Celebrating a Century
I haven’t attended many 100th birthday parties. Okay, I haven’t gone to any—up until this week, anyway. And the guest of honor is very special to me.
This week marks the centennial of Arizona’s statehood.
Of all the stories we’ve heard about Abraham Lincoln, one that seems to slip through the cracks is the fact that he signed the Arizona Organic Act in 1863. The act provided for the creation of a new territory, and the citizens of Arizona spent the next 49 years working to achieve statehood. That dream was finally realized when President William Howard Taft signed the declaration making Arizona a state on February 14, 1912, and giving Arizonans one more reason to celebrate Valentine’s Day.
My family missed being part of that historic occasion, but not by much. My grandparents left Kansas and settled in Arizona in 1917, when the state was only five years old. My grandfather came out first, establishing a dairy farm near what is now 47th Avenue and Thomas Road in Phoenix. My grandmother followed several months later, making the journey by train with a 4-year-old son, a 2-year-old daughter . . . and only 3 weeks away from giving birth to my father, the first Arizona native in our family tree.
In my own little corner of northern Arizona, it seemed that flags, balloons, and banners were everywhere, making sure no one could miss the fact that it was a day of special note. Prescott, the first territorial capital, marked the occasion by planting a Centennial Tree on the west side of the courthouse plaza . . .
. . . matching the placement of the Statehood Tree on the plaza’s east side.
State flags lined the walkway to the courthouse building.
After writing a number of stories chronicling Arizona’s road to statehood, the plaza is a place that’s dear to my heart. I walked between the rows of flags, studying the events noted in the timeline etched into the concrete walk.
I thought of the intrepid men and women who came out to an untamed wilderness and made it their home. People who left the familiar behind to follow the dream of a better life. It reminded me of what Paul wrote to the believers in Philippi and Corinth, when he talked about “forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead ” in order to reach our goal, an eternal home in heaven, not built by human hands.
My grandparents may not have been here from the beginning of Arizona’s statehood, but they embodied those same traits, and passed their love of the state down to the generations that followed. Now that I have grandchildren of my own, that makes five generations of my family who have lived here. I hope I can instill that same pride in our Arizona heritage in those who come after me. More importantly, I want to pass along a spiritual heritage that can be theirs as well.
With so much of my family’s history connected with this state, it was an honor to be able to celebrate this red-letter day in Arizona history.
Happy Birthday, Arizona!