History of the White Tank Mountains Talk

I have been asked White Tank Mountains Conservancy to do my talk again!  Taking place inside the program room at the White Tank Mountains Library on Saturday, January 20, 2018 at 1:00 pm.  I start the area history in 1863.  Come and learn about the ranchers, miners and freighters who made their mark on the mountains and the importance of the White Tank in Arizona territorial history.   I hope you can join me!   The Library is at the entrance to the Park.  (4 miles west of the 303 on Olive Road.)

This presentation will be part of the White Tank Mountain Conservancy Speaker Series.  You will not want to miss the rest of the program.  All of the presentations will be at the White Tank Library, but times vary.

**Mark your calendar for these presentations**

  • History of the White Tank Mountains

Saturday, January 20, 2018 at 12:00 pm

  • Set in Stone but Not in Meaning: Southwestern Indian Rock Art

Saturday, February 24, 2018 at 1:00 pm

Ancient Indian pictographs (rock paintings) and petroglyphs (symbols carved or pecked on rocks) are claimed by some to be forms of writing for which meanings are known. However, are such claims supported by archaeology or by Native Americans themselves? Mr. Dart illustrates southwestern petroglyphs and pictographs, and discusses how even the same rock art symbol may be interpreted differently from popular, scientific, and modern Native American perspectives.

Registered Professional Archaeologist Allen Dart has worked in Arizona and New Mexico since 1975. He is a state cultural resource specialist/archaeologist for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and volunteer director of Tucson’s Old Pueblo Archaeology Center nonprofit organization, which he founded in 1993 to provide educational and scientific programs in archaeology, history, and cultures. Al has received the Arizona Governor’s Award in Public Archaeology, the Arizona Archaeological and Historical Society’s Victor R. Stoner Award, and the Arizona Archaeological Society’s Professional Archaeologist of the Year Award for his efforts to bring archaeology and history to the public.

  • Interconnections Between Geology and the Landscape

Saturday, March 24, 2018 at 1:00 pm

In this presentation Matt Haberkorn from the Phoenix College Bioscience Department will be discussing the effect of geology on the ecosystems and habitats of the White Tank Mountains.  This will include an overview on how geology determines soil types, hydrology and plant life.   Matt has been a Professor and Lab Tech for over ten years and has studied these interconnections through various research projects during that time.  Come and hear how each of the individual parts of the White Tank Mountains are connected to all of the other parts to form what we see today as the White Tank Mountains.



Waddell Ranch Demolition

dscn2356It saddens me to report that the old Waddell Ranch site; also the site of the Duncan Family Farm festivals; is scheduled for demolition later this month.  The many buildings on the corner of Indian School Road and Cotton Lane were built beginning in 1942 by Donald W. Waddell.

The City of Goodyear has owned the property for several years, purchasing it from Duncan Family Farms after a dispute with the city regarding the farms proximity to Luke Air Force Base flight paths.  All of the remaining 9 buildings will be demolished as well as the last of the wind break trees along Cotton Lane.  These eucalyptus trees were planted in the late 1940’s.

Perhaps the biggest loss, will be the historic Pugh’s Store which holds many memories for long time residents in the west valley.  More recently, Arizona school children received their education about farming at the Duncan Family Farms.

If you have a special memory about the Waddell Ranch or Duncan Family Farms, I would like you to post it here, or send it to me.  I am collecting stories and photos along with a written history of the property for the Litchfield Park Historical Society archives.  If we cannot save the buildings, we can work together to save the stories.

Thank you,

Karen Krause

Vanishing Waddell: A History Tour

Join me on Wednesday, January 20th at 1:00 pm for a presentation about the history of Waddell, Arizona.  Our area once housed a prisoner of war camp, a dust bowl refugee crisis so severe that Governor Stanford came out to investigate, and who would think we would have something the Prince of Iran would be interested in exploring?  Every wondered why the street is named “Sarival”?   Who built the rock houses on Glendale Avenue by the Post Office?  I will answer those questions and more.  Hope to see you for this free presentation.

  • Vanishing Waddell: A History Tour
  • Wednesday, January 20, 2016
  • 1:00 PM to 2:00 PM
  • White Tank Branch Library, 20304 W. White Tank Mtn Rd.  (4 miles west of Loop 303 on Olive Rd.)Trees on Cotton Lane - 2010


Litchfield Park Historical Society and Museum


I gave a presentation at the White Tank Branch Library in February about the history of Waddell, Arizona. Our little postal district has more of a story than some might suspect. The room was packed, a testament to the interest in Arizona and local history.

