In 1849, the California Gold Rush broke out. Prospectors, eager to strike it rich, flooded across Arizona, which was officially part of the New Mexico Territory. Boomtowns sprung up overnight, and calls to make Arizona a separate territory went unheeded as the country plunged into the Civil War. Residents made the bold move in 1862 to form the Confederate Arizona Territory, which stretched across the southern half of the New Mexico Territory, giving Confederate troops in Texas access to California. However, Union troops easily seized control of the desert renegades, prompting the U.S. Arizona Territory with its current boundaries to be established the following year.
In 1867, former Confederate soldier Jack Swilling passed through the Salt River valley and decided that it looked like a good place for farming. The broad, fertile landscape was filled with desert grasses and mesquite, willow, and cottonwood trees, all fed by a wide, winding river, prompting the one-time scout, gold miner, cattle rancher, and saloon owner to return home to Wickenburg, a mining town about 50 miles northwest of present-day Phoenix , to seek financial backing. He got it from a group of local residents and organized a company to dig irrigation canals and establish farms.
It wasn’t long before he and the dozens of settlers who followed discovered that digging up the Hohokam canal system was an easier way to bring water to their fields than starting from scratch. It was his friend, British-born Lord Darrell Duppa, who suggested they name their new town Phoenix after the mythical bird that rises from its own ashes after being consumed by flame, a poetic tribute to the city’s Hohokam roots.
It was still very much the Wild West in the Arizona Territory, though. Fort Verde  was built in 1871 to house as many 300 soldiers, who were stationed at the military outpost to protect Anglo settlers from Apache and Yavapai raiders who were being forced onto reservations. Just north, Jerome  was founded in 1876 after prospectors filed the first mining claims. Workers arrived in droves, and soon saloons and brothels lined the streets, transforming the mining camp into a lively boomtown. By comparison, Swilling’s Phoenix seemed a “proper” Victorian town, so much so that Arizona’s territorial capital moved from Prescott in 1889, and in just a decade, the young city’s population grew to 5,554. Shortly after the turn of the century, Arizona pioneers built a dusty stagecoach trail through the new town of Sedona , connecting the communities of Flagstaff and Prescott, and bringing the first regular tourists to the area.