San Ignacio de Tubac

illustration of soldiers on horseback illustration of soldiers on horseback

How It Was

A revolt in 1751 led by O'odham warrior Luis Oacpicagigua caused the Spanish government to realize that the frontier mission system could not be successful on its own. A military presence would be needed for protection of the frontier. In 1752 a fort was established near the site of the abandoned O'odham village at Tubac.

Though open revolt had ended with a peace agreement, tensions were still high. The new garrison of Tubac would continue campaigning against rebel holdouts, delaying construction. By February of 1753 San Ignacio de Tubac was constructed. The Tumacácori Mission enjoyed the protection of nearby soldiers until the garrison was moved north to Tucson in 1776.

In 1782, the Spanish government raised a company of O'odham soldiers. The experiment proved an immediate success. They were hard-fighting, and tallied success after success. They wore Spanish uniforms, though it was reported that they stripped to the loin cloth when fighting Apaches. The bow and arrow, lance, rawhide shield, and war club were used until they were armed with muskets.

In 1787 the Pima Indian Company became the garrison of the Tubac Presidio. The company, when not fighting Apaches, rebuilt the fort and the church. The eighty-man Indian Company remained at Tubac into the Mexican era of the 1830s, allowing the town to grow and prosper.

historic map of tubac showing river and adjacent farm fields

Courtesy of British Library

1767 Map of San Ignacio de Tubac by José de Urrutia

The legend says: Plan of the Presidio of San Ignacio de Tubac in the Province of Sonora, located at 32 degrees and 3 minutes latitude north, and 252 degrees and 24 minutes longitude counted from the Tenerife meridian.
Explanantion: A. Captain's house; B. Guardhouse; C. Cemetery; D Church begun at the expense of the captain. Note: all of the building materials of ths presidio are adobes. Scale: two hundred fathoms. Joseph de Urrutia

The map also shows the roads to Tumacácori, Altar, San Xavier del Bac, and Sonoitac; the Tubac River (today the Santa Cruz River); and the ditch for irrigating.


How It Is Now

The site of the Tubac Presidio is now the Tubac Presidio State Historic Park, where you can explore the timeline of human settlement in the Santa Cruz River Valley, dating back to the O'odham settlement in the 1500s. It protects museum exhibits, artifacts, original artwork, and excavated portions of the original adobe foundation, walls, and plaza floor of the 1752 Commandant’s quarters.

Credit for the Tubac Presidio becoming a State Park belongs, in large part, to interested and generous residents of the community. Frank and Olga Griffin were active in preserving the local history, establishing the Tubac Restoration Foundation, and influencing the Parks Board to establish Tubac Presidio as the first Arizona State Park. The Griffins made the initial donation of three lots to the Parks Board on December 21, 1957. Tubac Presidio State Historic Park was officially dedicated on Sunday, September 28, 1958.

Tubac Presidio State Historic Park was due to close in March 2010 due to the loss of state funds. The community of Tubac came together and succeeded in crafting a Public-Private Partnership that allowed the park to remain open to the public.

Now operated by the Friends of the Tubac Presidio and Museum, the park features a museum, underground display of the Presidio ruins, Arizona’s first printing press, a picnic area, and access to the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail.

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Tubac Presidio State Historic Park


Spanish Military in the New World

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    Last updated: July 23, 2020

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    Mailing Address:

    P.O. Box 8067
    Tumacacori, AZ 85640


    520 377-5060

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