Navajo County was formed on March 21, 1895, as the final act of the Territorial Assembly before it adjourned at midnight. What is now Navajo County was first included in Yavapai County, but in 1879, the area was added to the newly formed Apache County.
By the time it became Navajo County, the railroad had crossed the county for more than a decade, and North America’s third largest ranch, the Aztec Land and Cattle Company near Holbrook, had been established. Backed by Easterners, Aztec bought 1 million acres of land from the railroad at 50 cents an acre. A company, known as the Hashknife Outfit because of its brand, brought 33,000 longhorn cattle and 2,200 horses into northern Arizona from Texas. The county seat, Holbrook, was founded in 1881.
In the north is Kayenta, founded in 1909 as a trading post, and now the gateway to the Navajo Tribal Park at Monument Valley and a thriving Navajo community. Farther south is the Hopi Indian Reservation, which is completely surrounded by the Navajo Reservation. The Hopi Pueblo of Oraibi is one of the oldest continuously inhabited settlements in the United States.
Almost 66% of Navajo County’s 9,949 square miles is Indian reservation land. Individual and corporate ownership accounts for 18%; the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Bureau of Land Management together control 9%; and the state of Arizona owns 5.9%. All of Navajo County is an Enterprise Zone.
Today, Navajo County’s principal industries are tourism, coal mining, manufacturing, timber production and ranching.