Long after the ancient Hohokam native people built 135 miles (217 km) of canals to try to bring life to the Arizona desert, Jack Swilling created his own oasis where the city of Phoenix now stands. He organized the Swilling Irrigation Canal Company in 1867, and by the following year he was growing crops. The area was first called Swilling's Mill, then Helling Mill, then Mill City. Swilling wanted to christen the place Stonewall -- he was a big fan of Gen. Stonewall Jackson -- while others wanted to call it Pumpkinville, because of the wild gourds found growing along the Salt River.
When an English drifter named "Lord" Darrell Duppa suggested the name Phoenix -- "A new city will spring phoenix-like upon the ruins of a former civilization," he said -- the name stuck. The Board of Supervisors of Yavapai County officially recognized the new town on 4 May 1868. The first post office opened the next month, with Swilling as postmaster.
More on Phoenix's founding father:
- Jack Swilling was a multi-tasker. The South Carolina native was a prospector, mine owner, saloon and dance hall owner, farmer, rancher, politician, and Phoenix's first justice of the peace. He loved to spin a good yarn.
- Swilling suffered from periods of overpowering pain resulting from injuries -- namely, a fractured skull and gunshot wound to his back -- that he suffered in 1854. He took morphine to kill his pain, which led to dependency problems for the rest of his life.
- Jack Swilling married a 17-year-old Mexican woman of Spanish heritage in 1864. They had seven children (five girls and two boys), and they also adopted two Apache orphans.