Jack Swilling, Man About Town
It is an amazing story.
Jack Swilling, the adventurer and entrepreneur who is credited with founding the city of Phoenix, got it all rolling in 1867 when he formed the Swilling Ditch Company and began dredging out irrigation canals created by the Hohokam Indians way back in around 300 B.C.
The Hohokam had established an impressive settlement around their approximately 200 miles of canals. The reason why they left the area is still a mystery but old Jack saw some potential in what they'd left behind. He landed a contract to sell hay to some nearby U.S. cavalry forces that were in the area to protect miners from hostile Indians. His canals funneled water from the nearby Salt River and he began growing crops.
By 1870, Jack's settlement had grown as more people saw its potential. The name "Phoenix" was adopted; a rather classy choice to acknowledge that the town had risen from the ashes of a previous civilization. [The name is particularly classy when you realize that some of the suggested alternatives were Pumpkinville and Stonewall.]
Arizona was still a territory and the Phoenix area was then part of Yavapai County, one of the territory's original four counties. In 1871, a new county (Maricopa) was formed and the voters selected Phoenix as the county seat.
True, some of the voters may have been a tad drunk but Phoenix was on its way. Its only competitor for the county seat was a now-forgotten place called Mill City.]
From next to nothing in 1867 to a county seat in 1871.