Queen Creek Town History
By Shea Kruger - March 24, 2009
Since its incorporation in 1989, the Town of Queen Creek has fulfilled residents’ dreams for the community. The Town has adopted several award-winning plans designed to guide future growth, planning and land use as well as provide amenities. The Town has grown from rich rural roots to what is one of the most innovatively planned family friendly home towns in Arizona.
The Town of Queen Creek's name originated over a hundred miles away. Up in the eastern mountains surrounding the Town of Superior, the land is rich with supplies of ore. One of the many mines that opened up in those mountains was the Silver Queen. (Another was the Silver King, but it was later renamed the Magma Mine.) At the base of the Silver Queen mine there was a creek known as the Picket Post Creek. It was named after the oddly shaped mountain above it (the one you can see today above the State Aboretum). When the Silver Queen Mine opened for production, the name of the Picket Post Creek was changed to Queen Creek. That creek runs down from the mountains, past the mine, through the Queen Creek Canyon, into the area surrounding the present day Town of Queen Creek.
Before the scattered farm community was called Queen Creek, it had a different name. The area was known as Rittenhouse because of the railroad spur located near Rittenhouse and Ellsworth roads. People used to flag down the train to get a ride into Phoenix. As the community grew, and the use of the railroad stop diminished, the community changed its name and took on the name Queen Creek.
Today, the Town's General Plan calls for the preservation of the Queen Creek Wash and the Sonoqui Wash as public trails and open space. These washes are usually dry and home to many kinds of birds and wildlife. There might have been a time when the washes and the creeks throughout the valley had more water in them more often than they do today. But early in the 20th Century, a series of dams and reservoirs changed the waterways in the southwest. Today, during the rainy season, and when the dams release water from the reservoirs, the creek beds and washes still do fill up and the water will run, even through the Town of Queen Creek. And in the event of a 100-year flood, the washes and creeks will be important to keep the floodwater from damaging homes and property.
Agriculture and the bounty of the land continue to support the foundation upon which Queen Creek plans and builds its future. The fertile valley below the San Tan Mountains offered a safe haven for the early Indian communities and the homesteaders who farmed and ranched along Queen Creek Wash. Citrus, cotton, pecans, vegetables, and other crops still provide for area families, and the wash is a key element in the Town's plan for future recreational trails and open space.
By the time Arizona became a state in 1912, a true community had been formed in Queen Creek. Residents established traditions of neighborliness and rural fun. Some remember street dances, dips in local swimming holes, and sleeping under the stars during the summer. The general store, church, and post office served as community gathering places, a practice still alive today. Many of the Town's founding families still choose Queen Creek as their home. Their names- Ellsworth, Power, Sossaman, Hawes, Combs, and Schnepf- on area roads help keep Queen Creek's heritage alive. Town dances, picnics, and celebrations remain popular.
The Town's 4th of July celebration evokes fond memories for many residents. In 1946, local farmers Raymond and Thora Schnepf invited family and friends to celebrate the holiday with swimming, barbecue, and fireworks at their home. Raymond flew to Texas to purchase the fireworks, which were unavailable in Arizona. The event was later taken over by other community groups. Longtime residents also remember the switch at Rittenhouse and Ellsworth roads where they could flag down a train, called a dinky, which consisted of a engine and coach. After paying their fare, they could hop aboard for a ride into Mesa, Tempe, Phoenix, or Tucson. Nearby, the Ellsworth family built housing for farm workers and a general store where workers used their script pay to shop for goods.
In the 1920s, Queen Creek experienced an influx of of immigrants who had moved from Mexico to work as miners in southern Arizona. They picked the local cotton crop by hand until the cotton gin came to Queen Creek during the 1920s. In the 1940s, former German prisoners of war from the P.O.W. camp in Queen Creek and Philippine immigrants joined farm laborers in local fields.
Today Queen Creek is preparing for new additions to its rich cultural diversity. The rapid expansion experienced by nearby cities in the 1980s continues today. The Town of approximately 24,000 citizens faces inevitable growth. It incorporated in 1989 to preserve the benefits of rural life while providing an avenue for managed change. Residents seek to preserve the Town's friendly, small town spirit while providing economic and recreational opportunities and a high quality of life.