Maricopa History

Reflections of a Desert Town by Local Historian Patricia Brock

Maricopa Wells ~ An Oasis in the Desert


Maricopa has had three locations over the years: Maricopa Wells, Maricopaville and Maricopa Junction which gradually became known as Maricopa. Each stage of its life has contributed greatly to the growth and development of the Southwest. Its conception took place at a series of watering holes eight miles north of present day Maricopa, and about a mile west of Pima Butte. It was called Maricopa Wells. Several of Arizona's rivers, the Gila, Santa Cruz, Vekol and Santa Rosa provided this oasis in the desert with an ample supply of water during this period of time.


Famous Stagecoach Relay Station and Trading Center in 1800s


Maricopa Wells was one of the most important relay stations along the famous Butterfield Overland Mail Route during the 1800s. Although little remains of this once bustling community, it played an important part in the progress and development of the southwest. It was one of the best known spots in Arizona during this period of time because it not only had a reliable source of water, but offered an abundance of food thanks to the peaceful Pima and Maricopa farmers who lived and farmed nearby.

The most prosperous period of time for Maricopa Wells was in the 1870s. During this time the Wells provided water and food for not only the east-west travelers, but those who traveled to the north. Fairly good roads had been built by James A. Moore, the proprietor at Maricopa Wells, to all points north and the Wells was a constant hubbub of activity. With its ample supply of water and prosperous trading center, it truly was a shining beacon and sanctuary in the desert for those thousands of travelers who depended upon its resources for their survival.


Maricopaville: Boom Town ~ 1879


Maricopa's second moment of fame took place eight miles south of Maricopa Wells and about three miles west of present day Maricopa. It was called Maricopaville. In 1879, the Southern Pacific Railroad was in the process of building a railroad line from Yuma to Tucson, and a second railroad line was to be built from Maricopaville, wrapping around the western edge of South Mountain into Phoenix. It didn't take long for this little desert settlement of Maricopaville to take on the appearance of one of the gold rush boom towns of California with men working day and night building hotels, saloons, warehouses, restaurants, theaters, etc. One newspaper of the times reckoned that with its thousands of people and good location, it would be an ideal choice for the location of the state capitol.


Maricopa: Famous Railroad Junction ~ 1887


However, a railroad line was never built from Maricopaville into Phoenix. Tempe wanted to be on the railroad line and was very vociferous about its demands and rights. The powers at the state capitol agreed and Maricopaville lost its moment of glory as a rising Arizona star. It was moved three miles to the east to its present location of Maricopa in the early 1880s, and began its life as a famous railroad junction when the first M&P train left Maricopa for Phoenix on July 4, 1887. Once again, all east-west travelers had to stop at Maricopa, and those who wanted to travel to the north had to board the Maricopa & Phoenix Railroad which took them into Kyrene, Tempe and Phoenix.


City of Maricopa


These words of Amelia Earhart can certainly apply to the awesome task that lies ahead for its city leaders, "Some of us have great runways already built for us. If you have one, take OFF! But if you don't have one, realize it is your responsibility to grab a shovel and build one for you and for those who will follow after you." Maricopa's first elected City Council took office with shovels in hand on June 1, 2004, and enthusiastically began the challenge of laying the foundation for the City of Maricopa and its government.

Maricopa was in the spotlight again, not as a famous stagecoach relay station and trading center, nor as a railroad junction connecting the east and west with all points north, but as one of the fastest growing cities in the United States as the population grew from just over 1,000 to nearly 40,000 from 2004 to 2008. It officially became an incorporated city on October 15, 2003 making it Arizona's 88th city.


Build It and They Will Come


The City of Maricopa is in partnership with the private business sector, and is actively engaged in recruiting colleges, hospitals and employers to the community. The importance of bringing business and employment growth into the city is of prime importance to the City Council.

If you would like to purchase a copy of the book or contact Patricia Brock,
email hpbrock@cox.net.

 


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