As early as 1500 AD, the northern Pima Indians (today called the O’odham) had a large settlement called Tchoowaka located near 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. The Native Americans hunted wild game, gathered 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 1730s, 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 1752.
Shortly after the Pima revolt, the Apache became a serious threat to the northern Pima and frontier Spaniards, attacking settlements. The primary military mission of the new presidio was to conduct retaliatory strikes following Apache raids.
In 1787, the Pima Indian Company, a group of Native American soldiers working for the Spanish, was transferred from Buenavista to Tubac to help fight the Apache. Peace existed between the Spanish and Apache until just after the Mexican Republic declared its independence from Spain in 1821. The new nation was unable to afford the food and liquor subsidies given the Apache under Spanish rule. Apache raids intensified during the late 1840s with settlers from Tubac moving north to Tucson and south to Magdalena after a full-scale Apache assault. Apache raids continued into the late 1850s and did not end until 1886.