Swilling's early years in Arizona. 5

Blue, Gray - and Gold. 7

Mills, mines, and farm.. 9

The Salt River Valley in the 1860's . . . . 10

Valley settlement: The traditional story. 12

First Valley water right claimed by miners. 13

Fort McDowell established to protect settlers. 15

Settlers find gold in soil 17

Canal company organized in 1867. 18

The Swilling Ditch opened in 1868. 20

Swilling's canal interests. 22

Townsite, county seat selections disappoint Swilling. 23

Incident Addendum.. 24

Developing the Black Canyon area. 25

Swilling blamed robbery arrest on drunken talk. 26

Swilling cleared of crime after death. 28

Drugs and liquor changed Swilling's nature. 30

Who named Phoenix?. 31. 35





A debt of gratitude for the dedication of Earl Zarbin, Reba Grandrud, Kay Beckman and Isabella Knight who helped make this reproduction a reality. As with the fabled Phoenix, this document has risen from the ashes.


To the best of our ability this was reproduced exactly as written and printed in 1978. Exceptions are so noted.


Version 081606



Each year thousands of people come to the Salt River Valley, some to visit and some to live. They see a thriving, growing community. But like many of us who have spent most, or all, of our lives here, they don't know much about the Valley's origins or how it developed.

The men and women who built the Valley were like us. They were trying to improve their own condition. In doing that, they contributed to the well-being of one another. Jack Swilling was one of them.

Swilling organized the first modern irrigating canal company a little more than a century ago. Water was then, and is today, the essential element around which everything in the Valley is built. Yet, many important decisions about water remain to be made today and will need to be made in the future. Knowing something about how we got where we are today may contribute to making the right decisions tomorrow.

Earl Zarbin joined the staff of The Arizona Republic in 1958 after working as a reporter for the Arizona Daily Star and the Kansas City Star-Times. As a free-lance writer and reporter, he was for many years the Phoenix correspondent for LIFE magazine and Fairchild Publications. Some of his essays on limited govern­ment have appeared in The FREEMAN magazine. He was awarded a Bachelor of Arts degree in history in 1954 from the University of Arizona. His interest in the water history of the Salt River Valley and his extensive research into the subject led to the series of articles in this booklet.



Maps by Kearney Egerton, The Arizona Republic


Cover photo: Jack Swilling and the captive Apache, Gavilan who lived with the Swilling

family, circa 1875. Photo courtesy Arizona State Library and Archives.



Inside photos: courtesy Arizona Historical Foundation Charles Trumbull Hayden University Library, Tempe. Arizona


Reproduced by Salt River Project with permission of Phoenix Newspapers, Inc., The Arizona Republic, and The Phoenix Gazette. These articles appeared in The Arizona Republic between August 13 and August 31. 1978


Recreated with permission of Earl Zarbin

Edited by: Neal Du Shane - Version 081506

Distributed free of charge, to historians of John William “Jack” Swilling



            It was August 1878, and in a cell in the depressing confines of a Yuma (County) jail, Jack Swilling was near death.

His health and strength had been failing for more than a year. He was in pain from old wounds, which included a bullet still in his body from a gunshot 24 years before.

Swilling knew he was dying. His thoughts turned to the Almighty, who would sit in judgment of the crime of which he was accused and who he prayed would see his wife and children through the difficulties ahead.

His wife, Trinidad Swilling married her in Tucson in 1864 when she was 17. She bore his children and endured, as did his good friends, his bouts of morphine and alcohol induced insanity.

Swilling, 48, reflected on the good deeds he had done and wondered if this, imprisonment for a robbery he didn't commit, was his reward.

He said he would give his life if it meant freedom for George Monroe and Andrew Kirby, who'd been charged with being Swilling's companions in the April 1878 holdup of a California-bound stagecoach west of Wickenburg.

Swilling wondered what there was in the robbery charges against him for his accusers-reward money or an opportunity to cheat his family "out of the old ranch?"'

In his despair, Swilling wrote of these things shortly before his death, which occurred at 6:30 p.m., August 12, 1878.

Readers of the Arizona Miner in Prescott, where Swilling first was jailed in connection with the robbery, learned of his death the next day.

But settlers in the Salt River Valley, depending on the weekly Salt River Herald for news, didn't read about it until August 17.

The Herald furnished a one-sentence report:

"Yuma, Aug. 13 - Jack Swilling died here last night in jail."

Nothing more. No comment. No attempt to review, even briefly, the life of the Arizona pioneer so important to the history of Phoenix and the Salt River Valley.

Herald publisher Charles E. McClintock was 21 years old and had been in Arizona a short time. He may not have appreciated Swilling's role in the rebirth of farming in the Valley. Or maybe he had been told by Swilling's detractors that Swilling was a scoundrel, was guilty of robbery and other crimes, and didn't merit more notice.

            Whatever the reason, McClintock's news judgment was wrong in dismissing Swilling's death with a single sentence.

Although the setting for Swilling's death was unfortunate, he was known throughout the territory and for many years had been one of its most enterprising citizens.

He's remembered today for organizing the company that started the first modern irrigation canal in the Salt River Valley.

Before that, he was a teamster, prospector, miner, mill manager and owner, Indian fighter, Confederate soldier and deserter to the Union side, guide, farmer, mail rider and contractor.

When drunk and using morphine to ease the pain of old wounds, Swilling was insulting, quarrelsome and sometimes violent. Sober, he was generous, hospitable, and a friend to all.

He was ambitious and willing to take risks, both with his personal safety and with his property. Besides the original Swilling Irrigating and Canal Company, he may have been associated with six other canal ventures.

He served as justice of the peace and as postmaster of the Phoenix Settlement. His ranch became the assembly point for visitors and others who came to the Valley.

After leaving the Valley in 1873, he prospected and opened a number of gold mines in the Black Canyon country north of Phoenix. He hauled lumber for the Tip Top Mine in the Bradshaw Mountains and helped in the organization of the town of Gillett. He also operated a ranch beside the Agua Fria River.

Not everyone liked Swilling. If they didn't like his politics or the way he did business, he gave them a couple of other reasons to take offense. First was his sometimes drunken and brawling behavior. Second was his desertion from the Confederate Army. Many of the Southerners who settled here might overlook the first, but they wouldn't forgive the second.

Some myths have grown up about Swilling. One was that the agricultural potential of the Valley wasn't recognized until he happened along. Another was that in 1866 and 1867 he worked as a wagon driver in the Valley for John Smith, who had a contract to supply hay to Camp McDowell on the Verde River.

Swilling's early years in Arizona


Jack Swilling, the father of irrigated agriculture in the Salt River Valley, was born April I, 1830, in South Carolina.

His father, George W., owned slaves and raised cotton on a 220-acre plantation. Swilling's mother, Margaret, was said to have been a well-educated Southern belle.

"Thus," wrote historian Geoffrey Mawn in a paper about Swilling in the Hayden Library, Tempe, "it seems probable that Jack received a good basic education at home and general training in the useful profession of farming."

Part of Swilling's youth was spent in Georgia where, when he was 17, he enlisted for military duty in the war between Mexico and the United States. He served as a private and musician.

An item in the Arizona Daily Miner of Aug. 17, 1878, after his death, stated, "Swilling participated in seven hotly contested battles in Mexico, during the Mexican war, and received from Gen. Scott a medal for his bravery."

Swilling was discharged in July 1848, in Mobile, Ala. When he returned to Georgia, he and a brother, Berry, enlisted in the Georgia cavalry.

Little is known of Swilling's movements between then and 1857. One unverified story is that he went to Missouri, married, and fathered a daughter.

In a letter he wrote just before his death in a Yuma jail in 1878, he said that in 1854 he "was struck on the head with a heavy revolver and my skull was broken, and was also shot in the left side, and to the present time carry that bullet in my body.

"No one knows what I have suffered from these wounds,"

The dying man wrote. "At times they render me almost crazy. Doctors prescribed, years ago, morphine, which seemed to give relief, but the use of which, together with strong drink, has at times-as I have been informed by my noble wife and good friends-made me mad, and during these spells, I have been cruel to her, at all other times I have been a kind husband."

In 1857, Swilling was employed as a teamster with an ox train, apparently joining it in Arkansas and accompanying it to Fort Belknap, Texas. The train arrived in Mesilla, New Mexico Territory (which included Arizona) in June 1858, but it isn't known whether he was with it.

About that time, Col. Jacob Snively, who played a role in the Texas revolution against Mexico, discovered placer gold along the Gila River approximately 24 miles east of Yuma.

A mining camp, Gila City, sprang up. Among the gold seekers attracted to the placers was Swilling. The richest strike he made was the friendship he developed with Snively. It ended when Snively was killed by Indians in 1871.

In the winter of 1859-60, the Overland Mail Co. aided in the organizing of the Gila Rangers to pursue and punish Yavapai Apaches who had been conducting raids against the stage company. Swilling was elected captain of the 25­ member unit.

Swilling's "ranging company" was assisted by Maricopa Indians, who lived along the Gila River.

In addition to a couple of fights with the Apaches along the Hassayampa River, north of the Gila River, the rangers noted mineral signs. Fear of the Indians apparently prevented immediate prospecting of the country.

In the spring of 1860, Swilling was at Pinos Altos, New Mexico Territory, where Snively and a couple of other men discovered gold.

