Phoenix’s Colorful History

The name “Phoenix” describes a mythical bird that lived from 600 to 800 years before building a nest of cinnamon twigs that it ignites burning its nest and itself until both are reduced to ashes. But from the ashes a new young phoenix arises to live again.   That mythical story mirrors Phoenix’s colorful history.  With it beginnings more than 1000 years ago,  the Hohokam people lived on the land that would eventually become the vibrant city it is today.

In 1868 the city was a small colony first named Swilling’s Mill and then changed to Helling Mill. It eventually became Mill City and then East Phoenix. It was Phillip Darrell Duppa an early Arizona pioneer who suggested the name Phoenix since the new town would include the rebuilding and updating of the city’s ancient Hohokam canal systems.  Like the mythical bird, rebuilding  anew from the ashes of the old.  The city of Phoenix was officially recognized on May 4 1868 when the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors formed an election precinct and eventually incorporated in 1881.


The state’s rich Native American cultural background fills its history and Phoenix is no exception.  In fact, there are 22 federally recognized Native American tribes in Arizona with a total population of about 300000.  Many of whom reside in the Valley of the Sun. The area’s Pueblo Grande contain ruins of  an ancient city occupied between 700 A.D. and 1400 A.D.   This area embodies the city’s history where the wide Salt River ran through the Valley of the Sun. The city actually sits on the banks of the river which is mostly dry today.

The city’s location in central Arizona gave it preference as the state capital.  Today it’s the only state capital with a city proper population of more than 1.4 million. It’s also the third-largest city in the western United States.

The Phoenix area includes the city itself,  Maricopa County, Pinal County and parts of southern Yavapai County. The city’s combined metropolitan statistical area (MSA) population is just over 4 million.