Hohokam Phoenix
1900 to today

Phoenix Valley History

 After the first efforts to create an Arizona Territory from what was then the New Mexico Territory failed, the Civil War and concern for control of potential railroad routes to the riches of California brought approval for an Arizona Territory. Representative James H. Ashley of Ohio introduced the Arizona Organic Act in the House of Representatives in 1862. The act, approved in both houses of Congress, was signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863.

The vacant adobe homes had been silent for 400 years.  The Valley waited patiently for a person with vision to arrive.  In 1867, such a man appeared.

In 1867, Jack Swilling of Wickenburg stopped to rest his horse at the foot of the north slopes of the White Tank Mountains. He looked down and across the expansive Salt River Valley and his eyes caught the rich gleam of the brown, dry soil turned up by the horse's hooves. He saw farm land, predominately free of rocks, and in a place beyond the reach of heavy frost or snow. All it needed was water.

Jack Swilling.JPG (26202 bytes) Jack Swilling

Returning to Wickenburg, he organized the Swilling Irrigation Canal Company, and moved into the Valley. The same year, the company began digging a canal to divert some of the water of the Salt River onto the lands of the Valley. By March 1868, water flowed through the canal, and a few members of the company raised meager crops that summer.

By 1868, a small colony had formed approximately four miles east of the present city. Swilling's Mill became the new name of the area. It was then changed to Helling Mill, after which it became Mill City, and years later, East Phoenix. Swilling, having been a confederate soldier, wanted to name the new settlement Stonewall after Stonewall Jackson. Others suggested the name Salina, but neither name suited the inhabitants. It was Darrell Duppa who suggested the name Phoenix, inasmuch as the new town would spring from the ruins of a former civilization. That is the accepted derivation of our name.

Phoenix officially was recognized on May 4, 1868, when the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors, the county of which we were then a part, formed an election precinct here.

The city of Phoenix in the 1860s was occupied by area farmers near the modern cross-streets of Van Buren and Central Av.  It is named after the mythical Egyptian bird that rose from ashes by "Lord" Darrell Duppa.  Phoenix rose from the ashes of the Hohokam culture.  Mesa was already a city of about 1000 people about 22 miles east.  Hayden's Ferry (present-day Tempe) was a small farming community just starting to take shape.  Most of the area now covered by urban and suburban neighborhoods was formerly cultivated land of citrus, cotton, and lettuce.

 A post office was established in Phoenix on June 15, 1868, with Jack Swilling as postmaster. The sharp whistle of the first steam mill in the Valley added a brisk note to the sound of emerging industry. It advertised the Richard Flour Mills, built in 1869, where the Luhrs Tower now stands.

Washington St 1870.JPG (18945 bytes)Washington St in 1870

 To administer this new townsite, the Salt River Valley Town Association was formed with its articles carrying the following signatures:

Darrell Duppa


Wm. B. Hellings & Co.

Barnett and Block


Thomas Barnum

James Murphy


John T. Dennis

William A. Holmes


James M. Buck

Jacob Starar


John T. Alsap

Columbus H. Gray


Martin P. Griffin

James McC. Elliot


J. P. Perry

William Rowe


Michael Connell

Daniel Twomey


Charles C. McDermott

Edward Irvine


John P. Osborn

Andrew Starar


Paul Becker

James D. Monihon



Capt. Hancock was also a surveyor, and he made the first survey of the townsite and laid out the lots and the town. This first town of Phoenix was one mile long, a half-mile wide and contained 96 blocks. Washington Street was the main street and, on the early maps, showed to be 100 feet wide.

The east and west streets were named after our presidents. Washington Street was placed in the middle and Adams, who was the second president, was given the first street to the north. Our third president, Jefferson, had the first street south of Washington named after him. And the pattern followed - one to the north and one to the south - until recent years.

The north-south streets originally carried Indian names, but these were changed in favor of the more easily remembered numbers - with streets being to the east of Central Avenue and avenues to the west.

The Prescott Miner carried the following advertisement on Dec. 7, 1870:

on the 23rd and 24th of December."

The first effort resulted in the sale of 61 lots at an average price of $48 each. The first lot was purchased by Judge William Berry of Prescott. It was the southwest corner of First and Washington streets, and he paid the rather steep price of $116.

The first store building to be erected in the new town was Hancock's Store, a general store opened in July 1871, by William Smith. The adobe structure was built on the northwest corner of First and Washington streets and served as the town hall, county offices and general meeting place of early Phoenix.

Although various religious organizations had been formed by 1870, the first church building erected in Phoenix was the Central Methodist Church built in 1871 at the corner of Second Avenue and Washington Street.

The first Catholic priest came to Phoenix in 1872, but it was not until after 1881 that an adobe church building, the Sacred Heart of St. Louis at Third and Monroe streets, replaced the Otero home as a place for Catholics to worship.

Yavapai County was divided on Feb. 12, 1871, when Maricopa County was created by the Legislature. The sixth county in the state, Maricopa, gave up portions in 1875 and 1881 to help form Pinal and Gila counties, respectively.

The first county election was held in 1871, when Tom Barnum was elected the first sheriff of Maricopa County. As a matter of historical interest, a shooting between two other candidates for the office, J. A. Chenowth and Jim Favorite, resulted in Favorite's death and Chenowth's withdrawal from the race.

Schooling for Phoenix's youth began on September 5, 1872. About 20 children studied under the guidance of Jean Rudolph Derroche in the courtroom of the county building. By October 1873, a small adobe school building was completed on Center Street (now Central Avenue), a short distance north of where the San Carlos Hotel now stands. Miss Nellie Shaver, a newcomer from Wisconsin, was appointed as the first female schoolteacher in Phoenix.