Swilling organized a mining company and operated a gambling house. He reportedly killed a man named Printer at a dance hall, but the reason is unknown.

With the outbreak of the Civil War and the removal of



In the early 1860s, the Apache Indians controlled most of the areas south of Tucson, east of the San Pedro River and north of the Salt and Gila rivers, except in the vicinity of the Pima Villages. Arizona was part of New Mexico Territory until 1863.


Union troops, the Pinos Altos miners organized a military company, the Arizona Guard, to fight Indians. Swilling was elected first lieutenant and was given the same rank when the company was impressed into the Confederate Army in 1861.

Swilling accompanied Capt. Sherod Hunter's company into Arizona in February 1862. The Confederates raised their flag in Tucson on Feb. 27, then sent scouting parties north to the Gila River, the route to California.

Hunter's troops captured a party of Union scouts commanded by Capt. William McCleave. Another captive was Ammi M. White, agent to the Pima and Maricopa Indians.

Bancroft's History of Arizona and New Mexico said that Swilling took part in the only known skirmish between Union and Rebel troops near "El Picacho, in southern Pinal County, on the 15th day of April, 1862."

Later historians said that when the battle was fought Swilling was escorting White and McCleave east to New Mexico, an account confirmed by McCleave.

Blue, Gray - and Gold


            It isn't surprising that Jack Swilling deserted the Confederate Army.

The miners at Pinos Altos, New Mexico Territory, organized a military unit-the Arizona Guard-to fight the Indians. Swilling was lieutenant.

            But when Southern troops arrived, the unit was pressured into joining the rebel army.

When the Union's California Column, commanded by Col. James H. Carleton, advanced into Arizona, the Confederate forces that had occupied Tucson beat a hasty retreat eastward to the Rio Grande.

Swilling apparently had no desire to accompany the rebels into Texas-and uncertainty. Moreover, he did not sympathize with the South.

He had said as much to Capt. William McCleave, who had been captured in Arizona by Confederate scouts and who had been escorted by Swilling to Mesilla, aside the Rio Grande, in April 1862.

Thus, when the opportunity arose, Swilling departed and soon was riding as a messenger for Carleton's men.

By early 1863, Swilling was the guide for the Walker Party, a group of Southern sympathizers who had gone to New Mexico from California under the leadership of Capt. Joseph R. Walker. The group reportedly had intended to link up with the rebels, but were dissuaded by the Union's presence.

The Walker Party prospected for gold in New Mexico, then, with Swilling as its guide, decided to try its luck in Arizona.

Before Swilling left for Arizona, Carleton authorized an expedition to capture Mangas Coloradas, chief of the Mimbres Apaches and a famed war chief.

Swilling played a leading role in the Indian's capture, but was not involved in his killing a few hours later by Northern soldiers.

He brought the Walker Party into Arizona via Tucson and the Pima and Maricopa Indian villages on the Gila River. The group followed the Gila west to the Hassayampa River, then turned north. It prospected in areas where Swilling and the Gila Rangers had seen mineral signs during the winter of 1859-60.

On May 10, 1863, the prospectors created the Pioneer Mining District. They eventually moved farther north to Lynx Creek, where they reportedly found rich placers near the future site of Prescott.

Historian James Barney wrote that Swilling and a few companions were on their way to the La Paz placers, near the Colorado River, when they discovered Rich Hill, near Weaver Creek. This may have been in August 1863.

Barney said $106,000 in gold was mined in three months, but Thomas Edwin Farish, a state historian, wrote that "several millions of dollars were taken out, and Jack

Swilling accumulated quite a fortune."

The late Bert Fireman, longtime columnist for The Phoenix Gazette, and executive director of the Arizona Historical Foundation at Arizona State University, said Swilling sent Carleton a couple of gold nuggets from Rich Hill.

Fireman said he believed the gold helped convince Carleton that the capital of the newly organized Territory of Arizona-created in February 1863-should be located to the north instead of at Tucson, where Southern sympathizers once held sway.

            Carleton persuaded the territory's first officials to locate in the northern mining area.

            "So I contend that it was really Swilling's influence that led the capital to be in northern Arizona," Fireman said.

Some historians believe Swilling was with King S. Woolsey, a rancher, in January 1864 and took part in a massacre of Indians at Bloody Tanks, near present-day Miami in Gila County.

Another writer maintained that Swilling was prospecting at the time with a group of Americans and Mexicans on the Agua Fria River.

In March 1864, Swilling was at Fort Whipple, 17 miles north of where Prescott soon would be started. He was among 52 citizens who signed a letter, dated March 15, asking Richard C. McCormick, secretary of the territory, to run as delegate to Congress.

Others who signed the letter were Woolsey and Robert W. Groom, who had a cabin on the Hassayampa River.

At Groom's cabin a visitor to the Territory from New Mexico met Swilling and later sent a letter that was published April 5, 1864, in the Rio Abajo Press in Albuquerque. The unidentified visitor wrote:

            "I was fortunate enough to meet with Jack Swilling, whose name is associated with early discoveries here.

"Jack is a tall, athletic, bluff, straightforward, frank man, over six feet high, light complected, with a clear, bright eye, and determination written on every lineament on his face.

            "He is a quiet man, but interesting in conversation, and is, I judge, a man of warm and generous impulses."

Mills, mines, and farm


Jack Swilling married Trinidad Escalante, 17, in Tucson on April 13, 1864.

It isn't known what brought Swilling to Tucson, though various writers have said he was sent there by Indian fighter and rancher King S. Woolsey to buy flour and supplies for another foray against the Apaches.

One such report is found in an entry in the Hayden Pioneer Biographical File at Arizona State University. It said:

"After the fight at the Wheatfield’s, near present-day Miami, Woolsey sent Swilling with a detachment of men to Tucson to buy flour for a second expedition."

The difficulty with that statement is that there wasn't a "fight at the Wheatfield’s."

Woolsey's report of the expedition, which "left the Agua Fria ranch about 6 p.m., June 1," was printed in the Arizona Miner in September 1864 and was reprinted by Thomas Edwin Farish in his History of Arizona.

Woolsey's report indicated that it was around the end of June when the party came upon "a beautiful valley covered with corn and wheat fields." The next day "the whole command was . . . engaged in cutting and threshing wheat, and our horses and mules were feeding."

As for a fight, Woolsey said in his report, "Notwithstanding the failure to find and kill Indians, I think the expedition has been of great benefit."

Not too long after the 93 men had left the Agua Fria ranch, Woolsey sent "a pack train to the Pimo Villages" because their supplies were low. The pack train included 36 animals and 23 men led by Henry Jaycox.

            Swilling apparently wasn't a member of the expedition, because the Arizona Miner of Aug. 10, 1864, reported:

            "Thanks - We have received a fine lot of new potatoes from Jack Swilling, Esq., of the Lower Hassayampa."

Woolsey's party was in the field 87 days. It's doubtful that Swilling was with it and cultivating potatoes many miles away at the same time.

There's a possibility that Woolsey asked Swilling to go to Tucson sometime after the fight with the Apaches at Bloody Tanks in January 1864, for something motivated Swilling to go there.

Whatever the reason, besides getting married, Swilling was said to have joined Charles Trumbull Hayden and two other men in buying Grant's Flour Mill, which was located on the Santa Cruz River about two miles south of Tucson. Swilling had come to the rescue of Hayden's wagon train in an 1861 encounter with Indians.

Swilling sold his interest in the flour mill for $1,000 to William F. Scott, a transaction recorded in the Pima County Book of Records of May 17, 1864, to Dec. 26, 1865.

In September 1864 Swilling was said to have discovered a very large and rich gold ledge about 10 miles from People's ranch.

"People's" was undoubtedly Abraham H. Peeples, one of the discoverers of the Rich Hill placers along with Swilling and frontiersman Pauline Weaver.

In October, Swilling unsuccessfully tried to organize a large company to explore the Apache country to "learn the mineral wealth" and "to have it settled whether the white or the Indians are to rule here, and to feel, if possible, that the property he has acquired is secure," the Arizona Miner reported.

Swilling, in February 1866, was reported managing the Curtain-Chase Mill near Wickenburg, crushing gold-­bearing quartz rock from the Vulture Mine, discovered by Henry Wickenburg in the fall of 1863.

Swilling bought the mill, apparently intending to move it to the Prescott area, but he shortly became involved in promoting another expedition, this one to explore for minerals between the White and Chiricahua mountains in eastern and southeastern Arizona.

An account of this expedition by John B. Montgomery, one of the pioneer settlers in the Salt River Valley, put 45 men in the party, though another report said there were 80 to 100.

The expedition was over by October 1866, because Swilling by then was delivering mail from the Pima villages to Prescott. He carried the mail until April or May 1867.

The Miner of Aug. 10, 1867, mentioned that "Swilling and Wickenburg are honest farmers, and have fine crops." Swilling had a ranch adjoining Wickenburg's beside the Hassayampa River. Presumably, the first of Swilling's children was born there.

It was in September, 1867, according to tradition, that Swilling visited the Salt River Valley hay camp of John Smith and decided that the evidence of former habitation meant the Valley could be successfully irrigated.

