Florence Town History


Arizona became a territory under the signature of Abraham Lincoln in 1863.  When the Civil War ended two years later, the U.S. Calvary came to protect the new territory from bandits and Native Americans.  Farmers soon settled the banks of the Gila River to raise cattle and hay using prehistoric Hohokam irrigation canals.  Settlers came from the east seeking fortune and adventure.  At the same time, families trying to escape wars in northern Mexico moved north.  So began Florence.

In the 1870s, Florence experienced a large population and commerce boom as loads of ore from the Silver King Mine passed through town.  The community became a business and social hub as miners and cowboys patronized the more than 28 canteens.  Homes and commercial buildings were constructed of adobe and shaded by cottonwood trees growing along small ditches of flowing water.

Florence became the Pinal County seat in 1875, and a new adobe courthouse and jail were built.  This building still exists and is now called McFarland State Historic Park to pay tribute to Ernest McFarland, the 10th Governor of the State of Arizona and one of the fathers of the G.I. Bill.  In 1891, a new courthouse was constructed and served the county for nearly 100 years.  Recently, the decision was made to rehabilitate this structure, and it once again serves as the home of the Pinal County Board of Supervisors.

In the early 1900s, prisoners from the Yuma Territorial Prison were brought to Florence to construct a newer facility.  This facility, the Arizona State Prison Complex, became the basis for additional correctional facilities constructed in this community, and remains in operation today.

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