Exploring the history of Phoenix, Arizona and a little bit of Los Angeles and San Francisco, California.

Drinking whiskey with Jack Swilling in 1867


Let's go drink some whiskey with Jack Swilling. If the name sounds familiar, you've probably heard of the Swilling Canal Company, which is working on a canal in the Salt River Valley. Yes, it was on the front page of the Arizona Miner yesterday. No, it's not Suilling, that's a misprint, it's Swilling. No, it's not Shilling, either. I hear that he's in town here in Prescott, and I think we'll find him over on Whiskey Row. Come on, we can tie up the horses and walk from here.

Jack Swilling in 1867, the founder of Phoenix, Arizona.

There he is, at the table back there, let's go introduce ourselves. I'll grab a bottle from the bar, and here are a couple of glasses.

I've heard a lot about this guy, and not all of it is good, so don't ask too many questions. He's ex-Confederate, and I'm Union, but the war's been over for years, and I'm a believer in what Lincoln said about "malice towards none".

There you go. See? I told you that he would be polite enough. I think he wants us to invest in his irrigation canal idea. What do you think? Would anyone ever want to live out in the middle of an empty desert? Hard to imagine, but it could happen. Last I heard he wanted to call the settlement "Pumpkinville" or "Mill City". I've also heard the name "Phoenix" being tossed around, and I like that.

Thank you, I'll have two fingers neat. Same for you?

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Beginning history adventuring in Phoenix, Arizona


History adventuring is a lot of fun. I've been doing it, uh, longer than I care to admit and I hope that I can do it until this old body is finished - which I'm know will be a long, long time!

If you're wondering how history adventuring is done, let me tell you that you've already started. That's because it begins in your imagination. If fact, if you don't have any imagination, you can't do it. Luckily, we all have it. For most people it begins at age four, and if you're one of the lucky ones, it never goes away, no matter how much the world tries to beat it out of you. If the world has beaten it out of you, you can regain it, I guarantee that. It just takes a different way of thinking, the kind you knew when you were four.

So put away your history books, there won't be a test. Because the history adventuring is just an excuse for imagination. It's just a reference point to get your mind, and possibly your body, moving. You can start anywhere you want, and you never have to leave your computer screen, but of course you can. You can go history adventuring in your own backyard, and I do that often. You can go history adventuring in your neighborhood. You don't need to pack luggage and go somewhere else - because you're already there. Walk with me.

If you're like most people, who were taught to hate history by boring classes in school, then you may wonder if you have memorize dates, or names. For history adventuring you don't have to - you can cheat as much as you want. If you want to imagine Phoenix before the railroads arrived, you can Google it (it's 1887, by the way). I look stuff up all of the time. If someone were to suddenly walk up to me and demand a series of memorized answers about the history of Phoenix I would just smile and try to edge away. That gives me a headache just thinking about it.

If you go history adventuring you will learn things, and the more important things will stay with you. You may learn the names of the mountains near where you live, you may learn the names of the streets in your neighborhood. You may learn when your local church was built. You can't avoid learning things, it just happens. And people will probably ask you what you've learned, and you can try to recite names and dates, but I recommend that you try to avoid that. History adventuring is a journey, and it's all about fun. Ask them to just walk with you, and point their eyes to a mountain.

Image at the top of this post: Looking north at Camelback Mountain in the 1920s, Phoenix, Arizona. This is where I walk both in my imagination and in real life every day.

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Getting a bargain buying stuff in old-time Phoenix


Like everyone, I enjoy getting a bargain. But as a typical man, I most often have no idea what the price of anything is supposed to be. I do have a vague idea that a box of Kleenex shouldn't cost me $123.00 (which I've seen on eBay) but other than that, I'm no mastermind of prices and bargains.

Since I collect old photos of Phoenix, one of my favorite fantasies had to do with how cheap things used to be. I would look at the prices and just marvel at what bargains you could get! And then I made the mistake of starting to research, and found that I was making the same mistake that a lot of people make - I was spending money based on how much money I have today, in the 21st Century.

As I write this, I have some change sitting next to me which would easily buy me all the food that I wanted at the New Palace Cafeteria in 1914. In fact, I could invite my friends, and they could have all they want. If someone wanted some fried sausage with mashed potatoes, I would give them fifteen cents with a smile. Apple pie? Sure! Here's a dime! Have two!

Of course if I could time-travel back to 1914 with my bag of change, I would have plenty of money. If I lived there, and had to accept the pay for work, it would be completely different. From what I'm learning, prices in Phoenix were pretty darned high compared to cheaper places, like San Francisco. That's because just about everything had to be shipped in from California, or somewhere else. I would probably be able to eat out as much then as I do now, which really isn't much. Restaurant food is much more expensive than if you bought food at the store and prepared it yourself. That much I've always known.

Still, it's a shame that I learned this. I enjoyed seeing gasoline at 17 cents, and a whole turkey dinner for 59 cents. But really, prices haven't changed all that much, it's just that the spending power of money has gone down.

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When Glendale, Arizona was a Temperance Colony


If you like Phoenix history, you know that Glendale, Arizona was a community created by William Murphy along the western end of the canal that his company built in 1885, the Arizona Canal, which is still there, as is Glendale, Arizona. I live in Glendale. But a lot of people don't know that it started as a Temperance Colony. That is, a place where the sale of intoxicants (beer, wine and liquor) was illegal by local law.

Before I go any further, don't panic, Glendale isn't dry anymore. You can buy as much beer, wine, and liquor as you want. And it's been perfectly legal there since 1933, when National Prohibition was repealed. And apparently the beginnings of Glendale as a Temperance Colony were forgotten.

As the ad at the top of this article states, Attention is called to the Temperance Colony of Glendale. The location is made upon the choicest fruit lands of the valley. No more beautiful site could be selected. The town is well planned for convenience and security. Broad Avenues, public squares and large lots. The sale of intoxicants is forever forbidden in the conveyance of the land. School houses and churches, but no saloons or gambling houses! No drunken brawls! No jails! and no paupers!

The design is to furnish opportunities for beautiful, peaceful homes, combining as fully as possible the advantages of the city with the security and quiet charm of the country. This will be appreciated by a very large class of people. It is the first colony in the territory, planned on this basis.

Address: Glendale Colony Company, Phoenix, Arizona Territory.

