As early as 1500 AD, the northern Pima Indians had a large settlement called Tchoowaka located at the site of the current town of Tubac. Indian settlements consisted of houses built from poles covered with grass thatch, arranged around a central plaza, with the settlement being enclosed with an exterior wall. They hunted wild game, gathered wild fruits and berries, and farmed corn, beans, squash, and cotton, irrigating their fields with water from nearby rivers and streams.
In 1701, the Spanish frontier reached the area of Tubac, with Jesuit missionaries attempting to alter the lifestyle of the local Indians. By the 1730's, Spanish settlers were established at Tubac as supervisors of a mission farm and visita. A visita was a community visited regularly by a priest from a nearby mission.
On November 21, 1751, the northern Pima revolted against the Spanish missionaries due to the Spanish appropriation of Indian lands, the punishment system of the missionaries against the Indians, plus increasing Spanish demands and controls. As a result of the rebellion, a new presidio was established at Tubac in January 1753. The original Pima population had fled the area during the 1751 uprising.
Shortly after the Pima revolt, the Apache become a serious threat to the northern Pima and frontier Spaniards, attacking settlements. The primary military mission of the new presidio was to conduct retaliatory raids following Apache raids.
In 1787, the Pima Indian Company was transferred from Buenavista to Tubac to help fight the Apache with the Apache surrendering in 1788. Peace existed between the Spaniards and Apache until just after 1830. Apache raids intensified during the late 1840s with settlers from Tubac moving north to Tucson after a full-scale Apache assault killed a number of people. Apache raids continued into the late 1850s, early 1860s.