History of Oracle

Oracle is a small, unincorporated, Arizona mountain town dating from 1880. Its population is approximately 3500, not including cattle, horses, and wild critters. The town is located in Pinal County, 30 miles north of Tucson city limits. Situated on the northeastern slopes of the Santa Catalina Mountains, Oracle lies at an elevation of 4500 feet.

The story of how Oracle got its name begins with Albert Weldon of New Brunswick, Canada. Weldon made the trip to the Western United States around South America aboard a ship named Oracle.

In 1878, Albert Weldon, Jimmy Lee of Ireland, and Alex McKay of Scotland joined forces to prospect for gold and silver. Starting from Tucson, they began to explore the north side of the Santa Catalina Mountains.

Weldon, Lee and McKay staked gold mine claims in 1878. Weldon, who discovered the first mine, named it Oracle. According to McKay, interviewed some 50 years later, Weldon had been impressed by the sea-worthiness and good fortune of that ship in withstanding the fierce storms usually encountered on a voyage around Cape Horn.

Word of the mining claims by Weldon, Lee and McKay caused prospectors to flock to the north side of the Catalina mountains. Nearly 70 gold mine claims were staked from American Flag Ranch to Apache Peak, ¬†south of Oracle. The American Flag Ranch house opened a post office to serve the gold field tent city in 1880, and today is Arizona’s oldest existing building that once housed a territorial post office.

Edwin S. and Lillian Dodge started Acadia Ranch and also opened a post office in 1880. Dodge had wanted to call his post office Acadia Ranch, but that name was rejected and he chose Oracle instead. Thus, the town of Oracle was named after its first mine, and indirectly, after a ship.

Oracle, like many small rural towns, is plagued by fanciful stories about the origins of its name. For example, one story is that Oracle would have been named American Flag if only some government agency had not rejected a two-word name. But the Post Office accepted the two-word name American Flag, and that post stop closed in 1890 because its mining population dwindled while the community of Oracle grew. For those who would prefer a town name of American Flag, that post office was just in the wrong place.