University of Arizona

                                             Special Collections will be closed December 20, 2023 through January 1, 2024 in observance of the University Holiday break.

Reuben Augustine Wilbur

Instructions for Research Relative to the Ethnology and Philology of America Pamphlet, 1863


Dr. Reuben Augustine Wilbur graduated from the Harvard Medical School in 1863. He moved to Tucson, AZ in 1865, established a medical practice and homesteaded ranch lands near Arivaca, AZ. In 1868-1869, he was hired by the Bureau of Indian Affairs to conduct a vaccination program for the Papago (Tohono O'odham) and Pima Indians. On February 8, 1871, he was appointed United States Special Indian Agent to the Papagos residing in the Arizona Territory. Wilbur was also appointed Attending Physician to the Papagos.

After leaving office, Wilbur operated his cattle ranch at Arivaca, spent a great deal of time trying to clarify his financial position with the federal government regarding expenditures when he was Indian Agent, submitted several proposals for mail route contracts and became involved in mining ventures in Sonora, Mexico. It is of interest to note that in 1880, prominent Arizona pioneer, Charles Poston filed a civil lawsuit against Wilbur in the 1st Judicial District Court to recover certain lands near Arivaca that were part of Wilbur's ranch.

Wilbur died suddenly in 1882, while on a trip to Massachusetts and was buried in Plymouth. His wife, Raphuela Wilbur, continued to operate the ranch near Arivaca until the turn of the century and it has remained in the family. It is now being operated by Wilbur's granddaughter, Mrs. Eva Antonia Wilbur-Cruce, and her husband, Marshall W. Cruce.

The collection is split into first and second subgroups. The papers of the first subgroup relating to the administration of the Papago Indian Agency document administrative and financial activities, efforts to recover Apache children taken hostage by participants of the Camp Grant Massacre, arguments for the establishment of a reservation for the Papagos at San Xavier, the problem of non-Indian settlers on Papago lands, and arguments between Dr. Wilbur and Bishop Salpointe concerning expenditures for a school at San Xavier that culminated with Wilbur's removal as Agent in 1874.

The papers of the second subgroup relate to personal and family affairs. The bulk of these papers are related to the operation of the Wilbur Ranch near Arivaca, mining activities in Sonora, Mexico and activities of Mrs. Raphuela Wilbur after Dr. Wilbur's death in 1882. There is no information on Dr. Wilbur's medical practice before or after his tenure as Papago Agent.

Some correspondence is in Spanish.