White Tank Library Programs

One of the west valley’s best places to learn local history is the Litchfield Park Historical Society and Museum. Housed in a small house on the historic La Loma estate of Paul Litchfield, the museum has four rooms of exhibits. Semi-permanent exhibits showcase the early history of Litchfield Park and Goodyear Farms. The current exhibit on life in the worker camps for Goodyear Farms, Los Campos de Litchfield Park, has been so well attended that the Historical Society will be extended the exhibit showing.

Litchfield Park Historical Society and Museum

Litchfield Park Historical Society and Museum

Open Wednesday, Thursday and Fridays from 10 am to 4 pm, get by to see this free museum before they close for the summer on Labor Day. The museum can be found on the northwest corner of Litchfield Road and Camelback Road. And tell them I sent you!   

White Tank Mountains – Quietly Waiting


Just when historic figures Pauline Weaver, Joseph R. Walker, Jack Swilling and Henry Wickenburg were prospecting in central Arizona in 1863, the White Tank Mountains found their place on the first Arizona Territorial map. In fact, the mountain range is on almost every map from 1863 on. Even before Phoenix shows up on maps as a “settlement”, the White Tank Mountains were an important part of Arizona’s history. The White Tank watering hole, that gives the mountains their name, was located in the northeast end of the range and was the only year round source of water for miles. Early travelers had to know where it was. The desert was 20 to 30 miles in each direction along the White Tank Wagon Road. This supply road stretched from Maricopa Wells, south of the Gila River, to Wickenburg and then continued north to the new territorial capital in Prescott. Remnants of the road are few and the watering hole itself is now gone. The white granite cliffs surrounding the large natural tank, caved in during a huge storm, obliterating the White Tank.

1863 Map inset showing the White Tank Watering Place

1863 Map inset showing the White Tank Watering Place

In the estimated one hundred and fifteen years since the White Tank has been gone, the White Tank Mountains have continued to quietly provide a valuable service to the far west valley of the Phoenix metropolitan area. The mountains were the site of hundreds of small mining claims. The water sources in the mountains allowed for ranching operations, including grazing cattle, sheep and goats. The abundant wildlife made the White Tank Mountains a favorite destination for hunters and nearby residents have used the mountains as a recreation destination for generations.

The White Tank Mountains are now at a critical stage in their history. The cities that surround the range are beginning to develop right up into the foothills. The perils of new development also bring opportunities of preservation. The new White Tank Mountain Conservancy has been established with the help of all the major players in the area. This group will have the structure and resources to do what needs to be done to study, preserve, protect and document the flora, fauna and ancient history of the area. Having been ignored by researchers, scholars and even most valley residents, the goal is to bring the White Tank Mountains back to the importance it once held in the valley.

May I invite you to discover the White Tank Mountains for yourself? The spring wild flowers should the best in decades this year. Star gazers head into the park each time a major comet or meteor shower is expected. The petroglyphs left by ancient the Hohokam are a wonder. Hiking up to see the waterfall after a rain shower is an easy hike and gives a close up look at petroglyphs. Nature photography, picnicking, hiking, camping, bicycling and horseback riding all can be experienced in the wonder of the Sonoran Desert and practically in your own backyard.

Next time you stop to admire the colors of the sunset, look at the dark silhouette of the mountains at their base. The White Tank Mountains still stand quietly, waiting to be of importance to Arizona again.

More information about the Conservancy is available at their web site. Please visit and think about signing up to be a volunteer. I have.  http://www.WTMConservancy.org

Sunset on the White Tanks

Sunset on the White Tanks

The Survey of the Earth and The White Tank Mountains

Jasper S. Bilby

Jasper S. Bilby

Jasper Bilby and a crew of 12 men came to Arizona in September of 1910.  They were establishing observation and survey stations on several mountains tops in Arizona, including the White Tank Mountains, The Superstitions, and the Catalina Mountains.  As members of the Coast and Geodetic Survey, they would spend the next two months on the mountain tops taking measurements for a detailed survey of the United States.  Working with acetylene signal lamps at night and heliographs by day, the men sent signals from mountain top to mountain top, taking measurements.

Survey Crew 1921

Survey Crew 1921

(A heliograph is an instrument with a mirror that reflects the sun light in a signal beam.)  The survey crew would live and work at the station on the White Tank Mountains for several weeks and then move west to California to continue the survey.   Besides the instruments, the men hauled up tents, cots, cooking utensils, food and water to the top of the White Tank Mountains on the backs of mules.




