This blog explores the history of Phoenix, Arizona and a little bit of Los Angeles and San Francisco, California

Rediscovering Omar Turney, Phoenix, Arizona

The first time I found out anything about Omar Turney was a few years ago when I decided that I would try to identify, and find out the history behind the names of every street in Phoenix. Every. Single. One. Of course, all I wrote down was that he had been City Engineer, and that Turney Avenue, which is north of Indian School Road, is named after him.

Then I discovered more stuff about him. He wasn't just a person with a street named after him, who worked for the city of Phoenix, he had a passion for archeology. And when I look at the map he created in 1929, of the ancient canals, I am still stunned. And no Google Earth back then!

Map of the Prehistoric Irrigation Canals, by Omar Turney, 1929.

Then I started reading some of his stuff, which you can find as pdfs on the internet. Of course, if you're interested in the Hohokams, you knew about Omar Turney all along. You may even know about his student Frank Midvale, who went on to write more about the ancient civilizations of Arizona. I went to the Hayden Library at ASU a couple of years ago to find more Frank Midvale stuff, as there's very little on the internet. Yet.

Map of the New River area in 1969, Peoria, Arizona. Frank Midvale. This is between Jomax and Happy Valley Road, west of 67th Avenue. The Palo Verde Ruin is the Palo Verde Park nowadays.

The more I learn about the ancient peoples of Arizona, the more I'm inclined to just listen to Dr. Turney, and no one else, except maybe Frank Midvale. Turney wasn't just copying down what other people had said, he was digging in the dirt, drawing maps, and discovering for himself. It would have been nice to have met him, but the least I can do is read what he wrote.

Image above: Professor Omar Asa Turney in 1920.

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