview of the event.

Overview of the ceremony, photo taken from the YMCA parking structure.

Mortar was mixed in a wheelbarrow.

Mayor Bob Walkup (in the black hat) and Eric Means (yellow hard hat).

The heavy cornerstone was set in place.

Eric Means, on the right.

Then people were invited to help lay some of the adobe bricks for the torreon.

Cele Peterson, at age 97, laying a brick with help from Eric Means and Council Member Karin Ulrich

The Presidio Museum walls are faced with stabilized adobe bricks, containing some concrete to prevent them from eroding.

Homer Thiel pointing to the brick he had just placed.

The cornerstone was a boulder of Sentinel Peak basalt.

Cornerstone and adobe bricks.

On it are engraved the words "El Presidio de Tucson Reconstruction, Rio Nuevo 2006."


What people likely do not know is that after the ceremony the bricks that had been set in place were removed and then reset by master masons!

Photos by Gayle Hartmann and Homer Thiel.

Thursday, December 1, 2022



Pima County has recently completed the renovation of the 1929 Pima County Courthouse, now the home of the Southern Arizona Heritage and Visitor Center and the University of Arizona Alfie Norville Gem and Mineral Museum. In addition, the January 8th Memorial has been completed on the west side of the Courthouse. Prior to and during construction work, Desert Archaeology conducted excavations and monitoring, discovering and documenting a variety of cultural resources.

Click on any picture to enlarge them.

Aerial photograph of the area on the west side of the 1929 Pima County Courthouse, now the location of the January 8th Memorial. On the left is the first Tucson City Hall and Jail foundations. In the center are railroad rails covering a cesspool. On the right the upside-down L-shaped foundation is the 1868 Pima County Courthouse (Photograph by Randy Metcalf, Pima County Communications Office).

A Hohokam Village

The heart of downtown Tucson is located on the terrace east of the Santa Cruz River floodplain. The terrace sloped downward toward the river, the waters of which were used to irrigate agricultural fields. People have been utilizing this area for over 4,000 years. About 2,000 years ago Early Agricultural period families were constructing small, circular pit structures on the terrace, one of which is on display within the Presidio Museum. During the Hohokam era, a large, sprawling village was present between AD 750 and 1150. We found three Hohokam pit structures during our construction monitoring, adding to the many documented during other archaeological work. It is likely that many other Hohokam houses are present in as-yet unexplored areas. The ancestral Native Americans of this time period often constructed ball courts, where games were played and people interacted, and it is also likely that one of these elaborate structures was present somewhere downtown.

Locations of prehistoric features in downtown Tucson (drafted by Catherine Gilman, Desert Archaeology).

A Spanish Fortress

Beneath the January 8th Memorial area, we excavated a series of trenches into a Presidio-era trash midden. Construction of the fortress began in 1776. A large amount of dirt was dug up, mixed with water and plant materials, and molded into sun-dried adobe bricks. The areas where soil mining took place were then used for trash disposal. We found large quantities of animal bones, plant remains, and artifacts west of the courthouse in a probable soil mining pit.

Location of Presidio-era features in downtown Tucson (drafted by Catherine Gilman, Desert Archaeology).

Beef bones were most common during previous excavations. However, the current work had the opposite, with larger amounts of sheep bones. One reason for this was the discovery of a thick layer of trash that appears to represent materials discarded during a feasting event since many sheep skulls and foot elements were present, the inedible portions of carcasses. Also found were many peach pits. Peaches typically ripen in late July and August. The other plant remains found included common bean, maize, and Arizona walnuts, other crops that become available in late summer.

During the Presidio-era and extending into the Territorial period, residents of Tucson celebrated the Feast of Saint Augustine. Saint Augustine of Hippo was the patron saint of the Presidio San Agustin del Tucson. Saint Augustine died on August 28, 430. The Feast in Tucson began on August 28th with a procession to the chapel, where a priest gave a sermon. A festival ground with a tamped earth dance floor was nearby, surrounded by booths where food and drinks were served and where gambling games could be played. At night instruments were played and dancing took place. The festival lasted for two weeks.

Artifacts found in the midden included pieces of Mexican majolica pottery, expensive Chinese porcelains, and local O'odham cooking and storage vessels. 

A blue-on-white majolica plate with a bird design (Photograph by Robert Ciaccio, Desert Archaeology).

Also found were 26 sherds of Hopi pottery, carried south from the pueblos in northern Arizona. We know that in 1793 the commander of the Presidio led a group of soldiers to visit Zuni, and the soldiers likely brought many small bowls back as souvenirs. At other times, Hopi tribal members traveled south to visit Tucson, one of their ancestral homelands.

