An Act to Create the City of Phoenix

Sometimes we forget just how many treasures we have here at the State Archives! As fate would have it, just two days after the City of Phoenix elections, we stumbled across this – An Act to Incorporate the City of Phoenix, signed in 1881! Things have changed a bit since 1881. The City of Phoenix now has eight city council members, rather than four. Elections no longer happen in May.

This Act is tucked away in our Secretary of the Territory collection (precursor to Secretary of State, of course), which is a bit of a catch-all for all sorts of interesting things. If you’d like to see records like these in person, you’re always welcome to visit us at 1901 W. Madison. And for more information about the fabulous Secretary of the Territory collection, check our our FINDING AID ON ARIZONA ARCHIVES ONLINE! 


ADNP and the Capitol Museum

-Special Guest Post by Coleen Shull, ADNP Intern

The Arizona Digital Newspaper Program (ADNP) and the Arizona State Capitol Museum team up again to bring you a new interactive exhibit that brings to life politics in Arizona through political cartoons! This display will be unveiled on September 12, 2015.

The ADNP and the Capitol Museum staff have brainstormed the best way to bring to life Arizona’s political history through select political cartoons found among the ADNP’s digital collection. Political cartoons were a way for Arizona to praise, attack or even ridicule the current political issues affecting Arizona’s campaign for statehood in Washington. Interested in politics during Arizona’s Territorial days? Fascinated with Arizona’s political attitude when campaigning for statehood? Want to see how Arizona’s statehood was achieved? All of this and more can be learned in a visually interesting and amusing way, through the political cartoons found in the pages of Arizona’s Territorial papers.

The exhibit will feature cartoons that reflect Arizona’s political journey to statehood. Visitors will also be able to interact with this display by utilizing two Surface Tablet touchscreens. We’ll keep you updated on this display’s progress as we move along!

27 August 1910 Page 6 Bisbee Daily Review1

Arizona Road Trip

When the weather gets toasty here in Phoenix and we long for the days when it’s *only* 100 degrees out, many of us head North for cooler weather. This month, we’re digging into our collections and dreaming about road trips. It turns out Arizona road trips have long been popular! (Not surprising, since one of our Five Cs is Climate!) Here are a few highlights from both library and archival collections.

Arizona State Highway Commission Road Map,  1937.

Arizona State Highway Commission Road Map, 1937.

Some of our favorite treasures come from our map collection. Julie Hoff, our maps guru extraordinaire, shared these beautiful hand-illustrated maps put out by the Arizona State Highway Commission in the 1930s and 1940s. They later switched to photographs, but we love these drawings!

We also have some really lovely material from the Arizona Collection (thanks, Ellen Greene!) showing off some of our fantastic ephemera. Click on the thumbnails below to get a better view of some of our treasures, and be sure to stop by to see more in our display case!

Photograph of Grace Golden, a Harvey Girl, sitting on hood of car at the Grand Canyon (Ariz.), 1926. RG 99, SG 12, 01-4770.jpg

Photograph of Grace Golden, a Harvey Girl, sitting on hood of car at the Grand Canyon (Ariz.), 1926. RG 99, SG 12, 01-4770.jpg



Power’s War – Q&A with Historian Dr. Heidi Osselaer


Heidi Osselaer during a 3-day hike into the Power Cabin.

The archivists’ code of ethics dictates that we don’t disclose what our researchers are looking at, so it’s pretty exciting when a patron publishes a book or works on a documentary that we can share! One of our dear patrons, Dr. Heidi Osselaer*, did quite a bit of in-depth research here at the archives in preparation for the beautiful Power’s War documentary that is screening at film festivals and winning awards all over the country. We’re thrilled that she agreed to answer some questions about her process researching for the film.


Heidi with author Thomas Cobb (Crazy Heart and With Blood in their Eyes), and Power’s War producer Cameron Trejo at the film’s premiere at Eastern Arizona College in Thatcher.

