Nogales is a city in Santa Cruz County, Arizona. The population was 20,837 at the 2010 census and estimated 20,407 in 2014. Nogales forms part of the larger Tucson-Nogales combined statistical area, with a total population of 1,027,683 as of the 2010 Census. The city is the county seat of Santa Cruz County.
The name “Nogales” is derived from the Spanish word for “walnut” or “walnut tree.” It refers to the large stands of walnut trees that once stood in the mountain pass where Nogales is located.
Nogales was at the beginning of the 1775–1776 Juan Bautista de Anza Expedition as it entered the present day U.S. from New Spain, and the town is now on the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail. On the second floor of the 1904 Nogales Courthouse is a small room dedicated to the 1775–1776 Anza Expedition.
In 1841, a land grant from the Mexican government to the Elías family established Los Nogales de Elías. Following the Gadsden purchase in 1853, Nogales became a part of the United States of America. In 1880, Russian immigrant Jacob Isaacson built a trading post at present-day Nogales. The U.S. Postal Service opened the Isaacson post office but renamed it as Nogales in 1883.
In 1915, according to historian David Leighton, Sonora Gov. Jose M. Maytorena ordered the construction of an 11-wire fence, separating Nogales, Sonora from Nogales, Arizona, but it was taken down four months later.
On August 27, 1918, a battle between United States Army forces and Mexican militia – mostly civilian in composition – took place. Culminating as the result of a decade’s worth of tensions originating from the Mexican Revolution and earlier battles in Nogales along the border in 1913 and 1915, the main consequence of the 1918 violence saw the building of the first permanent border wall between Nogales, Arizona, and Nogales, Sonora, along the previously unobstructed boundary line on International Street.
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Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Gordon Hyde