In October, after returning to Wickenburg, the Miner carried an account of Swilling killing a man with a double-­barreled shotgun on Sept. 30, but there apparently was no effort to prosecute him because the man had threatened to kill Swilling.

Another October item said that "Swilling, Wickenburg and (Frederick L.) Brill have . . . raised excellent crops of corn, sugar cane and vegetables."

Reports of the formation of the Swilling Irrigating and Canal Co. were carried in the Miner in November.

The Salt River Valley in the 1860's . . . .


Just when Jack Swilling first visited the Salt River Valley isn't known.

His experiences with the Gila Rangers in the winter of 1859-60, the Confederate scouting party in 1862, the Walker Party in 1863 and carrying the mail in 1866 and 1867 brought him into the southwestern part of the Valley.

            That is where the Salt River flows into the Gila River southwest of Phoenix. At that time, signs of the Valley's former occupants (signs found in all of central Arizona) were seen everywhere.

Besides the ancient canals, some partly obliterated by desert growth and filled by the soils of time, there were ruins of buildings and mounds of trash. Some of these mounds rose 20, 30 and 40 feet above the ground.

The early settlers leveled many ruins as they cleared land for farming, but some settlers saved artifacts. Some sites were excavated extensively.

The earliest surveys of the Valley were made by William H. Pierce in January 1867 and by Wilfred F. Ingalls from March through July 1868.

The surveys were done to hasten development of the territory. Pierce and Ingalls were more concerned about the Valley's agricultural potential than about archaeology and anthropology.

Pierce surveyed 36 miles east along the base line (Baseline Road today) from the initial point of survey on the south side of the Gila River opposite the mouth of the Salt River. He wrote:

"This soil could be classed as first-rate composed of a sandy loam light, rich and easily worked, with the exception of three or four miles in Range 3 East, the soil of which is 3rd rate, composed of granite debris."

(Township 1 North, Range 3 East, includes Baseline on the south, McDowell Road on the north, 19th Avenue on the west and 40th Street on the east.)

"The surface is generally level sloping gradually toward the north. Vegetation-mesquite and greasewood brush and in some places grass-in no place however abundant except on the last six miles." Pierce said.

"Salt River is at this season of the year at least a very large stream. Nor do I think it ever entirely dry. It has moreover a­ very heavy fall of I should think 12 to 15 ft. to the mile which renders it especially valuable for irrigation. I consider this valley from 6 to 10 miles wide and extending from its mouth upward to the mountains about forty miles - as some of the best agricultural land I have yet seen in the Territory and would recommend that it be subdivided at an early day.

"No timber but a few scattering mesquite trees."

Along the line of the meridian (115th Avenue), which he surveyed 24 miles from the initial monument, he found" A little of the land along the Salt River . . . 1st rate but the fact that there is no water on or near the rest of the line (the Agua Fria being dry) renders it almost valueless for agricultural purposes."

Pierce reported good grass in places in the Agua Fria bottom and little timber along the meridian except for "a very few scattering mesquite trees, valueless except for fuel."

Ingalls surveyed the township and section lines (each township consisting of 36 square miles). By then, two ditches were being developed.

He mentioned the old canals and ruins, but he primarily was concerned with the soil's quality and the various types of vegetation, including cottonwood and willow trees along the river banks.

Mesquite grew densely in some places, and scatterings of mesquite, willows, palo verdes, greasewood and sagebrush grew in other locations.

The river bed varied from three-quarters of a mile to 1-1/2 miles wide. The irrigable land generally was six to 10 feet above the water, which was fished by settlers and Indians.

In all directions, the mountains stood "out distinct and blue, like a grand picture," Ingalls said. Some pioneers said they could see the Pinal range of mountains beyond the Superstition range to the east.

The summer temperatures, as they do now, sometimes rose to 115 degrees or higher. Rattlesnakes, Gila monsters, scorpions, black widows and lizards were plentiful.

            Alexander D. Lemon, a settler in the 1870’s, said of the Valley:

            "I tell you it is anything but a pleasant country to live in. It is in the land of irregular society-of great deserts of hot sand, shaggy coyotes, shrubs and thorns.”

            "Those who die go silently to the grave without any funeral procession. Such is life on this far-off frontier."


Valley settlement: The traditional story


The traditional story about the settlement of the Salt River Valley is that Jack Swilling got the idea to dig an irrigating canal while visiting the hay camp of John Smith in 1867.

That account can be traced to two newspaper articles that appeared in the Phoenix Daily Herald on consecutive days, July 17 and 18, in 1883.

According to the first article, "The only road through the Valley was made by J.Y.T. (Y.T. = Yours Truly) Smith, who had the government hay contract at Fort McDowell on the Verde River and had established in the spring of '67 a hay camp on Salt River, four miles above the present city of Phoenix.

The second article reported, "It was in September 1867 that J.W. Swilling . . . had occasion to stop at J.Y.T. Smith's camp for a few days. While there he noticed the lay of the land and considered the feasibility of bringing water upon it. "

James Reilly and C.F. Mitchell, who published the Territorial Expositor in Phoenix for two years, reported on June 13, 1879, that they met Swilling in the spring of 1867 at Wickenburg and "he discussed to us his project to settle the Salt River Valley, and was then engaged in getting up a party to make the settlement and dig a ditch for the purpose of irrigating the land."

Later writers, apparently dissatisfied with the "facts" presented in the Herald articles, sought to embellish the story.

One such effort pictured Smith in 1866 offering Swilling $60 per month to deliver hay to Fort McDowell.

"For more than a year Jack Swilling delivered Smith's hay to McDowell," the story went. "He rode with a rifle on his lap, another in the wagon box behind him. He fought the Apaches to a standstill; the job became dull and routine.

"Swilling and Smith noted long mounds of earth leading from the river to flat areas of the valley floor," according to the tale. "Weed - covered and unexplained, they intrigued Smith and Swilling, who finally concluded they must have been man-made. The only reasonable deduction was that they had been the banks of canals constructed by some vanished civilization for irrigation purposes.

". . . Once they had realized some former tenants of the land had made the desert bloom, they determined to do the same. Smith supplied the business brains . . .Swilling was the promoter."

Geoffrey P. Mawn, who has a doctorate in U.S. history from Arizona State University, has done extensive research on the early settlement of the Valley and he has expressed doubt about the Swilling and Smith relationship. Writing in an article published in the autumn 1977 issue of Arizona and the West, Mawn said:

"While writers continually link John Smith and Jack Swilling with hay camp visits or work relationships during the spring or summer of 1867, no contemporary evidence exists to document the whereabouts of Smith during this time period."

Mawn said Smith - John Y.T. Smith after the Territorial Legislature approved a bill adding the initials Y. T. to his name-''probably coordinated the civilian work forces harvesting wild hay (for the army) along the Salt between February and June of 1866."

In July 1866 Smith worked as a wagon master at the army depot in Tucson and later was released, Mawn said. Between then and January 1868, when Smith was the ferryman at the McDowell Crossing north of present-day Mesa on the Salt River, Mawn could find no facts on Smith's whereabouts.

The 1883 newspaper article may have been correct when it said Smith was at the hay camp in the spring of 1867. But Swilling couldn't have worked for Smith for more than a year if he ever worked for him at all.

Swilling in 1866 managed a quartz mill, took part in an expedition into eastern Arizona and delivered mail, a job he held until the spring of 1867. In August and October he was reported as having "fine" and "excellent" crops on his farm aside the Hassayampa River outside Wickenburg.

            From these events, all recorded in the Arizona Miner, it seem apparent that Swilling didn't work for Smith. Nor did Smith supply "the business brains" when Swilling promoted the irrigation company that led to the start of the first successful ditch in December 1867.

            This doesn't mean, however, that Swilling might not have come to the Valley in September 1867.

First Valley water right claimed by miners


On Nov. 3, 1867, prospector Fred Henry wrote from Wickenburg that "we intend establishing a colony for the discontented people of other sections in the Territory" along the Salt River.

Henry's letter was printed in the Arizona Miner in Prescott. The same edition reported that Jack Swilling and a companion, Samuel J. Hensley, Jr., were on a trip to the Salt River Valley "to take measures for constructing an acequia from that stream (Salt River) to Wickenburg."

Evidently the measures they took for digging the canal from the river-if not to Wickenburg more than 50 miles distant-were satisfactory because, they and others met Nov. 16 at Wickenburg and formed the Swilling Irrigating and Canal Co.

Their purpose, according to the company preamble, was to take ''the water from the channel of Salt River at a point claimed and located by J. W. Swilling & Co. Nov. 11th, 1867, and to conduct the same into and through the old Montezuma Canal or Acequia, which canal or acequia we have also claimed and located for irrigating and other purposes."

According to tradition, Swilling had begun promoting the canal company after a visit to the Valley hay camp of John Smith in September 1867.

If that is correct, perhaps Hensley accompanied Swilling here in early November to check out what Swilling had learned about the prospects for digging a canal when he was in the Valley in September.

In any event, the Swilling Irrigating and Canal Co. was not the first to claim a water right on the Salt River, contrary to a belief that the possibility of irrigation in the Valley awaited the recognition of Swilling and Smith.

The first water right on the Salt had been claimed by four miners - Peter McCannon, Abraham H. Peeples, Joseph Green and George R. Roberts-on June 7, 1867.