Hopi ceramics (Photography by James Heidke, Desert Archaeology).

We also found soldier uniform buttons and a British belt buckle. After Mexico became independent from Spain, Mexico entered into trading agreements with Great Britain, with that country selling arms and uniforms to the Mexican government. A rare find was a butt plate and a portion of a trigger guard for an escopeta, a Spanish musket. Most firearm parts were likely taken to the Presidio blacksmith to be repaired or recycled. Previous work had only found a few other firearm parts. Gun flints are more common, these were sourced from France and eventually were locally made. As they wore out, they were reused as strike-a-lights, with a piece of iron knocked against them to make a spark to start a fire.

Presidio-era military uniform buttons (Photography by Robert Ciaccio, Desert Archaeology).

A British military uniform belt buckle (Photography by Robert Ciaccio, Desert Archaeology).

The Presidio chapel and cemetery were located in what is now W. Alameda Street and surrounding areas. A water line trench at the west end of the project area resulted in the discovery of human remains from two individuals, disturbed sometime in the past. In July 2021, while trenching for a new sidewalk on the north side of the courthouse took place, an intact grave from the cemetery was found. The individual was lying on their left side, in a fetal position, almost certainly representing someone who died in their sleep and was buried after rigor mortis had set in. Osteologist Dr. James Watson identified the person as a Hispanic male, aged between 35 and 50 at death, and between 5'2" and 5'5" tall. He had arthritis on his right elbow and on the mid-back vertebrae. He also had lost one of his lower molars. The man was probably a Presidio soldier. The man was not buried wearing any clothes, during the Presidio-era clothing was very valuable and most people were buried wrapped in a cloth shroud. Remains from three other individuals were found in nearby historically-disturbed soils. All of these remains will eventually be repatriated to Los Descendientes Del Presidio De Tucson for re-interment in their plot in Holy Hope Cemetery. It is likely that hundreds of other Presidio-era individuals still lie beneath W. Alameda Street.

Drawing of the burial of the Presidio soldier (drafted by Erina Gruner and Katie Bubnekovich, Desert Archaeology).

Territorial Government Buildings

The Presidio walls were rapidly dismantled after the arrival of United States residents in 1856. Stables and homes were constructed. In 1868, the first Pima County courthouse was built. This adobe building had a thick rock foundation. We found a small portion of that foundation. Nearby we found the foundations of the first Tucson City Hall, completed in 1883. The back of the building housed a jail and we found a portion of its collapsed wood plank floor. Beneath the wood planks were rows of upright iron bars, put in place to prevent prisoners from tunneling out of the jail.

The blackened floorboards of the City Jaiol with upright iron rods barely visible (Photography by Homer Thiel, Desert Archaeology).

The 1868 courthouse was torn down when a new courthouse was constructed in 1881. This brick, Victorian style building had a dome on top. Inside the building was a large water tank, filled daily, for probably the first flush toilets in Tucson. To the west of the courthouse a large cesspool was dug, covered by a wooden roof. In 1889 the wood decayed and collapsed. The new replacement roof consisted of long railroad rails, covered with wood and then soil for a lawn. In 1911 a hole opened in the lawn and the deep cesspool was rediscovered. It was then filled with many loads of dirt.

Lastly a small sinkhole opened up in the northwest portion of the Astroturf-covered courthouse courtyard. The hole turned out to be a rock-lined square, one foot to a side, where a well had been drilled for the 1883 Pioneer Hose No. 1 firehouse. This was the first fire station for Tucson and was in use until 1907. At first the hose cart and water tank were pulled by lines of men. Later horses were purchased to pull the vehicles.

A postcard of the 1881 Pima County Courthouse, looking north from Pennington Street. The yellow area in the lawn on the left side was the location of the cesspool.

The well shaft was filled with dirt and wood and after documentation, was refilled with sand. Similarly, the remains of the government buildings and Presidio era trash middens were covered with a protective fabric and the area refilled, preserving the archaeology in place. The January 8th Memorial was recently completed over the area.

Friday, December 3, 2021

The first issue of the Presidio Trust's newsletter was published in March 1999.  This was before the passage of Proposition 400, which led to the funding for the archaeological excavation, architectural plans, and the construction of the Presidio Museum, which opened in 2007. To view individual pages CLICK ON  each and a larger image will open up.


Saturday, May 29, 2021

Tucson Presidio Monthly Roster: May 1818

Each month a roster of soldiers was created at the Presidio San Agustin del Tucson. Many have survived, especially in the mid1810s. In May 1818, 104 soldiers were listed, but many were down south fighting rebels, while others were in prison or in a hospital. 

