"Barbara Marriott knew very little about Southern Arizona when she moved to SaddleBrooke from the East Coast 15 years ago.
""I didn't think there was anything between New Orleans and California,"" she jokes. ""I told myself that if this was going to be my home, I was going to learn something about it.""
Today, Marriott, 80, probably knows more than most about the history of the region, particularly northern Pima County and the tri-community of Mammoth, San Manuel and Oracle.
She's written four books on the area.
Her latest, ""Legendary Locals of Marana, Oro Valley and Catalina"" examines the people who shaped the three towns, from early settlers like George Pusch and Pima County Sheriff John Nelson to contemporary figures such as Marana's Ora Mae Harn and James D. Kriegh, one of Oro Valley's founding fathers.
""Most historians focus on places like Tombstone or Tucson,"" Marriott said. ""This is an area that people don't know much about unless they've lived here for a period of time.""
The book is part of a series of ""Legendary Locals"" books put out by Arcadia Publishing, a company that specializes in regional history works.
It hit store shelves Monday.
You've written extensively about northern Pima County's history. Why focus specifically on the people this time?
I ran into a quote not too long ago that said history is really about people. Everything, whether you are talking about a battle or a town, revolves around the people.
For me it was a different and interesting approach to the history of the area.
Did you have a list of legendary locals when you first started or did you find them along the way?
I found them along the way. One of the biggest helps was James Kriegh, who really was the father of Oro Valley.
I not only got the history of Oro Valley from him, but he also introduced me to some interesting people like Hank Zipf, the grandson of George Pusch, the founder of Steam Pump Ranch.
Hank, bless his heart, was a fountain of information. Not only were these old timers willing to talk about life back then, they were willing to refer you to others.
I also advertised in newspapers and newsletters and received assistance from the Oro Valley Historical Society and the Marana Heritage Conservancy.
Who were some of the characters you found most interesting?
Sarah Gorby was really fascinating. She never did get enough publicity. She was the first licensed wildlife rehabilitator. She was an interesting person. She had a hard life, but she devoted so much time and energy to that field and never got credit for it.
She was more contemporary. How about the early settlers?
George Pusch was fascinating because he contributed so much to the Oro Valley area.
In the Catalina area, I have to give a lot of credit to Mariano Samaniego, the Sutherlands and the Nelsons, who were early ranchers here at the turn of the century.
John Nelson in particular owned most of what is SaddleBrooke and Catalina today. He died in an airplane crash while looking for a lost hiker.
There are a lot of old-time pioneers who came to this area with nothing, but, through intelligence and physical effort, laid the foundation for these towns.
What do you hope people get out of this book?
I hope they get a real appreciation for the history of this area. I hope they feel they can continue to contribute to the historical value of the community."
Arizona Daily Star, Gerald M. Gay