Heliograph signaling in Arizona

Heliograph signaling in Arizona

W. B. Casey

William B. Casey’s Killer Hides Out In The White Tank Mountains

The first mention of W. B. Casey in Arizona was in 1891. Casey was working at the Hurley Ranch and had come to Phoenix that August at the age of 21. Born in William B. Casey in 1870 in New York State, perhaps he was the same W. B. Casey that in 1890 was involved in a shooting in Springfield, Nebraska. Casey was shot in the hip by a man in dispute over a horse.     The charges against Casey’s assailant were dismissed as justified and the local paper describe Casey as “a bully. “

If it is the same man, W.B. Casey’s demeanor did not improve upon his move to Arizona. Trouble was never far away the last few years of his life. In July of 1894 Casey and P.T. Hurley has a “physical misunderstanding” in Phoenix and Casey went before Judge Johnstone for making threats. Casey had threatened Hurley who countered by drawing his gun, but the case was dismissed.   November of that same year Casey had a fight with J.E. Teeter on Washington Street. In May 1985, Casey was back in court for an assault on E.G. Freeman. Casey was a milkman at this time and attempted to collect a debt from Freeman. Casey was found guilty of assault and paid a fine of $50.

The last of Casey’s troublemaking began September 7th of 1898. At the time, he was working on the ranch of Ben Anderson, north of Phoenix, and seemed to be feuding with everyone. Casey had been told to saddle a horse for Anderson’s granddaughter, so she could go riding after dinner. He took offence at the order and started a fight with Anderson’s son-in-law, Charles Balis. Casey attacked Balis with a pitchfork, beating him to “insensibility” and breaking his leg. Casey was hauled into court the next day on charges of “assault with intent to commit murder” and posted $200 bail. His trial was to be held the following Wednesday, September 14th, but Casey would not be alive to attend.

Casey heard a rumor that James Marler, a rancher west of Phoenix, had made disparaging remarks about him and the incident at Anderson’s Ranch. He and two of his friends went in search of Marler on the morning of September 11th. Finding him out irrigating his fields, Casey started yelling at him. Getting no satisfaction with just verbal assault, Casey took off his spurs and threw them at Marler’s head, and then went at him with a club. Marler held tight to his shovel and the two men were in a standoff. Casey was told to drop the club, which he agreed to do on condition that Marler also drop the shovel. Both parties agreed and as soon as the weapons hit the dirt, Casey hit Marler with his fist, knocking him down.

Casey’s attention was now on a hired hand at the ranch, George Moudy, also accused by Casey of making disparaging remarks.   George Moudy was hitching up a wagon team and hearing the fight, tied up the team and went towards the men. Casey, having dispatched Marler, went at Moudy threatening to “thump the coward.” Moudy drew his revolver and warned Casey to stop. Casey rushed at the man and two shots were fired. One shot was fatal, penetrating the heart. William Casey lay dead.

One of the witnesses jumped on his horse and rode to Phoenix to notify the sheriff. George Moudy took the wagon and headed west. Thinking the only witnesses to the shooting were friends of Casey’s, Moudy decided to hide from the sheriff in the White Tank Mountains. The three lawmen on Moudy’s trail tracked him into the mountain range, finding the abandoned wagon along the way. The lawmen knew they were catching up to Moudy when they lost him in the dark. Starting up again the next day the lawmen soon realized the hopelessness of tracking a man in the rugged White Tank Mountains and ended their search. The public was now worried about Moudy’s welfare, thinking he may die of thirst before he could be found. Friends of Moudy reported that he was well acquainted with the area and would have known where to find water.   The many natural tanks would be full of water after the recent summer rains.

The day after the shooting a Coroner’s Jury was impaneled to rule on the matter of W.B. Casey’s violent death. Witnesses told of the beatings and fights of the last few days, all instigated by the dead man, and how Moudy had warned Casey three times before shooting.  Moudy’s friends were anxious to find him and coax him out of his hiding place certain that he would not be charged in the slaying. The accused man walked out of the mountains four days later and, accompanied by his employer, turned himself in. That same day he was before Judge Johnstone and recounted his testimony. It was ruled that Moudy had acted in self-defense. The crowd cheered at the ruling. Many thought the cheer was not just for accused being absolved of wrong doing, but for the death of a known trouble maker and bully.

