The Southwest’s rich history includes three presidios of Arizona. Presidios were Spanish military forts built between 1500s and 1800s. Southern Arizona is home to three different presidios located in Tubac, Tucson, and near present day Sierra Vista.
Tubac was founded in 1752 (actually built in 1753). It remained a post until 1776. Tubac remained occupied by settlers and guarded by an escort of troops until 1781. That July, the Quechan Indians rose up at present day Yuma and slaughtered the Spaniards in the new settlement there. The government, feeling the loss in people and finances, withdrew everyone from Tubac. It wasn’t until 1787 that Tubac was reoccupied by a Pima Indian presidial company. Tubac remained garrisoned until unofficially abandoned in 1849.
Tucson was founded in August of 1775. Building of the structure probably began the following October after the growing season. It was occupied in late October or early November of 1776. The fort initially had a small earthworks along the Santa Cruz River and Pennington (Calle de Arroyo) and had a wooden palisade along Church and the northern boundary . By early 1783, after a large Apache attack, it was walled with thick adobe. The post was continually improved until it reached its maximum size of approximately 11 acres. Tucson was among the largest of the frontier presidios. Tucsons’ torreones (towers) were state of the art, allowing enfiladed defense along the walls. The square torreons are found on most post 1772 presidios.
The Presidio de Terrenate near present day Sierra Vista was the second location for that post. It was moved to its northern location by Colonel Hugo O’conor in order to push the outposts farther north and to stand aside the primary raiding route of the Chiricahua Apache. The post was founded only a few days after Tucson in August of 1775 and the troop moved in during May of 1776, earlier than Tucson. Popular myth says that the northern Terrenate was abandoned because of depredations. The post was actually highly effective and raids on the Santa Cruz Valley dropped off. Two major battles were fought near Terrenate. Under the commander, Lt. Francisco Tovar, the garrison lost 29 soldiers. The second commander, Captain Francisco Trespalacios was killed with 20 soldiers near the ghost town of Fairbank. Terrenate was abandoned due to the impending war with Britain. In fact the new replacement post was only 35 miles south and stood at the edge of the Chiricahua Apache raiding trail. Eventually the third post was moved to where the town of Santa Cruz, Mexico still stands.