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When 7th Avenue was the Black Canyon Road, Phoenix, Arizona


If you live in Phoenix, you know where the Black Canyon Road is. It's the I-17 freeway, which replaced the Black Canyon Highway, which is at about 27th Avenue. But not in old-time Phoenix!

In the map above, you're looking at what would be 7th Avenue on the left and 7th Street on the right nowadays. And north of the city limits, which in 1897, was at Van Buren, 7th Avenue was the Black Canyon Road and 7th Street was the Cave Creek Road. Yeah, that one has moved too, about the same distance, to about 28th Street.

Of course Phoenix has grown since then. And after many years it gets kind of confusing. Many of the street names in Phoenix have changed as the city grew. And if you think about it, it makes sense. Once you're out of town, the logical thing to name a road is for its destination. And that's how 7th Avenue became the Black Canyon Road, because it was the road to Black Canyon, as 7th Street was the road to Cave Creek.

If you look more carefully at the map at the top of this post, and if you're familiar with Phoenix Streets, you'll see Orangewood, which is the half-mile street between Glendale and Northern. Back in 1897, when the Orangewood Addition (we call them subdivisions nowadays) was platted, it was waaaay out in the country!

So if you're doing some Phoenix History Detective work, look out, the names have changed!

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Seeing the wonder of Arizona through an outsider's eyes


If you live somewhere for a long time, or if you've always lived there, it's natural to become blind to it. Of course the whole world is a wonderful, magical place, but many people stay in exactly the same bored "seen-it-all" attitude that they had when they were 18. I know that I knew everything, and had seen everything, when I was 18, and it was vitally important for me to yawn at everything, because I was all grown up, and so cool.

Then I turned 19 and it all went away in a flash. I moved from Minnesota to Arizona and allowed myself to just absolutely stand there in amazement when I got to Phoenix. My jaw dropped when I saw my first cactus actually growing out of the ground. When I saw my first palm tree in real life, I walked up to it and touched it. I was a stranger in a strange land, and I loved it.

As I recall there were minor nuisances to deal with, like going to school, and working. But between that I would watch sunsets. I probably missed very few sunsets when I lived in Tempe, and after a while I started to believe that the sun wouldn't go down if I wasn't there to watch it. I was also reading John Steinbeck at the time, and he was teaching me to see the wonder and beauty among squalor.

When I moved to California, I got even crazier. I drove along the Pacific Coast Highway more times than I could count, and I especially liked driving south when I could be seaward, and I could drive with pelicans next to me. People would ask me how quickly I got from point A to point B, and I really had no idea. After a while I learned to give people the answers they wanted. But if someone really wanted to know why it took me so long to get from Santa Barbara to Los Angeles, I would tell them. I'm an outsider, a tourist.

Being a tourist, or an outsider, isn't something most people like to admit. These people are always slowing down traffic, stopping to ask directions, taking photographs of nothing. Locals know their way, have been on a road so many times they don't even pay attention to it anymore, and are so way cool that they can't even begin to stand the tourists.

For me, it's fun to see my Arizona through an outsider's eyes. A friend of mine on Facebook is visiting from Scotland as I write this, and it's great to see what catches his eye, what he talks about, the pictures he takes. How startling and exotic an ordinary truck is, and the fact that there's so many of them, and that there are tropical plants. When I start to feel as if I've been somewhere too long, I find this wonderfully refreshing.

If you're still 18, and already know everything, and everything bores you, I'll try to stay out of your way. I understand. But I'm so sorry for you, because you're missing so much wonder. If you want to get stupid again, I suggest that you see things through an outsider's eyes, be a tourist in your own home town.

Image at the top of this post: Camelback Mountain in Phoenix in 1955. This is what I see.

Playing football for Glendale Junior College in 1969, Glendale, Arizona


Time-travel with me. Today in my imagination I will be playing football for Glendale Junior College in 1969. In this story I'm a graduate of Maryvale High School and I'm about to run onto Matt O. Hanila Field, at Glendale Junior College, which is at 63rd Avenue and Olive in Glendale, Arizona. Just to clarify, this isn't me, it's just a story. I was never that tough!

Glendale Junior College is only four years old, and I'm glad to be there. It's a beautiful Arizona day, although it's about 100 degrees, but that's OK, I'm tough! I'm born and raised in Phoenix, so the heat doesn't bother me. Well, not much, it may be 101, or it may only be 99, I really don't know.

There's the coach, Carl Rollins! He looks like a tough guy, and I suppose he'll push us. He reminds me a little of Vince Lombardi, so I'll be listening to him! I'll admit to being a little nervous earlier today, but now that I'm on the field it feels great. This probably won't be any tougher than it was in high school, and that was always pretty easy for me. Waitaminute, who's that girl over there? She... oops, I think the coach is yelling at us.

The coach just told us to run to the white tanks. What white tanks? I don't see any tanks? OK, the guys are running in a particular direction, I guess we need to get to the other side of the field. White tanks? I wonder if that's some kind of special game language that they use here in Glendale?

Now we're running around the field. Yeah, it's gotta be 101 degrees, maybe even hotter. This was so much easier when I was younger, back in high school. I wonder if I need to lose some weight? Maybe I'll hit the gym after practice today, maybe do some straight-leg sit-ups. I'm pretty sure that you need to do a thousand of them.

Whew! Practice is over, and am I thirsty! But I know that I shouldn't drink any water because that just shows weakness. Just gotta tough it out. I can do this, I'm as tough as nails!

Thank you for time-traveling in my imagination with me today. Go Gauchos!

Note: the White Tanks are the mountains that are west of Glendale, Arizona. Maricopa County Community Colleges discontinued football where they were played, at Phoenix, Glendale, Mesa, and Scottsdale Community Colleges as of 2018.

Image at the top of this post: Glendale Gauchos football players in 1969.

As read by voice over performer Mike Binder 



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How to care for grass in Phoenix, Arizona


One of the worst possible things to have on your property in Phoenix, Arizona is grass. In the long run, you're much better off doing an attractive xeriscape landscape, which will use a whole lot less water and cost a lot less to care for. But doing that takes a fair amount of initial investment, and in the meantime if you have grass, you have to deal with it. I did it for years.

