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Hayden House (Monti's La Casa Vieja) - Part II Hayden's Ferry

Updated: Jan 28

The historical background to the Hayden House is presented in five parts. Below is Part II. Go Back to Part I


Hayden’s Ferry


In 1866 the United States Army’s Military Department of Arizona moved its headquarters from Tucson to Whipple Barracks near Prescott. Hayden had frequently bid on contracts to supply military posts, so he made his first trip to the northern part of Arizona Territory. Stopping at Florence, he was advised that the best crossing on the Salt River was at a point where a large butte and a small butte rose above the south bank of the channel. When he reached the Salt River Valley, the river was at flood stage, and he had to camp at the crossing site for two days before the water receded enough that he could safely cross with his wagons. During this time he climbed to the top of the larger butte and surveyed the valley. He noted the fertile floodplains, an abundance of water, and the potential for agricultural development of the unsettled valley. Also, a site at the base of the butte was ideal for the construction of a water-powered flour mill, and there was a natural bedrock ford there for crossing the river, which would make the area an important link in a north-south trail across the territory.

A few years later, hundreds of farmers had settled in the Salt River Valley, and Hayden made plans to once again be among the first to establish trade in a rapidly growing new community. Charles Hayden returned to the Salt River Valley in the fall of 1870, purchased 50,000 pounds of wheat and barley, much of it the first harvest by local farmers, and delivered the grain to Prescott. On the return trip he again stopped at Salt River to talk to John W. “Jack” Swilling, who had directed most of the canal rehabilitation and construction in the area. Construction of Swilling’s first canal on the north side of the river in 1867 led to the formation of the Phoenix town site. In 1869 Hispanic settlers from Tucson and northern Sonora started excavating two small canals on the south side of the river: the McKinney and Kirkland Ditch, which irrigated a few quarter-sections east of the butte Hayden had climbed years earlier, and the San Francisco Ditch, which ran west of the butte. Both canals ran along the narrow terrace just above the riverbed.

By the late 1870s Swilling was organizing another large-scale irrigation system on the south side. He joined with B.W. Hardy, James L. Mercer, J. O. Sherman, John Olvaney, and J. E. Ingersoll to form the Hardy Irrigating Canal Company to extend a new canal far to the south. The group filed a claim to take 20,000 miner’s inches of water from the Salt River. Charles Hayden had just filed his own claim for 10,000 miner’s inches and formed the Hayden Milling and Farm Ditch Company with four associates to excavate another canal and build a water-powered flour mill. In January 1871 Swilling and Hardy abandoned their effort, and the company was reorganized as the Tempe Irrigating Canal Company to combine the Hardy and Hayden efforts as well as the McKinney and Kirkland Ditch into a single irrigation system with one head on the river.


The founding partners for the Tempe Irrigating Canal Company were able to buy two shares of stock for $200 and a contribution of tools and provisions, with an option to buy additional shares. Those with no money could obtain a $200 share in the company through their labor, credited at three dollars per day of work, plus four dollars per day for each team of draft animals provided. One share of stock in the Tempe Canal entitled the holder to enough water to irrigate a quarter- section (160 acres), and each individual branch canal issued its own additional stock.

Hayden acquired 17 shares in the Tempe Canal and 17 shares in the McKinney and Kirkland Ditch, which would provide a flow of up to 2,000 miner’s inches. He planned to build a flour mill, and that was the volume of water that would be needed to turn the heavy milling stones. By 1872 a trunk ditch ran a half mile from the head gate on the river, and water was then diverted into several branch canals. The McKinney and Kirkland Ditch was enlarged to deliver water to the Hayden Ditch, which brought water around the south edge of the butte to the mill site. By September 1875, 109 shares in the company had been sold, and the canal system was essentially completed with a total carrying capacity of 11,000 miner’s inches. Shares in the Tempe Irrigating Canal Company were very valuable and were often sold, divided, or rented. With a reliable supply of irrigation water, farmers were soon producing large harvests of wheat, barley, and oats, and providing a steady supply of grain that Hayden needed for his freighting business and the flour mill he was building.

