Discover the tenets of Southwestern charm with a visit to Gila County, Arizona. Located in the central area of Arizona, the county contains a cluster of small towns, historic landmarks, and Native American reservations. First settled to capitalize on the region’s rich mineral deposits and abundant land for grazing, Gila is now a popular tourist attraction due to its beauty and convenient distance from Phoenix and Tuscon.
Nestled between the Pinal Mountains and the northeastern edge of the Sonoran Desert, Gila County boasts an unusual number of wildlife zones. The geography of Gila County includes high-desert plains, chaparral, valleys, and pine forests. In addition, the area includes the famous Sierra Ancha Wilderness and and Trail. Gila County has a welcoming climate that has shaped its cultural history of scouting, ranching, and other frontier activities.
The combination of geographic diversity and stable climate creates a considerable number of recreational opportunities, including Tonto Natural Bridge State Park, Roosevelt Lake, Pleasant Valley, Salt River Canyon, and Fossil Creek. In addition, visitors can take advantage of gorgeous camping sites along the edge of the Tonto National Forest. (The United States Forest Service, an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, owns nearly 56-percent of the land in this county.) Additional attractions include the Mogollon Rim, Coolidge Dam, and Tanto National Monument. Whether you are interested in climbing, hiking, fishing, or mountaineering, Gila County offers a wealth of terrain for exploration.
Currently, Gila County has a population of approximately 53,500 residents and covers an area of about 4,796 square miles. Land elevation ranges from 2,000 to 7,000 feet above sea level. The county includes “micropolitan” statistical areas and main towns such as Globe, Payson, Hayden, and Winkelman. These cities, towns, and unincorporated areas encompass over 3,040,000 acres. With backyard views ranging from panoramic deserts to pine-covered mountains, Gila offers a great way to enjoy beautiful scenery while incorporating yourself within tight-knit communities.
The primary Gila County micropolitan areas and towns include the following:
• Globe-Miami – Globe is the county seat of Gila while Miami is its neighboring town. As the economic and historic center of Gila, Globe has a population of 7,532. Founded in the late 1800s as a mining camp, Globe remains an important distributor of copper and other raw materials. Miami complements this economic activity with copper deposits of its own as well as copper-smelting factories.
• Hayden-Winkleman – The area of Hayden-Winkleman sits at the southern border of Gila County and offers a gateway between Gila and its neighboring counties. As the charming marks of civilization between classic ghost towns and desert plains, Hayden and Winkleman also offer an easy route to reach larger cities like Phoenix and Tuscon.
• Tonto Basin-Roosevelt – The Tonto Basin-Roosevelt area offers some of the best recreation in western Gila County. Tonto Basin is a census-designated area with a population of about 1,424. Excursions in the Tonto Basin include hiking through the national forest or biking along the base of the county’s mountain range. Roosevelt is home to a famous lake with over 128 miles of shoreline and welcoming blue waters. Named after the famous “rough rider” and president, this town offers perennial activities for people of all ages.
• Payson – Payson is a well-admired town ensconced in mountains of central Arizona. Due to its population and administrative centers, many people believe that Payson is the county’s second most-important city (after Globe). In fact, Payson bears the nickname of “The Heart of Arizona.” Located at an elevation of 5,000 above sea level, Payson enjoys a milder summer climate that makes it a popular tourist destination.
• Star Valley – Star Valley is a town adjacent to Payson, Arizona. Like its famous neighbor, Stay Valley enjoys a mild and pleasant climate that complements numerous outdoor adventures.
• Pine-Strawberry – Pine and Strawberry are both unincorporated communities in Gila County. Located high above sea level, this area is home to the famous Fossil Creek. It is also one of most sought-after retirement communities in the state.
• Young-Pleasant Valley – The Young-Pleasant Valley area is one of the most important ranching districts in the state. Located near the Tonto Basin, this mountain valley is also the site of the famous Pleasant Valley War. This conflict began when Pleasant Valley’s Graham family accused the Tewksbury family of rebranding cattle. While the feud cost a fortune and claimed numerous lives, it also created some of the most legendary heroes of the “Wild West” era. In addition, the conflict demonstrated the economic significance of ranching in the region.
