Marana History

Although a relatively young municipality, the community has a long and rich history with more than 4,200 years of continuous human occupation in Marana and the surrounding middle Santa Cruz Valley. Long before the coming of the Spanish Conquistadors and missionaries in the 17th Century, the area was inhabited by the Hohokam people who developed extensive canal systems and used waters from the Santa Cruz River to irrigate crops.

The first European to visit the Marana area was a Jesuit Priest, Father Eusebio Francisco Kino in 1694. In 1775, Juan Bautista de Anza, Captain of the Presidio of Tubac led an expedition north along the Santa Cruz River to found the city of San Francisco. With the area under U.S. jurisdiction in 1854, prospectors seeking mineral riches intensified their efforts in the region. Gold was not discovered in abundance, but, by 1865, high-grade copper ore was being shipped from mines in the Silver Bell Mountains.

Rail transportation came in 1881 and signaled a major change in the area. It gave Marana its first identification as a specific place by appearing on Southern Pacific Railroad maps in 1890. “Maraña” is a Spanish word meaning a jungle, a tangle or a thicket and was chosen as an appropriate name by the railroad workers as they hacked their way through dense brush. With the early establishment of mining and ranching, it was not until after WWI that Marana became primarily an agricultural center, producing mainly cotton, wheat, barley, alfalfa and pecans.

During World War II, the impact of the rising importance of the military came quickly to Marana. The Marana airfield (1942-1945) was the largest pilot-training center in the world during WWII, training some 10,000 flyers, and Titan missile sites were later located in the area as part of a complex of ballistic missile installations built around Tucson.

In March 1977, the Town incorporated about 10 square miles and, in August of that year, the 1,500 townspeople elected their first Town council. The Town is now a little more than 120 square miles with a population of 35,000.

To learn more about Marana's history, please use the link below. The pamphlet is in PDF format and will open in a new browser window.
Marana History Pamphlet (673 KB)

Arizona Memory Project - Marana History

Arizona Memory Project - Home Page