Research Property History in Arizona, Part 3

(This is Part 3 of a series written by DAZL team member Chris Seggerman. Read Part 1. Read Part 2.  Read Part 4.  )

THE LOST CITIES OF STATE HIGHWAY DEPARTMENT MAPS

These days, we take for granted that the Valley of the Sun contains a megalopolis: Not just one city, but  many, each outgrowing their original boundaries to rub against and occasionally spar with one another. Instead of crossing an expanse of road, farm fields, and citrus groves, we move from city to city by crossing a street. Sometimes only a small “Welcome To!” sign marks the boundary. In 1937, there was still room between cities, before individual communities began to vanish, overwhelmed and annexed by their neighbors.  The collection of county road maps acts as a gateway to those places. 

The collection covers all the counties in Arizona, but Maricopa itself took 10 sheets. Almost every sheet shows one or two locations long since gone, sometimes just a ranch but often an entire small community. Beardsley, which gave its name to the arterial street in north Phoenix—now practically swallowed by Loop 101—is on sheet 3. Originally, it was a railroad junction, but vanished when the railroads expanded.

Highway and transportation map

"Maricopa County Arizona: General Highway and Transportation Map. 1937. Sheet 3 of 10. Prepared by the Arizona State Highway Department in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Public Roads. Data obtained from state-wide highway planning survey." Historic Arizona County Road Maps. Arizona Memory Project. 

While each sheet has such areas scattered throughout, Sheet 10 shows enlargements of 15 communities from the County.  For those interested in genealogy, the US Census Department used these maps to plan enumeration districts in the less-populated parts of Maricopa county for the 1940 census.

Locating the communities is easy enough, because the map gives coordinates of township and range. Each community had its own history, with slight variations on a theme: For example, Marinette used to be where Sun City is now, and gives its name to the recreation center there.

"Maricopa County Arizona: General Highway and Transportation Map. 1937. Sheet 10 of 10. Prepared by the Arizona State Highway Department in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Public Roads. Data obtained from state-wide highway planning survey." Historic Arizona County Road Maps. Arizona Memory Project. 

In 1939, Sonerata was distinct enough to catch Highway Department cartographers’ attention, but today it is just a neighborhood at the southwest corner of Warner and Gilbert roads, annexed by Gilbert about ten years ago. The name is slightly misleading: Google Maps and the Maricopa County Assessor calls the neighborhood “Sonora Town” today, but it was Sonoratown when Gilbert realtor C.H. Russell subdivided the area in May of 1920.

This map is almost a checklist for anyone researching urban growth in Maricopa County.  Guadalupe, Gila Bend, Sunnyslope, Litchfield Park and Peoria are all still fairly present, but the rest are census designated places or ghost towns.