The Power’s War is known as the deadliest gunfight in Arizona history, and took place in the Galiuro Mountains early one morning in 1918. The saga involves fatalities, manhunts, and three men sentenced to the Florence prison for murder – but little substantive evidence exists to fill in the details of the story. Heidi discovered that the documentation was often shaky at best, that records went missing over time, and that the series of events have evolved into conspiracy theories and myths over time. Her research is a classic archives tale of the process of trying to create a narrative out conspiracy theories, missing records, and highly suspect documentation. One of the most thrilling and frustrating parts of working in archives is untangling these mysteries!

Q&A with Heidi 

  1. First, can you talk a little about how you got involved in this project?

Filmmaker Cameron Trejo at Power Cabin

Heidi: “Three years ago local film producer Cameron Trejo came to me with a documentary film project, the Power Shootout.  He gave me 2 books to read—Shootout at Dawn written by Tom Power and The Evaders written by Darvil McBride. He had been struggling to figure out what really happened at the mining shack deep in the Galiuro Mountains when four lawmen arrived on Feb. 10, 1918 to arrest Tom and John Power for draft evasion and Jeff Power and hired hand Tom Sisson for perjury in their testimony at the inquest of Ola May Power  After skimming through both books, it quickly became apparent that neither version was accurate. Tom Power and Darvil McBride’s father, Sheriff Robert Frank McBride, were both participants—on opposite sides of Arizona’s deadliest gunfight.  Clearly they were both biased.  Several other books have been written, but there had been no systematic examination of public records. Barbara Wolfe, Passion, Prejudice and Power, had uncovered a handful of trial records and newspaper articles, but most other publications relied heavily on the somewhat dubious claims of old men with fading memories. Oral history is a wonderful resource, but in this case, with so few facts established and so many disparate versions of the shootout floating about, the truth became quite elusive. There was even a dissertation published on the shootout, not in History, but in Folklore—that’s how bad it got.”

  1. Can you tell us a little about the research you did for this project? What was your approach, and where did it take you?

Heidi at the Grant County Recorder’s Office

Heidi: “My plan was to get a fresh view through the extant public records—tax assessments, property deeds, voter registration, criminal & civil court cases, census records. I started at Arizona State Library and Public Records, combing through existing documents for months on end.  I  traced the family lineage back to when the first Power to come to the new world from Germany in the 1780s, and followed these ancestors through their moves to Kentucky, Indiana, Arkansas, Texas, New Mexico, and finally into Arizona. Along the way I have found relatives of the Power family living today in California who knew nothing about the story, and they have provided me with very useful insights. is an amazing tool!

My final research trip was to the Power Cabin, located deep in the Galiuro Mountains of southeastern Arizona.  When you are writing about something, it is important to experience it first hand, but I wasn’t too excited about this trip. I’m not the rugged outdoors woman, but my producer, Cameron Trejo, insisted I go on his 9th and final trip to film for the documentary.  It is a beautiful place, but very remote.  We spent three days camping out, and at night black bears scratched at my door for hours.  No documents on this trip, just hundreds of photographs, but I came away with a much better understanding of the life of this family.”

  1. You’ve mentioned that a lot of what you learned from the research was not just what you found in the archives, but also what was missing. Can you talk about your experiences with this? 

Heidi: “Many documents concerning this story are missing.  Criminal and civil cases involving the Power family in New Mexico are noted in the dockets, but the actual case files are missing. And while Greenlee County trial documents are on microfilm at ASLAPR, the transcripts of the testimony have never been found. The U. S. Marshal records, housed at AHS Tucson, are very complete, except for documents related to the Power case. Some of the U. S. Marshal letters still exist in the Greenlee County trial records because they were introduced as evidence in the trial, but their copies and othpower nara docs (13)er correspondence seem to have been lifted from the US Marshall collection.  There are hundreds of prison records at ASLAPR pertaining to the many decades that Tom Sisson and Tom and John Power spent at the Arizona State Prison at Florence, however, the trial transcripts and judge’s sentence and other court records that customarily go to the prison warden are missing from those prison files. There are always many souvenir hunters who take public records, even though it is a felony, and of course record keeping one hundred years ago was often haphazard, but in this case, I feel that there was a systematic effort to purge many records regarding the Power case from the public eye. Others who have researched this case agree. This has created the appearance that there was a conspiracy to cover up the truth. I’m not sure if that is true, but that is the outward appearance.