If you're from back east, like I am, it will probably come as a surprise to you that most of the lawns in Phoenix are that terrible weed, Bermuda grass. Yes, the stuff you spray to get rid of on your lawn in Minneapolis is what most lawns are made up of in Phoenix. In fact, just about anything green counts as a lawn in Phoenix, especially in areas that get irrigation, which are made up of a wild combination of weeds. As a person from Minneapolis, I learned that when I had a property that was irrigated in Tempe. You simply dump water on it, and whatever is there turns green. Or greenish. It does seem to be better than just dry dirt, I gotta admit!

And yes, you're right, Bermuda grass is the number one allergen in Phoenix. As someone who suffers from allergies, I know. Every year the air is filled with these tiny invisible spores and most of the people in Phoenix just shrug their shoulders, or blame orange trees. So, seriously, if you're considering getting rid of your grass in the future, please do, we'll all breathe easier.

So if you're staring out at a bunch of dirt and weeds, maybe at a yard that hasn't been maintained in years, relax, all you gotta do is add water. If you live in an area that doesn't have irrigation, you'll have to water your grass with the same expensive water that you use to shower with. This runs up your water bill, but of course in the short run it's cheaper than installing desert landscaping, or putting in artificial turf (which is what I did about a decade ago). Your lawn (if you can call a combination of Bermuda grass and other weeds a lawn) will need a lot of water, and luckily things grow well in the desert - just add water.

If you want green grass in the winter it gets much more complicated. That's because Bermuda grass goes dormant for the winter (yes, I know it's still warm, but the grass thinks it's winter) and it turns brown. No, it doesn't die, it will green up again in summer, but in the meantime you'll have a brown yard unless you do something called "overseeding". I did this for years and while I look back on it as a labor of love, it was a lot of labor, trouble, and expense. You have to buy grass seed every year that only grows in the winter. And you have to give it a lot of water to get it to grow, and then you have to mow it. I won't explain it here, you can Google it, or talk to someone at Home Depot, who will be happy to fill your shopping cart with all of the things you need. I am so glad that I don't do that anymore!

Image at the top of this post: winter grass at the Arizona Biltmore. It looks great there, and they can afford it.


Artificial turf in my backyard in Glendale, Arizona, a suburb of Phoenix. Yes, it was expensive, and I recommend having the pros do it, or it will look terrible. And yes, your dog can pee on it, water goes through it. Oh yeah, and you can leave furniture on it. And no mowing!


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How Priscilla Cook began the restoration of Old Town Peoria, Arizona


I've seen some amazing changes in the Phoenix area, and I continue to be optimistic about its future. I've had the privilege of meeting some of the people who see potential when most people would just give up. If you knew Priscilla Cook (she died in 2017), you know what I mean. I've always called these people "unrealistically optimistic", and they're wonderful.

I met Priscilla Cook in the '90s when I was out exploring Peoria on my bike. I'd always liked looking around at old buildings, and I had just bought a house in Glendale, and I guess I was just out riding around. This was at about the same time that I discovered Weedville, and I was just looking around.

I stopped my bike in front of what used to be the Peoria Central School, in Old Town Peoria, on 83rd Avenue west of Grand, and was just looking around, and poked my head in the door to ask what all of this was all about, and I found that the beginning of a history museum had been formed. There may or may not have been a sign back then, I don't remember, but I remember Priscilla. She was happy to see someone who had a interest in local history.

The Cook family has some deep roots in Peoria, Arizona, being among the earliest pioneers of that town, going back to the 1800s. At the time I was working on my own family genealogy (which has nothing to do with Arizona) and had decided that old photos and documents meant nothing if I couldn't get a feel for the people. I had developed a taste for trying to imagine their world. And Priscilla gave me a view into what the world must have looked like for people living in the Phoenix area before the invention of air conditioning, or color TV, or anything. It was amazing.

If you've never been to the Peoria History Museum, or Old Town Peoria, I really can't blame you. It's not exactly the Smithsonian, and Old Town Peoria still has a long way to go before anyone but a hard-core fan would call it "quaint". But I see it happening. The improvement in the last twenty years has been slow, but steady.

Image at the top of this post: Priscilla Cook in 1993 in the First Presbyterian Church in Peoria, where she was a member for over 80 years.

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How to beautify the city that you love


I like living in beautiful places. When I was old enough to leave home, I did. My goal at the time was to just get away from the cold and snow of Minneapolis, and as the years went by I pondered where I should live? Like most young people I was mostly concerned about earning money, so when I graduated from ASU I moved to Los Angeles, which was to me "the big city", where I could make my way.

Turns out that LA is a lot tougher than I had thought, and a friend of mine from Phoenix recommended that I go see a business associate of his in Santa Barbara, which is about an hour north of LA. I got the job, but there was no reason for me to stay in my apartment in Los Angeles, so I moved to Santa Barbara, and was there for three years. And in Santa Barbara I fell in love with the idea of living in a beautiful city. If you've ever visited there, you know. And a beautiful city is worth money, make no mistake. Those ocean views and mountain views add up to serious serious Real Estate value!

The lesson I learned that I'm still applying to where I live, which is Glendale, Arizona, a suburb of Phoenix. No, I don't expect the Real Estate value of my neighborhood to be exploding with multi-million dollar houses, nor would I want it to. I live here, and hopefully always will, and high Real Estate values just mean higher property taxes for me. I just want to live in a beautiful city, which I do.

I care for the appearance of what I call my "tiny little bit of Arizona". My house doesn't have a bunch of weeds growing around it, or a junked car in the front yard, because of some Home Owner's Association rule, or some civic law. I do it because I want to live in a beautiful city. And if you want to live in a beautiful city, here are some suggestions, depending on your budget:

• Plant a tree, and care for it. There are a lot of trees that are appropriate for the area. Go learn about xeriscape, go visit your local nursery. Yes, it will cost you money, and yes it will take effort to care for it.

• Clean up your yard. No, I'm not from the HOA, giving you a notice. I just would like everyone to do a tiny bit. Go out and pick up the trash from your yard, from in front of your street. Look around and find people in your neighborhood who can't do that - I have a neighbor who is now in her 90s and I keep an eye on her yard. She has landscaping people come out regularly, but it isn't as if she can bend down, while she's on her walker, to pick up a stray plastic bottle that has fallen into her yard.

• Smile and wave at people. The last time I checked, this didn't cost anything. Grim-looking people make for a grim-looking world.

