Florence claims to have the oldest standing courthouse in Arizona, which is now home to the McFarland State Historic Park. Today, the park gives visitors a chance to take a look into the state’s past, and see how the building has been used since the late nineteenth century.
The state park is named after Ernest W. McFarland, a man who successfully contributed to Arizona history through an active public service career. He served his state in the highest branches of government, the only known Arizonan to do so.
McFarland helped with the modernization of Arizona, the region, and the country, serving as majority leader for the U.S. Senate, governor, and Arizona Supreme Court Justice. He ultimately witnessed the growth and success of early Arizona.
The historic building has held many roles in the last decade, but first served as a courthouse after being built in 1878. The structure was made out of native materials, with local soil used to make adobe brick walls. The lumber used for the building’s floor was hauled down by wagon from northern Arizona.
In the rear of the building was Florence’s first jail. In the center of the building, prisoners were chained to a large boulder that was buried in the ground.
On the first floor of the building, the courtroom, sheriff’s office, jail and the judge’s chambers were located. The jury room was on the second floor, where visiting lawman also gathered.
The courthouse was the center of activity back in the day, where townspeople would gather to socialize and conduct business. The building occasionally served as a dance hall as well, always with a big attendance.
When a much larger courthouse was constructed in 1891, the adobe structure was then used as a county hospital. For almost 50 years, doctors provided up-to-date care for their patients. In 1938, the hospital became a welfare and public health center.
The Pinal County Historical Society secured and maintained the building as a museum from1963-1970. In 1974, former governor McFarland purchased the building. It was then donated to the Arizona State Parks Board to be a historic park.
Today, guests are able to tour and see how the historical building has been utilized over the past 130 years. Visitors to the adobe structure can see the history of Arizona, as well as the people who helped shape it.
For more information on McFarland State Historical Park, please visit www.azstateparks.com.