Whole Town Worth $550

On April 10, 1874, President Grant issued a patent to Judge Alsap for the present site of Phoenix. The declaratory statement was filed at the Prescott Land Office on Feb. 15, 1872. Official entry was made at the Florence Land Office on Nov. 19, 1873. The total cost of the Phoenix Townsite of 320 acres was $550, including all expenses for services.

In 1874, downtown lots were selling for $7 to $11 each. That year also marked the entry into Phoenix of the first telegraph line. Morris Goldwater was the first operator of this station, located in his father's store on the northwest corner of First and Jefferson streets.

By 1875, there were 16 saloons, four dance halls, two monte banks and one faro table in Phoenix. The townsite-commissioner form of government, however, was not working well. At a mass meeting held at the courthouse on Oct. 20, 1875, an election was held to select three village trustees and other officials.

By the 1880s, the Arizona Territory was bustling with fortune seekers hoping to strike it rich mining gold, copper, and silver. The town of Prescott was founded in 1863 by New Englanders searching for gold. Nearly 7,000 people came to southeastern Arizona in the wake of Ed Schieffelin's 1877 discovery of silver at Tombstone, near Tucson.

Washinton St late 1880s.JPG (42964 bytes)Washington St and 2nd in the late 1880’s

 A safe location was required for the money being made in the Valley. To solve the problem, the National Bank was established in 1878 with capital stock of $200,000.

The first newspaper in Phoenix, the Salt River Valley Herald, changed its name to the Phoenix Herald in 1880. By this time, the paper had progressed from a weekly publication to semiweekly.

In 1880 Phoenix had a population of 2,453, a school enrollment of 379 pupils, an ice factory and a new brick sidewalk in front of the Tiger Saloon. On Nov. 26 of that same year, Maricopa County had its first legal hanging.

Washington St Parade 1884.JPG (40845 bytes)Parades were common in downtown Phoenix in 1884.

Just as Phoenix had outgrown its original townsite-commissioner form of government, it grew too large for the village trustee operation. "The Phoenix Charter Bill" was passed by the 11th Territorial Legislature. The bill made Phoenix an incorporated city and provided for a government consisting of a mayor and four council members. It was signed by Governor John C. Fremont on Feb. 25, 1881.

On May 3, 1881, the first election was held in the newly incorporated city with a population of approximately 2,500.

 In the center a bird rising, and surrounding this the inscription Phoenix, Arizona - Incorporated February 25, 1881."

 The first horse-drawn streetcar line was built along some 2 miles of Washington Street in 1887, and the kick off of this new mode of transportation was on Nov. 5. An additional line was installed along Center Street, and the first car moved over those shaky rails on Dec. 30, 1889.The streetcar system became rather extensive in later years, with tracks covering most of Phoenix and extending even to Glendale.

July 4, 1887, would have been just another Independence Day had not the first Southern Pacific train arrived that day from Maricopa Wells. This had been a long-anticipated event.

The coming of the railroad was the first of several important events that revolutionized the economy of this area. Merchandise now flowed into the city by rail instead of wagon. Our products went quickly to eastern and western markets. In recognition of the increased tempo of economic life, the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce was organized on Nov. 4, 1888.

That same year, the city offices were moved into the new City Hall, built where the downtown bus terminal now stands. This building also provided temporary offices for the territorial government when they were moved to Phoenix from Prescott in 1889.

The location of Arizona's Capitol had been moved several times since 1864. It was first established at Navajo Springs, then Prescott, then Tucson after an attempt to move it to La Paz failed, then back to Prescott, and finally to Phoenix.

The first transcontinental railroad was, however, constructed along a more northerly route by the "big four" of western railroad construction--Collis P. Huntington, Leland Stanford, Mark Hopkins, and Charles Crocker. A southern transcontinental route through territory acquired by the Gadsden Purchase was not a reality until 1881 when the tracks of the "big four's" Southern Pacific met those of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe in the Territory of New Mexico. v

Old Courthouse 1890s.JPG (33591 bytes) Old Courthouse 1890

 Twenty years had passed since Phoenix, like its legendary namesake, had risen from the ashes of a bygone community. The 1890s showed further indications of the heights to which this city would some day soar. The Arizona Republic became a daily paper in 1890, with Ed Gill as its editor.

In those days, none of the great reservoirs north of the Valley had been created to control the flow of water to the Valley. The year 1891 was marked by the greatest flood in the Valley's history, as well as by the advent of the first telephone system in Phoenix.

The horse-drawn streetcars were replaced in 1893 by electric cars. The electric cars stayed on the streets until the automobile replaced them on Feb. 17, 1948.
On March 12, 1895, the Santa Fe, Prescott and Phoenix Railroad ran its first train to Phoenix. It connected Phoenix with the northern part of Arizona and gave travelers another outlet to the east and west via the Santa Fe.

The additional railroad speeded the capitol city's rise to economic supremacy in the state. That same year, 1895, the Phoenix Union High School was established, and 90 young people were enrolled.

In 1897, an organization of 14 women called the Friday Club, started the public library movement in Phoenix. Their efforts led to formation of the Phoenix Library Association in 1899. The members subscribed at an annual rate of $3 for the maintenance of the small library housed in two upstairs rooms in the Fleming Building at First Avenue and Washington Street. The Phoenix City Council, however, levied a 5-mill tax for its public library a few months after the 1901 Legislature passed a bill allowing a tax to be applied to the support of free libraries. This action satisfied the conditions set by Mr. Andrew Carnegie in his proposal to donate a library building to the city. The Carnegie Free Library was opened on Feb.18, 1908.


Map of Arizona.jpg (55174 bytes)

Map of Arizona


The rez.jpg (39886 bytes)

Map of the reservations and Four Corners 


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