A second water right had been claimed June 8 by Army officers Camillo C.C. Carr, Charles Smart and George B. Sanford, and interpreter T.J. Barnes, from Camp McDowell.

The claims were for the north bank of the river near McDowell Crossing. The crossing evidently was the site of the Salt River Station, operated by McCannon. The Army later operated a substation at the crossing, and John Smith was the ferryman there in January 1868.

In future years, the crossing was the location of Rowe's Station, Whitlow's Ranch and Maryville, or Marysville. The site was 20 miles upstream from where Smith was said to have located his hay camp.

McCannon had accompanied Swilling on the latter's expedition to the mountains of eastern Arizona in mid-1866. Peeples was one of the discoverers along with Swilling of the Rich Hill gold placers in 1863.

On Sept. 21, 1867, the Arizona Miner said it had received a letter from McCannon, "who at present is residing at Salt River Station, near Fort McDowell." It reported "that he is anxious to raise a company of 25 or 30 men for the purpose of prospecting the country adjacent (the Tonto Basin and. Pinal Mountains) to Salt River. . ."

The report may have caught the eye of Swilling, who always seemed to be ready to take part in, if not organize, prospecting expeditions.

Could the report have lured Swilling to the Salt River Valley to talk to McCannon?

If so, could Swilling have stopped at Smith's hay camp? Those questions have no known answers, but McCannon's presence in the Valley and his appeal for men to prospect is the sort of thing that might have induced Swilling to visit.

The Oct. 26, 1867, edition of the Miner reported McCannon as postponing the prospecting idea because, in the paper's words, "The Indians are too ugly just now in the region of country he wishes to explore."

It isn't known whether McCannon and his mining companions or the group of Army officers exercised the water rights they claimed. A visitor to the Valley, however, wrote an article about the agricultural resources of Arizona which appeared in the San Francisco Bulletin.

            That story, reprinted Oct. 26, 1867, in the Miner indicated there were already crops growing in the Valley. It said:

"On my last trip through this country (July 1867). . .the growing crops of. . .the Verde and Salinas (another name for the Salt River) are promising and large yields expected.

"The lands. . .of the Lower Hassayampa, Agua Fria, Turkey Creek and the Salinas (are well adapted) to cereals and many of the tropical plants.

"Upon Granite Creek, the Agua Fria, Verde, La Cienega, Salinas, Upper Hassayampa, Walnut Grove and Round Valley, the settlements are in a flourishing condition.

"Large tracts of good land are still unoccupied upon the Prieta, Colorado Chiquito, Salinas and the Verde, or San Francisco River.

            "The most objectionable feature of Arizona is presented in the raids made by the Apaches."

Fort McDowell established to protect settlers.


Jack Swilling and the men who arrived with him to dig the first modem irrigation canal in the Salt River Valley hoped to support and enrich themselves.

In any society where men must rely on themselves to meet their needs and where government has little to hand out, enterprise and the profits it may bring are desired and appreciated.

The Arizona of 1867, with few exceptions, was such a place.

With the close of the Civil War in 1865, federal authorities in Washington ordered troops, withdrawn because of the war, back to Arizona. Their job was to protect settlers from unfriendly Indians.

On Sept. 7, 1865, soldiers established Camp McDowell on the west side of the Verde River seven miles north of its junction with the Salt River.

Obtaining food for the troops and feed for the horses wasn't easy. The Army obtained some grain and flour from the Pima and Maricopa Indians who farmed along the Gila River. Grasses suitable for forage grew wild along the Salt River and on some of the mesas. Other supplies, for miners as well as for the Army, were freighted at high cost from California. Apaches were one reason the freight bills were high.

In March 1864, Judge Joseph P. Allyn, a member of the first territorial court, passed through the eastern part of the Valley on his way to the Pima villages on the Gila River. He said in the Valley he found "an abundance of water, and acequias could be easily constructed to irrigate the whole."

From the top of a butte about midway between the Salt and Gila rivers, Allyn described what he saw. "The eye sweeps over the vast extent of the peninsula between . . . the rivers. The soil is rich, and only needs the moistening of irrigation to be transformed from a desert to a garden.

"Here," he continued, "is conjoined nearly a thousand square miles of fertile soil, smoothed out to the hand of the husbandman; and the largest quantity of running water in the Territory. Here was the dense population of the past. Here will be the granary of the future."

Truly prophetic words.

            But though Allyn and others, undoubtedly Swilling, too, were aware of the potential for irrigated agriculture in the Salt River Valley, more than three years passed before the first serious attempts were made.

That was unquestionably due to fear of the Apaches. The Pimas and Maricopa’s along the Gila River certainly were aware that the Salt River was a more reliable water source, yet they apparently made no serious efforts to establish permanent settlements in the Valley.

As for settlers, federal law at the time required that homesteaders live on the land to gain title.

With Apaches roaming the countryside, the Americans and Mexicans went where they believed they had some degree of safety-to the mining districts, to small settlements, to where the Apaches were less likely to raid.

John M. Clark, surveyor general of New Mexico and Arizona, wrote in a letter dated June 8, 1865: "There are settlements in the valleys of the Colorado, Gila, San Francisco, Bill William's Fork and Santa Cruz, and soon will be in the San Pedro and Salado (Salt River) valleys, to which the public surveys should be extended."

Almost a year later, on July 12, 1866, Clark observed "There is no impediment in the way of immediate operations (surveys) in the field but the hostility of the Indians, and the consequent danger which a surveying party, without military protection would be subject to.

"I had hopes that the condition of Arizona, or at least that portion of it lying west of the San Francisco (Verde) river, would have been such, that I could have sent surveying parties into the field early this season, but my advices have been such that I have considered it too hazardous to do so," Clark wrote.

Early in 1866, the Army, to supply itself with food, built an irrigation ditch at Camp McDowell and started a farm. The farm was necessary, according to the military order establishing it, because "of the unsettled state of the country, on account of Indian hostilities, which has kept settlers from opening farms so far removed from the settled portions of the country."

That same year, if not soon after establishment of the post, the Army began depending on civilians to harvest hay in the Salt River Valley. The army considered the chore dangerous enough to provide military escorts.


Settlers find gold in soil


In the middle of 1866, while Jack Swilling was with his gold hunting expedition in eastern Arizona, other settlers were farming in search of sustenance and wealth.

Because of the Apache menace, which contributed to the high cost of bringing in foodstuffs from California, some settlers probably reasoned there was gold in food as well as in mining.

Two farming settlements sprang up in the spring and summer of 1866 on the Gila River east of the Pimas and Maricopa’s occupying the Gila River Indian Reservation south of the Salt River Valley.

Other men planted grain and vegetables along the Hassayampa River and in the valleys near Prescott.

The first of the two Gila River settlements was started about June 1866 by Charles Adams. He cleared the ground and sowed grain at a place between present-day Florence and Sacaton which became known as Adamsville, then Sanford.

Chase's camp, or Chasetown, was 35 to 40 miles upstream of the Pima villages. This settlement was started by James Chase of the Chase mines and Wickenburg, and by September 1866 was said to have 70 residents and 250 to 300 acres planted, including corn.

One of the most successful of the Prescott area ranchers was Robert Postle, who was located 20 miles to the northeast.

The Arizona Miner of Nov. 30, 1866, reported:

"During the past season Mr. Postle has cultivated about 300 acres, which have produced large crops of corn, wheat, barley, potatoes, and a variety of vegetables, all of which have matured finely and fully and are now being sold in our market for satisfactory prices.

"The result, we are credibly informed, promises a net profit of near $20,000, and shows what an industrious and energetic man can do in this country by cultivating the soil upon true principles."

            In that same year, changes were made in the procedures for carrying out land surveys and for homesteading.

Gov. Richard C. McCormick mentioned these changes in addressing the 3rd Legislative Assembly of the Territory of Arizona on Oct. 8, 1866, in Prescott.

"The people of the territories," McCormick said, ". . .are indebted to General (John M.) Clark and the delegates from New Mexico and Arizona . . . For a change in the system of surveying in the Territories, so as to make it conform to the wants of the country; and permitting persons who reside in settlements to a pre-emption or homestead right to the lands cultivated by them in the vicinity of such settlements.

"The fact that none but the irrigable lands can be cultivated in some parts of Arizona, makes the former act, which allows of surveys in an irregular form, one of great importance to our people; and the latter measure, in view of the risk which must be incurred in living away from the settlements, while the Indians are unfriendly, is an act of simple justice to the pioneer."

In September 1867, the same month Swilling was said to have visited John Smith's hay camp in the Salt River Valley, the Arizona Miner published an item reporting the farming success of the Bowers Brothers ranch on the Agua Fria River.

"At present market rates, the yield of this ranch this year, when sold, will bring the nice sum of $50,000-this, too, in a year when prices are low," the newspaper said.

Geoffrey P. Mawn, in his article on the selection of the Phoenix town site published in the autumn 1977 issue of Arizona and the West, said "Economic conditions in Arizona at this time (1867) fostered settlement in the Salt River Valley.

"In 1867 the mining industry went into decline and a recession followed, leaving many miners without jobs or income," Mawn wrote. "Yet the population around Wickenburg, Camp McDowell and Prescott still needed wheat, hay, corn, and barley."

