Centennial Snapshot: Scottsdale in 1922

Centennial Snapshot: Scottsdale in 1922

By Joan Fudala

What a difference 100 years can make in one community. A century ago Scottsdale was a small but thriving farming and ranching community east of Phoenix, with the beginnings of an art colony and a handful of guest ranches that attracted tourists (many health seekers) coming for the winter season. Today, we’re a roughly 184-square-mile city of over 241,000 residents with a diverse economy and globally recognized resorts and events that attract millions of visitors annually.

So what was Scottsdale like 100 years ago? Take a look:

• Scottsdale’s town site (the Old Town area today) population was estimated at 300; its area population was nearly 2,000, and its principal industries were fruit/vegetable farming, growing cotton and raising cattle. Phoenix population was 40,000; Arizona population was 500,000.

• Existing infrastructure/businesses: post office/Brown’s general store, Cavalliere’s Blacksmith Shop, Ingleside Inn and golf course, Graves Guest Ranch/health camp, Scottsdale Grammar School (Little Red Schoolhouse on Main Street east of Brown Avenue) and its two annexes serving K-12 students, Farmers State Bank, Scottsdale Ginning Company cotton gin on Second Street, Lawson’s Sterling Drug Store, Herron Walker barbershop, Scottsdale Baptist Church, Johnny Rose pool hall/silent movie theater/barbershop, Scottsdale Light and Power Company (bought electricity from Salt River Valley Water Users’ Association’s Arizona Falls Generating Station), Mahoney Mercantile on Brown Avenue, McComb Brothers general store on West Main Street, Eckley’s Soft Drink Emporium and Stage Stop (providing bus transportation into Phoenix), Blackie’s Pool Hall on Main Street, Walter Smith’s car dealership, Mort Kimsey’s Scottsdale Service Company (first gas station), Brown’s Ranch/DC Ranch beyond McDowell Mountains far north of Scottsdale.

• There were also home-based businesses, mostly operated by women entrepreneurs, like music teacher Helen Smith and laundress Mary Donaldson.

• Scottsdale economy was driven by cotton farming (fueled by demand created during World War I), growing citrus and other food crops and ranching cattle. There were also a few sheep ranches north of Scottsdale. Cultivating dates had also begun.

• Scottsdale residents had been leaders in the temperance movement, and voted the town “dry” in 1897, banning liquor sales or consumption. This continued until national Prohibition was repealed in the 1930s.

• Former U.S. Vice President Thomas Marshall (1912-20) and his wife, Lois Kimsey Marshall, lived in Scottsdale seasonally in a home on Indian School Road (current location of Panera Bread). An article in the Arizona Republican in January 1922 said he contributed to relief efforts organized by Scottsdale residents to benefit members of the Fort McDowell Indian Community who were suffering from hunger and cold weather.

• Artists Marjorie Thomas and Jessie Benton Evans lived and painted in Scottsdale and served as judges at the Arizona State Fair’s Fine Art Exhibit. Other artists migrated to Scottsdale in the 1920s, gaining inspiration from the landscape.

• Streets in Scottsdale were unpaved.

• In 1921 E.O. Brown had added an icehouse to his general store (made possible due to introduction of electricity to Scottsdale circa 1918). It used evaporative, or “swamp” cooler, technology.

• Marshall and Lillian Kubelsky, (Marshall was first cousin of entertainer Jacob Kubelsky, aka Jack Benny), had opened Kubelsky’s Clothing Store (originally The Boston Store) on Main Street in 1920. Marshall played on the Scottsdale Blues baseball team.

• Al Frederick had begun his 30-year term as Scottsdale’s constable in 1920.

• The year-old Baptist Young People’s Union offered two groups — the Willing Workers and Busy Bees — for Scottsdale youth activities.

• Organized in 1921, the first Scottsdale Chamber of Commerce operated out of an office in the Farmer’s Bank building. Its members worked to improve road conditions and appropriations, led by road supervisor R.A. Chesnutt. The chamber was inactive in the late 1930s/early 1940s, then re-chartered in 1947 as the organization it is today.

• Scottsdale’s first public library opened Aug. 7, 1921. According to The Arizona Republican, the library was located in the chamber of commerce room at the back of the Farmers Bank on Main Street (now the Rusty Spur Saloon). Its collection consisted of books, circulars and catalogs of interest to Scottsdale area farmers; a home economics section catered to families. Although this library’s closure date is not recorded, the bank closed during the Depression-era national “bank holiday” in 1933.

• The Woman’s Club of Scottsdale organized in 1921, with six women attending the first meeting at the home of first president and artist Garnet Davy Grosse.

• The Walter Donn Ranch hosted Scottsdale’s annual Harvest Home event, encouraging parents and teachers to get to know each other.

• In 1921 Samuel and Mary Jolly had moved from Missouri for the health of their 6-month-old daughter Dora. They settled on 45 acres north of Scottsdale, now the McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park site, and raised a few cows and chickens on land. They raised their three daughters on the Jolly Ranch, Marie, Dora and Rosemary, who all attended school in Scottsdale. In 1941, Mrs. Jolly sold the land to retired chemist Merle Cheney for $5,500. He, in turn, sold the site to Anne and Fowler McCormick, who gifted it to the city of Scottsdale in 1967 for a future park.

