Chandler Arizona History
In reporting on Chandler Arizona History we will reflect on how Arizona was founded and to do that we need to reference how the original founder made his way to what we now call, Chandler Arizona, and how Chandler Arizona History became a functioning town with adequate water and resources.
The town of Chandler, Arizona, was established in 1912 by Dr. Alexander John (“A.J.”) Chandler. Dr. Chandler was born on July 15, 1859, near Coaticook, Quebec, Canada. He studied veterinary medicine at the Montreal Veterinary College at McGill University, graduating in 1882. He then moved to Detroit, Michigan, where he established a successful private practice. Much of his work was for one client, Dexter M. Ferry, a leading supplier of seed for Midwestern farmers. Dr. Chandler’s knowledge of livestock nutrition was invaluable to the Ferry Seed Company’s research to develop better strains of alfalfa and other feed crops.
In 1887, Will C. Barnes and C.M. Bruce, two officials from the Arizona Territory, traveled to Detroit to offer Dr. Chandler the position of Veterinary Surgeon. The post was responsible for overseeing the Livestock Sanitary Board, a new agency created to set health standards for the territory’s growing cattle industry. The board had searched across the country to find the best man for the job before offering the position to Dr. Chandler. To their surprise, Dr. Chandler agreed to take the relatively low-paying job and move to Arizona.
Unfortunately, when Dr. Chandler arrived in Arizona, the entire Southwest was in the midst of a severe drought. After just 30 days on the job, Dr. Chandler felt he could do no more and resigned his post. As he made plans to move on to California, God had other plans as there was a sudden deluge of rain, which halted all travel. For three weeks, the little town of Phoenix was nearly inundated by the torrential downpour. Dr. Chandler watched from his hotel room as the desert blossomed into a fantastic array of renewed life. The doctor, moved by what he saw and the possibilities it foretold, withdrew his resignation and decided to stay in Arizona. Chandler Arizona History has God’s Hands all over it.
Over the next five years, Dr. Chandler used his official capacity as Veterinary Surgeon to promote the development of a stock feed industry. He believed that the production of alfalfa on irrigated farmlands could support a thriving cattle industry, despite the lack of adequate natural forage in the barren terrain. When we first moved to Chandler in 2002, we were surrounded by cattle ranches and were curious how Arizona and particularly, Chandler Arizona History was formed by farming production. We came to find out how and why…..
The Chandler Ranch, 1890-1911
In 1890, Dr. Chandler purchased 80 acres southeast of Phoenix and established his own small ranch and trading post. He contacted Dexter Ferry and other business associates in Detroit and convinced them of the potential for developing the surrounding land. They agreed to provide him with financial backing, and he began buying parcels of land from dry-farming homesteaders. Dr. Chandler must have had good money connections and backing for the time as you will read shortly.
Two years later, Dr. Chandler resigned as Veterinary Surgeon and established the Consolidated Canal Company. By creating an efficient network of canals and installing electric pumps to draw groundwater, he was able to transform his ranch into a green, irrigated empire helping to shape much of Chandler Arizona History. Dr. Chandler was soon able to cultivate 3,000 acres, producing enough alfalfa and grain to feed 2,000 head of beef cattle and several thousand sheep. A small settlement known as Headquarters Camp was built at a site near what is now the northeast corner of Ray Road and Arizona Avenue. It included a ranch house, a blacksmith shop, a school and two wells.
In 1899, Dr. Chandler met with David Fairchild, an agent of the U.S. Department of Agriculture who had traveled around the world in search of seeds for new crops that could be grown in the United States. Fairchild believed that the Salt River Valley, with its hot, dry climate would be an ideal place for growing Egyptian cotton. This particular type of cotton was a “long-staple” variety. It produced extra-long fibers, which would make it a valuable crop for Arizona farmers. Dr. Chandler arranged to have some of the seeds shipped from Cairo and planted them on a five-acre parcel near Mesa. This first planting was successful, and Dr. Chandler became known as the first person to grow the prized Egyptian cotton on this continent. As a result, Chandler Arizona History even has some Egyptian roots…..
Chandler Arizona History and Land Acquisition Controversy
Chandler Arizona History wasn’t without some controversy. Dr. Chandler continued to acquire additional land; by 1904 his landholdings had grown to approximately 18,000 acres. His success at acquiring land prompted questions as to whether he had obtained the land illegally. His practices were eventually investigated by a congressional subcommittee which concluded that he had indeed violated the rules for land acquisition set forth under the Desert Land Act of 1877. Dr. Chandler, however, flatly denied any wrongdoing. Apparently the offense was deemed insignificant, because he was never prosecuted nor was he required to return any of the land to the public domain. Furthermore, none of the recommendations made by the subcommittee to curb such abuses were ever put into effect and this “controversy” is now just a small blip in our Chandler Arizona History.
Like many valley land owners, Dr. Chandler recognized that the only permanent solution to the area’s water problem was to construct a storage reservoir on the upper Salt River, where the water flowed through steep canyons. A potential dam site had been surveyed in 1889, but area farmers lacked the resources to undertake such a monumental project. Dr. Chandler had even journeyed to Europe to convince wealthy aristocrats to invest in the project, but to no avail.
Congress solved the problem when it approved, and President Theodore Roosevelt signed, the National Reclamation Act on June 17, 1902. The act provided federal assistance for construction of irrigation works, including water storage dams. In February 1903, Dr. Chandler and other land owners incorporated the Salt River Valley Water Users’ Association (SRVWUA) to entice the federal government, through the newly created U.S. Reclamation Service, to build Roosevelt Dam. The dam was one of the five original federal projects authorized on March 13, 1903 and was the first major project to be completed. Although Dr. Chandler was a member of the SRVWUA’s executive committee, he decided not to enroll his land because the reclamation act limited to 160 acres the amount of ground for which any one owner could get water. Instead, in 1904 he organized the Mesa Improvement Company as a means to manage and ultimately liquidate his holdings. Three years later, Dr. Chandler agreed to sell the Consolidated Canal to the Reclamation Service. He also agreed to subdivide and sell his ranch in tracts of 160 acres or less, thereby making the land eligible for water that it otherwise would not have received. However, he and his investors probably made out better financially by agreeing to sell his ranch in tracts of 160 acres or less as opposed to much larger tracts. Alas, Chandler Arizona History continues…..
Chandler Arizona History is Ready For Take-Off
Chandler Arizona History took a huge leap forward when in 1911, the Roosevelt Dam was completed and the Mesa Improvement Company (later known as the Chandler Improvement Company) began selling Dr. Chandler’s land in 10- to 160-acre parcels. Advertisements announcing the sale of the Chandler Ranch lands appeared in newspapers across the country. In the process of subdividing his ranch, Dr. Chandler created a townsite, which was platted in December 1911. The most exclusive neighborhood and lots in the townsite is now the designated historic neighborhood of Silk Stocking and has a very interesting history with some of the wealthiest and most prominent Arizona families of the time having resided there.