In addition, the county is home to Native Americans living in the Tonto Apache Reservation, Fort Apache Reservation, and the San Carlos Reservation. (Nearly 38-percent of the county’s land belongs to the Apache ethnic group.) In particular, San Carlos Reservation covers about 1.8 million acres of land and houses nearly 10,000 people. Visitors can enjoy uninterrupted recreation or enjoy witnessing the rites and rituals of ancient Native American culture. The Fort Apache Indian Reservation has a population of over 12,000 and contains both a casino and ski resort. You can also traverse this reservation to visit the ruins of the Kinishba Great House, an icon of Pueblo culture and a designated National Historic Landmark.
From an economic standpoint, the industries of copper production, tourism, and recreation compromise Gila County’s main sources of employment. In fact, two out of Arizona’s 10 largest copper mines are in Gila County, and over 20 percent of the employment in Globe relates to the copper industry. Other work opportunities relate to sectors like park recreation and senior services. The landscape attracts numerous tourists and thrill-seekers, and the county’s mild climate and senior-friendly atmosphere makes it a popular retirement destination.
History of Gila County
The name “Gila” may be a translation of the Spanish diminutive for Hah-quah-sa-eel. This phase ultimately descends from an indigenous Quechan-language expression that means “running water which is salty.” It may refer to the fact that the region is less than one-percent water, resulting in the frequent occurrence of silt in the drinking supply. Alternatively, the name may derive from a Tohono O’odham word meaning “Old Man River.” Some etymologists subscribe to this theory because of the strong O’odham influence in the Sonoran Desert region of Arizona.
Upon the arrival of the conquistadores in the New World, Spain took great interest in the Gila area due to the mineral deposits found at the base of the Pinal Mountains. Unfortunately for the Spanish, these “conquerors” never established a mining base in Gila because of the strength of the native Apache population. Similarly, mountaineers who explored the area throughout the early 1800s failed to extract metals from the region.
In 1821, the Spanish crown ceded the Gila area to the government of Mexico, and the Mexican government retained jurisdiction over the region until the end of the Mexican-American War. On July 4, 1848, however, the government of Mexico ceded all of present-day Gila to the United States as part of the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo.
Following this concession, the Gila area underwent a series of changes. The United States officially created the Arizona Territory in 1863 and granted the local government municipal authority. Over the next two decades, Arizona created Pima, Yavapai, Maricopa, and Pinal counties. Most of these counties adopted the names of local Native American tribes. However, Pinal County used the name of the local mountain range.
On February 8, 1881, the territory of Arizona re-zoned Maricopa and Pinal in order to create Gila County. Ultimately, Gila County supported the municipal needs of the Globe City, a historic mining town. In 1889, residents of the area petitioned to extend the county’s boundary eastward to the San Carlos River. This additional territory supported more widespread ranching and homesteading. Finally, the county re-zoned its boundary once more to include an additional northern portion (previously apart of Yavapai County).
During the nineteenth century, Gila County experienced an eventful history marked with rise of feuds, renegades, battle scouts, and outlaws. Most notably, the Pleasant Valley War (or Tonto Basin War) pitted cattle-herding Graham family against sheep-herding Tewksbury clan. Also known as the Graham-Tewksbury Feud, this intense family rivalry cost the lives of dozens of Gila residents.
Several legendary individuals emerged from the ongoing conflict, including Frederick Russell Burnham and Tom Horn. Although Frederick Russell Burnham fought for the “losing” side of the war, he later became a well-respected scout and frontiersman. Historians generally credit Burnham as the inspiration for the Boy Scouts of America. Likewise, Tom Horn worked as a hired gunman and became a fabled archetype of the American Old West.
In the twentieth century, Gila County became the birthplace of a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision known as In re Gault. This court ruling determined that juveniles accused of a crime have a right to the same due process rights as adults. Examples of these rights include a notification of the actual charges, the right to an attorney, and protection against self-incrimination.
Historically, Gila County has also been the frequent subject of case studies due to its voting history. Political scientists note that Gila County is typically a Democratic-leaning county in the largely Republican state of Arizona. For example, the county voted for Adlai Stevenson II and Hubert Humphrey in the 1952 and 1968 presidential elections, respectively.
Republicans rarely carry the county except for notable presidential landslides (such as the elections of Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and Donald Trump). Famous for unionization of copper-mining employees (including a July 1917 strike in which the governor intervened), the population typically favors social programs that support laborers and the elderly.
