Casa Grande History
Casa Grande History
Interesting Facts, Historic Buildings, and Places
The desert of the Casa Grande area is rich in history and legend. In prehistoric times a great farming culture inhabited much of the present-day state of Arizona. Known today as the Hohokam (meaning “those who are gone”) these people lived in the Sonoran Desert of Southern Arizona as long as 3000 years ago, designing and building large earth structures and creating hundreds of miles of irrigation channels to bring water to their fields. Also artists and traders, they created beautiful pottery and jewelry, using sophisticated decorative techniques and materials acquired from many hundreds of miles away.
Most notable of the Hohokam’s surviving structures is the Casa Grande Ruins, the ruins of a 4-story, 11-room building built around AD1300-1350 and abandoned for about 550 years before it was “discovered” by a Spanish missionary in 1694. Archaeologists speculate that it may have been a dwelling, a storehouse, or perhaps an astronomical observatory, but it is certainly one of the largest and most mysterious prehistoric structures known in North America. Casa Grande Ruins became the nation's first archeological preserve in 1892, protecting the Casa Grande and other archeological sites within its boundaries, and the area was designated the Casa Grande Ruins National Monument in 1918.
Nearby Casa Grande, close to the town of Apache Junction, the Superstition Mountains are dotted with ancient cliff dwellings and caves, many used by Native American groups into the 1800's, that have been a source of mystery and legend since early times. The magical Lost Dutchman State Park in this area is named after a fabled lost goldmine, supposedly discovered in the 1840’s by a Mexican family and later worked by Dutchman Jacob Waltz, who, according to legend, hid caches of gold in what is now the State Park. Over the years since Waltz’s death in 1891 many people have tried to find his gold and his mine, some meeting their deaths in the process and adding to the dark legends of the area.
What was to become the city of Casa Grande began as a camp called Terminus, when in May 1879, extreme heat forced workers on the Southern Pacific Railroad to stop work and establish a temporary campsite. When construction resumed eight months later, the tiny community of Terminus remained, to be renamed Casa Grande, in honor of the nearby ancient ruins a few years later. By the end of 1880, Casa Grande, Arizona had grown to a population of 33 permanent residents, and in the following years the town boomed as a railhead to mines. It was entirely destroyed by fire twice in the 1880s and 90s, but on each occasion was rebuilt, and became an incorporated city in 1915.