History of Graham County

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Known as the “Gila Valley,” Graham County is rich in archeological history with wide evidence of prehistoric Native Americans that includes extensive irrigation canals, cliff dwellings, pueblo-type structures, artifacts and mounds. Even members of the renowned Coronado expeditions, circa 1540, wrote about the Pueblo Viejo, now present day Solomon, and the ruins of the Chichilticale, that is now San Jose, the first town of the Valley.

Isadore Solomon was the first Jewish businessman of the area arriving with his wife, Anna, herself a businesswoman, and three children in 1876. Together they founded several businesses including the first bank in Solomon, eventually becoming the Valley National Bank. Isadore was instrumental in creating Graham County and bringing the county seat to Solomonville for 34 years. After an election in 1915, the county seat was moved back to Safford where it has remained to this day.

Exploration by U.S. troops established Camp Goodwin in the 1860s. Early Mormon pioneers soon followed, attracted by the rich, fertile soil along the Gila River that bisects the county from east to west. The pioneers began farming the valley in the 1870s and continue today, producing world renowned Pima and Upland Cotton. Ranching was a strong second with many Mexican settlers operating cattle and horse ranches. Mining grew and began to develop to become the dominant economy of the area.

Graham County, known as the last safe haven for Geronimo, was largely inhabited by the Apache Nation. Geronimo, son-in-law to the revered Cochise, was a tribal leader of the Bedonkohe band of the Chiricahua Apache, and led the last of the Indian fights. He would finally surrender to the U.S. Army in 1886.