If you're in the habit of ranting on Facebook, or calling some government official because you'd like to make your city more beautiful, I recommend that you knock that off, and start with a smile and a wave. Oh yeah, and plant a tree and care for it.

Image at the top of this post: Phoenix, Arizona in 1924

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The modern impact of the lack of "Truth in Advertising" in old-time Phoenix


As a graphic designer, I've always enjoyed looking at ads. When I went to ASU I studied advertising in the Business College, and I remember going to see the Clio Awards, which were shown over by the Art Building every year, which showed the best commercials of the year, chosen by people in the industry. Thirty years later, they're hilarious.

I still get a big kick out of looking at old ads. And times really have changed, even in my lifetime, ads aren't quite as tricky as they used to be, new laws have been enforced which at least try to provide "Truth in Advertising". We've gotten used to ads that no longer come right out and lie, and promise things that nobody in their right mind would believe. I grabbed the image above from my collection of old advertising in the Phoenix area, which was for the Oxypathor, which apparently would cure any disease. And it's funny, but it also worries me a bit. I've often joked about "Chamber of Commerce" promises, or how newspapers would "boost" their town, and it is funny to read that apparently Phoenix was always pleasant, never too hot or too cold, and any crop could grow there. Rivers flowed year 'round, and deer and antelope played. The idea of this type of advertising is to convince people of stuff, and a lot of the boostering was just as ridiculous as that ad for the "Oxypather". But every once in a while I see that someone has found an old article and has recently learned that Phoenix wasn't hot, and that no one ever got sick, or died. And it's probably because most people nowadays assume that what was printed in newspapers, both in ads in in the editorial content, was as responsible as it is now. But it really wasn't. If you're outraged by the promises made by advertisers and the allegations made by newspapers nowadays, you really have to read a 1911 newspaper. I do it all of the time at the Library of Congress.

If I've learned anything in a long life, it's good to take statements from ads and newspapers with a grain of salt. If you go back 100 years, you may need a whole salt-shaker!

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How agriculture destroyed the Salt River Valley


If you're a hiker, or a tree-hugger like me, and live in Phoenix, Arizona, you try to visit areas of beauty. It can be mountain views, or preserved desert land, it might even be gardens. In my life I've tried to be open-minded about buildings, and parking lots, and plowed fields, and fences, but even though I do go "urban hiking" I much prefer being away from man-made stuff. Luckily, I live in Phoenix where that beauty can still be visited, right nearby.

But I understand the need for the land to be put to better use than just beauty. Every view can't be set aside, people need places to live, to drive, to shop, to eat. If the neighborhood where I live had remained original desert, I wouldn't have a place to plug in my computer.

But I try to imagine the desert before here before it was put to practical use. My house is on the edge of the original Bartlett Ranch, now called the Sahuaro Ranch, in Glendale, which goes back to the 1890s. Before that, of course, it was virgin desert. But it was all cleared away over 100 years ago to make room for crops to be planted, or for domestic animals to graze. And the desert was destroyed here, and erased forever.

I was just reading about a pioneer in Scottsdale, Arizona in the 1800s who "cleared away the greasewood" to grow citrus. If you've ever gone hiking in the desert, you've seen greasewood, and you've especially smelled it after a rain. When I see some, I take a tiny bit of it and crunch it up to smell it, and it's wonderful. To the pioneers, it was just a weed to be cleared away. I call it creosote, and every plant you see is a clone of the original plants that formed over 10,000 years ago, making it at the same time one of the most common and one of the most exceptional plant on planet earth. You can't transplant it, it doesn't grow by seed, and when it's destroyed it's gone forever. When you see it, you're seeing an original plant of the desert which hasn't been destroyed. I have friends with gardens that integrate it, but they have to work with what's there, the plant can't be moved.

When pioneers like Winfield Scott took a look at the Salt River Valley, they saw opportunity. They saw a place where they could grow crops that would be ripe before the competition in California, and could be shipped back east quicker. They set about to destroy just about every square inch of desert that they could, to raise things like raisins, which were quite valuable at the time. Whether they saw any beauty in the desert I can't say, but I doubt they did.

If you get a chance to, talk a walk in the desert after a rain. That wonderful smell is creosote, the weed that the pioneers were anxious to clear away. That's a pic of it at the top of this post.

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A United States School for Indians in Phoenix, Arizona


If you've driven much in Phoenix, you've probably been on a road called Indian School. And if you wondered if there was an Indian School, yes, there was. It was there from 1891 until 1990, on Indian School Road between Central Avenue and 3rd Street.

As a history adventurer, normally I'm pretty casual about misunderstandings about the history of Phoenix. I try to grin and bear it, accept that information gets garbled, things get confused. But the story of this school to the history of Phoenix, Arizona and the Southwest is so important that makes me sad to hear so many people misunderstand. I've been learning and writing about this for years, and the truth is amazing. It's all about an alliance. Walk with me.

We have to time-travel back to 1863, when the Five Tribes Treaty of Peace was signed. If you've been to the celebration, which has been held at the Gila River Indian Community every year for over 150 years, you know about this. If not, you have to understand that it was an alliance with the United States Military and these five tribes: the Pima (Akimel O’odham), Maricopa (Pee Posh), Yuma, Hualapai, and Chemehuevi people. If you know the history, you know that it's no exaggeration to say that without this alliance, there never would have been Phoenix. And the alliance still stands.

In 1891 the Federal Government established a school specifically for Indians. And yes, it was mandatory, and yes, the students lived right there on the campus. It was a typical high school in many ways, but the emphasis was on what we would call nowadays vo-tech. And there was also military training. I'm sure that it shocked people to see Indians with rifles and guns, marching in military formation, as I'm sure it shocked people to see Black people do that. The flag that flew at the United States Indian School was red, white and blue, and that's all that mattered.

If you've never heard of the history of the United States Indian School at Phoenix, and the legacy of the Five Tribes Treaty of Peace, I'm sorry. But it's not too late to learn, and that's what I'm doing. Last year I attended the Treaty of Peace celebration, and took another step on my journey of understanding.

Thank you for walking with me.

Image at the top of this post: the United States Indian School in 1896.

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About the new History Adventuring video series


I'm getting a big kick helping my friend Russ Williams create the History Adventuring videos. Well, he does all of the work, I just provide the encouragement. He's basing them on the stuff that I've been writing about for years, and he's starting with things that catch his attention. He's already done a video about why Baseline Road is called that, and currently he's finishing up the one on Grand Avenue. Not sure what he has planned for the next one, it may be the Indian School, I really don't know yet. That's how it works!