East side of the Hayden House along Mill Avenue, c. 1880 (Tempe History Museum)


Charles Hayden spent considerable time in the Salt River Valley during the canal planning and negotiations in early 1871. Before he returned to Tucson he selected a site on the west side of the butte and directed his employee, John J. Hill, to construct a store and a ferry on the river. The first store was a simple structure made of willow poles and adobe covered with brush and mud. Hill sold tools, shoes, food, and household goods to the nearby settlers. The ferry was a heavy wooden boat tethered to a cable stretched across theriver. It was large enough to carry a wagon and team. The ferry was only put in operation when the river was too high to ford. Hayden understood the importance of the site where he planned to establish his new commercial operations.

The ideal location for his flour mill would be at the base of the butte because water to turn a turbine or water wheel could be delivered through the Hayden Ditch. With the only reliable crossing on the Salt River regardless of fluctuating water levels, Hayden’s wagons could freely travel north or south, and a multitude of travelers would patronize his store and ferry. Hayden called the settlement Hayden’s Ferry. The Hayden’s Ferry Post Office was established on April 25, 1872, with Hill as postmaster.


Workers started laying the foundation for a three-story flour mill in fall 1872. In mid-1873 a permanent building for the store was built about 200 feet west of the mill, and a row of four rooms extending north from the store was the beginning of the Hayden house. All structures were of adobe construction, using a minimal amount of lumber, which had to be hauled from Prescott by Hayden’s teamsters. An underground pipeline running from the Hayden Canal provided water for the house. In December 1873 Hayden sold his Tucson store and moved his residence and all of his business operations to his new headquarters in the Salt River Valley.


As the mill was being completed in 1874, Hayden filed Preemption Entry No. 50 with the General Land Office. The Pre-Emption Act of 1841 granted a settler the first right to purchase up to 160 acres of public land at $1.25 per acre if improvements had been made, such as building a house. Unlike the Homestead Act, no clearing and cultivation of fields was required. Hayden filed a declaratory statement and paid $200, and on October 20, 1875, was granted a patent for the south half of the northwest quarter and the north half of the southwest quarter of Section 15, Township 1 North, Range 4 East, a 160-acre tract roughly bounded by what is now the north bank of the Salt River, 5th Street, the top of Tempe Butte, and the Southern Pacific Railroad tracks.


In 1875 Hayden’s Ferry consisted of the four-room Hayden House, the C.T. Hayden Company store, the Hayden Flour Mill, and the ferry. The Hayden Flour Mill was powered by water flowing through the Hayden Canal and over a 25-foot waterfall to turn a 30 ½-inch turbine water wheel. It began operation in 1874 with two sets of grinding stones; by about 1880 it was operating with four sets of stones and processing more than 2,000 pounds of wheat per day.

Construction of an additional wing on the Hayden House during this time more than doubled the size of the structure. The new block of rooms extended from the northernmost room of the original building westward to form the north part of the house. An adobe wall running from the northwest corner of the house to the store on the south created an enclosed courtyard. An entry on the north façade opened to a broad zaguan that led into the courtyard. Shade trees were planted in the courtyard and around the perimeter of the house. There was also a rose garden and a Bermuda grass lawn near the house but there were no indications of their exact locations. In 1876 Charles Hayden brought in enough lumber to install what was reportedly the first wooden floor in the Salt River Valley. A second story adobe addition was built on the northeast corner of the house sometime between 1876 and 1883. With these additions, as well as other alterations made in the 1890s, the design of the Hayden House was frequently adapted to the changing needs of Charles Hayden and his family.


The Hayden House was located near the center of Hayden’s Ferry; by 1880 it was surrounded by dozens of structures housing many interrelated businesses that were a part of the C.T. Hayden Company. The flour mill and the butte dominated the east half of the property. A large adobe building, built north of the mill ca. 1878, housed a blacksmith shop with three forges and a wagon maker’s shop, operations that were vital to Hayden’s freighting business but also served other teamsters and travelers. A second floor addition on the building was briefly occupied by the short-lived Salt River Valley News; other rooms provided storage for sacks of grain. Several adobe row houses were also built north of the mill, facing the river, to house Hayden’s employees.

East side of the adjacent warehouse and southern end of the Hayden House, c.1892, Charles Hayden at right. Note that the building has been stuccoed by this time.

