The Early Days of Buckeye Az

Researching the complete history of Buckeye Az is a project larger than we expected.


This is the beginning of the long process.

On September 1, 1877, a party consisting of six men, three women, and ten children left their homes in Creston, Iowa bound for Arizona. Thomas Newt Clanton and the pioneers made their trip to Phoenix in about two weeks.

Newt Clanton’s purpose for coming west was to regain his health. He had been feeling bad for some years with tuberculosis and was advised, by his doctor in Iowa, that his only chance for life was to go to a warm, dry climate. He was 33 years old when he left Iowa, and he lived until August 1926, dying at the age of 82.

Newt Clanton engaged in ranching and cattle dealing at Bigbug, Yavapai County when he first arrived in Arizona. Later, he went into the butcher business at the mines in the Bradshaw Mountains.Buckeye az was Sidney az

In the fall of 188O, Newt moved his family to Phoenix and there he conducted a butcher shop and also kept a cattle corral on Center Street. He divided his attention between these enterprises and the management of a ranch which he owned in Buckeye Valley.

On a spring day in 1884, three men hooked up a team of horses to a wagon and loaded up their bed rolls, cooking utensils, and a supply of food.

They left Phoenix and headed west on a prospecting trip. Malin M. Jackson, Joshua L. Spain and Henry Mitchell traveled the Yuma freight road 18 miles, to the Agua Fria River, until they reached the Gila River.

They were seeking a place to develop an irrigation canal intake. After locating a good place, about two miles below where the Agua Fria River joins the Gila River, fearful that someone might beat them, they posted a notice with charcoal on a Willow tree.

Later they posted a legal notice, reported on September 22, 1885, in the Daily Herald.

In 1885, Newt Clanton accepted a contract to build ten miles of the Buckeye Canal which he had helped to organize and promote. The work was completed in April of 1886. It was named the Buckeye Canal by Mr. Jackson in honor of his native Ohio, “The Buckeye State“.

In January 1887, the T.N. Clanton family moved to Buckeye, becoming the first permanent residents of Buckeye. He established himself in the cattle business and had a modern and sanitary dairy business.

Newt Clanton and M.M. Jackson envisioned the need for a townsite somewhere near the center of the Buckeye Valley, so part of the Clanton homestead was subdivided.

The townsite was laid out in 1888 by Newt Clanton and H.M. Jackson, and William (‘Bucky’) O’Neill, (of Rough Rider fame) and the plat was filed with the County Recorder in Phoenix on September 3, 1888. M.M. Jackson named the town Sidney after his hometown in Ohio.

However, the name of the canal became more famous than the name of the town, and gradually became known as Buckeye. In October 1888, the Buckeye Irrigation Company was organized by Bucky O’Neill and Associates, and certified by the Territorial secretary.

The County Recorder neglected to place the filing on the map or plat, so Mr. Clanton refiled on October 24, 1902.

In 1910, another plat was recorded, and the name of the town changed to Buckeye (from Sidney). A section of forty acres was mysteriously left off the plat.

One of the first homes built in the Buckeye Valley was the Old Spain House (constructed ca.1886) which is still standing. The house is approximately 1/4 mile east of Liberty School. The school is located on the southwest corner of the north eighty acres of the original J.L. Spain homestead.

Another early home in the Valley was the Old George Day home, located two and a half miles west of Buckeye. It was built in the fall of 1888 by W.L. South on his desert claim, for his foreman, George Day.

Mr. Day lived in the house for only three years until the 1891 flood filled the head of the Buckeye Canal with debris and sand. George Day moved to Phoenix, only 1: return to the area in 1897.

He bought the south half of the 320-acre ranch and moved back to his house which he enlarged with an addition to the north. In 1899, he made an addition to the south with bricks fired in Buckeye. In 1927, the ranch passed into the ownership of the Long brothers. The house was torn down in the mid-1960’s.