The Miner of May 4, 1867, said, "Perhaps three times as many ranches as last year would be cultivated."

"The success of last year, the increased protection and the understanding that henceforth the military will depend upon purchasing grain for their animals in the Territory, have stimulated the increased interest in agriculture," the newspaper said.

Flour at Prescott, freighted in from California, seldom cost less than $20 per 100 pounds, with payment in gold. The Army was paying 7-1/3 and 8 cents a pound for corn and 8­ 1/3 cents for barley.

How much each of these things-recession, unemployment, high farming profits, soldiers on the Verde, the change in the system of surveying, residents in settlements allowed to have homesteads, bountiful water in the Salt, nearness to friendly Indians-influenced Swilling and his companions isn't known.

But these undoubtedly were factors in promoting a canal company among the merchants, miners and farmers of Wickenburg.

Canal company organized in 1867


The Swilling Irrigating and Canal Co. was organized Nov. 16, 1867, at Wickenburg.

Article I adopted by the organizers said the company had formed "for the purpose of taking the water from the channel of Salt River at a point claimed and located by J. W. Swilling & Co., Nov. 11, 1867. . ."

"Swilling & Co." consisted of Swilling, Charles C. Clusker, Fred Henry, Joseph H. Davis, James Smith, Henry Wickenburg, Darrell Duppa and Thomas McGoldrick. They formed themselves into the Planters Irrigating Co.

The point they claimed on the river was as follows:

"Commencing opposite the Buttes on Salt River, at a big rock about two miles above the point known as the Hay Camp and about 25 miles above the junction of the Gila and Salt rivers."

The buttes were on the south side of the Salt River at the future site of Tempe. The hay camp could have been John Smith's.

Besides claiming "all the waters of Salt River or as much thereof as may be necessary, for milling, mining, farming and irrigating purposes," they also claimed the right of way ''to an ancient acequia" to its end.

No explanation is available as to why five days after calling themselves the Planters Irrigating Co. the name was changed to the Swilling Irrigating and Canal Co. unless it was to recognize Swilling's leadership in the organizing effort.

At the Nov. 16 meeting, members established the capital stock at $10,000 divided into 50 shares of $200 each, with each share representing one-quarter of a mile of the canal the men expected to dig.

The next day they elected Frank M. Chapman, president;



The first ditch started by Jack Swilling and his fellow shareholders in the Swilling Irrigation and Canal Co. arrived in the Valley was opposite the buttes at the later site of Tempe. The map shows the Swilling ditch paralleling the settlement road.

Samuel J. Hensley, Jr., secretary, and Aaron Barnett treasurer.

Directors, besides Swilling, were Clusker, Duppa, Wickenburg and G. W. Wilson. Duppa earlier that year had farmed at Date Creek.

            Swilling, Wilson and James McCullen were appointed Nov. 18 to draft laws and regulations.

They decided that members who were unable to buy shares could work at the rate of $66.66 per month until $200 was on the company's books for a share.

An article in the Phoenix Daily Herald of July 18, 1883, identified 31 men as attending the organizing meeting of the Swilling Irrigating and Canal Co.

Among the men were Louis J.F. Jaeger, the Yuma ferryman, who, along with Wickenburg, reportedly provided most of the financing.

"It must not be understood these men were capitalists," the Herald story said. "Indeed, very few of them had any money at all."

The article said that Wickenburg, Swilling, Dupper (another name for Duppa), John Lassen and others left Wickenburg in early December with an eight-mule team loaded with tools and provisions.

The exact number of men in the party is unknown, but most estimates range from 16 to 20.

They began digging opposite the buttes, but they reportedly abandoned the location after excavating an eighth of a mile because they ran into solid rock or hardpan

and they lacked the tools or blasting powder to continue.

Another explanation, given in the Arizona Miner of April 18, 1869, is that they wanted an easier place to dig so they could bring water to the land in order to grow and sell a grain crop that year.

The place where they first began digging is shown on the survey map produced from the notes of Wilfred F. Ingalls completed April 16, 1868.

The site of that initial effort was about 150 yards east of the present day Mill Avenue and about 300 yards south of Buckeye Road if it were extended.

After the initial failure, various historians say the party moved four or five miles downstream near or at Smith's Hay Camp, but Ingalls' survey map shows the location to be three miles west.

The survey map shows two irrigation ditches there.

The Swilling Ditch (later the Salt River Valley Canal, or Town Ditch) was a little more than a quarter of a mile to the east of 40th Street (if extended in a straight line and not curving around the eastern end of Sky Harbor International Airport) and less than 150 yards to the north of Buckeye Road if extended.

The head of the second ditch, apparently started by Joseph Davis, was perhaps 100 yards southwest of the head of the Swilling Ditch.

The Swilling Ditch opened in 1868


Work on the first part of the Swilling Ditch, which eventually was to extend into the western part of the Salt River Valley, was completed March 12, 1868.

The smaller canal, according to a letter to Prescott's Arizona Miner written by a settler who identified himself as Vulture, "carries water enough to irrigate, at least, 4,000 acres of land."

Vulture said the farming enterprise was "of the utmost importance to the miners in and around Wickenburg," because the two companies hauling quartz for the Vulture Mining Co. "consumed $6,000 worth of corn and barley per month, the money always being paid in gold bullion, upon its delivery."

Jack Swilling, who promoted the first successful ditch company, was cultivating 100 acres of wheat, barley and corn.

Others with crops were George E. Freeman, 106 acres; Thomas Hogue, 80 acres; Darrell Duppa and Ludovic Vandermark, 100 acres; S. "Frenchy" Sawyer, 50 acres; F.S. Johnson, 25 acres; John Adams, 50 acres; William Rowe, 50 acres; and J. Burns, 50 acres. Joseph H. Davis was planning to put in 100 acres of sorghum sugar cane irrigated by his own ditch.

All but seven shares of the original 50 in the Swilling Irrigating and Canal Co. were unsold.

"We have but five families here at present, and as soon as Chaplain Blake, of Fort McDowell, shall have finished a little ceremony that is now progressing rapidly, one more will be added to this number," Vulture wrote in his letter of April 5, 1868.

That very day, the chaplain united Francis S. Johnson and Mary S. Adams, both of Phoenix, in matrimony.

Historian James Barney said that Swilling on April 8, 1868, took up a claim near the center of the Phoenix Settlement. As shown on the map drawn from the survey notes of Wilfred F. Ingalls, the settlement was between 32nd and 36th streets, Van Buren to Harrison (the railroad tracks).

Yavapai County Sheriff A.J. Moore (Maricopa County wasn't formed until 1871) reported in late April that crops in the Salt River Valley "looked splendid" and settlers "were arriving nearly every day from Texas and California."

In a territorial election June 3, Swilling served as inspector of the Phoenix Precinct while Davis and Burns were judges. Voting took place at Swilling's house and he was elected justice of the peace.

The Arizona Miner of July 8, 1868, carried an item that the Salt River Valley "wheat and barley had all been harvested and shipped to Wickenburg, where it was being sold at 8 cents per pound. The corn crop was growing finely. . ."

Late in 1868, Swilling was appointed temporary postmaster. Barney said Swilling also commenced "the first pretentious residence building to be constructed in this vicinity, 96,000 adobes being required to complete the walls of this edifice, which was planned in the Mexican style of architecture."

In April 1869 Swilling again was named inspector of the Phoenix Precinct for coming elections. The election again was held at his house.

That same month, he sent a letter to the Arizona Miner in which he said 700 acres had been planted to barley and 100 to wheat. He said he expected an immense corn crop would be sowed.

When the Phoenix post office was officially created June 15, 1869, he was appointed postmaster.

In August, Swilling, at the request of Chief Juan Cheverie of the Maricopa Indian Tribe, accompanied 44 Pimas and Maricopa’s and a detachment of 11 soldiers under Capt. William McCleave from Camp McDowell to the scene of a fight between Maricopa’s and Apaches near Camp Date Creek.

The Yavapai County assessment roll that year showed that Swilling's real and personal property were assessed at $1,600. This included $1,200 for improvements on 160acres of land, $300 for two horses and wagon and $100 for one yoke of oxen.

The Miner published a report in late October that ''the people of the Salt River settlements. . . were this year blessed with good crops of corn, wheat, barley, etc."

Yet, Swilling, who was still in the process of building a house that became known as "Swilling's Castle," was said to be talking "of selling his valuable farm and other property there, and engaging in other business."

The Federal census of 1870 listed six persons in the Swilling household. Besides Swilling and his wife, there were two daughters, Georgia, 5, and Matilda, 2, and two Apache captives, Mariana, 13, and Gavilan, to.

Mrs. Swilling's age was shown as 26, indicating she may have been 20, not 17, when she and Swilling married in 1864.


Swilling's canal interests


Although Jack Swilling talked of selling his ranch in 1869, he remained in the Salt River Valley into 1873.

            In those years, the Valley's agricultural success was proved.

            Swilling apparently was involved in the development of or had a financial interest in at least five canals in addition to the original Swilling Ditch in the Valley.

He also helped begin an irrigating company on the Gila River near New Mexico with intentions of moving his family there, but the enterprise collapsed and he returned to the Salt River Valley for a few months.

In those three or four years, Swilling's reputation for generosity and hospitality grew.

