This blog explores the history of Phoenix, Arizona and a little bit of Los Angeles and San Francisco, California. This blog is not supported by advertising, it's supported by the generosity of my patrons on Patreon. Thank you!

The man who named Phoenix, Arizona - Darrell Duppa


Since Jack Swilling is considered the founder of Phoenix, Arizona, because his company dug the first modern canal (in the 1860s - modern as compared to the Hohokams), it's only appropriate to give some credit to someone else who was in that party, Darrell Duppa.

Like Jack, Darrell is a little bit hard to "clean up" and make into a "founding father" type. I like to imagine hanging around with these guys, who probably would have seemed a little "touched", if not downright crazy.

Now waitaminute, I'm not trying to put these guys down. What they accomplished was the founding of an incredible city, Phoenix, Arizona. But if you stand in the Salt River Valley in the 1860s and look around, you really have to wonder about these guys? What were they thinking? I know what they were drinking.

Time-travel with me. It's the late 1860s and an ex-Confederate named Jack Swilling has the idea of digging a canal out in some forsaken desert because he and his friends figured that it would be a good idea. They had seen the gigantic abandoned canals (built by the Hohokam people), and they figured that they could follow along the same path. It's a matter of record that these guys drank a lot of whiskey, and I can believe it.

In my lifetime I've known a lot of people who quaff a few beers and suddenly think that some hair-brained scheme is going to work. And digging a canal through the desolate desert along the Salt River in the 1860s had to be about as hair-brained as can be imagined. That it worked, and nowadays there's indeed a great city there, is just hard for me to comprehend. So, no, I wouldn't haven't invested in it. Not only was it waaaaayyyyy out in the middle of nowhere, there were Apaches, who weren't very happy about trespassers on land that they protected.

From what I've read about Darrell Duppa, that photo up there was about as cleaned-up as he ever was. Mostly living in Arizona he just let his hair grow long (like his friend Jack) and lived a very, uh, rustic life.

But Darrel had read the classics. It was his idea to name the new city "Phoenix", which is a legendary bird that rises from the ashes. He also named Tempe, by the way, which is the valley next to Mount Olympus. He must have had quite an imagination! Phoenix and Tempe were nothing but dirt and mesquite when he named them. But he saw an amazing future. And amazingly, he was right.


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