By Al Bates
First published March 2, 2013
Re-edited April 2, 2019
In the last article we traced Arizona’s early days as a neglected part of New Mexico Territory and how the Gadsden Purchase started the concept of a political subdivision by that name. Today we look at the shaping of Arizona (literally) by the United States Congress and how its first government was formed.
The debate over splitting Arizona from New Mexico Territory included 18 Congressional bills that produced a variety of proposed shapes. Some proposals split Arizona from New Mexico Territory along a horizontal line while others called for a vertical split. It was not until February 20, 1863, that the Senate finally agreed to a bill that had passed in the House over nine months earlier. President Lincoln signed the statute four days later. The next step was to appoint officers for the new territory, which is where Charles Debrile Poston, the self-designated “Father of Arizona,” comes in.