The first European to visit the Marana area was a Jesuit Priest, Father Eusebio Francisco Kino in 1694. In
1775, Juan Bautista de Anza, Captain of the Presidio of Tubac led an
expedition north along the Santa Cruz River to found the city of San
Francisco. With the area under the jurisdiction of the
Rail transportation came in 1881 and signaled a major change in the
area. It gave Marana its first identification as a specific place by
appearing on Southern Pacific Railroad maps in 1890. “Maraña” is a
Spanish word meaning a jungle, a tangle or a thicket and was chosen as
an appropriate name by the railroad workers as they hacked their way
through the dense brush. With the early establishment of mining and
ranching, it was not until after WWI that Marana became primarily an
agricultural center, producing mainly cotton, but also wheat, barley,
alfalfa and pecans.
During World War II, the impact of the rising importance of military power came quickly to Marana. The Marana airfield (1942-1945) was the largest pilot-training center in the world during WWII, training some 10,000 flyers, and five Titan missile sites were later located in the area as part of a complex of ballistic missile installations built around Tucson.
In March 1977, the Town incorporated about 10 square miles and in August the 1,500 townspeople elected their first town council. In early 1979, the town began to grow through an aggressive annexation policy and is nearly 120 square miles with an estimated population of 33,000.