On a hot day in July 2023, Ms. Karen wanted to go to Nogales to visit the Pimeria Alta Historical Museum. She had seen an advertisement for a new Old Postcard Exhibit. It sounded interesting so we used it as an excuse to go. This museum is about Northern Sonora, Mexico, and Southern Arizona, the land that Father Kino called “Land of the Upper Pima”. Thus Pimeria Alta.
The Pimeria Alta Museum is a small museum but packed with many interesting exhibits, such as The Buffalo Soldiers at Camp Little, a Pete Kitchen story, an old-time fire engine, and a huge mural of Tenochtitlan, the Aztec capital which is now Mexico City.
The Pimeria Alta Museum is housed in the Old Nogales City Hall which was constructed in 1914. We have an interesting book about the Pimeria Alta in our private library you might be interested in reading. It is published by the Southwestern Mission Research Center of the Arizona State Museum on the University of Arizona Campus. It is titled The Pimeria Alta and written by James Officer, Mardith Schuetz-Miller, and Bernard Fontana. You can find The Pimeria Alta, Missions & More here.
Camp Little was located just north of downtown Nogales. All four regiments of the Buffalo Soldiers served at Fort Huachuca. But in addition to serving there and in Nogales, they also served at Camp Naco near Bisbee, which was built by the U.S. Army in 1919. According to the Nogales Buffalo Soldiers Legacy Association, the Buffalo Soldiers were also stationed there. They can be thought of as the “Original Border Patrol”. Camp Naco was recently acquired by the City of Bisbee and with the help of a substantial grant, is being restored. Ms. Karen and I intend to visit Camp Naco soon.
Pete Kitchen was one of Arizona’s original settlers. The framed presentation of Kitchen’s life focuses on his interaction with the Apaches who attacked his ranch relentlessly until Cochise intervened. It seems Kitchen had cared for Cochise’s son when he was a young warrior and badly wounded. On Cochise’s orders, Apaches thereafter no longer bothered Kitchen or his ranch.
The rancher continued to produce bacon, ham, lard, beef, vegetables, and fruit in the fertile Santa Cruz River valley bottomland and was a major supplier of provisions for the beleaguered populace of Tucson. It was common to see signs proclaiming “Pete Kitchen hams” in Tucson stores.
His products were hauled by mule-drawn wagons as far as Yuma and Silver City, N.M.
Kitchen’s Potrero Ranch, also known as Las Lagunas, was considered the only sanctuary from Apaches between Tucson and Magdalena. His door and table were open to all and his hospitality was legendary.
The coming of the railroad put ol’ Pete out of business and he and his wife, Rosa, moved to Tucson in an area that has since been supplanted by the Tucson Convention Center. There he died peacefully, but penniless.
We also have an interesting book about Kitchen called The Trails of Pete Kitchen, by Gil Procter. Copies are rare and expensive. If you are interested, try ABEBOOKS.
One of the exhibits was an old Victrola, the predecessor to the modern record player. And an old foot-powered sewing machine. And the remnants of the original jail, two cells each with a bed and toilet and nothing else.
Beware, the Museum’s website says they open at 11 AM, but when we arrived at noon on a Thursday, the front door was still locked. There were two people waiting for someone to bring them the key so that they could go to work. Instead of waiting, we went off to have lunch at Ragazzi Italian Restaurant perhaps 3 miles north of the Museum. You can read our review of Ragazzi here.
When we returned the front door of the Museum was unlocked and we entered. But first Ms. Karen had to negotiate my electric scooter over the front step. Once inside, there were ramps, so no problems … once we were inside. The museum is free but they gladly accept donations.
Pimeria Alta Historical Museum
136 N Grand Ave, Nogales, Arizona 85621, United States