MARICOPA -- Maricopa’s Historical Society held a supper featuring historical presenters of local history and folklore for information and fun on Saturday at Leading Edge Academy. More than 120 people attended.
Antiques and other items of historical interest and note were on display, including Arizona First Ladies cotton fashions, farming, cattle and ranching, sewing and quilting, cooking and canning, historical items of the Maricopa Fire Department and the Silver Horizon railcar. Raffles, a silent auction of items and services, and a 50/50 cash split of raffle ticket proceeds were among the prizes at the 2019 supper.
With the building of the new, larger City of Maricopa Library next to City Hall, the current Veteran’s Center will become the new home of the Maricopa Historical Society, complete with historical displays and a surrounding park and an outdoor amphitheater for performances, said Maricopa Historical Society President, Paul Shirk.
“The new Maricopa Historical Society location will provide a ‘sense of place’ in which to showcase items of history, formerly found in people’s houses and garages,” said Mayor Christian Price.
The Veteran’s Center will be rehoused in what is now the City of Maricopa Library location on Smith-Enke Road, sharing this space with an also promised Maricopa Senior Center.
“The Mayor and the city have shown they are very community-based and have been very supportive of the recent growth in the Maricopa Historical Society,” said Shirk, who served as Master of Ceremonies at the Tales and Treasures Supper.
Brenda Campbell, chair of the events committee, explained the current Maricopa Historical Society began as a subcommittee of the Maricopa Friends of the Library as recently as 2010, later evolving into its own organization.
Over food by Helen’s Catering, seven Maricopa Historical presenters, known as “Tale-Blazers and Treasure Keepers,” made their rounds from one table to the next, each presenting their assigned piece of history.
One first Tale-Blazer, Denton Hoeh, presented key history on the Mormon Battalion, a group of 500 men, 35 women and 42 children and the only known religious unit of the United States Army. This battalion was key to opening up the entire West. The Gadsden Purchase, The Gold Rush, and the Butterfield Stage Line all happened based on the Southern wagon road constructed by the Mormon Battalion between then-Maricopa Wells and Tucson.
Oliver Anderson, an area farmer of 65 years presented history on farming on his land and in the area. Anderson has farmed cotton, cattle, wheat and flowers during his years. The Maricopa housing development known as Tortosa lies at the North end of Anderson’s 640-acre farmland.
Anderson said the aquifer under Maricopa is the best in the state.
“It’s deep and good water,” he said. When asked about the water shortage facing farmers and homes with wells alike, Anderson said we are surrounded by several mountains. As the land approaches the mountains, the water supply dries up and becomes more shallow, but the city of Maricopa is located in the center of the surrounding mountains, where water runs deep.
Next, Tale Blazer Chad Chadderton gave the background on the Butterfield Overland Stagecoaches that ran mail across the United States from St. Louis to San Francisco, dipping down through Texas, New Mexico and Arizona, then turning up through California.
John Butterfield, who was born on a New York farm, became a stagecoach driver of passengers and freight by age 19 and later became a stagecoach operator when he successfully bid on the contract to provide mail service with the U..S. Post Office. He ran the Butterfield Overland Stage mail route for three years. Arizona was home to 26 mail stations for the Butterfield Overland Stage mail delivery.
The town of Maricopa Wells, an earlier incarnation of Maricopa, located near where the “M” Mountain stands, was founded by one of the Butterfield mail routes. Maricopaville was well-liked as a stop-over and noted for its easily accessible pools of water, diggable below the ground surface, even in the dry desert.
David Jenkins presented “The 3 locations and 4 names of Maricopa” including what initially attracted humanity to Maricopa — water wells. Water flowing from Canada through the Inland Waterway traversed through then-Maricopa, called “Maricopa Wells,” on to the Gulf of Mexico, providing an oasis of water holes that attracted stop-overs and business exchange.
Jenkins presented the fact that several mountain ranges surround the City of Maricopa and that Maricopa lies within the lowest point in the basin created by these mountain ranges.
The Southern Pacific Railroad (now the Union Pacific) spurred the development of a Maricopa mercantile exchange in the town, then known as “Maricopaville,” based on the train station three miles from the current water tower at the “Blue Barn” now in Maricopa.
Once Tempe successfully gained approval to build a rail line into Phoenix, Maricopaville was abandoned and no longer a burgeoning exchange town as business moved north and east into the Valley. The town became known as “Maricopa Junction” during this period due to two intersecting train lines running through it. In 1926, the name Maricopa Junction began to gradually change to Maricopa with changes in the rail lines.
Maricopa Historical Society currently has several displays around Maricopa including at Maricopa City Hall, City of Maricopa Public Library and Central Arizona College-Maricopa Building A.
The Maricopa Historical Society holds Friday field trips on the fourth Friday of most months (none for November-December). The Society’s most recent field trip, on Oct. 18, visited the Tucson Heritage Museum for an inside look at the Big Boy Union Pacific Train. On Jan. 24, the Society will visit the Huhugam Heritage Center’s New Exhibit Grand Opening.