I've offered this type of help to anyone who wants to make use of the stuff that I've collected, and that means the photos I've found, and the information I've found. My only goal is that these things don't end up in the trash, or being forgotten, or locked up in boxes somewhere. I've invested a lot of time, and will give more, but that's it. I don't have pockets deep enough for publishing, or video production, or anything like that. I would love it if people whose pockets are deep enough would invest in this kind of stuff, but that's up to them. My financial investment is in paying for the server where I upload the images, and paying for the domain name of HistoryAdventuring.com.

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Like me, Russ Williams is a project person. He's been doing videos all of his life, and you've probably heard his voice if you've lived in the Phoenix area for a while. I'm not sure exactly what he's done, but he's what's known as a "voice talent". He's usually behind the scenes so it's kind of cool to see him in front of the camera, as the host. I guess you could think of him like one of those actors who directs a movie that they're in - setting up the camera, and then getting in front of it.

Scene from the video about Baseline Road. Russ is standing next to the Initial Monument, showing the path of Baseline Road (next to his hand).

There really isn't a financial goal to these videos, well, not yet. But they're still original copyrighted material, made with (I just learned this) about 20 hours of labor to make four minutes of final video. And I really have no idea how this works, but it might get picked up by a TV station, or something. And since they're copyrighted, I've agreed not to upload them where people could see them for free. The only thing I asked Russ is that they be allowed on my Patreon page as a reward for the top tiers. If you're reading this from Patreon you already know that.

I'm glad to help. And I'm happy to see this kind of information preserved, and possibly presented on TV, or in schools. Thanks, Russ!

This video is available to my Patreon members at the "Phoenix History Detective" Level. Click here to become a member.

How to become a Phoenix History Detective (PhD)


Several years ago I started collecting old photos of Phoenix. I've always liked old photos, but I've never liked photos without captions. That is, I wanted to know where something was, and when it was. Without that, to me old photos are boring, and pointless. And it has became something like detective work for me.

I started posting old Phoenix photos in 2011 on a site called "Google Plus", and little by little the corrections came in. I have to admit that everything looked pretty much the same to me, the old intersections, the old buildings. And I would post something with a description, and someone would say, "Dude, that's not Washington, that's Adams", that sort of thing. Then I'd go and do some research, and if I was convinced, I'd update the caption, and the file name. And I started calling these people Phoenix History Detectives, which I shortened to PhDs.

Being a PhD isn't easy. It's earned by having documentation. Since this is the day of the internet, I had a lot of people who expected me to believe them just because they had heard from someone who had heard from someone, or they kinda thought that maybe they remembered seeing it on the internet. That's not a PhD, anyone can just guess about stuff.

If you want to become a PhD, I highly recommend it. There's something very satisfying about researching things carefully, and instead of getting into arguments, presenting things that are "commonly misidentified". And there are so many errors out there, in books, in magazines, in newspapers, on the web, that there's never any shortage of "common misconceptions". My favorite one, by the way, is the pic at the top of this post, which is looking north from Grand Avenue in Glendale. It's often misidentified as Glendale Avenue, but it's not, it was called 1st Avenue at the time, and is now 58th Drive. The Sine Hardware Building is still there, you can go visit it anytime you want to.

And no, my PhDs don't get together and have meetings. I hate meetings. They don't wear uniforms and march in parades. Most of my PhDs I've never even met face-to-face but I feel like I know them as we communicate so much. I don't give out certificates - you just simply say that you're a PhD and that's it. And then the next thing you do is go exploring - either through old documents, at a library, on the internet, digging through boxes of photos, wherever. I just love doing this stuff, and I hope to be able to do it until I'm too old to risk carpal-tunnel syndrome on my computer.

Thank you for history adventuring with me. This is a team effort - if you're bored of just being a spectator, join me!

Image at the top of this post: Looking north from Grand Avenue on 1st Avenue (now 58th Drive), Glendale, Arizona. The Sine Hardware building, which is still there, it's just in from the right, the one with the balcony.

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The marketing of Scottsdale, Arizona as the "West's Most Western Town"


I was talking to one of my top PhDs (Phoenix History Detectives) today about how ridiculous it is that Scottsdale created an artificial image, starting in the late forties, as "the West's Most Western Town", and I thought that, as an old Marketing guy, I would try to explain why that happened, and why it made Scottsdale so successful.

First of all, let me clarify that Scottsdale really does go back to the 1800s. It's not quite as old as Phoenix, or Tempe, but it's been there for a long time. It grew up with the Arizona Canal, which was completed in 1885. And like Phoenix and Tempe it began as an agricultural area. And yes, cowboys lived there, and rode horses around and all of that stuff. But Scottsdale became wildly successful because it paid attention to a market that was exploding after World War II, tourism.

Scottsdale, Arizona in the 1950s, building its image as the West's Most Western Town. It still looks a lot like this to this day, in Old Town.

Scottsdale did everything right. They set out to make the experience of visiting there to be an absolute fantasy. And if you've visited Scottsdale lately you know that they're still doing it right - I mean look at those resorts, and those golf courses! And it all has to do with brilliant marketing. Yes, Chamber of Commerce stuff.
When people think of Scottsdale today they think, in addition to some of the finest resorts on planet Earth, of the very finest Western art. I'm no expert on that kind of stuff, but I understand that there are some awesome works of art, and jewelry, and such to be had there.

1946 article promoting Scottsdale, Arizona, written by Eleanor Roosevelt.

And that "Scottsdale snootiness" goes back to Eleanor Roosevelt, who helped to promote what was called the "Arizona Craftsman" movement. And if you can get the wife of the most popular president of the 1940s to help promote your city, let me tell you, you got something there. We're not talking about some cheesy "tourist" costume jewelry here, we're talking about what came to be considered the finest Western art to be had. And Scottsdale did even more, they designed an area called "Old Town" to look a certain way that attracted tourists. They had promotions, and events - even "Wild West" shootouts on the streets. And as an old Marketing guy, I gotta tell ya, I'm jealous of the genius that created that, and sustains it to this day.

1966 staged gunfight in Scottsdale, Arizona. This wouldn't work so good nowadays, but back then people loved it.

