Ridin’ Along In My Automobile

Tuesday January 21, 2020

Just another ho-hum desert sunrise

With Chuck Berry’s classic song dancing around in my head, hence the title of this post, we head out of the park…… Ridin’ along in my automobile with no particular place to go!.. Jil has seen some pretty cool looking lawn art here in the park and she wants to look for some for herself. We head over towards Florence, AZ to peruse the Happy Adobe metal art shop. OK, I stand corrected- we do have a particular place to go……….

Along the way we stop at the Casa Grande Ruins National Monument. We have seen photos of the ruins and didn’t expect to find them as interesting as they are. The ruins are what remains of the Hohokam Indian’s Great House (Casa Grande) and surrounding compound.

Casa Grande Ruins National Monument Visitors Center
Jil and Megan exploring Casa Grande Ruins National Monument

It is one of the largest prehistoric structures ever built in North America and yet its purpose remains a mystery. Archeologists have found evidence that these ancestral Sonoran Desert people also developed wide scale irrigation farming utilizing canals. Many small Hohokam communities have been discovered along the Gila and Salt Rivers. The ancient people also had extensive trade connections which lasted over a thousand years until about 1450 C.E. when Casa Grande was abandoned.

The name Hohokam is somewhat of a misnomer as it is really more of a term. No one knows what the builders of this complex community called itself. Hohokam is a Pima term meaning “those who have vanished”. Scientists feel that a probable reason for these ancient farmers to have left was an extended drought making subsistence farming next to impossible.

Above photos: The protective roof structure above Casa Grande was built in 1930 to help preserve the ruins. The man lift in the left photo was part of the equipment used by structural engineers to determine the integrity of the structure. The man at right is repairing one of the original remnants of a wall. The worker said he used a mixture of the local dirt, sand and mud- the same materials that the Hohokam used to build the walls.

We continue on to Florence (26,000 souls), the seat of Pinal County. The town is one of the oldest in the county and is regarded as a National Historic District with over 25 buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is located in an area once inhabited by the Hohokam, ancestors of the O’odham people. Prior to the establishment of the town the Gila River served as part of the border between the United States and Mexico. The Gadsden Purchase of 1853 extended the American territory well south of the Gila.

A fella by the name of Levi Ruggles founded Florence on the south bank of the Gila River. Originally a U.S. Indian Agent he recognized the agricultural potential (remember the Hohokam?) of the valley, found an easily fordable location on the Gila and surveyed a townsite there. He then secured a post office the same year. Silver was discovered in 1875 in the nearby mountains which led to the creation of the famous Silver King Mine.

In 1870 Fred Adams decided to give old man Ruggles a little competition. He founded a farming community 2 miles west of Florence. The town had stores, homes, a post office, a flour mill and water tanks. It was named Adamsville for you-know-who. Adams apparently was unaware of the nature of desert rivers meaning he hadn’t a clue of flash floods. In the 1900’s the Gila overflowed its banks and most of the town was wiped out. The residents moved to……… Florence! The area is now a ghost town.

A canal was built in the 1880’s which enabled water from the Gila to be diverted for irrigation (again, remember the Hohokam?). Farming and ranching played a major roll in Florence’s economy. A current boon to it’s economy are the multiple prisons located nearby. Not many communities have state, federal, county and private prisons in their back yard. Speaking of prisons, a large prisoner of war camp for German and Italian prisoners of war was established just north of town during WWII. Japanese Americans were interned at the nearby Gila River War Relocation Center during that sad time in our history.

Of note:

This is a tough way to have a natural feature named for you: Silent film Cowboy actor Tom Mix died when his car went into a wash, now named Tom Mix Wash, in 1940 just outside of Florence. A riderless horse monument was erected nearby.

McFarland State Park is named for Ernest McFarland (Arizona State Senator, Governor of Arizona and Chief Justice of the Arizona Supreme Court) is a small historic park in Florence that contains the first Final County courthouse. McFarland purchased the property, donated it to the state, and paid for it’s renovation. The park opened in 1979.

The Pyramid Tomb of Charles Debrille Poston (1825-1902), known as “The Father of Arizona” is located on Primrose Hill which was renamed Poston Butte. It was through his efforts that Arizona became a U.S. territory. Click on his name for a good read!

Tomb of Charles Poston First Pinal County Courthouse

That pretty much catches the blog up with our adventures. I’ll be writing about life here in the resort in the coming blogs as well as the status of our car and how well our new boy Ollie is fitting into the family.

2 thoughts on “Ridin’ Along In My Automobile”

  1. Awsome post. We love going to thoses places! have fun for us, were thinking of you
    both all the time. We can’t wait to meet Ollie. I gave your Ballet to Margret yesterday,
    So you will get it soon, By the way, I met “Peaches” She talk highly of you both with
    Pickle ball.
    We hope you both have a Great Day!
    Chris & Ray


    1. Hi Chris. Glad that you enjoy our blog. Ollie is coming along nicely. More on that in coming blog. Thanks for giving our ballot to Margaret. We’ve been in touch with her and Rob and they will take care of matters. We like Peaches too!
      Have a wonderful week!
      Mike and Jil


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