Finally, I was disappointed that the Graham County Historical Society has closed, and its excellent collection is no longer available to the public.  The records of Judge Chambers, who was lead prosecutor in the trial, are held in this collection, and they are essential to understanding this pivotal character in the Power story. I hope that state historians and archivists work together to keep valuable local collections safe and available to the public.  We cannot write the history of Arizona without them.”


heidi-osselaer*Heidi J. Osselaer received her undergraduate degree in history at the University of California, Berkeley, and earned both a master’s degree and doctorate in U.S. history at Arizona State University. Her research field is women in Arizona History.  She has taught at Arizona State University, Tempe, Scottsdale Community College, and Phoenix College and has served on the Executive Board and the Scholars’ Committee of the Arizona Women’s Heritage Trail as well as the Editorial Board of the Journal of Arizona History and is a speaker for the Arizona Humanities Council. In April of 2009, the University of Arizona Press published her first book, Winning Their Place: Arizona Women in Politics, 1883-1950. She served as development producer and lead historian, and was interviewed as a historical expert for the 2015 documentary film, “Power’s War,” about Arizona’s deadliest shootout.  She was also a historical expert interviewed for “Blood Feuds: Johnson County War,” forthcoming from Lion TV and American History Channel.

Happy 35th Birthday, Groundwater Management Act!


Stop by the display case at the State Archives to see some of the original documents from the passage of the Groundwater Management Act!

Water in the American West is always a hot topic, but it’s made the news a lot more in recent years as California has struggled with drought, and western states continue to discuss how to allocate water resources. Determining how to parse out scarce water resources in our own arid region, and how to plan for tough times, has been a part of Arizona’s history. 2015 marks 35 years since one of the most important pieces of water management legislation was signed by Governor Bruce Babbitt, the Groundwater Management Act of 1980.


Governor Bruce Babbitt

The Groundwater Management Act was written by a 25-member groundwater commission (we have those records, too!), who took a year and a half to learn the complexities of water laws. Tough questions they asked included who should have the right to pump groundwater and how much?; what methods should be used to reduce the groundwater overdraft?; and should groundwater be managed primarily at the state or local level?

The Act was signed into law on June 11, 1980. The law restricted new agricultural use of groundwater, required permits for new industrial uses, restricted the drilling of large wells, and implemented the rule that new development subdivisions be able to guarantee 100 years of water supply. The Act also divided the state into four Active Management Areas, with a series of water management plans adopted for each area.


Active Management Areas designated by the Groundwater Management Act

Prior to the passage of the Groundwater Management Act, Secretary of the Interior Cecil Andrus warned Governor Babbitt that funding for the Central Arizona Project could be threatened, but the reforms ensured that funding for CAP was secured. In the 35 years since its passage, the Groundwater Management Act has been lauded as a landmark piece of legislation that has left the state’s water supply in a more assured position from that of neighboring states.

We have lots of resources related to the Groundwater Management Act, including the Governor Bruce Babbitt records (RG 1, SG 23), the Arizona Groundwater Management Study Commission (RG 48), and the Department of Water Resources (RG 142). Stop by to see the materials on display, or come by to do some research!


Governor Babbitt’s speech following the passage of the Groundwater Management Act.

Dr. Melanie Sturgeon Receives High Honor!

A few months ago, a colleague from Northern Arizona University Special Collections contacted archives staff to see if we could put together a bio for our beloved director, Dr. Melanie Sturgeon, so he could nominate her for the Conference of Inter-Mountain Archivists (CIMA) Lifetime Achievement Award. It took us awhile to condense all of her amazing work into just a short paragraph! Melanie is such an amazing champion of Arizona history and archives, has fostered archivists new to the profession, and has been instrumental in building a close-knit archival community here in Arizona! We can’t think of a more deserving recipient. Read more about her award here! DSC_1243