Tucson is filled with streets named for people who made significant contributions to our community. That includes James Henry Toole, the person responsible for bringing the railroad to Tucson in 1880.

“We couldn’t wait to go see Toole Avenue,” said Pat Toole Cook.

She is the 91-year-old granddaughter of James Toole, the man Toole Avenue is named for.

“It’s amazing,” said Pat Toole Cook as she stood along Toole Avenue in downtown. “Really cool.”

Pat Toole Cook recently led a pilgrimage of four generations of direct descendants of James Toole back to Tucson from the Northwest.

“There’s a lot of emotions between pride and just curiosity about what was going on for this man,” Erik Dawson said.

Dawson is Pat Toole Cook’s grandson making him James Toole’s great-great-grandson.

“It is the 200th year of the anniversary of his birth,” said Dawson.

Born in New York in 1824, James Henry Toole took part in the California Gold Rush in 1849.

He joined the Union Army in 1861, rising to the rank of lieutenant while stationed in Tucson. After the Civil War, he stayed and became an influential businessman.

“He was very popular,” said Pat Toole Cook. “People loved him.”

James Toole was so loved, he was elected mayor of the Village of Tucson four times during the 1870s. During one election, he garnered 100 of the 101 votes cast.

“It was reported that when he walked into the room he was seven feet tall,” Erik Dawson said. “That’s probably like feeling like you’re 10 feet tall. He also had gotten a standing ovation one time when he entered the theater here in Tucson.”

As mayor, James Toole helped secure Tucson as a Southern Pacific Railroad stop.

“It was coming from east to west and he wanted it to come through Tucson,” recalled Pat Toole Cook.

“It was an integral part of connecting the two coasts together,” said Dawson. “When the train was connected here in Tucson, it was a day that I think would have been really interesting to be part of.”

On March 20, 1880, the train made its first stop in Tucson, thanks to the efforts of James Toole.

“That’s why the town honored him with Toole Avenue abutting the train tracks here,” Dawson said pointing to the street.

After serving as mayor and bringing the railroad to Tucson, Toole became a principal member of the banking firm Stafford, Hudson & Co.

When that went out of business, Toole lost everything. He left Tucson, headed to join his wife and children in Wisconsin.

“The town viewed Colonel Toole very highly and as a beloved member of the community and as a pioneering founder of the town,” said Dawson. “But I think the shame was too much for him to bear.”

On October 15, 1884, Toole stepped off the train in Colorado and took his own life.

At the time, his wife was six months pregnant with Pat’s dad.

Now, 140 years later, Pat Toole Cook, her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren are learning about the history of James Henry Toole in downtown Tucson.

Pat Toole Cook is quick to point out the remarkable resemblance her oldest son, Jim Cook, has to James Henry Toole.

Erik Dawson now lives in the Tucson area and continues to do research on James Toole. He plans to represent the Toole family at the 144th Silver Spike Railroad Jubilee on March 16 at the Southern Arizona Transportation Museum.