John Ross Browne was one of the most prominent writers to visit the West during the pioneer years. His colorful and entertaining narratives inspired a young man named Samuel Clemens, whom we better remember as Mark Twain. Browne’s writing affords one of the first detailed accounts of pristine Arizona and Apacheria; its inhabitants ranging from the native inhabitants to the soldiers, outlaws and rugged pioneers.
His narrative describes his 1863 journey from Ft. Yuma to the Pima Villages on the Gila River to Tucson where he wrote, “I had no idea before my visit to Arizona there existed within the territorial limits of the United States a city more remarkable in many respects than Jericho…..a city of mud-baked boxes…broken corrals, sheds, bake ovens, carcasses of dead animals, and broken pottery…..Adobe walls without whitewash inside or out……soldiers, teamsters, and honest miners lounging about the mescal-shops, soaked with firey poison; a noisy band of Sonoran buffons (sic), dressed in theatrical costume, cutting their antics in the public places to the most diabolical din of fiddles and guitars ever heard…..It then numbered some four or five hundred souls. Since 1854 it has been the principal town in the Territory, and has been occupied successively by the federal and rebel troops…..it became during the years before the ‘break-up’ quite a place of resort for traders, speculators, gamblers, horse-thieves, murderers and vagrant politicians. Men who were no longer permitted to live in California found the climate of Tucson congenial to their health. If the world were searched over I suppose there could not be found so degraded a set of villains as then formed the principal society of Tucson.”