Source: AGN 207, Documentary Relations of the Southwest, Arizona State Museum

Notes: the original document is on three pages. In the following transcription, unclear text is marked with brackets and dashed lines [—]. Original spelling and abbreviations have been preserved.

Abbreviations:P. = present; D.= Don; rr= reales; Manl.=Manuel; Ygno.= Ygnacio.  


[Page 1]

Provincia de Sonora

San Agustin del Tucson de Mayo de 1818.

[illegible] de Lista, y Extracto de la Revista pasada P mi D. Man Ygno.  Arvisu Tente Corl  Grado  y Capn esta compaña los oficiales tropa e Ynvalididos de que compana.

Clases                                 Nombres                                 Destinos

Capn Tente. Corl. Grado D. Manl. Ygno. de Arvizo P.  

Teniente                                 D. Manuel de Leon                 P. en Buenavista

Alfz 1o                                 D. Juan Alexo Carrillo         P. en Tubac

Ydem 2o                                 D. Antonio Comaduran         Y

Capellan                                 Fr. Pedro de Arriquibar         P

Armero                                 Jose Rampel                         P

Tambor                                 Francisco Usarraga                 P

Premio de 112 rr Sargto.         Salvador Gallegos                 P. Escolta del [–] Gov.

Premio de 6 rr Otro                     Loreto Ramirez                 P. de Abilitado

Premio de 90 rr Otro                 Vicente Rodriguez                 P. de cavallada

Premio de 9 rr Cavo                 Ygnacio Marin                 P.

            Otro                         Antonio Ramirez                 P. en el Rosario

            Otro Disto                 D. Leonardo Leon                 P. en Arispe prefectos

            Otro Yd.                 D. Francisco Romero         P. Enfermo

Premio de 9 rr Caravineros         Pedro Vega                         P. Certificado

Premio de 6 rr Otro                         Francisco Polanco                 P. Certificaco

            Otro Distingdo         D. Francisco Romero         P. en Recogida

Premio de 112 rr Otro                 Jose Martinez                         P. de escolta del P. Gov.

Premio de 6 rr Otro                         Manuel Orosco                 P.

                Otro                         Pedro Ramirez                 P. de guardia

Otro Distdo                         Geronimo Herran                 P. cavallada

Cadete                                 D. Francisco Villaescusa P. en el Pitic

Premio de 6 rr Soldados                 Miguel Burrola                 P. en la Rosario

Premio de 6 rr                         Jose Telles                         P. en Arispe pr efectos

Premio de 6 rr                        Bernardino Mesa                 P. en el Rosario

Premio de 6 rr                         Juan Maria Castro                 P. en el Rosario

Premio de 6 rr                         Santos Sierra                         P. en el Rosario

Premio de 9 rr                         Francisco Pacheco                 P. en el Rosario

Premio de 6 rr                         Yldefonso Bohorqz                 P. en el Rosario

Premio de 9 rr                         Jose Grijalva                         P. Certificado

Premio de 9 rr                         Antonio Granillo                 P. Certificado 

Premio de 9 rr                         Juan Morales                         P. En el Ganado del Rey

Premio de 6 rr                         Bautista Romero                 P. de Cavallada

                                        Mariano Rodriguez                 P. En el Hospital

                                        Guillermo Pacheco                 P. Certificado

                                        Pedro Granillo                 P. Certificado

Premio de 6 rr                         Juan Sisneros                         P. De Cavda

                                        Francisco Gauna                 P.

                                        Francisco Amaya                 P. de Cavallada

                                        Francisco Morales                 P. en el Ganadao del Rey

                                        Juan Romero                         P. Certificado

                                        Jose Ramires                         P. de Guardia

                                        Pedro Siqueiros                 P. de Situado

                                        Ramon Federico                 P. En el Hospital

Grado de Sargto                 Jose Gallegos                         P. De Escolta del S. Gov.

                                        Ygnacio Urias                         P. De Escolta del S. Gov.

                                        Manuel Hernandes                 P. Preso en Arispe

                                        Cornelio Elias                         P. Certificado

                                        Jose Romero                         P. En el Ganado del Rey

                                        Bicente Sosa                         P. De Escolta del S. Gov.

                                        Jose Carrisosa                         P. De Cavallada

                                        Ramon Sortillon                 P. De ordinaria con el Tente en Bta

                                        Juan Tisnado                         P. En el Hospital

                                        Fernando Ruelas                 P. En el Hospital

                                        Jose Luque                         P. De Escolta del S. Gov.

