Tucson was probably first visited by Paleo-Indians, known to have been in southern Arizona by about 12,000 years ago. Recent archaeological excavations near the Santa Cruz River have located a village site dating from 2100 BC. The floodplain of the Santa Cruz River was extensively farmed during the Early Agricultural period, circa 1200 BC to AD 150. These people constructed irrigation canals and grew corn, beans, and other crops while gathering wild plants and hunting animals. The Early Ceramic period occupation of Tucson saw the first extensive use of pottery vessels for cooking and storage. The groups designated by archaeologists as the Hohokam lived in the area from AD 600 to 1450 and are known for their vast irrigation canal systems as well as their red-on-brown pottery.
Jesuit missionary Eusebio Francisco Kino visited the Santa Cruz River valley in 1692, and founded the Mission San Xavier del Bac in 1700 about 7 mi (11 km) upstream from the site of the settlement of Tucson. A separate Convento settlement was founded downstream along the then flowing Santa Cruz River, near the base of what is now "A" mountain. Hugo O'Conor, the founding father of the city of Tucson, Arizona authorized the construction of a military fort in that location, Presidio San Agustín del Tucsón, on August 20, 1775 (near the present downtown Pima County Courthouse). During the Spanish period of the presidio, attacks such as the Second Battle of Tucson were repeatedly mounted by Apaches. Eventually the town came to be called "Tucson" and became a part of Mexico after Mexico gained independence from Spain in 1821. Tucson was captured by the Mormon Battalion during the Mexican-American War, but later returned to Mexican control. Tucson was not included in the Mexican Cession – it was following the Gadsden Purchase in 1853 that Tucson became a part of the United States of America, although the American military did not formally take over control of the community until March 1856. In 1857 Tucson became a stage station on the San Antonio-San Diego Mail Line and in 1858 became 3rd division headquarters of the Butterfield Overland Mail until the line shut down in March 1861. The Overland Mail Corporation attempted to continue operations, however following the Bascom Affair, devastating Apache attacks on the stations and coaches ended operations in August 1861.
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