Yes, Scottsdale as the "West's Most Western Town" is an illusion created by the Chamber of Commerce, mostly based on Western movies. And it became wildly successful going back to the 1950s, and like all good Old West stories, it really doesn't matter if it's a tall tale. I call it "the West of the Imagination".

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Predicting the future of Phoenix, Arizona by learning its past


As a time-traveler, I'm as interested in the future as I am of the past. And if you want to predict what will happen in the future in Phoenix, all you have to do is understand its past.

Personally, I'm not interested in investing. But if you are, I think that I can help. Because Phoenix has been doing the same thing over and over and over since 1870. And since you're an investor, I'd like you to take a look at people who took some big risks, like Jack Swilling, or Dwight Heard. If you've never heard of these people, that's where you should start - they created Phoenix, Arizona. They looked at nothing but dust and dirt and imagined a city.

I call these kinds of people "unrealistically optimistic". You may want to learn about William Murphy, who decided to dig a canal in 1885 all of the way from north of where Apache Junction is now to the Agua Fria River, which is west of Peoria. It was a privately-funded canal, dug by hand. Well, they had mules, too! If you're not impressed with him, take a look at a guy named Del Webb who bought a ghost town northwest of Phoenix in the 1950s called Marinette and built a city dedicated to retirees called "Sun City".

And then there's my favorite lunatic, a crazy guy named Walter Bimsom who took over Valley National Bank of Arizona after the depression, and decided to make loans - lots of loans. Phoenix exploded in growth after World War II, most of it on Valley Bank Loans. The list of these types of people in Phoenix goes and on, and when you get to Charlie Keating in the 1980s, you need to stop and double-check your morality.

My point here is that the future of Phoenix belongs to people willing to invest. It belongs to people who will stand up and create something, risk it all, not people who just sit on the sidelines and wonder "what happened?"

Like I say, I'm not investing. I can't imagine standing in an empty desert in 1868 with Jack Swilling and helping him dig a canal. If Dwight Heard had given me a bargain price on some dusty desert land north of downtown Phoenix in 1911 I would have laughed at him. If Del Webb had offered to let me in on the "ground floor" of his lunatic scheme of "Sun City" in the 1950s I would have walked away, and if Walter Bimson had offered me a loan after World War II, I would have said, politely, no thank you. I certainly wouldn't have given any money to Charlie Keating!

So there you go. I'd say if people aren't laughing at your "unrealistically optimistic" ideas then I'd say you're not thinking big enough. If you take the time to look into the past of Phoenix you'll see it didn't happen by accident, it happened with the kind of vision that makes me wonder "what were these guys thinking?"

Image at the top of this post: Looking east on Washington at Central in 1872. You could have bought a lot there for just a few dollars, and people would thought you were crazy.

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In defense of Phoenix as a garden, not a farm


I like gardens, I like trees, I like flowers. All of my life I've sought these things out because of their beauty, because they sooth me. And it all folds into my interest in art, design, aesthetics, and beauty. It just seems perfectly natural to me to invest time and money into this, and expect no other reward than seeing a flower blooming, or to stand under the dappled shade of a tree. And I tend to resist things that I call "utilitarian" - like wider roads, more parking, more buildings, and the things that, well, people need to live, basics of life, like farms.

I grew up in the Midwest and I've seen farms. A lot of farms. And while many people consider them scenic, that's probably because they've only seen them from a distance, or they probably don't know many people who earn their living farming. Their main purpose isn't scenery, it's function. And that function is to use the ground in the most efficient way possible to grow things that can be sold. Whether it's a giant "mega-farm" or a little "mom and pop farm", the goal is to create income. Farmers aren't getting up at 4 am just to make an area more scenic - they're investing, and expect a return on their investment, or at the very least not to have all of their effort lose money.
Now please don't get me wrong, I'm very glad that people do this. I like to eat as much as the next person, and I understand the vital importance of farms. I also understand the vital importance of roads, of parking, and all of things that are done by the vast majority of people who keep the world I live in running, so I can sit back and plant a flower.

But I like gardens, I like art. When someone begins an argument with me about whether something is useful or not, I know that I've lost. Of what use is a rose? You can't eat it. Why would someone invest in something simply to sit back and look at it? What's its function?

And I really have no comeback for that. I can't explain why I feel that the world needs entirely useless things like art, and music. If I look into your eyes and see dollar signs, I'll let it go. I may try to get you to stop and see beauty for its own sake, but you'll need to see it for yourself.

Inchworm, inchworm,
Measuring the marigolds.
You and your arithmetic,
You'll probably go far.

Inchworm, inchworm,
Measuring the marigolds.
Seems to me you'd stop and see
How beautiful they are.

Image at the top of this post: the rose gardens at Sahuaro Ranch, 59th Avenue between Olive and Peoria, Glendale, Arizona. Its days as a working ranch, and farm, are over and it's now a garden, purely for enjoyment. Open to the public.

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Why March 12th is Phoenix History Day


On March 12th, 1868, Jack Swilling and his crew completed work on the first modern canal in the Salt River Valley. And that was the very first step towards the creation of the modern city of Phoenix, Arizona.

If you've never heard of Jack Swilling, or any of this, it's not surprising. As a "founding father" Jack really wasn't the kind of person that we tend to make statues of. In fact, he's a bit of an embarrassment. If you know about Jack, you know that. He was an ex-confederate soldier, a violent alcoholic, and a criminal. And no, I'm not putting him down, that's just who he was. And since he really hasn't fit in well with the squeaky-clean image that we would like for historic figures, he's kinda been shuffled aside. And I agree that we don't want to glorify people who were like that, but we do want to remember what he did. He created Phoenix, Arizona.

Jack Swilling and his adopted Apache son in 1867

I've known a lot of people like Jack. And I can't defend much of what they do. From what I've read about him, he was just a little crazy. His drink of choice was whiskey, which he took with a very powerful painkiller that was popular then, laudanum, which was a perfectly legal mix of opium. It's illegal now, but it wasn't then, but it was still just as powerful. I try to imagine sitting around with Jack, maybe drinking some of his whiskey, and hoping that he wouldn't accidentally shoot me while he twirled a six-shooter and took more laudanum. But he must have been a very convincing guy.

