Written on October 24, 2010
Phoenix could not have been settled as it was to become the focus of Arizona that it is today without the help of some early visionaries.John Y. T. Smith, a former member of the California Volunteers, arrived at Fort McDowell in the spring of 1866 and was contracted to supply hay for the soldiers’ horses and mules. Smith hired Hispanic laborers who had settled near the fort to harvest wild hay on the banks of the Salt River.In short order a steady stream of Hispanic settlers immediately began arriving in the valley. Some were former residents of Tucson and Tubac and they were joined by Sonoran immigrants from the Altar Valley who were weary of the political skirmishes and Apache raids that plagued northern Sonora. They grew to comprise more than a third of the population of Phoenix and most of the working class of laborers who dug the canals and cleared farm land throughout the Salt River Valley.Many Mexican homesteaders settled on the south side of the Salt River. To irrigate their fields, they built the San Francisco Canal, which ran from the town of Tempe westward to was is still Central Avenue. Michael Wormser, a Prescott merchant, began loaning money to the farmers and financed improvements on their canal, but by 1880, he had acquired most of the land south of the river through foreclosures.By the 1880s social and cultural life flourished in Phoenix’s Mexican community. La Imaculada Concepcin de Santa Maria (St. Mary’s Catholic Church) was established in a small adobe structure on east Monroe Street in 1881. Annual Fiestas Patrias (Cinco de Mayo and Diez y Seis de Septiembre), dances and other cultural events were sponsored by La Junta Patriotica and the all-Mexican fire brigade, the Yucatec Hose Company No. 2.
Filed in: Phoenix.