Thursday, April 20, 2017

Questionable Place Names in Arizona

By Kristy McCaffrey

Arizona has its share of place names that might make people cringe today, dating back to a colorful past and regional biases.

Throughout the state there are at least 15 geographic features whose names include "Negro." This was actually an improvement that took place in 1963 when the U.S. Geological Survey updated designations that contained a different n-word. These places include Negro Ben Peak, Negro Ben Spring and Negro Flat. But not every name is linked to racist terminology—Cerro Negro, a summit in Pima County, gets its name from the Spanish words meaning "black hill."

Today, the word "squaw" is considered offensive. A rather prominent site in the Phoenix area, Squaw Peak, was renamed Piestewa Peak in 2003, after the first Native American woman to die in combat in the U.S. military in Iraq. But there are still at least a dozen features in the state with the word "squaw" in the name—two Squaw Buttes, two Squaw Creeks and six other Squaw Peaks.

Piestewa Peak
 The Chinaman Trail, a 2.6-mile hiking trail in the Coronado National Forest, got its name because of the Chinese laborers who constructed it around the turn of the century. There are two China Peaks in Arizona. In Cochise County, Chinese people from California financed a mine in the area; in Graham County, chinaberry trees grew in the vicinity.

China Peak

Skull Valley, near Prescott, got its name after a battle between Yavapai and Maricopa Indians. The dead were never removed. When settlers moved in, they were forced to build on land littered with the remains of human skulls.

Bloody Basin, north of Phoenix, speaks to a deadly skirmish as well, but the name more likely originated when a herd of sheep crossed a bridge that gave way, sending the animals tumbling to the rocks below.

Bloody Basin
The most provocative name, however, is Helen's Dome in southeastern Arizona. Designated for a hill that lies within sight of Fort Bowie—and is shaped like a breast—it was reportedly christened after the well-endowed wife of an officer in residence at the fort. The original name was Helen's Tit, but was later softened to Helen's Dome.

While many place names have been changed, they are so numerous—with many in remote locations—that the Arizona State Board on Geographic and Historic Names considers name changes only when a petition is submitted.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Arizona State University

By Kristy McCaffrey

In 1886, the Arizona Territory offered a less-than-ideal educational environment. The Pleasant Valley War between competing cattle rustling gangs was in full swing and wouldn’t end until six years later in a fatal gunfight in the town of Tempe. Despite this, however, Tempe—with the burgeoning towns of Phoenix and Mesa nearby—would become home to the Arizona Territorial Normal School.

The school was opened on February 8, 1886 on a 20-acre cow pasture that belonged to George and Martha Wilson. The institution began with a four-classroom building, a well, and an outhouse to instruct the first 33 students. These young men and women arrived on horseback—some having ridden for miles from Mesa or tiny farming communities even farther away—and, in addition to their studies, would need to rent a room with a local family during their enrollment.

Teddy Roosevelt visits Old Main at Arizona State University
March 20, 1911

The Normal School was charged to provide “instruction of persons, both male and female, in the art of teaching, and in all the various branches that pertain to a good common school education; also, to give instruction in the mechanical arts and in husbandry and agricultural chemistry, in the fundamental law of the United States, and in what regards the rights and duties of citizens.”

Charles Trumbull Hayden
The idea for a school of higher education was spearheaded by two men, Charles T. Hayden and John S. Armstrong. Arizona Territory was struggling to achieve statehood but the national press loved to print stories of the lawlessness present. It was Hayden who sought to civilize the place with education and culture.

Today, Arizona State University is a sprawling multi-campus school with over 71,000 students and covers more than 1,500 acres in metro Phoenix.

Kristy McCaffrey is an alumni of Arizona State, along with her husband, mother, father, and two uncles. Her oldest son currently attends. As a newly-married couple, Kristy and her husband named their dog Sparky after the ASU mascot.