Column: Fascinating facts about Yavapai County
This past September, Yavapai magazine published an article by that grande dame of Yavapai County history, Elisabeth F. Ruffner. The "looking back" overview, titled "1864 Judicial Districts and County Boundaries of Arizona," contained information that bears repeating. So, just for fun, I will employ the "did you know?" approach that Elisabeth's fact-finding produced:
Did you know that:
Originally, Yavapai was "reportedly the largest county ever created in the United States. At 65,000 square miles in 1864, it was nearly equal in size to all of New England and constituted more than half of the Territory of Arizona."
Following its creation by an act of Congress and President Abraham Lincoln's signing of the act on Feb. 24, 1863, Yavapai became known as the "Mother of Counties" because "a majority of today's 15 Arizona counties were taken wholly or in part from the county's original boundaries."
Initially, the county covered a vast area of present-day eastern Arizona, with only Pima County to the south of it and Mohave and Yuma counties to the west. Thus, it "became the mother of five practically complete counties as they are today. When the settlements in the Salt River Valley had developed to such an extent that the citizens there demanded a county of their own, the Legislature carved Maricopa County from Yavapai in 1871."
The other counties sliced from Yavapai, chronologically, were: "Apache, 1879, from which Navajo County was later formed; Gila, 1881; and Coconino, 1891."
And "the names of the four original counties were taken from the Anglicized names of the Indian tribes who were the earlier inhabitants. The name 'Yavapai,' according to the United States Bureau of Ethnology, means 'People of the Sun' from enyaeva 'sun' and pai 'people.'"
Thanks, Elisabeth, for the fascinating perspective on our big county that once was much bigger. You pointed out plenty of Territorial truths therein that are not common knowledge.