Kearny was founded in 1958, and is named for Brevet Major General Stephen Watts Kearny. With Kit Carson serving as guide, General Kearny led 100 dragoons through this area on his way to California. The official log of this trip kept by Lt. William H. Emory records under the dates of November 5 and 6, 1846 that the group camped near the junction of the Gila and San Pedro Rivers near the town of Winkelman. On November 7, they traveled down the Gila and camped that night at the junction of the Gila River and a creek that Lt. Emory named Mineral Creek, because of it's rich mineral content. It is on this creek that the Ray Mine is now located. Ray Mine is located on the former sites of Ray, Sonora, and Barcelona, three small copper mining towns that were once "boom towns". They were engulfed by the mine after Kennecott Copper Corporation converted from underground mining to open pit mining in 1948. Most residents of the communities moved to Kearny, which Kennecott built to relocate the miners and their families. Many buildings were also moved including part of the historic Infant Jesus of Prague Roman Catholic Church, which was transported by trailer from Sonora.
Before large scale mining operations began in the Kearny area, many pioneers and more colorful characters passed this way. The ghost towns of Troy, Cochran, and Butte were host to a multitude of fortune seekers trying to tap into the mineral wealth of the region. Now, all that is left of Butte are the coke ovens once used to smelt ore. Built in 1850 by Welsh miners, the cost of mining, smelting and hauling the ore exceeded its worth; so, the ovens as well as the surrounding towns were gradually abandoned.
Between Kearny and Ray Mine, the small settlements of Kelvin and Riverside were once bustling little towns. A Butterfield Overland stage stop was established in 1879 at Riverside along the Globe-Florence route. It was there in 1889 that the Apache Kid escaped from lawmen transporting prisoners to Casa Grande to be placed on a train destined for the territorial prison at Yuma. Another incident occurred in 1899, when Pearl Heart and her accomplice, Joe Boot, held up the Globe-Florence stage.
Far removed from the rustic and sometimes rowdy towns that helped settle this area, Kearny has developed a close-nit, relaxed small town atmosphere. It has become an ideal place to live and work.
The town of Kearny is a planned community situated on the gentle slope of the Steamboat Mountain foothills. Kearny boasts scenic views, outdoor activities, and a colorful past. With a mean temperature of 72 degrees, almost all activities can be enjoyed year round. Spring time is particularly spectacular with wildflowers covering the mountains and desert. Visitors are also amazed by the open pit Ray Mine, one of the largest in the U.S., which has a view point and interpretive display on Highway 177.
Fishing and rafting along the Gila River are just a couple of popular past times in addition to hunting deer, javelina, and quail. The Gila River also attracts birdwatchers from all over the world who come to catch a glimpse of Costa's Hummingbirds, Cactus Wrens, and Hooded Orioles. Those who are partial to the desert enjoy hiking, biking and four wheeling. Each April, Kearny residents celebrate their pioneer heritage with Pioneer Days, four days full of family oriented activities including a carnival, arts and crafts show, and parade.