A Short History of Florence, AZ

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This article is sponsored by the attorneys of child abuse in Florence. Our legal team hopes you learn something new about the history of the town.

Brief History of Florence

Florence is a town in and the seat of Pinal County, Arizona. The area was once inhabited by the Hohokam, who is said to have been the ancestors of the O'odham people. In 1866, Levi Ruggles, a veteran of the American Civil War, came to Arizona Territory as a U.S. Indian Agent. Seeing the potential for agriculture in the valley, he established an easily fordable crossing on the Gila River. Ruggles then proceeded to survey a townsite and secure a post office, with the help of Governor R.C. McCormick, there. That same year, the town of Florence was founded. When Pinal County was formed, Florence was made its county seat.

In 1875, silver was discovered in the nearby mountains and the famous Silver King Mine was created. During the 1880s, a canal was built to allow water from the Gila River to be diverted for irrigation. This pushed farming and ranching to become a major part of Florence's economy. As of the 2010 census, the town had a population of 25,536 people.

Read on: Exploring Fortuna Foothills, Arizona

Crimes in Florence

In 1888, one of the most notable gunfights of the Old Southwest occurred in Florence. Sheriff Pete Gabriel, who had hired Joseph Phy as his deputy in 1883, decided to withdraw his support of Phy running for sheriff because of personal differences. A gunfight broke out between Gabriel and Phy on May 31st in the Tunnel Saloon and led to the death of Phy a few hours later. Florence was also where the "Trunk Murderess" – Pearl Hear, Eva Dugan and Winnie Ruth Judd – were trialed and punished for their murderous crimes from the late 1800s to the mid-1900s.

Tom Mix Monument

In 1940, another death occurred in Florence. While returning to Florence from Tucson, the cowboy movie star Tom Mix lost control of his speeding Cord Phaeton convertible, crashed into a dry wash, and was killed. Today, a two-foot-tall statue of a riderless horse with a plague stands on the site of the accident and the dry wash was renamed the Tom Mix Wash.


The other notable landmark in Florence is that of the former town of Adamsville. Founded in 1870 by Fred Adams, the farming community was situated two miles west of the original townsite of Florence. Because the Gila River overflowed due to a storm in the 1900s, the small town was destroyed, and its residents had to move to Florence. To commemorate the ghost town, a historical marker was placed at the junction of Highway 79 and 287.

McFarland State Historic Park

McFarland State Historic Park is located on the corner of Main Street and Ruggles Street in downtown Florence. The small historic park was opened and dedicated in 1979. It consists of the preserved First Pinal County Courthouse and other buildings from the Arizona Territory period. The park is named in honor of Ernest McFarland, who was a Govern of Arizona, Chief Justice of the Arizona Supreme Court, and U.S. Senator. He was also the one who bought the old courthouse and donated it to the state in 1974. The historic park is operated by the Arizona State Parks and is open Mondays through Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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Was your child sexually abused by another? Are you a victim of child abuse? Contact our Florence child abuse lawyers to determine the options you have available in taking legal action against the perpetrators. We will fight alongside you in this journey through the justice system. Call today to get started.

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