Florence is located in Central Arizona . It is in Pinal County and has been the county seat since 1875. It is the fifth oldest white settlement in the state. two years after Arizona was established as a territory, the community of Florence was created with just a post office in 1868 and a general store in 1869. Florence is located at the junction of State Highway 70 and State Highway 287, just south of Phoenix.
At the McFarland State Historic Park, visitors can see the McFarland Courthouse And Museum which provides visitors with a view into the past. In 1963, the Pinal County Historical Society acquired and has maintained this building as a museum. It was named after Ernest W. McFarland. McFarland was a United State senator, the governor of Arizona, and a Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court
The 1878 Territorial Courthouse or McFarland Courthouse, located at the park is a sound structure of adobe brick walls and a wood-shingled pitched roof. During the late 1800's and early 1900's, this building served as a jail house and a hospital. It also was the first Pinal County Courthouse. Built in 1877 - 78, it contained on the first floor; the sheriff's office, the courtroom, the judge's chambers, and the jail. The second floor was used as a jury room and living quarters for visiting lawmen passing through the area. This building is considered the first courthouse in Florence.
A second courthouse was begun in 1890 and completed in 1891 for $29,000. It is known as the Pinal County Courthouse. It is still used today and is said to be the oldest public building still in use in Arizona . An unusual fact about this courthouse is its clock at the top of the building. The funds that were to be used to put into an actual clock where used to build a jail. The clock has a painted face on it and it's time is 11:44 AM. It can still be seen today.
In the early days of Florence, it was a stagecoach hub and a center for freighting supplies to the mines located nearby. However, as the town began to grow; agriculture became its main business. In 1921, the Ashurst-Hayden Diversion Dam was completed and farming began to grow. Then in 1928, the Coolidge Dam was completed and agriculture became the main occupation in the area.
A man by the name of Levi Ruggles had come to this area in 1866 and worked at the first United States land office south of the Gila River. In 1875 Levi Ruggles decided to transfer the title of his land claim to the town. His land claim then became the main section of the town. It was also in this same year that Florence became the Pinal County seat of government, which it continues to be today.
There are several stories about how Florence got it's name. One is that it was named after one of Levi Ruggles daughters. Another is that it is named after the sister of the Territorial Governor, Richard McCorrick. Another is that it was named after Governor Anson Safford’s sister. Another is that Italian soldiers from Florence, in the service of the United States Army, were reminded of Florence Italy by the hills and mountains surrounding the area.
Florence has the nickname of the “Cowboy Cradle of the Southwest.” It is said that during the Depression, Charlie Whittlow, a Florence rancher came up with an idea. Due to the Depression, many ranchers were forced to dump their milk rather than sell it for a loss. Therefore, Charlie Whittlow give his milk to schoolchildren instead of dumping it. Other ranchers began to also donate their milk. Soon afterward, the National Milk and Free Lunch Program was created. Due to Whittlow’s generosity, the town received its nickname.
Florence was incorporated in 1908. Then Florence was chosen as the site for the building of the Arizona State Prison. The Territorial Prison in Yuma was closed in 1909 and these prisoners where transferred to Florence. Even now, Florence is probably best known for its prisons. There are five prisons in town. There are two private prisons that contract to import prisoners from other states, one Immigration and Naturalization Service detention center, one county prison and the Arizona State Prison.
Florence is currently involved in a restoration and preservation program to reclaim some the town’s history. Perhaps Florence has more buildings listed with the National Register that any other city in Arizona. Today Florence’s population is growing and while it is a small city the population of The Valley Of The Sun is expanding into the Florence Area.
“The Father of Arizona ”, Charles D. Poston was another famous resident. Charles D. Poston did many great things for Arizona. His most influential act was when he was able to convince president Abraham Lincoln and the law makers in Washington, D.C. to declare Arizona a territory in late 1863 while working in Washington, D.C. Later he returned to Arizona and became the Superintendent of Indian Affairs. Then the first delegate to Congress and then the Consular Agent in Nogales. After Charles D. Poston died in absolute poverty in 1925 and 23 years later he was buried on "Poston’s Butte", outside of Florence, in a grave marked with a large pyramidal rock monument on top.
Of course, the most important event that took place in Florence as far as we are concerned is that Audrey (Holland) DeLange worked here in the Pinal County Courthouse soon after she had graduated from high school.
|The second Pinal County Courthouse Was Completed In 1891.|
It was Built For $29,000.
|The Clock In The Tower Of The Pinal County Courthouse|
Has Been 11:44 AM
Ever Since The Building Was Completed
Since It Was Painted On
Because After Construction,
There Was No Money Left Over
To Buy A Clock!
|Audrey DeLange (Holland)|
Worked In The Pinal County Courthouse
And Ate Lunch Here Every Day
At The Florence Rexall Drug Store.