Simultaneously, there were a couple of stains on his activities, one of which contained some curious elements involving the wounding of a Mexican, or a Negro, after an election to pick the seat of Maricopa County.

Sometime in the middle of 1869, Swilling and Thomas Barnum located a new canal head about three-fourths of a mile above the head of the ditch owned and used by the Swilling Irrigating and Canal Co.

However, a year passed before they joined with John T. Alsap, who was the territory's first treasurer, in organizing the Phoenix Ditch Co. on July 4, 1870. Swilling was its president.

They are thought to have dug this new canal head, which joined the original Swilling Ditch about three-fifths of a mile from the river, because of dissatisfaction with the original head.

            Alsap, in a letter printed in the Arizona Miner of April 27, 1872, said the Swilling canal was enlarged and improved every year.

A north extension to the canal was incorporated as the Maricopa Canal Company on Sept. 14, 1875. The main ditch became the Salt River Valley Canal Co., and also was known as the Town Ditch, Swilling Ditch and Salt Canal.

Swilling served as an inspector in the fall election of 1870, but on Nov. 5, the Arizona Citizen in Tucson printed "with real regret" the news that "J. W. Swilling of Phoenix, is insane. For months past he has been afflicted with an internal swelling in his head."

He must have made a swift recovery, for he sent a letter to the Miner reporting the formation on Nov. 17 of the Hayden Milling and Farming Ditch Co. by Charles Trumbull Hayden and four others. This was published Nov. 26.

On Dec. 6, 1870, the Hardy Irrigating Canal Co. was started on the river's south side by Swilling, B. W. Hardy and four other men. Following Hardy's withdrawal from the company, its name was changed to the Tempe Irrigating Canal Co.

In the Miner's Dec. 17 issue, Swilling was "over on the other side of the river with a party of men, laying out the Hayden ditch." This later became a part of the Tempe Canal, of which Swilling was a shareholder.

On March 12, 1872, Swilling sold his interest in the Miller Ditch to Ira Buffum. The Miller Ditch was near an area settled by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints starting in 1877. That area is today's Lehi, which is part of Mesa.

An advertisement printed in the Miner in June offered for sale Swilling's 160-acre ranch, 300 grape vines, planted acreage and nine-room house. He asked $4,000-one half in cash.

Gov. A.P.K. Safford arrived in Phoenix Sept. 22 to organize the Pueblo Viejo Ditch Co. on the upper Gila River. Swilling joined the company.

A week later, Swilling, who served as president of the Maricopa County Democratic convention when it met Sept. 28; was reported "preparing to remove to the Upper Gila, near old Camp Goodwin."

Swilling and Ludovic Vandermark were leaders of the expedition, which was to depart Nov. 15 "well-armed and mounted, with 30 days provisions."

By February 1873 they were back in the Valley. The Pueblo Viejo project was said to have been abandoned because the area was made into an Indian reservation, but that never happened. The actual reason for the failure isn't known.

Swilling and Vandermark then took "a ditch out of Salt River, on the north side, between Phoenix and Maryville." This ditch was about 12 miles east of Phoenix in an area where Pima Indians had constructed a ditch the previous summer.

When the Pimas discovered they had new and unwanted neighbors, they ran the white men off the land, ending that enterprise.

            On Aug. 24, 1873, Swilling sold the northwest quarter of Section 12, Township 1 North, Range 3 East, to William B. Hellings for $3,000.

Townsite, county seat selections disappoint Swilling


Jack Swilling was successful as a miner, canal builder and farmer, but he failed in having the permanent Phoenix town site located close to his property.

He also was unsuccessful in winning the Maricopa County seat for East Phoenix, or Mill City, as his neighborhood came to be called.

Between those events, Swilling's good friend from the Gila City and Pinos Altos gold-discovery days, Col. Jacob Snively, was killed by Indians near White Picacho northwest of Phoenix.

The Arizona Miner of April 8, 1871, reported that Snively and four other men, one of them Andrew Starar, were attacked by about 180 Indians.

The account said Snively fell wounded at the first fire "and was left to the mercy of the savages by his comrades, who became panic-stricken, and ran away."

Among the farmers active in the campaign to locate the permanent town site -called the Original Town site - on land from Seventh Street to Seventh Avenue, and Van Buren to Harrison, today's railroad tracks, were Andrew Starar and his brother Jacob Starar.

They occupied neighboring quarter sections, Jacob's immediately below the eastern half of the Original Town site and Andrew's abutting Jacob's on the east.

It took from August until the end of October 1870 to settle on the town site. Darrell Duppa suggested that the town be called Phoenix, the name already given to the original settlement by Swilling and miner Fred Henry.

Maricopa County was created Feb. 14, 1871, and an election for the county seat was conducted May 1, 1871. Phoenix won with 212 votes followed by Mill City, ISO, and Mowry's Ranch, 64.

Years later, the Phoenix Daily Herald of Aug. 17, 1883, printed a story which said that Swilling, unhappy about the election's outcome, in the moonlight that night accosted "a Mexican who had not voted to suit Jack. . . pulled a double-barreled shotgun on him, and lodged the contents (small bird shot that did not penetrate the vital parts) in his stomach."

The Starar brothers said they heard the shot, mounted horses and rode to the scene. They took the Mexican to Jacob's house, then reportedly headed a committee of citizens who "immediately waited on Jack Swilling and quietly told him that at the very next lawless act he would die like a dog, without judge or jury."

Another account of the same incident said the man Swilling waylaid was a Negro. This account also said Swilling's opponents had somehow before the election managed to remove the slugs from his shotgun and took out some powder to make the charge very light.

Considering the hostility that might have existed between Swilling and the Starar brothers over the town site, the county seat election and the abandonment of the mortally wounded Snively to the Indians, the "history" of the aftermath of the county seat election involving Swilling may have been overdrawn.

Moreover, the county was not without the law. And, if the Starar brothers and the citizens committee were satisfied with warning Swilling that he would "die like a dog” if he erred again, were the law and the man he allegedly wounded willing to settle for nothing more?

Incident Addendum

By: Earl Zarbin 08/2006


The following is from the Phoenix Herald of August 17, 1883:


"The day passed off quietly to the relief of all; but after dark, Jack Swilling allowed his angry feelings, at the result of the election, to get the best of him, and narrowly escaped a lynching. He had left the polls, and was up at the old house off­ Dennis & Murphy, on the Tempe road, when a Mexican who had not voted to suit Jack came along on horseback. The Mexican dismounted, when Jack, who was standing a little distance from him, deliberately pulled a double barreled shot gun on him, and lodged the contents in his stomach. The gun was fortunately loaded with small bird shot, and they did not penetrate the vital parts.


"Andrew and Jake Starar, who were still at the polls, heard the shot, and suspecting some foul play immediately spurred their horses to that direction. Just as they reached the outskirts of town, they saw in the moonlight on the left hand side of the road the gleam of a gun barrel pointed towards them. After some parleying they found it to be the Mexican who had just been shot and he told them he was 'laying for Jack Swilling.' Jake Starar, fearing more trouble took the Mexican down to his house, and told him to lock himself in and shoot the first man who came to the door. A committee of citizens headed by Jake and Andy Starar, immediately waited on Jack Swilling, and quietly told him that at the very next lawless act he would die like a dog, without judge or jury.'  


"This treatment had the effect of cowing him and keeping him comparatively quiet during the remainder of his stay in Phoenix."


Swilling, as he said himself in the letter he wrote just before his death, insulted his best friends when under the influence of alcohol and morphine.

When drunk, he was mean and capable of uncivilized acts. His friend Fred Henry recorded one such incident. It involved in the slaying of an unnamed "Chileno" in September 1867.

Henry said that Swilling, after shooting the Chileno with a double-barreled shotgun, "in his drunken frenzy scalped him."

The Arizona Miner of Aug. 3, 1872, carried a letter from Phoenix which reported, "On Saturday last, at East Phoenix, J. W. Swilling cowhided a man for slandering a lady."

On Sept. 6, Swilling was arraigned on an indictment of assault to commit murder found by the county grand jury. It isn't certain that the indictment grew out of the cowhiding, but no other act of violence was attributed to him in that period.

A trial was held Sept. 10. According to Maricopa County District Court records, the only prosecution witness was Sheriff George A. Mowry.

Swilling was the only defense witness. He was acquitted.

Developing the Black Canyon area


In the last five years of his life, Jack Swilling devoted much of his time to the development of the Black Canyon country north of Phoenix.          .

He discovered and worked mining properties, began a new farm on the Agua Fria River almost opposite the mouth of Black Canyon Creek and took part in founding the town of Gillett.

            By then he and his wife, Trinidad, had five children, one of whom, Matilda, died in 1875.

Swilling's own health was beginning to fail and his bouts with alcohol, plus his use of morphine to relieve the pain from his old wounds, apparently became more frequent.

His Black Canyon mining ventures evidently began on a prospecting trip made with Frank Morehouse and William Kilgore. In August 1873, they were reported to have found an old and rich mine that had been worked until the laborers were slaughtered by Apaches.

The next month Swilling assisted in the laying out of a road through Black Canyon to Campe Verde and was reported preparing to start a station where the road crossed the New River.