The first post office was established on March 10, 1888, in the Clanton home east of Sidney, with the postal station called Buckeye. The first Postmaster was Cora J. Clanton, daughter of T.N. Clanton.

Agua Fria River in Agua Fria National Monument...

Agua Fria River in Agua Fria National Monument, Arizona, USA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Newt Clanton was a volunteer mail carrier for the first year of mail service. On November 11, 1889, Michael Hurley was appointed Postmaster, and the Post Office moved to his store on Centre Street.

In 1895, Ulysses McWilliams was appointed Postmaster and on October 29, 1895, Herbert E. Kell was appointed Postmaster. Mr. Kell was married to Cora J. Clanton – the former Postmaster. The Kells operated the Post Office out of their general store.

Other areas in the Buckeye Valley were developing at the same time. In 1882, William Robert (Bob) Beloat came to Arizona where he worked for his uncle John Wright, moving cattle to the Williamson Valley near Prescott.

Four years later, 1886, in partnership with his brother, John, established a herd of cattle on the Gila River, near Liberty. He was instrumental in organizing the Buckeye Irrigation Company, and he and his brother assisted in turning the first water into the company ditch.

Bob Beloat disagreed with early settlers claiming that M.M. Jackson named Buckeye for his former home of Buckeye, Iowa.

Beloat helped to cut the cottonwood logs and assisted in the building of the first schoolhouse in Liberty, in 1890.

Other buildings in Liberty included the Spain House, built on homestead land by J.L. Spain around 1886. The Spain family were the first European settlers in the Buckeye Valley.

Junius Brewster moved with his parents and siblings to Liberty in 1898, and they homesteaded land.

Other families that established homesteads in the Liberty area were: Will and Martha Blackmer in 1909 and Nathan and Maggie Woody in 1919.

Garrett Toothaker was the Postmaster for the Altamount Post Office (Liberty) in 1898. In 1899 Jacob “Jack” Schweikart moved to the Valley and settled on a homestead and in 1903 opened a mercantile store in Sidney.

In 1905 he relocated to Liberty and opened a new store. The Liberty United Methodist Church was erected in 1909. The existing school building was built in 1910. The Board of Directors included Bob Beloat, Junius Brewster, Jacob Schweikart and Fred Walls, Sr.

The Arlington area was first settled by the J.W. Davis family.

Records report that they used camels to transport butter and cheese to Phoenix in 1878. A shared Palo Verde-Arlington school house, formerly located in Arlington, was stolen and moved to Palo Verde in 1895.

The 10’ by 25’ school-house built in 1894, which had been loaded on a flatbed hayrack wagon one night by Palo Verde farmers after disputes with the Board of Trustees (who were all Arlington residents), was returned and set—up again in Arlington.

The Palo Verde area was first settled by the G.A. Roberts family in 1886.

The Palo Verde Baptist Church was organized in 1890. A small school building opened in Palo Verde in 1896 and remained until it was replaced in 1909 by a new school that was constructed on the northwest corner of Highway 80 and Palo Verde Road.

The town of Buckeye (Sidney) continued to grow with the first schoolhouse built in Buckeye in 1889. In 1890, a building was constructed on Centre Street. Grant Mcwilliams and Joe Irvine operated this building as a saloon until 1897.

On October 29, 1898, Herbert Kell, who was the newly appointed postmaster, moved his store and the post office into this building known as Old Kell’s Store.

Herbert Kell was born in Suffolk, England, June 15, 1869. He began an independent career at the age of thirteen, becoming an office boy for a doctor. A short time after going went to sea. He spent many years aboard ship, traveling extensively to various parts of the world, making his last voyage from London to San Francisco around Cape Horn, reaching the Golden Gate in 1888, at age nineteen.

History of the Buckeye Canal

He later settled in the Salt River Valley, employed in setting up vineyards between Glendale and Peoria. Afterward, he worked on the Bartlett Ranch and did freight in the mountains between Prescott and Jerome. Finally, he turned to mining, west of Phoenix and Yuma. He worked on the Evans Ranch until 1897, when he came to the ‘city’ (Buckeye). With only forty dollars, Mr. Kell established a successful grocery store.

