History of the City of Mesa Arizona

Reference & Education

  • Author Josiah Eloy
  • Published December 30, 2022
  • Word count 841

From its prehistoric roots in Mesa to its vibrant commercial and residential communities today, Mesa has seen it all. Mesa has seen it all, from the City of Mesas ancient roots to todays vibrant business and residential culture. Mesa, Ariz., is one of the nations fastest growing communities, growing its population 24.5 percent between 1990 and 1998.

In 1990, the Census showed that Mesa Arizona had the highest growth of all U.S. cities with more than 100,00 residents; the population had grown by 89 percent, from 152,404 residents in 1980 to 288,091 residents in 1990. With the introduction of air conditioning and a surge in tourism, the population grew explosively in Mesa, and also throughout the rest of the Phoenix region. Population doubled every decade, except for the 1920s, and soon Mesa city grew well beyond its original one-square-mile boundaries.

By the early 1880s, almost 300 people had settled in the Mesa area, with the majority living within a one-square-mile radius of downtown. Five years after its establishment, in 1883, Mesa's settlers incorporated Mesa, Arizona, and elected Alexander F. McDonald the first mayor. On July 15, 1883, the city of Mesa was incorporated after residents requested the County's approval for the establishment of local government.

There is some confusion over Mesa's first name, as different ones were used by the post office, however, Mesa itself was always called Mesa City. The postal authorities considered the name Mesa to be unsuitable at first, because they thought it would be confused with Mesaville, which is located on the San Pedro River. Although Mesa is a famous town throughout the U.S. today, it can be difficult to believe Mesa was once a tiny city that had one square mile of land staked for its name.

The spot was home to a Mormon temple (1927), Mesa Community College (1965), and an agricultural experimental station for the University of Arizona. The heart of the Mexican-American neighborhood in Mesa, Verde Vista Subdivision is home to a mix of residential homes and small businesses. The Mesa Library found its first permanent home in 1937, moving to the new Mesa City Hall on First and McDonald.

During the first fifty years of Mesa, the Mesas incorporation district remained inside Mesas original townsite. Mesas history dates to about 2,000 years ago, when the Hohokam people occupied the area and built an initial canal system. The earliest prehistoric humans who lived in Mesa were the Hohokam, who thrived in the valley for more than 1500 years.

From those early settlers, Mesa, Arizona has grown and is now Arizona's third largest city, the nations 40th largest, and home to more than 400,000 people (according to the population estimates of Mesa). Twenty miles east of the booming metropolitan area of Phoenix, Mesa is Arizona's third largest city, with nearly 500,000 residents. Mesa is the nations most populous suburb, the third-largest city in Arizona behind Phoenix and Tucson, the 35th-largest city in the U.S., and the largest that is not the county seat.

Between 1980 and 1990, Mesa was one of the fastest-growing cities by the federal government, reaching over 100,000 residents. As homes and businesses became more temperate, Mesa saw a tourism and industrial boom, which transformed a small settlement into the modern city it is today. The people that made up the pioneering Mormons, the White Europeans from an ethical standpoint, and the Native American residents who were already living in the city of Mesa were soon joined by other immigrants, including African-Americans, Chinese, Mexicans, Japanese, and Arabs, coming to farm, to start businesses, and to work construction.

Led by Charles Crimson, Charles I. Robson, Frances Martin Pomeroy, and George Warren Siertin, The First Mesa Company established settlements in this area, using some canals from the earlier Hohokam nations canals, and digging additional irrigation canals. Dr. A. J. Chandler, who would later found the town of Chandler, worked on the enlargement of the mesa canals in 1895, in order to provide sufficient waterflow to construct the powerhouse. Chandler, who would later go on to establish a town bearing his name just south of the Mesa, expanded the Mesa Canal in 1895 using heavy machinery.

The society also started a museum, the Mesa Museum, which opened in 1977, later becoming the City-operated Arizona Museum of Natural History. Some of the other historic buildings at Town Center are Ellis-Johnson House at 49 West First Street, Alhambra Hotel at 43 South McDonald, and the Southside Hospital (now the Tri-City Community Center) at Hibbert and Main streets. Numerous properties within the town are considered to be historical, and are included on either the National Register of Historic Places or in the Mesa Historic Properties Inventory.

The earliest smaller cemetery in Mesa celebrated its Centennial anniversary in 1991, with a historical walking tour map published, which documented graves of individuals that played a pivotal role in Mesas history. The city of Mesa is recognized for efforts that have addressed the problems in the community, involving the collaboration between citizens, schools, civic groups, and local governments, including the Pima-Maricopa Indian Community in Salt River. Without question, Mesa will continue to grow and establish an identity all its own within the Valley in years to come.

Josiah Eloy, Journalist for Trends/Business/Economy



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