Swilling apparently spent most of 1874 developing the Black Canyon mining claims beside Black Canyon Creek. The Miner contained a number of reports from these mines, including some from Swilling. One of them was written in a place Swilling called Johnstown, perhaps named for him.

In May, B.C. Foster, deputy surveyor, and Michael Cormser, Prescott merchant, returned from a visit to the area and reported "Swilling & Co. had taken up eight fine-looking lodes. . . Specimens. . . show a great deal of gold.”

Swilling also had just brought his wife there from Phoenix.

In January 1875, the Miner said Swilling had rented his mine and in February he was "putting out a vineyard and opening a farm on the Agua Fria below the mouth of the canyon, and is the proprietor of the Valenciana mine."

By June, the farm had a "crop of corn, quite a large field of sorghum and an extensive vineyard."

Swilling prospected in the Bradshaw Mountains, to the west, and in June and July 1876, he and others uncovered rich silver mines about 10 miles from his ranch. The ranch by then was stocked with 115 head of cattle, besides horses and mules.

The Miner of Feb. 16, 1877, said that Swilling was "in very feeble health, being attacked with a low and malignant type of fever. Jack has not been stout for a long time past, and his constitution seems to give way under the disease."

Soon after that he discovered another rich mine, which he leased, and was reported to be the owner of other rich mines under development.

In mid - 1877, Swilling began selling some of his properties in the Black Canyon and Bradshaw Mountain areas. For 50 feet of the Swilling Mine in the Humbug District he was paid $1,200. Thomas Barnum and T.M. Bronson paid $1,500 for his interest in the Basin Mine.

            Swilling raised another $1,000 by selling half-interest in the Swilling Mine to Daniel C. Thorne and Charles E. Gate.

These and other sales apparently were made to raise money for the purchase of a stamp mill for use at a site on the Agua Fria River, but he sold the mill site and in November he was hauling wood there. The site was called Tip Top.

In January 1878, he moved from his ranch along the Agua Fria River to Tip Top, a few miles to the north. Tip Top was renamed Gillett at a mass meeting at which he presided. Thereafter, he sold land in the town and continued to deliver wood to the mill on contract.

Sometime in the next few months, Swilling and his family joined a colony that settled on the Verde River, but by April he had returned to the Agua Fria where he had "one of the most thrifty young orchards to be found in the territory on his place adjoining Gillett."

That same month his wife suggested to him that he recover the bones of Col. Snively, the friend who had been killed by Indians at White Picacho in March 1871, and give them a Christian burial. Mrs. Swilling made this suggestion to divert him from his frequent drunkenness.

Swilling blamed robbery arrest on drunken talk


Jack Swilling and two friends were arrested in May 1878 for the robbery of a stagecoach the night of April 19, 1878.

            There was no substantial evidence that the holdup was committed by Swilling, Andrew Kirby and George Monroe.

Swilling and Kirby were jailed in Prescott, while Monroe was released on bail. The later transfer of Swilling and Kirby to a Yuma jail was criticized at the time as being extra legal, and wouldn't happen today.

In a letter written in jail shortly before his death, Swilling said that the arrests had "been brought on by crazy, drunken talk."

The events that preceded the arrests were as follows:

Swilling had "been in the habit of drinking hard and hav(ing) regular 'tares' and while on one of these wild 'jamborees,' in April. . . Mrs. Swilling . . . formed a plan to get her husband out of town (Gillett) and thus sober him up," the Arizona Miner said.


The plan was to recover the bones of Col. Jacob Snively, the Swilling friend who had been killed by Indians in March 1871, and bring them to Gillett for burial.

Snively was killed at White Picacho, a small peak visible from the Wickenburg-Phoenix road a few miles north of Sun City.

About April 17, Swilling, Kirby, Monroe and Thomas Barnum left Gillett, which was aside the Agua Fria River about 40 miles north of Phoenix (this was the seventh time Swilling had helped recover the bones of slain pioneers for burial in Christian graveyards and the 16th time for Monroe.)

On April 19, three masked men stopped a stagecoach en route to California, four miles west of Wickenburg.

The Wells, Fargo & Co. treasure box contained $1,512 in unminted gold and $3,372 in silver. Two passengers, A. Angles and William Linchan, lost a total of $260 to the robbers, who also rifled the U.S. mail.

The Miner of April 20 printed an account of the robbery.

            A news item from Wickenburg dated April 24 said that "Evans is tracking robbers toward the Colorado River." This was Maj. J. W. Evans, deputy marshal, detective for the stage company and in later years a Phoenix real estate seller.

One day later, Col. L.G. Taylor wrote a letter from Gillett in which he reported that Swilling, Kirby, Monroe and Barnum had recovered Snively's bones and that they "were interred in the Swilling family cemetery," about five miles south on the Phoenix-Prescott road.

The arrests of two of the alleged robbers was reported in the May 18 issue of the Miner. Because the arrests created so much surprise, the newspaper honored a request "to suppress names for the present."

Exactly what happened between the return of Swilling and the others to Gillett and the arrests isn't certain.

The chief evidence against them was supposed to have been knowledge of the robbery before news of it reached Gillett, admissions by Swilling and Kirby, an overheard remark made by Swilling and a conversation between Kirby and Taylor.

One writer has said Swilling and company would have known about the robbery because they visited Wickenburg before returning to Gillett. However, there is no evidence they were in Wickenburg and going there would have been out of their way.

Consequently, how they acquired knowledge of the robbery before others in Gillett heard about it-if, indeed, that was the case-isn't known.

The stage robbers, according to some accounts, were one small man and two large men. Another report said one was "a very tall man, one of medium height, but heavy set, the other slight of build and stature." All wore masks.

            Swilling is supposed to have said that the descriptions fit him, Kirby and Monroe.

Exactly when and where Swilling said that isn't known, but this could have been the "crazy, drunken talk" Swilling alluded to in his last letter.

            After Swilling and Kirby were arrested, Swilling was said to have whispered to Kirby that they had to get word to Monroe, who was in Wickenburg, so he could escape. Perhaps that was more "crazy, drunken talk."

Finally, after the arrest, Taylor was asked to escort Swilling and Kirby on the stage trip from Gillett to the Prescott jail. While en route, Taylor and Kirby for a brief time were out of Swilling's presence. Taylor said that Kirby expressed concern that Swilling would squeal and give Kirby away.

That was the case against them.

Swilling cleared of crime after death


Nineteen years after Swilling was accused of robbing a stagecoach, Maj. J.W. Evans gave an interview to The Arizona Republican in which he introduced previously unrevealed "evidence."

Evans said that when Swilling, Andrew Kirby and George Monroe left Gillett in mid-April 1878, they were penniless. Evans said Swilling had talked about the ease of holding up a stage and that's what they were going to do. Evans made no mention of Thomas Barnum, who accompanied them.

            "When they returned to Gillett they all had money, $20 gold pieces," Evans said.

Sometime after the arrests, Evans said, his attention turned to some other suspects. He captured one of them, a man named Rhodes.

"He confessed to me that he and men named Roudepouch and Mullen had robbed the Ehrenberg stage," Evans said. "Soon after the robbery they ran across Swilling and his party and gave them $600 in $20 gold pieces. I telegraphed to the authorities at Yuma to release the suspects."

Evans' statement appears a self-serving fraud, for Evans was one of the men who secretly arranged to move Swilling and Kirby from Prescott to Yuma to stand trial. Evans' account has some other flaws:

At the time of the arrests there were no reports that Swilling and the others were spending unusual sums of money. Nor were there statements that they were broke when they left Gillett.

The two passengers on the stage gave up $260 to the robbers. The Wells, Fargo & Co. treasure box contained gold and silver bullion, not coins.

There was no evidence beyond Evans' statement that the robbers and the Swilling party ever met. And, if they had, it isn't plausible that the three robbers would have given up $600 in gold coins they had just stolen.

Swilling, Kirby and Monroe faced both federal and territorial charges, the U.S. charge apparently stemming from the stealing of U.S. mail and the Territorial crime involving the robbery.

Rewards for the robbers were offered by Gov. John P. Hoyt and Wells, Fargo. Swilling, in the letter written shortly before he died, mentioned the reward money:

"Poor L.G. Taylor, whom I liked and tried to help, has been one of those who wrought my ruin, and for what I cannot conceive, unless it was the reward money or to rob my family out of the old ranch."

Taylor, the man who had written an April 25 letter describing the recovery of Col. Jacob Snively's bones by Swilling and others, was a chief prosecution witness at a hearing in Prescott on the federal charge. It was Taylor who testified that Kirby was afraid Swilling would squeal.

Ironically, Taylor was shot to death in an unrelated incident soon after testifying. He was trying to stop a lynch mob in Gillett on June 12, 1878, when a shot fired from a crowd of men killed him.

A few days after Taylor's death, Evans reportedly learned from the results of a survey of the county line that the robbery had occurred in Maricopa County, in the 3rd judicial district, and not in Yavapai County, the 1st judicial district, where the suspects were being held.

The prosecution had to take place in the 3rd judicial district, so Swilling and Kirby had to be moved to Phoenix or Yuma, which were both in the district.

The story that Evans learned of the judicial district problem through a survey seems unlikely, but he could have read it in the Arizona Miner of June 6, which said, "The robbery took place near Wickenburg, in Maricopa County."