His store was a ’modern’ brick building carrying a complete line of supplies and ‘fancy’ groceries. Using his efforts, he built up a large and flourishing business from a humble beginning. Also, for some years he engaged in cattle ranching in the Buckeye Valley until 1904 when he sold off his interest in this area.

The first Buckeye newspaper, the Buckeye Blade, was started by Thomas Schultz, in 1890. He built an adobe building on the corner of Centre and Fifth Street. The newspaper lasted only 42 weeks until a flood came through town and destroyed his business.

During the same year, 1890, the Long’s Hotel was built. After the 1891 flood, the building was dismounted, and the Longs moved to Phoenix. They returned to Buckeye in 1900 and 1910 a new Long’s Hotel was built.

William B. Long had come west, engaging in the lumber business in Colorado and Washington, locating finally in Yavapai County, Arizona, where he worked at copper mining in The employ of the Hartford Copper Company.

He spent some time in the Ora Bella and Ora Bonita mines in the Bradshaw Mountains, and went to Phoenix in 1885, turning his interests to the butcher business. With Mike Hurley as a partner, he conducted a large and profitable business for five years until moving his family to Buckeye in 1890.

In 1901, the town of Buckeye had a post office, two small stores, a lodging house (Dana Hotel), a restaurant, a church, a schoolhouse, and a telephone station.

The turbulent career of the Buckeye Canal was marked with many misfortunes, none of which were insurmountable for the hardy pioneers who settled in the area. In 1907, the landowners purchased the system and incorporated under the name of the Buckeye Irrigation Company.

In 1910, the Southern Pacific railroad came to Buckeye, causing the downtown business district to move a quarter of a mile north and a quarter of a mile west of the original business district.

The Arizona Daily Star newspaper reported on August 5, 1910, the schedule of the new Buckeye Line.

The train left Phoenix at 8 a.m. and arrived in Liberty at 10:45 a.m., Buckeye at 11:25 a.m., Palo Verde at 11:55 a.m., then returning, leaving Hassayampa at 1:00 p.m., Buckeye at 2:05 p.m., and arriving back in Phoenix at 5:30 p.m..

buckeye az

By 1911 there was the first car in Buckeye, owned by Dr. Thayer. Mr. Beloat was also one of the first in Buckeye to own a car, a Model T Ford. A 1912 map of the Arizona Territory shows a steam rail line going to the Buckeye Valley from Phoenix.

At that time, the valley towns included; Buckeye with a population of 448, Arlington with a population of 200, and Palo Verde with a population of 300. The map also shows a wagon road continuing to Caliente, Palomas, and Yuma. Other wagon roads through the Buckeye Valley went to Gila Bend, Harquahala Valley, and Wickenburg.

By 1915, a State Highway was in place from Phoenix to Yuma. The highway map shows that Liberty, Palo Verde, and Arlington all provided places for meals and gas. Buckeye offered the comforts of a hotel, repairs, and supplies.

In November of 1910, T.N. Clanton secured signatures of all of the property owners who could be reached to legally change the name of the town from Sidney to Buckeye.

The petitions were filed with the County Recorder and approved by the County Board of Supervisors, ending years of discussion and confusion concerning the town name.

Forty acres at the southwest of the plat were deleted in the filing under the name Buckeye — no reason was given in the newspaper reports for the deletion.

The business area was booming with buildings erected along the new main street of town, Monroe Avenue. The Ware Building built in 1910; the Bank Building, the Joslin Building, the new Courthouse and Jail added in 1912.

An ice plant, a bakery, an ice cream parlor and a movie theater were built in 1914. From 1911 through the 1920’s the social and civic organizations of the town were established, including Independent Order of Odd Fellows(IO0F), Knights of Pythias Lodge, the Woodman of the World and the Buckeye Woman’s Club.