Gila County Seat Overview and History
The county seat of Gila County is Globe, Arizona. Founded between 1875 and 1876 as a mining settlement, Globe represents the historic and cultural epicenter of Gila. Mining remains an important part of the Globe economy, but its historic buildings and scenic beauty also attract tourists and adventurers. In fact, the federal government added downtown Globe to its National Register of Historic Places in 1987. According to the 2010 United States Census, there are about 7,532 people residing in Globe.
Located within the Cobre Valley at the foot of the Pinal Mountains, Globe is also the cultural hub of Gila County. It includes important locations such as the Cobre Valley Regional Medical Center. Positioned about 3,500 feet above sea level, Globe has a rugged atmosphere that complements its Arizona-desert climate. At the same time, the area’s abundance of pine trees helps make the summers cooler than surrounding areas. For this reason, Globe is a popular tourist area in Arizona.
History of Globe, Arizona
Globe has a culturally rich history due to its abundance of heavy metals. Because of its geology, the Gila county seat naturally contained rich mineral deposits such as silver and copper. In fact, members of the Apache tribe referred to the area as Bésh Baa Gowąh (“The Place of the Metal”) since ancient times. Spanish explorers also noted the likelihood of precious metals as they surveyed the area’s buttes for the royal crown.
Extracting the riches from the Pinal Mountains, however, remained a separate matter. For one, the Apache tribe proved to be a formidable force, fiercely guarding the mountain pass against exploitation. Second, the land changed ownership multiple times, causing instability in the region. Nevertheless, word about the silver-filled mountains spread throughout the Americas, causing influx of fortune-seeking miners and prospectors into the region.
After decades of expeditions and attempts to mine silver from the Pinal Mountains, pioneer Corydon E. Cooley led a group of determined prospectors to the area in 1869. The team built a rudimentary fort at Big Johnnie Gulch Valley. The following year, an additional 15 investors staked claim in the valley. Upon the arrival of new settlers, however, Apache warriors decided to drive out the newcomers with violence. This bloody conflict became known as the Apache Wars. After the Apache tribe defeated the settlers during the Camp Grant Massacre of 1871, the United States Army decided to intervene on behalf of the investors.
In 1873, the U.S. Army defeated the Apache warriors under the leadership of General George Crook. This enabled scores of new miners to stream into the mining settlement. As retaliation for the conflict, the U.S. Secretary of Interior also removed the mineral-rich areas from the San Carlos Apache Reservation. The Mining Act of 1872 became the principle law of the district.
Following these changes, silver miners established Globe City in 1876. The name “Globe” possibly comes an incident in which prospectors found a silver orb (or globe) in Pine Creek. City officials applied for incorporation in July 1876 and chartered banks within the same year. In addition, the city formalized its name on May 1, 1878.
Other milestones included the publication of the local newspaper (named Arizona Silver Belt and first printed on May 2, 1878) and the establishment of a stagecoach route linking Globe to Silver City, New Mexico. In February 1881, Globe became the official seat of Gila County.
Despite these victories, the over-saturation of fortune-hunters soon depleted the silver. For example, the Old Dominion Mining Company became incorporated in 1880 but experienced financial turmoil for over two decades due to the instability of the silver market. The company ultimately sold the mine to Lewisohn Brothers of New York in 1894, and the practice of silver-mining all but ceased in 1897. It was not until the construction of the railroad in 1898 that Globe retained some of its former economic stability.
Once the silver supply became too scarce, copper became the primary mineral mined in this area. In 1904, the Phelps Dodge Corporation acquired the copper mine and appointed Louis Ricketts as chief manager. At the same time, Globe’s new railroad lowered transportation costs and further spread the word of the city’s rich mineral supply. The newly renamed “Old Dominion Copper Company” referred to Globe as one of the world’s richest copper deposits. By the late 1880s, Globe City became one of the leading copper-distribution hubs in North America. (To this day, nearly 65 percent of the nation’s copper comes from Arizona.)
Despite the city’s status as a mining hub, however, its remote location and proximity to “Indian territory” saddled the region with a reputation for lawlessness. The city became the inspiration for numerous legends about stage coach robberies, saloon brawls, ruthless gamblers, and dueling gunfights. In addition, the city became known for renegades and “cowboy and Indian” raids of lore.
