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Glendale, Arizona  1820-2010


William J. Murphy undertook construction of the Arizona Canal in 1883.  In 1885 with the job finished, he watched the first water flowing through the canal.  In 1888 Murphy built Grand Avenue on a straight diagonal from Phoenix to Peoria, Arizona.  It passed through the area about to become the town of Glendale and provided an important transportation link for all the northwest Salt River Valley.

The development of Glendale would not have come about without the help of William J. Murphy.  In late 1880, he came to Arizona from Illinois to work on the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad as a grading contractor.  Soon after arriving in Glendale, he contracted with the Arizona Canal Company to construct a forty-mile-long canal which would extend from its heading on the Salt River across the northern part of the valley to the Agua Fria River.  This major project was completed in May 1885.  Water began to flow through the canal and through the area about to become the town of Glendale.  The new canal made agriculture possible, helping to open up the lands in the northwestern portion of the Valley for sale or homesteading.   


In late 1884, with the goal of attracting settlers, Murphy approached Burgess A. Hadsell, a well-known colonizer for the German Reformed Church.  Murphy wanted Hadsell and his colonizers to come to the Salt River Valley.  He hoped Hadsell would establish a community in the Valley.  Murphy offered Hadsell ten sections of land below the canal for $10.50 an acre and an additional section to be donated for the founding of his colony, Glendale.  Hadsell refused Murphy's offer.


Still intent on attracting settlers, Murphy formed, organized and became the first president of the Arizona Improvement Company, in 1887.  The Arizona Improvement Company began buying controlling interests in all of the canals north of the Salt River.  This canal consolidation gave Murphy almost complete control over the sale of water rights to all irrigatable lands north of the Salt River.  It also allowed the Arizona Improvement Company to purchase and develop the land.  This new business venture gave Murphy a more lucrative approach to market his land.

Newspaper advertisement from the Arizona Weekly Gazette in 1892, invites temperance minded people to settle in Glendale, Arizona.

In 1891, Murphy again approached Hadsell about establishing a colony in Glendale.  By this time the area had been improved, it had a canal supplying water to agricultural land and a major roadway, Grand Avenue, stretching from Phoenix to Peoria.  After seeing the improvements, Hadsell agreed to come and encouraged members of the Church of the Brethren and family members to join him.

In the fall of 1891, the “Temperance Colony of Glendale” was established.  The Temperance Colony of Glendale was as an agricultural community for “quiet, sober, industrious, hardworking people.”  It was promoted as a "paradise for the stock and fruit grower."  Glendale attracted farmers from Pennsylvania and the Midwest who were looking for a new start.  

Hadsells’ Addition to Glendale was the first subdivision platted by the Arizona Improvement Company and the New England Land Company.  Six months later, in November of 1892, the Glendale town site was platted.

Despite suffering a drought in its first three years , the town began to grow. In those same three years a new two-story brick Grammar School for the community’s 50 pupils was built and the Santa Fe Prescott and Phoenix Railway began laying track through town.  The Brethren, Methodist and Catholic churches were organized.  Others would soon follow. 

Although predominantly Anglos, the settlers that came in the later 1890s and early decades of the 1900s included various ethnic minorities.  Each group played a significant role in the City’s development.  Glendale became an important agricultural center that shipped produce all over the country. 

In 1906, the Beet Sugar Factory was built.  At the time, it was described as "the greatest single industrial enterprise in Maricopa County." Its construction led many to call Glendale, "Sugar City". 

Burgess A. Hadsell was a well-known colonizer for the German Reformed Church, whose members were often referred to as Dunkards or Brethren.  In the fall of 1891, Hadsell convinced some 70 families, including 33 of his relatives to move to the Arizona Territory, the virgin lands of the temperance colony of Glendale, Arizona.

As Glendale’s second decade continued, so did its growth.  A new hotel, bank, post office, and several important mercantile houses were built. The federal census of 1910 showed some 1,000 people living in Glendale.  Encouraged by W. J. Murphy’s gift of land for a city park, the community incorporated as a town June 18, 1910.

Although the speed limit was only 10 miles per hour, Glendale experienced rapid growth during its third decade.  The Crystal open air picture show began its run in 1911 and The Rainbow Theatre soon followed.  The Phoenix Railway Company brought an interurban electric trolley to town (it lasted 14 years), the high school district was formed and the telephone exchange counted over 100 subscribers.  Russian immigrants arrived the same year and set about raising sugar beets. 

Glendale had its first newspaper by 1912, The Glendale News and Arizona saw statehood the same year.  A 20-ton ice plant serviced hundreds of railroad cars as the valley farmers shipped produce all over the country and the city-owned electric light and power business put a new spark into the town.  Due to droughts, the sugar beet industry collapsed mid-decade but its collapse did not affect Glendale for long.  “Sugar City” became “Garden City” as emphasis shifted to melons, lettuce, cotton, hay, and other agricultural products.

This early Brethren family, the Coffelts, came to Glendale by train in 1898.  In 1903, they lived in this one-room brick house located near where Glendale Union High School athletic stadium was built in 1947.

The 1920s and 1930s saw up-and-down years.  Streets were paved and renamed, the ostrich farm went out of business, the Saturday Shopper (which became The Glendale Herald) was established, a new library was built in City Park (now Murphy Park) and a second grammar school was built.  The annual Mexican Independence Day fiesta continued to be a popular fall diversion and dial telephones arrived in 1937.  By 1940, the population had grown to nearly 5,000.

Downtown Glendale, looking south along First Avenue (58th Drive), as it appeared in 1910.  On the left is the Gillett Building.  To the right is the Ryder Building.

Downtown Glendale looking south along First Avenue (58th Drive), as it appeared in the late 1920’s.  On the left is a storage tank of the municipal water systems. Newman’s Department Store occupies the Gillett Building.  The large building at the end of the street is the Crystal Ice and Cold Storage Company plant.

World War II and its influx of servicemen brought about permanent changes to Glendale. The construction of Thunderbird Field and Luke Air Field brought thousands of people to the area, and the town responded by growing into a city.  School enrollment swelled to over 3,000 and by 1950, the city budget was ten times the 1940 budget of $31,000.


Glendale’s expansion gathered momentum in the 1950’s.  As the city developed commercially, farmland yielded to subdivisions, shopping centers and schools.   In 1951, construction topped $1 million.  Still, thousands of train car loads of produce were shipped across the U.S. each year.  By 1960 nearly 16,000 people lived in Glendale.  There were five elementary schools and four high schools, Glendale even had a paid, rather than volunteer fire department, a new sewer plant, a hospital and the sugar beet factory was a Squirt bottling plant.  At the end of the decade few of the first settlers remained; a younger generation had taken the city’s future into its hands.


The pattern of growth, annexation, building, expansion of municipal services and modernization that characterized the 1950’s continues to the present.  Population and budgets doubled and doubled again.  Streets were paved, constructed, widened, and again renamed.  New libraries, a beautiful new fire department and sports facilities have been constructed and today, in our second century, the city has become a metropolitan area of 50 square miles and close to 250,000 people.

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