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The First Pima County Supervisors

From left, Original Pima County Supervisor Solomon Warner and Original Pima County Supervisor William S. Oury.

From left, Original Pima County Supervisor Solomon Warner and Original Pima County Supervisor William S. Oury.

March 19, 1866: Territory of Arizona, County of Pima:

We the undersigned constituting the Board of Supervisors for Pima County duly commissioned by the Honorable R.C. McCormick, acting governor of the Territory of Arizona, and being duly sworn before the Honorable Patrick Dunne, Probate Judge, to execute the duties of said office according to law. Now let it be known that we have this day, the nineteenth of March A.D. 1866, entered upon our duties as said Board of Supervisors.

Wm. S. Oury
Granville Wheat
S. Warner

With that proclamation, the first Pima County Board of Supervisors began its duties.

The first four counties in the Arizona Territory — Yuma, Mohave, Yavapai and Pima — were created on Nov. 6, 1864. Each, at its own expense, had to provide a suitable courthouse, a jail and fireproof county offices.

Pima County bought a lot at the corner of Ott and Court streets in Tucson from Mark Aldrich for $200. There in 1868, Charles Meyer built the first Pima County Courthouse. According to building specifications, it was to have “a rock foundation, adobe walls made of good dirt well mixed with straw, and a step in front of each doorway.”

The three Arizona pioneers sworn in as the first Pima County Board of Supervisors on March 19, 1866, were William Oury, Granville Wheat and Solomon Warner. Two of the men are pictured here.

Oury had fought with Texas in the revolution against Mexico. He would become Pima County sheriff in 1872.

Wheat was an Iowan who had caught the California gold fever and come West. He operated a saloon on Main Street and shortly after becoming county supervisor took the job of county sheriff.

Warner was ordered to leave Tucson during the Civil War by Capt. Sherrod Hunter of the Confederate forces. He left all his possessions and fled, but returned after the war and went into business. He dammed a branch of the Santa Cruz River for power to operate the Mission Flouring Mill.

At the first board meeting, Oury served as chairman. John Archibald was appointed clerk of the board, for which he would receive a salary of $200 per year.

Wheat was appointed coroner and immediately resigned from the board when it was discovered that members of the board could not hold other county offices. At the second meeting on March 30, he switched jobs again, resigning as coroner to be appointed Pima County sheriff, after posting sufficient bond.

At the May 2 board meeting, only Oury was present and, although decisions demanded a majority, Oury’s single vote had to suffice since it was unclear how to determine a majority of two. Oury conducted business and placed an order with Sheriff Wheat to stop Leo Carrillo from obstructing the “highway” from Tucson to San Xavier.

After that, Oury and Warner met regularly to set up the county government. On May 19, the board appointed a justice of the peace and a county treasurer. At the June 6 board meeting, they approved Sheriff Wheat’s bill for $153.75 for services rendered to the county.

One month later, they drew up the Pima County tax code, which specified that property would be taxed at 25 cents on $100 for the territorial government and an equal amount for the Pima County government. Ten percent of the county portion would be paid to the collector, who was the sheriff.

Oury and Warner also set up a budget of $2,190 a year, which covered rent, clerk’s salary, supervisors’ salaries of $150 per year, cost of the district court office and office supplies.

In July, Wheat resigned as sheriff and Stephen Ochoa was appointed to fill the vacancy. In August, the board approved a list of election precincts with inspectors and judges. An election was held on Sept. 5. On Sept. 17, Oury and Warner held the last meeting of the original Pima County Board of Supervisors to certify the election results.

The newly elected supervisors were John B. Allen, Stephen Ochoa and Jeremiah Prodian.

— Jane Eppinga. Photos courtesy of  the author.

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