History of the City of Mesa

Located twenty miles east of the bustling metropolis of Phoenix, Mesa is the third-largest city in Arizona, boasting a population of nearly 500,000 people. The city is known for it’s stunning views of the Superstition Mountains, it’s beautiful desert climate, and it’s sometimes insufferable heat. Although it is now a well-known city across the United States, it may be hard to believe that Mesa was once a small town with a one square mile stake of land to it’s name. 

Since it was founded in 1878, the humble town has grown into a booming suburban city. Daniel Webster Jones, a Mormon pioneer who left Utah to establish an LDS settlement in Arizona, first brought a team of his colleagues to Lehi, an area that is now located on the northern edge of present day Mesa. Another group, formally called the First Mesa Company, refused Jones’s offer to live in Lehi and instead settled down on the mesa that later became the town’s namesake. Taking note of the considerable heat in the area, this company dug irrigation canals, renewing some that were already in place from thousands of years earlier when the Hohokam Indians had inhabited the land. As water began to flow through the canals, word was spread that Mesa had become an inhabitable place to live. On July 17, 1878, Mesa was registered as a townsite, owning a meager one square mile of land. The population expanded slowly, only hosting 300 people in 1883. Still, the small town pushed on, and began to make advances in size and overall living conditions. Power plants were built and bought, run by the recently widened canals. Being one of the only cities to own their own utilities, Mesa was spared the heaviest blow of the Great Depression and was able to continue to progress and grow. 

While the world was at war in 1941, Falcon Field Airport and Williams Air Force Base were being constructed in the city of Mesa, during a time when the Allies were in desperate need of trained pilots. Falcon Field was used as a base for the British Royal Air Force, and has since become a historical museum. Williams Air Force Base was reserved for the United States Air Force, where many men were trained to go fight for their country, and is still an operational airport today. Regardless of the many military families who moved to Mesa during the war, the real boom in population didn’t come until the advent of air conditioning. As houses and places of business became cooler, the city saw a tourist and industry boom that transformed the small settlement into the modern city it is today. 

Mesa, Arizona. A place now known for it’s gorgeous views, desert landscape, and extreme heat, has transformed from its humble beginnings to a bustling suburban city, home to people from all across the world. Laced with rich history and diverse culture, Mesa ensures a fun, welcoming environment for families and everyone who comes to visit.


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Dr. Howard Fern, DC, FIAMA, CME
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