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How Phoenix Got Its Name

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Before there was ever a large city called Phoenix, before stadiums and freeway loops, and airport terminals and cell phone towers, the inhabitants of the Pueblo Grande ruins tried to irrigate the land of the Valley with about 135 miles of canal systems. A severe drought is thought to have marked the demise of these people, know as the "Ho Ho Kam", or 'the people who have gone.' Different groups of Indians inhabited the land of the Valley of the Sun after them.

A City Is Born

In 1867 Jack Swilling of Wickenburg stopped to rest by the White Tank Mountains, and envisioned a place that, with just some water, looked like promising farm land. He organized the Swilling Irrigation Canal Company, and moved to the Valley. In 1868, as a result of his efforts, crops began to grow and Swilling's Mill became the name of the new area about four miles east of where Phoenix is today. Later, the name of the town was changed to Helling Mill, then Mill City. Swilling wanted to name the new place Stonewall after Stonewall Jackson. The name Phoenix was actually suggested by a man named Darrell Duppa, who is purported to have said "A new city will spring phoenix-like upon the ruins of a former civilization."

Phoenix Becomes Official

Phoenix became official on May 4, 1868 when an election precinct was formed here. The Post Office was established just over a month later on June 15. Jack Swilling was the Postmaster.

Just a note: Common misspellings of the name of our city include Pheonix and Phenix. Phoenix is pronounced: fee-niks. A person who lives in Phoenix is called a Phoenician (fu-nee-shun). A person who lives in Arizona is an Arizonan (a-riz-oh-nen).

Oh, and one more thing! Did you know that there are thirteen other states that have a city named Phoenix? They are:

  1. Colorado
  2. Georgia
  3. Illinois
  4. Louisiana
  5. Maryland
  6. Michigan
  7. Mississippi
  8. New Jersey
  9. New York
  10. North Carolina
  11. Oregon
  12. South Carolina
  13. Texas
There are five states (and Arizona is not one of them!) that have a city named Phenix:
  1. Arkansas
  2. Indiana
  3. Missouri
  4. Rhode Island
  5. Virginia

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