Maricopa County, Arizona History

This county is bounded on the north by Yavapai county; on the east by New Mexico; on the south by the Gila river, or Pima county, and on the west by Yuma county. The people are nearly all engaged in agriculture, the most of whom are located in Salt River Valley. This valley is one of the largest and most productive in the Territory; has been settled less than four years, and now contains sufficient population to sustain a county government. The lands are cultivated by irrigation, and there is an abundance of water in Salt River for the use of a vast extent of country. The people who settled here commenced with little or no means, and by industry and economy have constructed irrigating canals and made improved farms, and are now in a prosperous and comparatively independent position. The products raised for sale have been barley, corn and wheat. Wheat and barley are usually sown from November to February, and harvested in May. The average yield of wheat is from 20 to 40 bushels per acre, and of barley from 30 to 60, and sells at from three to four cents per pound. There has been a demand for all the grain that has been raised. After the wheat and barley are harvested, corn can be planted on the same soil, with ample time for it to mature. Much of the land of Arizona is cultivated in this way, and produces two crops each year. The average yield of corn is from 30 to 60 bushels per acre. Vegetables, with the exception of Irish potatoes, do remarkably well. Sweet potatoes in particular grow to a large size and are very prolific. Fruit trees grow rapidly, and it is thought that oranges and lemons maybe raised in abundance. Experiments in planting grapes have proved very successful. Vines in two years after planting, produce abundantly of an excellent quality.

There are thousands of acres of excellent land in this valley yet unoccupied, that can be pre-empted and purchased by actual settlers at $1.25 per acre. It was once the abode of an immense population who have passed away, and no one knows who they were. Their irrigating canals, constructed with considerable engineering skill, can now be traced for many miles over these plains; and ruins of houses, that were once the abode of a large population, are visible on every band. There is some farming carried on in this county on the north side of the Gila River as far up the river as Florence. Above this point, owing to the hostility of the Apache Indians, the county is entirely vacant, though the Gila Valley, for two hundred miles, presents most inviting fields for settlements. Large tracts of excellent agricultural lands are found at almost any point along it and its tributaries, and the table lands and mountains adjacent are covered the year round with excellent grass. A colony one hundred strong, that would co-operate together, could take possession of, and hold, any of these lands against the savages. The county north of the Gila Valley and east of the settlements, is generally broken and mountainous. There are a number of fine streams of water flowing through it, and each of these contains many rich valleys. Wood and grass are found in abundance, also many large forests of heavy timber.

The savages have held possession of this section- of the country with such tenacity, that very little prospecting for minerals has been accomplished. Sufficient explorations have been made to know that gold, silver, copper and lead exist inmost of the mountain ranges, and it is believed, when opportunity is presented, valuable mines will be found and worked. An excellent vein of coal has been found near Camp Apache, and also a mountain of pure salt on Salt river. Many legends have been told by captives who have escaped from the Indians, and by Indians who have been taken prisoners, of the existence somewhere in this section of rich placer mines, but all efforts to find them have so far proved futile.



Phoenix is located in Salt River Valley, about 25 miles above the confluence of the Gila and Salt rivers. By an act of the Legislature Phoenix has been selected as the site for the Territorial Penitentiary, though no building has yet been erected. It is the county seat of the county, and has a flour mill and several stores; there are also a store and flourmill at Mill City, three miles distant. There are many families located in this valley. The people feel a deep interest in education, and a free school will undoubtedly soon be established.


The climate and health in the valleys of Salt river and the Gila, as far up as is settled, are similar to those conditions on the Colorado river. East of the settlements and north of the Gila, the climate is about the same as Yavapai county. It is safe to say that no more healthy county can be found anywhere.

Source: Resources Of Arizona Territory. Francis & Valentine, Steam Printers And Engravers. 1871.

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