The first issue of The Oasis newspaper appeared on May 11, 1893 in Arizola, a community located about 25 miles south of Casa Grande in Pinal County. The editor was Allen T. Bird, who with his wife Calla and another partner, Dr. J. M. Hurley, established The Oasis Publishing Co. Bird wrote: “As a newspaper venture this journal is not established to ‘fill a long felt want,’ but to create a new want and fill it as it develops.” He planned to focus on promoting the region, which he envisioned as “a fruit raising settlement, and a winter resort for northern people.” In May 1894, Bird and The Oasis moved to Benson, to focus on promoting Benson, and support moving the Cochise County capitol from Tombstone to Benson. By December 1894 Bird and The Oasis were in Nogales, where the paper remained until ceasing publication in 1920.
Allen T. Bird was born in Madison, WI, in 1848. A Civil War veteran, he moved to California in the 1870s where he was involved in newspaper publishing and mining. While living in California he married twice and had two children, Marshall and Enid. He moved to Arizona in the late 1880s and married his third and final wife, Calla, in 1886. They had two sons, Allen T., Jr., and Walter Duane.
Wherever The Oasis was published, Bird provided detailed coverage of local activities and businesses. He was especially interested in mining operations and traveled extensively in Mexico. A staunch Republican, Bird did not hesitate to use the newspaper to promote the party’s and his views. In the first issue he wrote: “The political policy of The Oasis need worry no one just at present. When it does this paper will very likely be found possessed of decided opinions, but which will be expressed courteously and fairly – unless someone else first becomes uncourteous and unfair.” [The Oasis, 5/11/1893].
Bird was active in Arizona politics, serving a term as United States Commissioner and was for seven years Clerk of Court in Santa Cruz county. [The San Bernardino County Sun, 12/6/1930]. In 1904 he sought his party’s support for a Congressional run, and a Phoenix paper wrote: “His republicanism is of the kind known as all wool and a yard wide. He never sulks and he never shirks. He is an honest man, he has aggressiveness and force, he is a good campaigner… Indeed, his strong individuality would make his personality such a prominent feature of the campaign that there would be not a dull day from the convention to the election. He has opinions, and he is never afraid to express them.” [Arizona Republic, 5/27/1904].
Expressing his opinions led to an arrest and several fist fights. In 1895 a complaint by Sam Webb resulted in Bird’s arrest on a charge of criminal libel. The alleged libelous statement included, in part: “When the Vidette prints a paper which people can read it will be time to talk about competing with The Oasis. If an ordinance were to be printed in the Vidette no one could read it on account of the miserable way in which the paper is printed. In fact United States Collector of Customs Sam Webb who is the real owner of the paper and uses his official position to ‘influence’ men into subscribing for a paper they don’t want and never read, and in advertising in its columns when all money paid for such advertisements is a dead loss except as blackmail to the custom house gang.” Bird was found not guilty by a Pima County jury.
Last month’s Glimpses column describes Bird’s fistfight with SCC Sheriff Tom Turner. In 1918 Bird wrote an editorial which questioned the patriotism of H.R. Sisk, manager of the Nogales Herald. “Shortly after the circulation of the Oasis on the streets this morning Manager Sisk of the Herald met Colonel Bird on the streets and, in the belief that an editorial in this morning’s Oasis attacking slackers*…referred to him, attacked the Oasis publisher, giving him a severe beating.” The editorial enraged the citizens of Nogales. At a hastily called town meeting an apology was demanded, and Bird complied.
Though he was an avid supporter of women’s suffrage, Bird did not ever acknowledge the part his wife Calla played in The Oasis. She finally got credit in her obituary: “Mrs. Bird was one of the pioneer newspaper women in the state and Nogales, assisting her husband with all the details of publication when the newspaper was handset. During Col. Bird’s frequent absences… Mrs. Bird not only gathered the news but collected the ads and did all the jobs necessary to publish the paper. She never missed an issue.” [Arizona Daily Star, 9/29/1949]. Allen Bird died in 1930 at the Sawtelle Soldier’s home in Los Angeles. He and Calla are buried at Woodland Cemetery in Santa Monica, CA.
*A term commonly used to describe those seeking exemption from the WWI draft.