By Al Bates 

This article ends the Days Past sesquicentennial series covering Arizona Territory’s earliest two years from a Prescott perspective.

The first Arizona Territorial Legislature adjourned on November 10, 1864, leaving behind a solid record of accomplishment headed by adoption of the Howell Code, a comprehensive set of laws for the territory.  A major part of that effort was establishment of the territory’s original four counties and providing for their administration.

Governor Goodwin had requested that there be only three counties (corresponding to his original three judicial districts) to contain costs, but the legislature created four.  They made a minor move of the District Two eastern border, moving it 40 miles east, and then divided it at the Bill Williams River to separate it into Mojave and Yuma Counties.  The remains of District One became Pima County and a slightly reduced District Three became Yavapai County, all effective January 1, 1865.

For the time being, each county would be administrated by three appointed County Commissioners, consisting of the Probate Judge, the Sheriff, and the Recorder.  Thus for Yavapai County the first County Commissioners were Hezekiah Brooks, Van C. Smith and Follet G. Christie.  Provision for selection of County Supervisors by popular vote was added by the second legislature and the first sets of supervisors were elected in 1866 and seated in 1867.

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The original Arizona Territorial Seal designed by Secretary McCormick (Courtesy of Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett).

Some of the Howell Code provisions ring harshly on modern ears.  On democracy’s most important issue, the right to vote, the laws passed were models for the time—sexist, racist and included a poll tax.  The right to vote was limited to sane white male citizens 21 and over including “white” male citizens of Mexico who had elected to become American citizens through provisions in earlier land acquisitions from Mexico.

Racism appeared again in the chapter on marriage which prohibited the marriage of white persons and negroes or mulattoes, and in a section on civil actions that prohibited Indians and negroes of less than half white blood from testifying against whites in civil cases.  Sadly, anti-miscegenation laws existed in Arizona well into the 20th Century.

Licensing—and taxing—of various gambling games was established.  Unlicensed gambling games were prohibited and fines were established.  Failure to pay any of these fines was subject to imprisonment in the county jail.  Fines for illegal gambling were not oppressive, except that conviction on a charge of engaging in unlicensed gaming by any “public officer” also meant immediate loss of office, period.

Among other acts made law was the naming of the Arizona Miner as the official newspaper of the Territory and establishing how much the paper could charge for publication of official documents printed therein thus guaranteeing the Miner’s owner, Secretary McCormick, a steady stream of income.

An Arizona Historical Society was incorporated and 15 pioneers led by Secretary McCormick were recognized as its initial members.  Noteworthy by his exclusion from the initial list was Charles D. Poston the self-proclaimed “Father of Arizona.”  However, Mr. Poston had the last laugh when, largely through his efforts, the “Society of Arizona Pioneers” was founded in Tucson in 1884.  Two reorganizations later they emerged as the “Arizona Historical Society” and then took on the mantle of the long dormant 1864 organization.

Along with the more substantial issues addressed, the legislators decided that they did not like the territorial seal designed by Secretary McCormick, so they authorized $100 for the engraving of a new seal that replaced the “sturdy miner” with a deer of unspecified gender.  Use of the old seal would continue until its replacement would be available for use.  As it turned out, the old seal continued in use for the next 15 years when its replacement first appeared on an official territorial document.

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The replacement seal designed by the First Legislature (Courtesy of Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett).

At the end of that first legislative session, Governor Goodwin wrote expressing his appreciation for,  “[T]he diligence and wisdom with which your labors have been prosecuted, and of their great value to the Territory.”  He further complemented the legislators for their display of harmony and good feelings throughout, something that could not be said for legislatures yet to come.

“Days Past” is a collaborative project of the Sharlot Hall Museum and the Prescott Corral of Westerners International (www.prescottcorral.org). The public is encouraged to submit ideas for articles to dayspastprescott@gmail.com.