The truth about Phoenix history
Personally, I find the truth about Phoenix history to be fascinating. Like all true history, it's wildly complex, with millions of details. Real history isn't squeaky-clean and simplified. And it takes a lot of work to begin to understand it, which I am just beginning to.
I don't trust easy answers, short misleading headlines, sound bites. Whenever I see that, I am immediately suspicious that someone is trying to sell me something, or put a particular spin on things. And I really can't blame them. Real history is just a long series of events happening. There is no plot, no planned drama. Things just happen. But for me, it's fascinating to learn about.
The Phoenix history that I am most interested in is the stuff that people alive today can't possibly remember, that is, the history before World War II. And even the best PhD (Phoenix History Detective) that I know can only remember, first hand, back to the 1930s. And really, I don't like history books. Nor do I like fictionalized accounts, or second-hand memories. So the best I can do is to look at original documents, which I do a lot of.
Yes, there are a lot of original documents. And more and more of it is becoming available to read online. The Library of Congress has scanned in (and indexed) newspapers in Phoenix going back to the 1890s. The University of Arizona also has a tremendous treasury of scanned in original documents. And there are original photos.
Most of the people that I know were born in the second half of the twentieth century. So no one can possibly remember the Phoenix of 1915, or 1870. But original documents do. And the more I learn, the less I seem to know, which just fuels my thirst for more.
This journey will not be about simplistic headlines, or misleading memes. If you're looking for the "Cliff Notes" version of Phoenix history, you will be impatient with this adventure. If, however, you are a seeker of knowledge and truth, I believe that you will like what we find together. Thank you for walking with me.
Image at the top of this post: Phoenix pioneer Jack Swilling, with his adopted son Gavilan. Violent, alcoholic, and from what I'm learning, Jack was more than just a little bit crazy. Crazy enough to think that a great city could rise up out of the ashes of the Hohokam ruins.
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Posted by Brad Hall