Casa Grande History
The Center of the Metropolitan Corridor
Creating New Memories in the City with a Heart
Casa Grande, in the center of the Metropolitan Corridor, is at a crossroads, 45 minutes from Phoenix to the north, and an hour from Tucson to the south and is strategically located at the intersection of two major interstates, I-10 and I-8. In addition to serving as the interstate hub to the major markets in the southwest, Casa Grande’s effusive and energetic community spirit and its excellent location have caused area residents and visitors to embrace it as “The Heart of Arizona.”
The natural beauty of the low desert and mountains that serve as a backdrop to the bustling city with the “hometown feel,” and a climate dominated by sunny days make Casa Grande an enviable place in which to live, work and play. This city offers every amenity of a big city with the rich history, rural heritage and friendly, easy-going atmosphere of a small town. Casa Grande is an active growth area with a balance of opportunities, including agriculture, retail, manufacturing, tourism and service industries.
Founded in 1879 and incorporated in 1915, Casa Grande is named for
the famous Hohokam Indian ruins 20 miles to the northeast. Casa Grande
is the second largest community in Pinal County and is a dynamic and
growing city with an estimated population year-round of more than 35,000
Invincible Community Spirit Forged the City of the Future
Casa Grande bustles with activity. Downtown retailers and factory outlet merchants, cotton farmers and agribusiness leaders, government employees, those in the service-related industries, manufacturers, miners and industry workers all contribute to Casa Grande’s development. Many would find it difficult to believe that this thriving, lively city could just as easily have faded away, reclaimed by the desert like other Arizona ghost towns.
A vision of what could be guided early residents of the area and continues today in making Casa Grande a unique, forward-looking city shaped by a respect for the past.
The Hohokams abandoned their settlement in this area for reasons that are still being questioned and under archeological theory. The Spanish Conquistadors were most likely the first “outsiders” to visit the area, sometime during the mid-1500s. During this time, the Akimel O’Odham lived along the Gila River and grew such items as corn, wheat, cotton, melons, beans, squash, and tobacco. In addition, the Tohono O’Odham and the Maricopa peoples settled nearby.
Padre Kino, a Jesuit missionary was the first acknowledged white man to visit the area. He is credited with discovering the Casa Grande Ruins, as well as visiting the Akimel O’Odham villages along the Gila River.
All types of game were found in abundance along the Gila River in the early 1800s, which brought American trappers to the area. In 1846, Kit Carson guided an expedition from Santa Fe to California, traversing Pinal County along the Gila River. The same year, Lt. Col Phillip Cooke led a caravan of 402 Mormons, the “Mormon Battalion,” across Arizona to San Diego. This established the first viable wagon road across the Southwest.
Two years after this flurry of activity, in 1848, the section of Arizona north of the Gila River was part of the land ceded to the United States by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, ending the Mexican war of 1848. The land south of the Gila River, which includes Pinal County, was acquired in the 1853 Gadsden Purchase.
The community traces its beginnings to the summer of 1879, when Southern Pacific Railroad stopped work on the rail line it was building from Yuma across southern Arizona. The railroad construction crews, who hailed from Yuma, stopped their work due to the hot temperatures. Supplies piled up at this desert stopping point and, by the time the railroad moved on, in January 1880, the community of Terminus, meaning “end-of-the-line,” which consisted of five residents and three buildings, remained.
A railroad station was left as part of the settlement later known as Casa Grande. That month, in 1880, seven carloads of hay and one carload of barley were delivered to Casa Grande for the railroad company. The construction boss, his family and 300 Chinese laborers arrived shortly thereafter, and began laying track to Tucson.
By September 1880, railroad executives renamed the settlement Casa
Grande, for the prehistoric ruins located 20 miles northeast of town. By
the end of 1880, Casa Grande has 33 permanent residents.
The town boomed as a railhead to mines by 1882. In 1886 and in 1893, the town was decimated by fire. All of the wooden-frame buildings erected after the 1886 fire burned in the 1893 fire and the entire business district had to be replaced for a second time in less than a decade. Although the town might have died with each fire, the beginning of Casa Grande’s indomitable community spirit stirred and merchants and business leaders rallied together to rebuild.
By 1890, the town had a diverse population of 256, including
Anglo-Americans, Mexicans, Mexican-Americans, Chinese, Native Americans,
and African Americans. The town had 70 buildings
A national mining slump almost killed the town in the 1890s. By 1902, Casa Grande's business district had dwindled to a mercantile store, saloon and two smaller stores. Agriculture saved the community from becoming another Southwestern mining ghost town. It started with small-scale agriculture and farm trade, along with livestock and vegetables, crops such as alfalfa, wheat, barley, citrus and cotton became important export commodities.
Explore early Casa Grande and experience the 19th century mining boom
at the Casa Grande Valley Historical Society and Museum, 110 W. Florence
Blvd. While touring the museum’s historic grounds, learn how irrigation
turned sandy plains into lush cotton fields. Call the Historical Society
at (520) 836-2223 for more information and a schedule of upcoming