In Part III our red-haired protagonist named Jack Swilling – photographed above – started digging out a ditch he discovered in the Southern Arizona deserts (not too far from where Sky Harbor Airport now is).

But this was no ordinary ditch. This was one of those ancient Hohokam ditches that made the desert grow a very large population center a thousand years ago. A new population center was coming. A Phoenix was rising from the ashes of the Hohokam Civilization.

And, ultimately, Swilling’s plan worked. The canal opened. The water flowed. Lands of the Salt River Valley were irrigated. Swilling’s Ditch provided a water supply reliable enough for the permanent residence of more people. Farmers started coming to this flat brush country along the Salt to plow fields for more and more crops. The food supply was growing.

A city was growing. The work of farmers invited other tradesmen that increased commerce further. All the quartermaster’s needs for Fort McDowell were assured of permanency. The confidence engendered by prolonged military presence invited even more farmers and tradesmen into this formerly empty space of the West, where no white man or Indian had been living beforehand.

By 1870, three years after Swilling began his Ditch, 164 men and 61 women were living off the land. They decided a municipal corporation was needed to invite an even greater diversity of commercial participants, like bankers, doctors, lawyers and teachers. The municipality would house a post office for more regular communication with the outside world. The councils elected would regulate property rights, water rights and other general business contracts.

(After all, as more people live closer to each other, and have more intricate relationships, civilization demands a civil authority above the power of the military whose processes are not so civil. The illiterate, profane and often drunken soldiers at Fort McDowell were not supposed to administer the Law of the Land and commerical contracts for American citizens dreaming of a life here. A city had to be incorporated.)

But this new city needed a name. Some liked “Pumpkinville” because of wild pumpkins growing in the vicinity. Others liked Stonewall, Salinas or Millville. However, an Englishman’s suggested name won the vote.

That Englishman was named Bryan Philip Darrell Duppa. Most knew him as Lord Duppa. Though exiled from his rich family in England for his wanton alcoholism, he still possessed a sharp mind that impressed itself on others. And one thing that impressed Lord Duppa were those Hohokam canals that Swilling dug out. As Duppa saw things, civilization destroyed by drought or flood or both long ago was to be reborn, right here, in these inhospitable lands. From the ruins, from the ashes, of the ancient Hohokam civilization this new civilization must aptly be named Phoenix. For those who know Ancient Greek mythology, the Phoenix was a mythical bird that rises from fire and ashes, symbolizing renewal or the overcoming of adversity.

What better name could this city take?

The voters agreed. On October 26,, 1870, Phoenix, Arizona was born. Impossible it would have been for those original 225 Phoenicians, living in remote isolation upon this sun-scorched parcel of God’s Creation, to imagine their creation, their city, would one day become a concrete sprawl housing five million souls 150 years later in 2020. Indeed, Jack Swilling had vision. So did Lord Duppa.

Shortly hereafter, though, our inspired protagonist leaves the stage. The epicenter of Phoenix had moved miles beyond Swilling’s land holdings. Controlling growth from the epicenter was where the juiciest profits would be made. So, he lost interest in Phoenix. He sold his Salt Valley lands. He went back into gold mining and then, sadly, unjustly, died in Yuma prison in 1878 for a stagecoach robbery he absolutely did not commit. Deprived he was of seeing the staggering leaps forward for Phoenix in following years.


However, engineering works beyond the capacities of the ancient Hohokam would be required for the staggering leaps that made Phoenix grow so large.

In 1885, fifteen years after Phoenix’s incorporation, the City was able to double its irrigable lands through the construction of the Grand Canal, which carried water to formerly unirrigated lands north of the Salt River. The Valley’s agricultural output had the potential to double.

But how do you get the increased produce to market? The full exploitation of increased agricultural capacity could only come if Phoenix were connected to the railroads. And, two years later, that is exactly what happened.

By 1887 yet another transcontinental railroad had connected ports on the Atlantic to ports on the Pacific. This was the Southern Pacific Railroad. From San Diego to El Paso to New Orleans the Southern Pacific ran. It didn’t run through Phoenix though. It ran through Maricopa, a small town about fifty miles south of modern Phoenix.

No matter. A spur line was quickly built north from Maricopa to connect Phoenix with the rest of country. Thus, huge markets thousands of miles away opened up for the Valley’s produce. Farmers could sow more seeds. And sowed they did. And reaped the profits they did. And thus did the city too in the form of increased tax revenues derived from the growing commerce.

With Phoenix’s, and now Scottsdale’s and Glendale’s and other new cities’, connection to the outside world through rail, the question was asked, “What can we do to grow more?”

Well, another ingenious way to grow the Valley was to make Phoenix the capital of Arizona territory. I won’t get into the details of the lying and conniving involved in this capital tug-of-war across Arizona. I’ll just say Prescott and Tucson lost. Phoenix won. But, in all fairness, it should have. It is only natural that the capital should be closest to the largest concentration of economic bustle. Thus, in 1889, twenty-two years after Swilling began his ditch, Phoenix was declared the capital. Tax revenues from across the territory would come Phoenix’s way.

“How can we grow Phoenix even more?”

There was one giant problem. Growth potential was still limited, even with Phoenix as of 1895 connected to yet another transcontinental railroad. Water was that giant problem. The amount of water the Valley rivers could provide for agriculture and drinking was limited. A bigger population would need a guaranteed water supply.

Enter Teddy Roosevelt to lay the foundations for the most artificial cities on earth.


Featured image of Jack Swilling from