History of the Old Maricopa area

A few miles south of Phoenix on I-10, just beyond Tempe, Chandler, Guadalupe and Awatukee behind, you enter the Gila River Indian Community -- the lands of the Pima and Maricopa indians and the most important Native American homeland in Central-Southern Arizona. The first main exit from the I-10 freeway is Maricopa Road, that takes you down about 20 miles to the town of Maricopa, which is not in Maricopa County at all, but in Pinal County -- a source of never ending confusion to some and amusement to others.

The Old Maricopa region extends along the Gila River from Casa Grande ruins up to the Salt River. It is most low, level plains with several rocly scattered buttes and surrounded by high, dark mountain ranges. Although it may not look like much, this is some of the most historic ground in Arizona. In this easy 15 minute trip you have crossed the famous Gila River, crossed over the legendary Overland Trail and Butterfield Stage route, passed by the bloodiest battleground in our state history, and come within a stone throw of the very first American outpost in this state.

Experts tell us that Native Americans have inhabited the Middle Gila valley for thousands of years. They are uncertain as to the link between the Pimas and the Hohokam, although to me it is reasonable to assume that the Pimas are direct descendents of the Ancient Ones who built the walls and canals along the Gila. Although the Pre-Spanish Pimas and Hohokam did build impressive communities and canal systems, no written records exist to give us a detailed account of the indiginous peoples that lived, worked, loved, fought and died on the lands along the Gila, near the Estrella Mountains. Two things, however, are certain: that the native people were industrious, building large cities and an elaborate canal system, and that interaction between the different tribes in surrounding areas was intense -- including trade, intermarriage and warfare.

For the purpose of this site, our narrative mostly begins with arrival of a small German Jesuit priest, one of the most remarkable men to ever walk the sands of Arizona.

. I recommend you start here. This is Part 1 of 3 about a mountain range, a forgotten stagecoach stop and an old gold mine. This is basically were the Estrella legend begins, at least for the Spanish and Americans.
Part 2 . The story of Arizona's Lost Outpost. The Wells are gone now, leveled by time and vandals, yet for 30 years it was the only important place in the Valley. While the first settlers were planting crops just north of the Wells, in a place they were thinking of calling "Pumpkinville", Maricopa Wells had it all: store, blacksmith, saloon, telegraph station, postoffice, and even live entertainment. Hundreds of wagons camped outside its walls and pionners traded with the natives, buying stores and resting the oxen for the trip around the Estrellas. This could have been Phoenix.
Part 3. The Lost Mine and the Old Stone house. Next to Phoenix, but unknown. Where else could some site exist unknown and undisturbed for 250 years, except in the Estrellas. Even before Kino (1700) Spanish and Mexican adventurers prospectors were digging in the Montains of Central and Southern Arizona, in spite of the harsh climate, lack of water, distance to food and markets and, most of all, hostile indians (not that they didn't have a right to be very unhappy about the whole thing!). Built with slave labor, the Old Spanish mine with its walls and stone house, are a symbol of times past. Based on notes left by visitors, about 10-15 groups of people visit the site each year. That is enough, thank you.