Jack Swilling managed to convince investors to help pay for a canal that would bring water into an empty desert. And make no mistake, the Salt River Valley was a desert. No one lived there, and no one had since the Hohokam people, hundreds of years ago. It was a war zone protected by the Apaches, who lived northeast of the valley, and still do. The Pimas lived south of the Salt River Valley, along the Gila River and all of the way to Mexico. But the Salt River Valley was empty. If you could stand there in the 1860s, you'd see a lot of desert, and off in the hills, like the White Tanks or the Papago Buttes, you'd keep an eye out for Apaches. They didn't like people trespassing there.

The Arizona Miner in 1868, Prescott, Arizona

The article at the top of this post, which is from the Prescott newspaper "the Arizona Miner" in 1868 mentions the completion of the canal, on March 12, 1868. Of course, the paper would have had articles about a lot of things that people were doing, like digging for gold, that sort of thing. And this article would have just been another one of those "optimistic attempts", except for one very important thing, it was incredibly successful. And it's the city of Phoenix, Arizona.

Library of Congress link to the article at the top of this post is here: https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn82016242/1868-04-18/ed-1/seq-2.pdf

As read by Mick Welsh, Graphic Artist for The Catholic Sun and the Communications Office of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix https://dphx.org/mick-welsh/



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Is it Grand Canyon or the Grand Canyon?


As someone who is learning about Arizona history, I try to get the names right. And that includes subtle details like whether or not the word "the" is used. I've seen the word "Grand" used a lot in Arizona, as in Grand Canyon, Grand Avenue, and Grand Canal. And I've wondered if it it should be the Grand Canyon, the Grand Avenue, and the Grand Canal? I'll tell you what I've found out.

1944 Grand Avenue crossing on Grand Canal, Phoenix, Arizona.

Even in old documents, I've seen "Grand Canyon" and "the Grand Canyon" used. The same with Grand Canal and the Grand Canal. I've never seen the Grand Avenue, but streets aren't typically called "the" (although freeways are).

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On the Grand Canal in 1896, Phoenix, Arizona

If I'm writing about the history of Phoenix, I like to say "Grand Canal", as in "the pioneers finished Grand Canal in 1885". To me it just sounds more, well, grand. Or I would write "the pioneers traveled up to Grand Canyon by mule". But in real life it sounds kinda pretentious to me, so I'd say, "the store is just north of the Grand Canal" or "I'm hoping to get up to the Grand Canyon this summer". Of course I'd never add the word "the" to Grand Avenue - that's just weird. I will, of course, say "the I-17 freeway".

So that's what I know - either one seems to be fine. Of course there will be people who insist one way or another, and I respect that. But in usage over the years, it's fine to use the "the" or to drop it. Either way is Grand.

Image at the top of this post: 1909 railroad ad mentioning the only line to the Grand Canyon. Some might have insisted that it's not "the Grand Canyon" - it's "Grand Canyon"

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The future of South Scottsdale, Arizona


My latest journey is to discover more about South Scottsdale, and oddly enough it seems to make sense for me to start with its future.

I just spoke to one of my best PhD (Phoenix History Detective) on South Scottsdale, and I think I'm starting to assemble some facts. The first thing that I wanted to know is where exactly IS South Scottsdale? Of course, you could look at a map and divide the city by north and south, or you could look at some report written by some official, but those things never work for me. I wanted to know what someone who knows the area calls it. This wasn't easy, as my friend is a cheerful, talkative fellow who likes to tell stories, but he put up with my interruptions over and over again, as we're old friends. He's lived in South Scottsdale for a long time and cares about the area, so I trust him. I wanted to see it from his point of view.
To my surprise, he defined South Scottsdale as going as far north as Indian Bend Road. That is, where the Arizona Canal cuts Scottsdale in half north and south at Hayden, well north of Camelback Road. And I guess it makes sense, although I'd always thought of South Scottsdale as being the area south of Old Town Scottsdale and north of Tempe. I asked if he liked the term So Sco, and he said no, although I couldn't really get a reason out of him - and I interrupted many, many times. I'll try again, I promise.

Anywhere, the future of South Scottsdale is like the future of any area that is considered "adjacent" to an area where property values are super high. My first experience with this was in California, when areas were called "Beverly Hills adjacent". In Phoenix, there's the area that's adjacent to Arcadia, which I just learned is called "Arcadia Lite". My neighborhood, which is near the Sahuaro Ranch, I always thought of as "Arrowhead Adjacent". And the idea is for the high resale value of an area to spill over to the an adjacent area, which just means right nearby, but not quite there.

Of course, people can argue back and forth as to what is, and isn't adjacent. From my point of view, Old Town isn't adjacent, it's doing just fine. As I travel south, I see the clear signs of "adjacent" on Scottsdale Road - that is, not quite as prosperous.

The future of South Scottsdale is very bright, at least for the land. As Real Estate agents say, they aren't making any more land, and it's all about location. Being between Tempe, which has lately been fabulously successful (have you been there in the last few years?!), and north Scottsdale, is a good place to be. And that's what worries me about South Scottsdale.

If you're like me, you always just drove north and south on Scottsdale, or Hayden, or Pima Road. I lived in Tempe and I visited a client at McCormick Ranch in the 1980s. I never had any reason to go through the neighborhoods of South Scottsdale, so I was surprised at how wonderful they are. Many of the homes go back to the 1950s and 60s, and are ranch style homes on nice wide streets. And as a person interested in Phoenix history, I really love seeing this.

Of course, times have changed and those old houses might be historically interesting, but most people need more bedrooms, more bathrooms, more garage space. I'm told that Scottsdale doesn't allow tear-downs, but I've seen variances before. People need space to live, I understand, and that means bigger houses, like the "McMansions" that I see in beautiful old neighborhoods in Santa Monica. Yes, it's a free country, people can do what they want, even if it makes neighborhoods ugly. I'm sure they're good people.

So the future of South Scottsdale may be a transition to enormous wealth for people, and the complete extinction of these wonderful old houses. In a perfect world, people would move into those old houses and preserve the neighborhoods. And yes, I believe in a perfect world.

Thank you for history adventuring with me.

Image at the top of this post: Scottsdale ad from 1913.

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The eucalyptus trees of Phoenix, Arizona


I like trees. I look at them a lot, and I'm especially fascinated by eucalyptus trees, which are native to Australia. They grow extremely well in the Phoenix area, but I'd never seen them as a kid growing up in Minneapolis, because it's too cold there. If you had described a tree to me that never shed its leaves, but instead shed its bark, I would have thought you were describing something from Mars.

