Apache County was carved from Yavapai County - one of Arizona's original four counties - on Feb 24, 1879, by the 10th Territorial Legislative Assembly. Leaders of St. Johns and Globe had petitioned for their towns to be the county seat, but the honor went temporarily to Snowflake, with the provision that an election would determine the permanent county seat. In November 1879, on the strength of votes from the mining town of Clifton (now in Greenlee County), St. Johns was designated the county seat.
Originally, Apache County encompassed all of present day Navajo County, part of Gila County and part of Graham County, but by 1895 its size had been reduced to the 11,216 square miles it occupies today. The Apache and Navajo Indian reservations cover more than 65.4% of the county, and 25% of the state's Native Americans live here. Approximately 21% is public land, and 13.2% is privately owned. All of Apache County is an Enterprise Zone.