Many people presume that because
of Phoenix’s recent expansion that the area only has
a brief history. This couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Prehistoric Native Americans lived of the land within the
Salt River Valley dating back 20,00 to 40,000 years ago.
The Hohokam Indians were the first long-term settlers. They
farmed the land and dug nearly 250
miles of canals that were used to irrigate their crops. The Hohokam
remained in the valley for nearly 1,700 years then mysteriously
disappeared in the late 14th century. Modern day archeologists differ
on their theories of what might have happened to these ancient people.
Hohokam actually is a Pima Indian word that translates to “those
who have gone”.
The Pueblo Revolt
The Spanish arrived in 1539 and claimed the area for Spain. They
are also credited with naming Arizona, which means “arid zone”.
In 1680 the Native Americans living in Arizona rose up against the
Spanish settlers and ultimately drove them out. The conflict later
became know as the Pueblo Revolt. Ten years later the Spanish returned
with much greater numbers. This time the Native Americans could
not fight them off.
The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo
Mexico won their independence from Spain in 1821. Meanwhile the
American was expanding westward. The United States clashed with
Mexico over the southwestern territories and the dispute erupted
into a bloody conflict that the United States ultimately won. The
Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed by both parties on Feb. 2nd
1848 and recognized the region now know as New Mexico, California,
and Arizona as part of the United States. Then in 1854, the U.S.
further expanded the territory with the Gadsden Purchase, which
included a strip of land in what is now southern Arizona.
The New Mexico territory was officially formed and the capital was
established in Santa Fe. This made many of the locals in Arizona
unhappy. Santa Fe was a long ways from Arizona and they wanted a
more direct link to voice their concerns during the Civil War. Arizona
formed its own territory on Feb. 24th 1863. The U.S. army shortly
thereafter established Fort McDowell on the Verde River to ward
off Apache attacks.
Jack Swilling Canal Company
A man named Jack Swilling, who oddly fought for both sides during
the Civil War, setup a farm in Arizona in 1867. Soon after he began
cleaning up and rebuilding the old Hohokam canals. He received backing
from investors and started the Swilling Irrigation and Canal Company.
As a result, the area began to grow rapidly. The old canals were
so well designed that the valley soon became the best agricultural
area in the territory.
Phoenix Post Office
As the area continued to grow, locals wanted to give their settlement
a name. A newcomer named Lord Darrel Duppa chose the name Phoenix,
after the mythical bird that rises to new life out of its own ashes.
Others were taking with the name and the Phoenix Post Office was
established on June 15th 1869 making the matter official.
Phoenix was still a frontier town, lacking many luxuries, and the
summer heat left much to be desired. However, from the clever-minded
there were endless opportunities. Samuel Lount, who had invented
a mechanical icemaker while living in Canada, recognized the opportunities
for his ice-maker and moved to Phoenix during the 1870s. He later
became one of the wealthiest men in Arizona. His daughter would
later become one Phoenix’s most prominent developers and an
advocate for women’s rights.
The canal system continued to be improved and Phoenix’s population
climbed into the thousands. Mining towns popped up around the area
and a route connecting Phoenix to the Transcontinental Railroad
(which passed 30 miles south of Phoenix) was constructed in 1886.
Soon after the capital was moved from Prescott to Phoenix, much
to the dismay of folks living in Tucson. In the following years
over $500,000 was invested in building projects including Federally
projects like the Roosevelt Dam. By 1910, over 10,000 people were
living in Phoenix. The territory was admitted as the 48th State
of the Union on Feb. 14th 1912.
A Resort Town
Phoenix began building its reputation as a health resort town in
early 1900s. It was touted that the low humidity, mild winters,
and clean air was good for people with respiratory problems. Tourism
became a major industry and area was dubbed the “The Valley
of the Sun” in an effort to further encourage tourism.
WWI and WWII
During WWI farmers recognized the demand for cotton and shifted
their focus to farming cotton fields. To this day, cotton is still
an important part of the economy. WWII brought hordes of GIs to
the valley for desert combat training.
The invention of the Swap Cooler is really what spurred Phoenix
into the major metropolitan and business center that it is today.
Swamp Coolers are still used to this day as a cheaper alternative
to traditional air-conditioning systems. Air blows through a damp
pad cooling indoor areas and ultimately making life in the Arizona
heat more bearable. This attracted many more people and businesses
to Phoenix. Today there are about 3 million people living in the
Greater Phoenix metro, which includes Scottsdale, Mesa, Tempe, Glendale,
Peoria, and Gilbert.