But these amazing trees are very real. And yes, many of them shed their bark, like the one in the pic up there. When I first saw them, here in Phoenix, I would walk up and touch the trunk. I still do. My weird behavior isn't understood by Phoenix locals, who grew up there, but visitors understand. And I will always be a visitor here, a stranger in a strange land.

Walk with me. The greater Phoenix area isn't a desert, it's a garden, an oasis. Water has been flowing through this valley for thousands of years, and in the last 100 years or so it's been channeled through canals that brought farmland, and trees. It was an amazing transformation.

When the Phoenix pioneers started bringing water into the valley in the 1870s, they immediately started experimenting to see what would grow. The idea, of course, was to make money by planting crops, and trees were added as windbreaks. A windbreak, by the way, is a row of trees that are planted along farmland to at least slow down the windiness. You know, so the dirt wouldn't all just blow away when the earth was plowed, and made bare. And one type of tree that was planted as a wonderful windbreak was the eucalyptus. Of course now in Phoenix trees as less utilitarian, and mostly used for aesthetic appeal ("curb appeal") and as something that would often get between me and the green on a golf course.

What the Phoenix pioneers found is that eucalyptus trees grew well. Maybe a little too well. They grew fast, which was good, but functionally they were a poor choice, as their branches easily break. So it does take much wind for these "windbreak" trees to break!

If you grew up in Phoenix, you've probably never been amazed at eucalyptus trees. I know a lot of locals who yawn at things that I find spectacular. I understand, it's just the background of life in Phoenix, nothing to get all excited about. But I'm still a visitor here, and I look at trees - especially eucalyptus trees, of which there are many varieties represented in Phoenix.

Thank you for walking with me, and looking at eucalyptus trees.

Image at the top of this post: Camelback Golf Course in 1972, Scottsdale, Arizona, and eucalyptus trees. Gum trees.

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How to find the Lost Dutchman in Phoenix, Arizona


If you're a fan of Arizona history, you've heard of the Lost Dutchman mine. People are still looking for it, and it's supposedly in the the Superstition Mountains near Apache Junction, Arizona, which is east of Phoenix. Legend has it that it was the greatest gold mine in the area, with huge chunks of gold, right there, just for the taking.

1909 article about the Los Dutchman mine.

According to the story, the mine was discovered by a man named Jacob Waltz, who was born in 1808 and died in 1891. And whether his fabulous mine ever existed no one knows, but Jacob Waltz did exist, and he was one of thousands of people who mined for gold, silver, and other precious minerals around the Phoenix area. Since his mine was considered lost, it was named after what most people called him, "the Dutchman" and the mine was called the Lost Dutchman mine. So Jacob has been called the Lost Dutchman. Of course, it was his mine that was lost, not himself, but that's the confusing way that the language works.

And for you serious trivia fans out there, Jacob wasn't even Dutch, he was German. That is, Deutsch. But if you're not careful with pronunciation, it can easily sound like the word "Dutch", so Dutch stuck. He was really a Deutsch Man, you know, as in Deutschland, which is Germany. If you Google Deutschland, you'll see that it's Germany. Enough trivia already.

The point here is that he wasn't lost. He's right in Phoenix. Well, he's buried there, in the Pioneer and Military Memorial Park at 13th Avenue and Jefferson.

The Pioneer and Military Memorial Park, 13th Avenue and Jefferson, Phoenix, Arizona. You're looking east towards downtown.

I was wandering around there today, and was very impressed by how neatly kept the volunteers keep the place. They're the Pioneers' Cemetery Association, and they meet in that cool old house that you see right there. Just go there and say "I want to see the Lost Dutchman" and someone there will know what you mean. If you ask to see where Jacob Waltz is buried, they'll be more impressed. You can say that Brad sent you, but that probably won't impress them.

And no, there are no photos of him, although many people claim it. And it stands to reason, he was just an ordinary man digging for gold in the Salt River Valley. And like all wise people who look for gold, he was secretive. I can't imagine him ever going somewhere to have his picture taken. Nowadays he probably wouldn't even use a cell phone.

Cartoon of the Lost Dutchman. Probably as accurate as any other image of him.


As read by Eddie Wright



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Where to find the gold mines of Phoenix, Arizona


Long before the Phoenix area was a "gold mine" for tourism, the area was an actual gold mine. Yes, also silver, and various other things that were dug out of the ground, like copper, and mercury.

If you're a history fan, you've probably heard of the lost gold mine of the "Lost Dutchman" in the Superstition Mountains, which are east of Phoenix, near Apache Junction. I've never wandered around those mountains, but many people do, and they see where miners have been, either 100 years ago or very recently. Yes, people are still searching for gold there to this day.

Whether people are searching for gold nowadays in the Phoenix Mountains, which includes Piestewa (Squaw) Peak and Camelback Mountain, I have no idea. Presumably there are traces of precious minerals there, but most of the people I talk to just see the remains of diggings while they're hiking. This is a very populated area, and there isn't much chance that when you go hiking you'll see an area that's untouched.

The portion of the 1892 map at the top of this post shows the old stagecoach stop on Cave Creek, Beechum's Station. There was a well there, which was very important, as you can see it's north of the Arizona Canal, and water doesn't flow uphill. The creek, by the way, which is a typical riparian wash, still goes through Cave Creek Golf Course. Beechum's Station would be, in modern terms, at about 19th Avenue and Cactus. Nowadays most people confuse the Cave Creek with the road of the name, which is much father east, but if you're looking for gold, it's good that people don't know where to look. I'll see if I can help you find the gold mines.

If you're looking at a satellite view of the Cave Creek, you can see that it flows from the northeast and goes past what is now Lookout Mountain. That's about where the words "Gold Mines" are on that map, between Thunderbird and the Greenway Parkway, west of 7th Street. But I really can't recommend going there with your gold pan, you'd probably be better off carrying gold clubs.

Of course, there were many gold, silver, and precious minerals mines around Phoenix, so you don't need to just look there. The map from 1895 at the bottom of this post should help you, if you want to go exploring. You probably won't find any gold, but you'll a lot of wonderful places to hike, and some beautiful desert scenery, right near the crowded metropolitan area of Phoenix.

Good luck! And remember to shout "Eureka!" when you find what you're looking for.


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