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In 1862, local mining law allowed individuals to file claims of entitlement to the minerals on a specific plot of land, and also receive a patent to the land itself. At the time, one Saddlebrooke resident filed a number of these mining claims in order to amass land, insisting gold was present. It was not until the Department of Interior got involved by sending a letter saying, “the land appeared to be non-mineral in character.”

Local residents have the opportunity to learn about interesting local history like this, and much more, through the recently announced Oro Valley Historical Society’s Speaker Series. This year’s series, which will take place at the Oro Valley Library, starts next Wednesday, Nov. 13 and runs through Monday, March 9, 2020.

Bob Simpson, a local historian who authored a book on the rich past of the Saddlebrooke Ranch area, will be there to speak about this absurd mining law of 1862 and Saddlebrooke’s “phantom gold.”

The individual topics that speakers cover will vary greatly, but all of them will give listeners a rare window into the Oro Valley area’s sensational, yet relatively unknown history.

“The Oro Valley Historical Society was founded in 2005. The organization seeks to promote research, preservation, education and dissemination of history related to the greater Oro Valley area,” according to a letter from the Oro Valley Historical Society.

For this Speaker Series, the historical society sought out locals with knowledge about a specific subject related to either Oro Valley or the Tucson area. 

“We were looking for somebody to speak about a special topic, so we did some research at the University of Arizona and other places to find potential speakers,” said Jim Williams, the chairman of the speakers bureau for the society.

The series includes five different speakers kicking off with David Leighton of the Arizona Daily Star, who will discuss street names in the Tucson area on Nov. 13. It continues with Jim Williams himself discussing the revival of Steam Pump

Ranch on Dec. 11. On Jan. 8, 2020, Dr. Tani Sanchez of the Africana Studies Department at the University of Arizona will discuss her family’s personal story as a black family that migrated to Tucson from the South in the 1920s and 30s. Simpson’s talk related to the Saddlebrooke area takes place Feb. 6, and the series wraps up March 9 with Peter Spooner of Arizona Coins and Collectibles, who will speak on “tokens in Arizona history.”

Most presentations are 45-60 minutes long and are free of charge to attend. It is a great way to uncover the multi-faceted history of the area from the Native Americans to the early settlers in Catalina State Park to twentieth-century suburban history, Williams said.

Simpson said he is participating as a speaker because it’s his legacy to the community.

“To me, there is so much fascinating stuff in here that I just really wanted to share,” Simpson said.

He feels a special connection to his home region knowing how exactly it came to be. 

“I can walk down 20 minutes from my house and see a dam that was built by Pierre Charouleau still there, built in about the early 1880s,” Simpson said.

This is in reference to a man of French descent who settled on his ranch on the canal near the Pima county border and of which Charouleau Gap mountain pass is named after.

“To be able to do that and look at that and say ‘My God, how did they do that with no heavy equipment and power equipment, all by hand.’ To me, it just makes living here so much more meaningful,” Simpson said.

The speaker series offers a great platform for someone who has researched local history to share it with a sizeable group. 

The speaker series fundamentally aids the OVHS mission of “preserving the past, for the future” because, as Williams said, “you don’t know your community unless you know a little bit about where it came from.”

Jack Ramsey is a University of Arizona journalism student and Tucson Local Media intern.

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