Maricopa is a city in the Gila River Valley in the State of Arizona. With an estimated 47,442 residents as of 2014, Maricopa is the second most populous incorporated city in Pinal County and eighteenth most populous in Arizona. Maricopa forms part of the Phoenix metropolitan area.
Maricopa has had three locations over the years: Maricopa Wells, Maricopaville and Maricopa Junction which gradually became known as Maricopa. Its conception took place at a series of watering holes eight miles north of present day Maricopa, and about a mile west of Pima Butte. It was called Maricopa Wells. Several of Arizona’s rivers, the Gila, Santa Cruz, Vekol and Santa Rosa provided this oasis in the desert with an ample supply of water during this period of time.
Maricopa Wells was one of the most important relay stations along the San Antonio-San Diego Mail Line and the later more famous Butterfield Overland Mail Route during the 1800s. Although little remains of this once bustling community, it played an important part in the progress and development of the southwest. It was one of the best known spots in Arizona during this period of time because it not only had a reliable source of water, but offered an abundance of food thanks to the peaceful Pima and Maricopa farmers who lived and farmed nearby.
The most prosperous period of time for Maricopa Wells was in the 1870s. During this time the Wells provided water and food for not only the east-west travelers, but those who traveled to the north. Fairly good roads had been built by James A. Moore, the proprietor at Maricopa Wells, to all points north and the Wells was a constant hubbub of activity. With its ample supply of water and prosperous trading center, it truly was a shining beacon and sanctuary in the desert for those thousands of travelers who depended upon its resources for their survival.
Maricopa’s second moment of fame took place eight miles south of Maricopa Wells and about three miles west of present day Maricopa. It was called Maricopaville. In 1879, the Southern Pacific Railroad was in the process of building a railroad line from Yuma to Tucson, and a second railroad line was to be built from Maricopaville, wrapping around the western edge of South Mountain into Phoenix. It didn’t take long for this little desert settlement of Maricopaville to take on the appearance of one of the gold rush boom towns of California with men working day and night building hotels, saloons, warehouses, restaurants, theaters, etc. One newspaper of the times reckoned that with its thousands of people and good location, it would be an ideal choice for the location of the state capitol.
However, a railroad line was never built from Maricopaville into Phoenix. Tempe wanted to be on the railroad line and was very vociferous about its demands and rights. The powers at the state capitol agreed and Maricopaville lost its moment of glory as a rising Arizona star. It was moved three miles to the east to its present location of Maricopa in the early 1880s, and began its life as a famous railroad junction when the first M&P train left Maricopa for Phoenix on July 4, 1887. Once again, all east-west travelers had to stop at Maricopa, and those who wanted to travel to the north had to board the Maricopa & Phoenix Railroad which took them into Kyrene, Tempe and Phoenix.
The city was officially incorporated on October 15, 2003, becoming the 88th incorporated city in Arizona. The 2010 Census shows Maricopa growing from 1,040 residents in 2000 to 43,482, an increase of 4080%!