A sugar mill was installed inside the flour mill structure ca. 1878 to process sugar cane that the Gonzales family, one of the largest groups of settlers in the area, had brought from Sonora and planted along the river bed. Hayden later planted amber sorghum for producing molasses as well. By 1881 annual production of panoche (sugar cake) and syrup was more than 10,000 pounds. Bran and other waste products from the flour milling process were fed to hogs that were held in pens just northeast of the mill. By the 1880s, up to 1,000 hogs were being slaughtered each year. Hayden had a steady supply of bacon, ham, and lard for his customers. There was also a soap factory near the mill, which used rendered fat. All of the mules and horses for Hayden’s freighting business were kept in stalls and corrals to the west of the house and store, where there also were a large adobe barn, carriage room, harness room, and a pen for dairy cows.

Orchards were planted in the northwest corner of Hayden’s property, between his home and the river, and along the western boundary of the parcel. In 1879, 300 orange trees were planted; 400 more trees were planted in 1880, including figs, lemons, pomegranates, apples, pears, peaches, apricots, nectarines, cherries, and plums. Hayden also built a walled fish pond, which he stocked with carp. By 1880 Hayden had bought another 400 acres to the south of Hayden’s Ferry from earlier settlers who chose to leave. This land extended a mile south, to the middle of Section 22, and included fields planted in alfalfa, wheat, sorghum, and a few scattered adobe houses.

The house viewed looking southwest c.1894, showing second floor addition at the corner (Tempe Historical Museum)


Within just 10 years, Hayden’s Ferry was producing a broad range of food and feed to be sold locally or delivered to towns throughout the territory. Charles Hayden’s businesses flourished at Hayden’s Ferry. Through the 1870s his teamsters made regular deliveries to Date Creek, Wickenburg, Prescott, McDowell, Tucson, Florence, Silver King, and Yuma. Because bands of Apaches and Yavapais often attacked any travelers on the well-traveled trails, several wagons made the trip together. A train of wagons often carried up to 50,000 pounds of wheat and barley. He opened small trading posts in Prescott, Wickenburg, Gillette, Tip Top, Sacaton, and Casa Blanca. When the teamsters went to Prescott they returned with lumber. At Sacaton and Casa Blanca, on the Gila River Indian Reservation, he traded manufactured goods for sacks of wheat.

When the Southern Pacific Railroad was completed through the southern part of the Arizona Territory in 1880, Hayden lost the very profitable work of long-distance freight hauling. However, this meant he had access to a much greater volume of goods. Hayden’s wagons regularly made the journey to the railhead at Maricopa, bringing back 2,000–10,000 pounds of goods every week, more than anyone else in Maricopa County in the early 1880s. His store was large enough to accommodate his ever-expanding stock, which now included wagons, farm machinery, dry goods, stationery, canned goods, nails, silk, clocks, boots, shoes, playing cards, and Spanish-English dictionaries.

The mill was producing 1.4 million pounds of flour each year, as well as processed barley for feed for livestock. Charles T. Hayden’s diverse but interconnected business ventures brought him prosperity; they also greatly benefitted settlers under the Tempe Canal. He provided a market for all locally produced grain and was the first to bring manufactured goods to the isolated area. Hayden also employed 50 men by 1880 as his teamsters, blacksmiths, carpenters, mill workers, and clerks. He played a critical role in promoting the rapid development of the first community on the south side of the Salt River.

Most histories and biographies written in the 20th century proclaim Hayden as the founder of Tempe; however, this is an overstated and Anglo-centric interpretation, based on the claim that Hayden’s Ferry was renamed Tempe, as the name of the post office was changed from Hayden’s Ferry to Tempe in 1879. The broader region surrounding Hayden’s Ferry was known as Tempe since 1871. It included dozens of Hispanic families from Tucson and northern Sonora who had settled in the area in 1869 and completed excavation of the McKinney and Kirk- land Ditch and the San Francisco Ditch in 1870. By the time Hayden built his house, store, and mill, there was already a sizeable town just to the east, initially known as San Pablo and platted as Tempe, but later referred to as Old Tempe, East Tempe, or Mexican Town.


Go to Part III >>

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