• Scottsdale Blues men’s athletic club played baseball against other area teams. An all-female Scottsdale Reds baseball team also played other area teams throughout the 1920s, ‘30s and ‘40s.

• The Salt River Valley Water Users Association sponsored members of the Yaqui Indian tribe from Mexico to come to work on the canals, starting in 1922. The men and their families settled in a work camp near what is today the Paiute Neighborhood Center.

• Scottsdale’s first newspaper, the Scottsdale Bulletin, was published by playwright Roy George. Scottsdale was also served by the Arizona Republican, published by Dwight Heard and by Arizona — The State Magazine (1922 issues featured Scottsdale area date and citrus growers).

• Byer’s Market opened on the northwest corner of Scottsdale Road and Main Street in 1922. Mr. Byer’s clerk, Earl Shipp, eventually bought the market, which became the long-standing Earl’s Market.

• L.D. DuRoss became Scottsdale’s first school superintendent. He led the transition from the all-class Scottsdale Grammar School to the opening of Scottsdale High School for the 1922-23 school year. Scottsdale High School opened on the north side of Indian School, east of Scottsdale Road and the original Chaplain Winfield and Helen Scott homestead. Charles Miller donated the land. Class of 1923 had three graduates, including Miller’s son and daughter Murle and Bill. Adult education classes — in home economics and agriculture — were offered at the new Scottsdale High School. Scottsdale High closed in 1983 and was torn down in 1991-92.

• Clara Boyer (Beauchamp) opened the Scottsdale Café in 1922. Modest farm families did not eat out very often, but this marked the beginning of Scottsdale’s restaurant industry.

• Under the auspices of the federal government, the Colorado River Compact set up future allocations of Colorado River water to the Upper and Lower Basin states. This 1922 measure was the start of the Central Arizona Project, which began providing water to Scottsdale in the mid-1980s.

• Local radio broadcasting began in June 1922 when KFAD (now KTAR) and DDYW (now KOY) went on the air.

• Maricopa County established a voting precinct and justice court in Scottsdale, giving the area its first official recognition before our incorporation in June 1951. The first justice of the peace was William Kimsey.

• From the January 23, 1922, Arizona Republican: “The new gold camp of Bowlder (sic) Pass, located 16 miles north of Scottsdale, is booming according to the report of Mr. and Mrs. Hudson of this district who visit it Sunday. A force of 20 men are working the mine under the supervision of Mr. Bunch. Several new bunk houses have been put up and a new restaurant started. The ore is showing a large percentage of free gold and the district has the making of a large gold camp. The camp makes a pleasant drive from Phoenix and is interesting when one visits it and a good meal can be secured there.”

• Among the who’s who of who was in 1922 Scottsdale: entrepreneur/rancher E.O. Brown, JP William Kimsey (and his wife Elizabeth), entrepreneur/farmer Charles Miller, former U.S. Vice President Thomas Marshall and his wife Lois Kimsey Marshall, midwife Lorene Steiner, new postmaster and WWI veteran J.L Conrad, school principal/superintendent DuRoss, service station operator Mort Kimsey (and future mayor, 1958-62), guest ranch operators Edward and Mary Graves, Tomas and Cecelia Corral, hotelier Ralph Murphy, citrus farmer T.S. Bishop, farmer Walter Donn, guest cottage owners Joseph and Lotta Sidell, ranchers the Coldwells, ranchers the Demarbiex and others.

• Scottsdale residents had to go to Phoenix to see a doctor or enter a hospital, to see a movie or visit a major department store. They enjoyed outings to Tempe Beach, the Riverside Ballroom, the Hole in the Rock at Papago Park and picnics at Pinnacle Peak.

• All was not perfect in the Salt River Valley of 1922. There were Ku Klux Klan rallies (even in Papago Park), and discrimination and segregation existed. Diseases like tuberculosis and the flu plagued and claimed residents. Prohibition created illegal alcohol making, bootleggers and speakeasies. And before the invention of air-conditioning, many places were still hot despite the use of “swamp coolers.”

• Although Scottsdale was relatively crime free, there was the occasional mishap. From the January 9, 1922, Arizona Republican: “One or more professional yeggs blew up the safe at the general store of E. O. Brown at Scottsdale about 1:15 a.m. Friday … and upon opening the store Saturday morning the heavy door of the safe was found on the floor. … The yeggs had used gloves so as to leave no finger prints and nitroglycerine was used to blow the door off. … They broke open the deposit boxes and took the contents to the store room of the building where they examined them, leaving all checks and papers that might cause them trouble later. About $200 in cash was secured and $250 in liberty bonds.”

At least one member of the Greatest Generation, born in 1922, came to Scottsdale in 1961 and made a huge impact — Jane Rau. She was one of the early and most ardent champions of saving the mountains and desert by creating the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, and we wish her a happy 100th birthday during 2022. 

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