This article first appeared on the LD9 Democrats website.

In this third installment of Democratic Heroes of Tucson, we focus on pioneer and Tucson developer Mariano Samaniego.

He was a proponent of higher education and served as a member of the Board of Regents for the University of Arizona.

An active Democrat, he also participated in politics, becoming the first Pima County Assessor and serving in the Territorial Legislature from 1877 to 1899. He was also a member of the Tucson City Council in 1891. From 1890 to 1901, he was a Pima County Supervisor, serving as Board Chairman in 1901.


Samaniego was married to the former Dolores Aguirre of Las Cruces.

He was reputed to have near-total control of the Mexican vote in the area. He opposed imposing a poll tax that would have disenfranchised Mexican-American Voters.

Samaniego married the former Dolores Aguirre of Las Cruces.


Born in Sonora, Mexico on July 26, 1844, to a wealthy and influential landowning family, Samaniego moved to the New Mexico Territory with his family in 1850 after his father died.

A graduate of St. Louis University, he served in the Confederate Army and Texas Rangers as an interpreter.

Relocates to Tucson in 1968/69

He also earned a reputation as an Indian fighter in his career as a business freight supplier. His brother was killed in one of these fights, and Samaniego was arrested (later released) for shooting at Indian Scouts that worked for the United States.

Samaniego married in 1868 and moved to Tucson in 1868/69, where he continued to expand his freight business throughout the Arizona Territory.

In the 1880s, he sold his freight business to devote more time to land, water, and cattle development on the ranch properties he had acquired.

It is during this period that he helped develop Tucson. The water on his properties, like the Rillito Ranch, helped supply the city. He also profited from this venture by investing in the Rillito and Santa Cruz Valley Canal and Irrigation Company.

Samaniego also served as the President of the Arizona Pioneers Historical Society twice and helped form the Spanish American Alliance, an organization dedicated to bridging Mexican-American Issues.

He died on August 8, 1907, in Tucson.

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