The University of Arizona

Special Collections Acquisition Illustrates Territorial Arizona

By Gabrielle Sykes-Casavant, UA Libraries | April 20, 2011

The Don Alonzo Sanford Collection highlights the pioneering spirit that helped to sculpt the Southwest.

Special Collections' holdings, such as the newly acquired Don Alonzo Sanford Collection, offer students studying history, journalism, Latin American studies and other disciplines the opportunity to access important historical documents that chronicle the development of Arizona, Sonora and the greater Southwest. (Photo courtesy of UA Special Collections)
Special Collections' holdings, such as the newly acquired Don Alonzo Sanford Collection, offer students studying history, journalism, Latin American studies and other disciplines the opportunity to access important historical documents that chronicle the development of Arizona, Sonora and the greater Southwest. (Photo courtesy of UA Special Collections)
Many of Don Alonzo Sanford's descendants still reside in Tucson, and it is the family's wish that this notable collection be preserved locally and made accessible to researchers and scholars. (Photo courtesy of UA Special Collections)
Many of Don Alonzo Sanford's descendants still reside in Tucson, and it is the family's wish that this notable collection be preserved locally and made accessible to researchers and scholars. (Photo courtesy of UA Special Collections)

Special Collections at the University of Arizona Libraries recently acquired the Don Alonzo Sanford Collection, an important addition to the University's extensive Southwest and borderlands holdings. 

The Don Alonzo Sanford Collection offers a detailed look at daily life in the Territory of Arizona, providing insight into one of the great pioneering personalities that helped sculpt the Southwest circa the turn of the 20th century.

The collection was donated to the UA's Special Collections by Amo Leona Summers, the great-granddaughter of Don Alonzo and Louisa Sanford.

The collection includes 11 linear feet of photographs, business correspondence, ranch records, ledgers, deeds, oversized blueprints and maps and other documents pertaining to the Sanford homestead on the San José Land Grant.

Also included are diaries, personal letters, documents relating family history, as well as Cochise and Pima County history during Arizona's during its days as an incorporated territory, spanning 1863 to 1912. 

Born in New York in 1840, Sanford rode into the Territory of Arizona in his early 30s.

With his older brother, Denton, Sanford purchased a band of cattle and settled them on what would become the Stock Valley Ranch, 45 miles east of burgeoning Tucson. The brothers also operated a ranch south of the city along the Sonoita Creek, near the town of Patagonia.

Within a few years, Sanford was married with children, and by 1880, according to the Arizona Daily Star newspaper, "He probably had more than any other one person in the territory."

An astute businessman, Sanford invested his growing wealth in Tucson property and also served in public office as a county supervisor and a city councilman. In February 1884, he was the acting mayor of the town.

Around this time, Sanford sold the Stock Valley Ranch to Walter Vail of Empire Ranch renown. The Stock Valley land fetched what would amount to about $3.1 million today.

Having made his fortune, Sanford moved his family to Washington, D.C., where his wealth grew into a business of hotels. He died in 1915, at the age of 75, leaving behind the legacy of a real pioneer and entrepreneur.

Despite leading his immediate family back east, Sanford remained connected to Arizona until the end of his life.

The family continued to operate the remaining Sanford Ranch land from afar, and Sanford made regular trips back to the Southwest, to Tucson and Patagonia, to help manage the business.

The land remained in the Sanford family until 1925, when the 5,000-acred spread was sold to a German family, the Zinmeisters. Today, this land is the site of the Circle Z dude ranch.

Contacts

Chrystal Carpenter

UA Special Collections

520-471-7342

carpenterc@u.library.arizona.edu


Gabrielle Sykes-Casavant

UA Libraries 

520-307-0877

sykes-casavantg@u.library.arizona.edu