William B. Casey was buried on September 12, 1898. He was 28 years of age. Services were held in the Catholic Church. Despite Casey’s temper and reputation, a large number of family and friends were there to pay their last respects and join the procession to the Rosedale Cemetery at 14th Avenue and Madison Street in Phoenix.   Casey’s family included a brother and a married sister. If the family had placed a tombstone or grave marker on W. B. Casey’s final resting place, it is long since gone. The Rosedale Cemetery is one of the seven historical cemeteries that make up Pioneer and Military Memorial Park in Phoenix.

Waddell History Presentation

I will be doing a presentation of Waddell history again on Saturday, January 18th.  This is the same program I did on September 28th.  I call it “Vanishing Waddell: A History Tour”.  We will cover some of the history of the area since the late 1920’s.  Learn about the importance of the Beardsley Canal and the history of our Post Office.  Find out about place names such as: Sarival, Alsup, Fennemore, Citrus Park and more.   I hope you can join me.

Presentation held at the White Tank Branch Library
(about 4 miles west of the 303 on Olive Ave.)
Saturday, January 18th from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

Mysterious Lights on the White Tank Mountains

“Those Lights Start Shudders at Buckeye”

Evidence was found of ritualistic signal lights on the White Tank Mountains in June of 1922.  The brilliant lights were seen for several evenings high on the mountain tops.  A curious party left Buckeye one evening to investigate the mystery, driving to the eastern slope of the mountains.  At first they thought the lights were distress signals.  As the evening wore on, the lights seamed to appeared and disappeared suddenly and formed geometric patterns of squares, circle and diamond shapes.  The symmetrical shapes they witnessed led the group to conclude the lights were the result of some unknown scientists or surveyors working on the mountain, performing some strange experiment.

Another local resident said he knew the real reason for the strange lights.  He told a local newspaper reporter that a mysterious secret order was in the habit of performing elaborate ceremonies on mountains peaks around the Salt River Valley.  This secret organization used the brilliant fires as part of fantastic ritual and had held similar ceremonies on other mountains in the valley.dancers

All of this news probably caused a good laugh to the ranchers familiar with the area.  Earlier that same week a brush fire was reported in the White Tank Mountains by cowboys from the Dysart, Myers and Lane Cattle Company.  The fire was visible at night from Phoenix and Buckeye as it burned its way over the top of the mountains heading west.  Despite reports from the cowboys, the lights generated stories of mysterious and fantastic explanations.

Strange lights, mysterious signal fires, ritual ceremonies of secret orders… or it could just be a brush fire.

Eucalyptus Trees on Cotton Lane

Cotton Lane - 2010

Some of the Trees Removed by ADOT in 2011

The lessons learned in the 1930’s in America’s Dust Bowl came to Waddell in 1946.  One of the United States Soil Conservation Service’s most effective techniques was to plant trees as windbreaks.  Single or double rows of trees, properly planted, would reduce the wind speeds by half and protect the soil and the crops.  But it was in 1946 that the US Soil Conservation District began distributing eucalyptus trees to local farmers in Arizona for windbreaks on private land.  (Local farmers had been using many soil conservation techniques appropriate for the area for years.)  Eucalyptus trees were used because they were fast growing, tall and had heavy growth close to the ground. Eucalyptus Tree

Donald Waddell took advantage of a Soil Conservation Service program to plant trees on his ranch.   The saplings were about 8 foot tall when they arrived from California.  A young lady, Velma Holland, was put in charge of a crew to plant the thousands of trees.  The trees were planted on section lines from McDowell Road to Indian School Road along Cotton Lane and Citrus Road.  Many of the trees still line the roads and are now over 65 years old.

Trees on Cotton Lane - 2010

Cotton Lane 2010

I remember driving home from Phoenix and exiting on the old Cotton Lane (before the 303 was extended).  You really felt you had left the city behind when you saw that long line of trees from the distance.  Turning north onto Cotton Lane and entering the intense shade of those old trees was like a gift after a long hot day in town.  The trees stood like a gateway to the rural life of Waddell.  During summer storms everyone kept their speed down to dodge branches that would have fallen into the roadway.  The road was usually cleared of debris the next day.

I don’t get to drive in their shade these days as Cotton Lane is closed to traffic for Loop 303 construction.  The road work required the removal of a large section of the trees on the south end of Cotton Lane and many of the trees along Citrus Road are dying off from age and lack of water.  But those trees that still thrive continue to do their job of providing a break from the sun, the wind and the heat.