For example, an Apache chief named Natiotish (or Na-ti-o-tish) famously organized a raid from the nearby San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation. This raid of 50 men attacked Globe cowboys, ranch hands, and miners. In 1884, outlaws Ike and Phineas Clanton fled to the area after surviving the infamous “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.” While Ike Clanton died at the hands Deputy Sheriff Commodore J. V. Brighton in 1894, his brother Phineas settled in Globe and began to raise goats for a living. He eventually married and remained in Globe until his death in 1906.
In the late nineteenth century, Globe also became part of the real-life saga of Geronimo and the Apache Kid. On October 23, 1889, Globe courthouse held the final Apache Kid trial for mutiny and desertion. Following his conviction, officials commissioned Globe Sheriff Glen Reynolds to transfer the Apache Kid to the Yuma Territorial Prison. During the stagecoach transfer on November 2, 1889, the Apache Kid (along with eight other prisoners) murdered Sheriff Reynolds and other guards in what became known as the Kelvin Grade massacre.
While other towns transitioned noticeably with the arrival of electricity and transit stations, Globe City remained stubbornly rooted in the old ways of “Wild West.” Globe did not receive its present-day appellation and incorporation until 1907, and historians estimate that the city did not abandon the Wild West code of conduct until the advent of World War I.
Globe offers a glimpse into the frontier lifestyle that some people only see in movies or read about in Westerns. For example, anyone can still visit the following sites in downtown Globe’s Historic District:
Gila County Courthouse and Old Jail
• Gila County Courthouse and Old Jail – The original courthouse is a four-story building built in Italian Renaissance style, and its corresponding jail gained fame as a reputed “haunted house.”
Elks Lodge Building of Globe
• Elks Lodge Building of Globe – At the time of its construction, this Elks Lodge was the tallest three-story building in the known world. Tourists can still visit the Romanesque building and shop in its antique store.
Drift Inn Saloon
• Drift Inn Saloon – This Broad St. bar has been in continuous operation since 1902.
Gila Valley Bank and Trust Building
• Gila Valley Bank and Trust Building – This Neoclassical building now houses a day spa, and locals consider the edifice among the most beautiful in the county.
Holy Angels Catholic Church
• Holy Angels Catholic Church – Dedicated to Saint Michael the Archangel, this place of worship is one of the oldest extant sanctuaries in the state of Arizona.
St. John’s Episcopal Church
• St. John’s Episcopal Church – Built in Gothic Revival style in 1908, this is the oldest Protestant church in Gila County.
Globe High School
• Globe High School – First established in 1910, this is the oldest school in Arizona that is still in use for its original purpose.
• Masonic Temple – Built in Neoclassical style in 1912, this lodge leased shops at the street level and hosted exclusive meetings upstairs.
Globe Railway Station
• Globe Railway Station – Essential to the county’s growth and interaction with the outside world, this station is now a museum open to visitors and newcomers.
It is no wonder that the federal government has listed Globe’s entire historic district on the National Register of Historic Places. Globe is also the origin of many of Arizona’s most influential individuals. For example, George Wiley Paul Hunt (Arizona’s first governor), Rose Perica Mofford (the state’s first female governor), Sarah Herring Sorin (Arizona’s first female lawyer) all hail from Globe. (For perspective, George W.P. Hunt started out waiting tables in a Globe saloon. He eventually became a six-term Arizona after an aggressive political career.) In addition, Wonder Woman actress Lynda Carter and major-league baseball pitcher Donald Lee are also native to the city.
Gila County Courthouse – Overview and History
The Gila County courthouse is located in the city of Globe, Arizona. This administrative center houses the county’s records, including court, land, probate, and tax records.
You can contact the contemporary Gila County courthouse using the following details:
1400 East Ash Street
Globe, AZ 85501-1414
As the public records headquarters of the county, the courthouse maintains the following administrative offices:
Gila County Clerk of the Superior Court
• Gila County Clerk of the Superior Court – This office has county marriage and divorce records dating back to 1889. It also maintains probate records and court records from 1881 to present. Residents can consult this office for information regarding adoptions, probate law, and tax history. It is also the public records-keeper for all civil and criminal matters.
Gila County Recorder
• Gila County Recorder – The recorder archives all land and deed records dating back to 1881. In addition, the office makes this archival records available to the general public for viewing, verification, or research.
Gila County Treasurer and Assessor Office
• Gila County Treasurer and Assessor Office – This managerial office collects personal and municipal taxes for the county and state. The office is also responsible for distributing these funds to the respective jurisdictions (e.g. school district, city, or town collections offices).