Whatever, the Prescott newspaper on June 17 reported that Evans, "acting as Deputy U.S. marshal, spy or something else," secretly put Swilling and Kirby on a stagecoach the morning before and spirited them away. The Miner condemned the procedure.

On June 22, the Miner said the federal indictments found against Swilling and Kirby "were disposed of by the district attorney entering nolle proseiqui," meaning he would not prosecute, and the case was stricken from the docket.

However, territorial charges remained, and at a preliminary examination in Yuma on July 26 and 27 an unsigned deposition attributed to Taylor was entered into evidence. This was an obvious legal error.

Other depositions, authenticated by the prosecutor who had handled the case against Swilling and Kirby at Prescott, were not admitted into evidence when offered by defense lawyers. Further error.

Swilling and Kirby were held for trial, their bonds reset at $3,000 each, but Swilling died Aug. 12. Kirby lingered in jail almost two more months.

The Arizona Sentinel published in its Oct. 5 issue at Yuma the following item:

"On Tuesday evening Andrew Kirby, confined in Yuma jail on a charge of stage-robbery, received a telegram from Deputy U.S. Marshal Evans, stating that his innocence had been established, and that steps were being taken for securing his release. On Wednesday, Kirby went forth a free man.”

"Jack Swilling was confined with Kirby on the same charge, but died in jail before his innocence was established."

Drugs and liquor changed Swilling's nature


Although Jack Swilling was dying and despondent, he understood what had happened and what was happening to him.

"The reasons I write this is because I may be found dead any morning in my cell," he said in a letter written shortly before his death Aug. 12, 1878, in a Yuma jail.

His evaluation of himself, both as to his "periods of debauch" and his generous and hospitable nature, was confirmed by his contemporaries.

"I have no remorse of conscience for anything I have ever done while in my sane mind," Swilling wrote.

When he mixed "morphine (which he took for old wounds) and liquor," he said, "I have insulted my best friends, but never when I was Jack Swilling free from these poisonous influences.

"I have tried to cure myself of the growing appetite for morphine, but the craving for it was greater than my will could resist," he said.

            Morphine and strong drink "made me mad," Swilling said, but he swore he'd committed no crime.

"I have gone to the rescue of my fellow men when they were surrounded by Indians-I have given to those who needed-I have furnished shelter to the sick," Swilling said.

"From the governors down to the lowest Mexican in the land have I extended my hospitality, and oh, my God, how am I paid for it all? Thrown into prison accused of a crime that I would rather suffer crucifixion than commit.

"Taken from my wife and little children who are left out in this cold, cold world all alone. Is that my reward for the kindness I have done to my fellow man and the pay I must receive for having done a Christian act with Monroe and Kirby, that of going after the bones of my poor old friend Snively and taking them to Gillett and burying them by the side of my dear little child?

"George Monroe, Andy Kirby and myself are as innocent of the charge brought against us of robbing the stage as an infant babe. We went out to do a Christian act - oh God! Is it possible that poor old Jack Swilling should be accused of such a crime? But the trouble has been brought on by crazy, drunken talk. I am willing to give up life to save Monroe and Kirby, as God knows they are innocent.

"Oh, think of my poor babies and you would know that I would not leave them for millions of money. I am persecuted and prosecuted until I cannot bear it longer. Look at me and look at them. This cruel charge has brought me, for the first time in my life, under a jailer's key.

            "My persecutors will remember me. Any may God help my poor family through this cold world, is my prayer."

The contrasts in Swilling's actions were summarized, perhaps too harshly as to his darker moments, in the following article from the Phoenix Daily Herald of Aug. 6, 1883:

"Swilling was a free open hearted fellow, willing to share his last loaf with anyone; and so long as the sack of flour lasted, and the side of bacon hung in his chimney corner, no man could pass his door hungry. Let this, at least, be remembered to his honor for in other respects he had the reputation of being a head-strong and violent man, and many lawless acts are laid at his door.

"Had he lived in olden times he might have made a good Richard III or a powerful and dreaded feudal lord, but as he had the misfortune to have been born in the nineteenth century, the only field for him was that of the frontiersman and semi-desperado."

Frontiersman, yes. Semi-desperado, no. Headstrong and violent, yes, when insane from his use of morphine and liquor. At other times, there is no evidence that he was cruel or brutal.

Swilling was the type of man the hard life of the frontier demanded. Survival was difficult and often dependent upon chance encounters as well as upon neighbors and friends.

Death could be harsh. It could come from an absence of knowing or understanding the desert, or more terrifyingly at the hands of the Apaches, who resisted the invading and sometimes ruthless Americans and Mexicans.

Swilling lived, worked and survived in this environment. If he ever thought of himself as a builder, as doing anything more than trying to make a satisfactory life for himself and his family, it wasn't recorded.

He involved himself in many ventures. That he frequently moved after getting them started must have suited his temperament, but people of that restless kind are around today.

That Swilling's life ended in a jail cell was, perhaps, more of a reflection of the times and the frontier than of anything else. Those were days when living and the law were a little rawer, a little more elemental than they seem now.

Regardless of his faults, Jack Swilling was an estimable pioneer, with the agricultural development of the Salt River Valley serving as a suitable legacy to his enterprising spirit.

Who named Phoenix?


            Did Darrell Duppa name Phoenix and Tempe, or does that honor belong to Jack Swilling?

            The Maricopa Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution had no doubt about who named the two cities.

On Dec. 28, 1910, it dedicated a stone at the grave of Duppa, "The English gentleman and Arizona pioneer who named the cities of Phoenix and Tempe."

But Phoenix' first newspaper, the Salt River Herald, said in its opening issue, Jan. 26, 1878, that Swilling named Phoenix.

            "Jack Swilling, one of the first settlers and projectors of the town enterprise, gave Phoenix its name, selecting therefore the fabled bird of antiquity, whose cognomen is found in an old copy of Webster's dictionary, the said book still being in Jack's possession and constituting the bulk of his library," it said.

            The same issue said Swilling "is the man who gave the name to the coming town of the Territory."

            On Sept. 17, 1884, the Phoenix Daily Herald newspaper printed comments of settler J.E. Wharton.

" . . . The town was named by Jack Swilling, who selected the name from an old abridged copy of Webster's dictionary he happened to own. Mr. Swilling, from the same source, obtained the name Tempe, which he applied to the beautiful valley on the east side of the Salt River. These are the facts as obtained from the parties themselves. . . "

Three days after Wharton's letter appeared, the Arizona Gazette printed an interview with former Confederate army officer Columbus H. Gray, who conceded that Swilling probably was the first to apply the name Tempe, but denied that Swilling named Phoenix.

Gray, who'd been Swilling's opponent in the town site and county seat selections, said Duppa gave the name Phoenix to the entire Valley when the first ditch was being dug. Although Gray came here in 1868, he wasn't here when that happened.

A series on the history of Maricopa County was printed in the Herald in 1883. The first sentence in the article of Aug. 10 began. "The new town was named Phoenix at the suggestion of Darrel Dupper . . . "

Possibly the first time the name Phoenix appeared in print in relationship to the Salt River Valley was Feb. 8, 1868, when Prescott's Arizona Miner printed a "Letter from Phoenix."

            This letter began, "Phoenix, A.T.," and was dated "Jan. 1st, 1868."

            "Editor Arizona Miner: The above place, perhaps is new to you, and to many of the readers of the Miner. . . "

            Between March 24 and April 4, 1868, Wilfred F. Ingalls surveyed part of the Salt River Valley.

"A settlement called Phoenix was formed in the northeast part of the township during the winter of 1867 and 1868," he wrote in his field notes.

Later, when the township map was drawn from Ingalls' notes, the pioneers' cabin area was identified as the "Phoenix Settlement."

            John H. Marion, who at various times owned, co-owned and edited the Arizona Miner in the 1860s and 1870s, several times identified Swilling and Fred Henry as the men who gave Phoenix its name.

Marion was acquainted with both these men and Duppa.

            On Oct. 26, 1870, the Original Townsite was selected and Duppa's proposal that it be called Phoenix was accepted. Two days later, pioneer mining promoter and former Army officer Sylvester Mowry wrote a letter to a California newspaper.

"The man who first named the present settlement is to my certain knowledge a 'sport,' but he knew the other bird, as well as the 'eagle bird,' and, with a last grasp at his classics, he called it 'Phoenix,' and did well in doing so," the letter said.

By writing "the man who first named Phoenix," did Mowry mean there was a "man who second-named Phoenix"? Apparently so, the first man being Swilling and the second being Duppa.

Though Duppa was an "English gentleman" and spoke several languages, he wasn't the only man in the territory who was well-read and knew the classics. Swilling, too, was well-read.

The Arizona Republican of May 14, 1906, said Duppa "is credited by some with having provided the town of Phoenix with its name. Another of these pioneers was Jack Swilling, a well-read man. . . The honor of naming Phoenix is divided evenly between Duppa and Swilling, by the old-timers."

One of the old-timers, A.F. Banta, said in the Republican Nov. 30, 1906, that claims for naming Phoenix and Tempe had been made for both Duppa and Swilling.

"Where the honor should rightly rest, seems to be still open for settlement," Banta said. "It is only known that both men were in this vicinity at the christening and both were classical scholars and the credit when given to either seems justifiable."








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