A 1912 listing of town amenities in the Buckeye Valley News showed:

  • three churches
  • two fraternal orders
  • a four—room brick school with three teachers and 115 pupils
  • a blacksmith shop
  • two livery stables
  • a lumber yard
  • a harness shop
  • a jail and courthouse
  • a barbershop
  • a pool hall
  • a butcher shop
  • two hotels
  • a restaurant
  • two telephone systems
  • a jeweler
  • a post office
  • a drug store
  • three general merchandise stores
  • a tinner
  • a contractor and builder
  • a bank
  • a newspaper
  • and city water

In the June 13, 1912, edition of the Buckeye Valley News, the first weather report was made by H.E. Kell. Also in June 1912, Mountain States Telephone Company purchased Buckeye’s two phone systems, the Overland and the Consolidated.

In 1922, William Major moved his family to Buckeye where he owned and operated Buckeye’s first drug store, Major’s Pharmacy. At that time the road from Buckeye to Phoenix was dirt, and it took hours to make the trip by car.

People used kerosene lamps and wood stoves. Ice arrived in their ice boxes from the Buckeye Ice Company located on Jackson Avenue and Fifth Steet.

Buckeye had no bars, but there was bootlegging.

In 1928, a new town called Valencia was started just north of the Southern Pacific Railroad tracks, just outside of the present Buckeye Town limits.

The concept of “New Town” was a national trend to exercise control over the urban environment. Valencia was similar to Garden City, England, proposed by Ebenezer Howard in 1898.

The purpose of planning the entire area ahead of time was to combine the best elements of both town and country. It allowed the city designers to put ‘ in broad, radiating, landscaped streets that had a central focus (usually a park or monument).

To get Valencia started, I Mr. Miller, one of the promoters of the new town, put in curbs, gutters and fancy street lights. He planted shrubbery I and laid out a park. Valencia had restrictive covenants requiring architecture to be Spanish style with tiled roofs.

Completed commercial buildings included a hardware store, grocery store, restaurant and two garages. The first building was the headquarters for the Roosevelt Irrigation District, still in use today.

Another still in use is the Ganley’s Funeral Home Building, The second floor was the office for the town planners. Promotion of Valencia might have been successful except for two good reasons: the stock market crash of 1929 and the resentment on the part of Buckeye residents.

The promoters had bragged that they were going to move Buckeye across the tracks to Valencia and bring the post office with them. This statement naturally didn’t set well with the older citizens who had already established their homes and businesses in Buckeye proper.

In 1929, Buckeye was finally incorporated with an area covering 440 acres. At that time, many of Buckeye’s residents learned that they had been living or bought property in Sidney, not Buckeye.History of the Buckeye Canal

The incorporators had to go to court to get the name changed and to validate all previous records and land transactions. The first mayor was Hugh H. Watson who had started the Buckeye Valley Bank. Hugh Watson planned for the paving of Monroe Avenue and organized the Hellzapoppin Days.

He helped establish many important businesses in town such as the Buckeye Ice Plant, Buckeye Laundry, and the Buckeye Cotton Gin. His son, Hugh Watson Jr., also served as mayor, 1956-1958 During 1929, an electric franchise was granted to Arizona GALA PCO (power and light company), and a street lighting system was installed.

In 1935, The Hellzapoppin Days were started by the Buckeye Valley Chamber of Commerce. This event later became a town tradition.

Proceeds were given to the local churches, who in turn distributed the proceeds to needy Valley immigrant workers and for high school scholarships. The festivities included street dances, a parade, a carnival, and, of course, the rodeo.

Many famous people, such as Gene Autry in 1939, came to Buckeye Az to participate in the grand celebrations.

Today similar celebrations such as the annual Pioneer Days still take place in Buckeye.

Reprinted from:
TOWN OF BUCKEYE STRATEGIC LONG-TERM POLICY AND DEVELOPMENT PLAN 1988 – 2000