In the 1860’s the area that is now the city of Phoenix was little more than farmland occupied by a few farmers. The name Phoenix was suggested by Darrell Duppa since the area, like the mythical bird, had arisen from the ashes, specifically, from the Pueblo Grande ruins. The same land had once been occupied by ancient peoples (between 700 A.D. and 1400 A.D. Evidence suggests that they were industrious, enterprising and imaginative having built an irrigation system, consisting of approximately 135 miles of canals.
A post office was established in Phoenix on June 15, 1868, with Jack Swilling as the first postmaster. Swilling’s claim to fame lay in his organization of the Swilling Irrigation Canal Company which, through its canals, brought water to the are from the Salt River.
In 1869 another industry was introduced when the first steam mill (a flour mill) opened its doors for business..
Pioneers continued to rapidly fill the area resulting in the need for a town proper. In 1820 a sum of $50 was raised by subscription and 320 acres were purchased for the first townsite. That area would encompass the section presently bounded by Van Buren Street on the north, by Jackson Street on the south, by Seventh Street on the east and by Seventh Avenue on the west. The Salt River Valley Town Association was formed to administer to the town’s needs.
Religious organizations ventured into the city around 1870 but the first church building was not erected until 1871 and housed the Central Methodist Church.
The sixth county in the state, Maricopa County was formed from Yavapai County on Feb. 12, 1871. Maricopa County would later be divided to "give birth" to parts of Pinal and Gila Counties.
Organized education quickly followed suit when, on September 5, 1872, the first school rang its bell. About 20 children studied in the courtroom of the County Building under their new school master, Jean Rudolph Derroche. By October 1873, a small adobe school building had been completed on Center Street. The first female school teacher in Phoenix was a newcomer from Wisconsin, Miss Nelli Shaver.
The declaratory statement, filed at the Prescott Land Office on On Feb. 15, 1872, a declaratory statement was filed at the Prescott Land Office showing a total cost of the 320 acres was $550, including all expenses for services. By 1874, lots in the downtown area were selling for $7 to $11 each (making the entire town worth about $550.)
1874 also saw the first telegraph line in use in the city with Morris Goldwater, the first station operator.
Phoenix continued to grow in all ways and by 1875, the city also played "host" to 16 saloons, four dance halls, two monte banks and one faro table.
The 1880’s saw further changes in the area as the entire Arizona Territory bustled with gold, copper and silver miners. Nearby town of Prescott and Tombstone were formed in the wakes of mineral discoveries. However, all of those miners required a safe place to deposit their money and, with capital stock of just $200,000, the National Bank was established in 1878.
The town soon outgrew its village status and administration and "The Phoenix Charter Bill" was passed by the 11th Territorial Legislature. That bill made Phoenix an incorporated city and provided for a government consisting of a mayor and four council members and was signed on February 25, 1881 by Governor John C. Frémont.
1886 saw one of the first electric plants in the west installed in Phoenix. It was a steam plant with boilers fired by mesquite wood.
In 1887, the face of the city was again changed as the first Southern Pacific train arrived from Maricopa Wells.
By the turn of the century, the population of Phoenix had soared to 5,554.
On February 14, 1912, Arizona was admitted to the union, and Phoenix became the capital of the state.
With the advent of statehood, Phoenix, was transformed into a major metropolis. By 1920, after only eight years of statehood, Phoenix had grown to a population of 29,053.
In 1929 Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport comes into being when 278 acres of mostly cotton fields in acquired for landing strips. In February 1930, the Acme Investment Company purchased Sky Harbor and the first “airmail” arrived on October 15, 1930 aboard an American Airways Fokker F-10.
The city continued to grow until 1940 marked another turning point for the city: World War II and its transformation to an industrial city with post-war years seeing the development of major manufacturing centers.
By 1950, the city had 105,000 people living within its boundaries with thousands more living immediately adjacent to and dependent upon Phoenix for their livelihoods. 1950 also found Phoenix to have a total of 311 miles of streets within the city limits (148 miles of paved streets and 163 miles of unpaved streets.)
Today, the city covers almost 470 square miles and has a population of 1.15 million, ranking it seventh in the country and is the corporate and industrial center of the southwest.
Phoenix is the fifth-largest city in the United States.