                                        Antonio Cuellar                 P. En el Hospital

                                        Francisco Romero                 P. En el Hospital

                                        Juan Morillo                         P.

[page 2]

                                        Juan Miranda                            P.

                                        Juan Salazar                             P. En Arispe p. efectos

                                        Julian Baldez                             P. De Cavallada

                                        Ygnacio Leon                             P. Preso en Arispe

Distingdo                         D. Francisco Erran                     P. De Escolta del S. Gov.

                                        Nepomuceno Duarte             P.

                                        Juan Leon                             P. De Escolta con el S.

                                        Juan Urtado                             P.

                                        Francisco Granillo                     P. Preso

                                        Jose Siqueiros                             P. de Situado

                                        Saturnino Castro                     P.

                                        Santiago Urtado                     P.

                                        Juan Ledesma                             P. De Escolta con el [–]

                                        Julian Galaz                             P. de Cavallada

                                        Ramon Romero                     P. de Cavallada

                                        Pedro Bega                             P. Preso en Arispe

                                        Roque Balenzuela                     P. 

                                        Jose Carrillo                             P. De Guardia

                                        Antonio Carrillo                     De Cavallada

                                        Ramon Garcia                             P. 

                                        Balentin Usarraga                     P.

                                        Alvino Ocovoa                     P. En el Hospital

                                        Ygnacio Castelo                     P. Enfermo en el [----]

                                        Juan Ygnacio Romo             P. En Arispe p.r efectos

                                        Eleuterio Luque                     P. Enfermo

                                        Narzizo Ortega                     P. Enfermo

                                        Luis Martinez                             P. De Cavallada

                                        Jose Solares                             P.

                                        Francisco Dias                     P. De Cavallada

                                        Mariano Alegria                     P. De Cavallada

                                        Ysidro Gallegos                     P. De Cavallada

                                        Manuel Chaves                     P.

                                        Jose Soto                                     P. En el Rosario

                                        Conrado Herran                     P. De Cavallada

                                        Ygnacio Barrios                     P. De Guardia

                                        Juan Gallardo                             P. Preso

                                        Pablo Dias                             P. De Cavallada

                                        Enrique Franco                     P. De Cavallada

                                        Leocardio Ochoa                     P. De Guardia

                                        Ylario Andrade                     P. En el Rosario

                                        Juan Barrios                             P. De Cavallada

                                        Rafael Grijalva                     P. Preso

                                        Bautista Zalasar                     P. De ordenaria

                                        Manuel Espinosa                     P. De ordenaria

                                        Jose Maria Zalasar                     P. En enseñaria

                                        Ygnacio Moraga                     P. En enseñaria

                                        Zeverino Luque                     P. En enseñaria


Premio de 112 rr Sargto         Jose Maria Gonzz                     P.

Premio de 90 rr Cavo         Jose Tisnado                             P.

Premio de 112 rr                 Francisco Romero                     P.

Premio de 9 rr                         Antonio Gonzz                     P.

Premio de 9 rr                         Marcos Castro                             P.

Premio de 6 rr                         Raymundo Ortega                     P.

Premio de 6 rr                         Guillermo Zaenz                     P.

Premio de 6 rr                         Gregoria Rios                             P.

Premio de 6 rr                         Salvador Morales                     P.

                                        Nepomuceno Corrs                     P.


[page 3]


                                        Juan Martinez                             P.

                                        Jose Vilducea                             P.

                                        Francisco Granillo                     P.

                                        Jose Palomino                             P.

                                        Pedro Cuellar                             P.

Total 15


Capn Tente Corl Grado D. Manl. Ygno. de Arvizu P. 1

Tente D. Manuel de Leon P. 1

Alfz 1o D. Juan Alexo Carrillo P. 1

Alfz 2o D. Antonio Comaduran P. 1

Cappn Fray Pedro Arriquibar P. 1

Armero Jose Rangel P. 1

Tambor Francisco Usarraga P. 1

Sarto Salvador Gallegos P. 1

Otro Loreto Ramires P. 1

Otro Bicente Rodriquez P. 1

Cavos P. 1

Dichos P. 3

Caravineros P. 0

Dichos P. 6

Soldados P. 12

Dichos P. 72

Total 104

Es Conforme ala Revista pasada pr mi el Expresado Tente. Corl y Capn de [illegible] esta Compania a los oficiales y Tropa ql en esta se Contiene y [illegible] Altas, que en esta conetalo y Certifico y firmar con migo el official ql se hallag[-].

Tucson May de 1818 Manl Arvisu.