Settling Out West
Arizona has been a mecca for those seeking healing from our year round sunshine since before becoming a state.
In 1877, a man named Thomas Newt Clanton led a party of six men, three women, and ten children from Creston, Iowa to the area we know today as Buckeye, Arizona. Like many before him, Mr. Clanton sought the desert climate’s healing properties.
It seems he found what he came for as he called Arizona home for another 49 years and passed at the age of 82.
How Buckeye Got It’s Name
Among the party was early settler, Malie Monroe Jackson who began the development of the Buckeye Canal in 1884. While the town was originally called Sidney, Mr. Jackson dubbed the canal “Buckeye” in honor of his home state of Ohio.
Given the canals importance to the community, the town’s first Post Office, run by Mr. Clanton’s daughter Cora Jane, was also named Buckeye. As years passed, residents began to favor Buckeye over Sidney and in 1910 the town officially changed it’s name.
William “Buckey” O’Neill
Nicknamed for his ability to “buck the tiger” aka play contrary to the odds at the card table, William “Buckey” O’Neill is reported to have been an influence in the planning of Downtown Buckeye.
Originally hailing from Missouri, Buckey answered the call to migrate to the Arizona Territory and arrived by burro around 1879.
Before making his way to Buckeye, Buckey found himself in the employ of the Tombstone Epitaph the very same year as the infamous gun fight at the O.K. Corral between another man named Clanton and Wyatt Earp.
Seven years later, in 1888, Buckey, Thomas Clanton, and Malin Jackson are said to have banned together in laying out the first townsite near the center of the Buckeye Valley.
Located on a portion of the Clanton homestead this would become the Downtown Buckeye we know today.
It took more than 20 years for the first mechinical transportation to arrive in Buckeye.
Prior to the arrival of the Arizona Eastern Railroad in 1910, residents relyed on animal drawn carts for transportation. By 1915, modern mobility made it’s way to Buckeye with automobiles and the town was connected by it’s first highway.
The Rodeo Queen
In 1929, Buckeye hosted it’s first ever Pro Rodeo Cowboys Association Event.
During this time, a female rider by the name of Mabel Strickland toured the Rodeo circuit competing and beating men for a good part of her 25 year career.
Known as the First Lady of Rodeo, Mabel won the all-around title at Cheyenne, Wyoming’s Frontier Days and went on to perform trick riding across the country. During the 1930’s, Mabel found herself in Hollywood working as a stunt rider / actress in Western themed motion pictures of the time.
By 1949, Mabel settled with her second husband, Samuel Woodward in Buckeye. She called this her home for 27 years until her death in 1976.
Mabel Strickland Woodward has been inducted into the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum Hall of Fame, the ProRodeo Cowboys Hall of Fame, the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame, the Pendleton Hall of Fame and the Cheyenne Frontier Days Hall of Fame.
The Buckeye Chamber of Commerce started Hellzapoppin’ Days to celebrate Buckeye’s rich Cowboy heritage in 1935.
In the early days, Hellzapoppin’ attracted Hollywood Cowboys like Gene Autry. The festivities included street dances, a parade, a carnival, a rodeo and the annual Cotton Queen coronation.
Today, Hellzapoppin’ Arena continues to host an annual Rodeo during Buckeye Days in January. The event draws Rodeo professionals from around the country and features a cattle drive down Monroe Ave.
Pulitzer Prize Winner
American writer and political activist, Upton Sinclair called Buckeye his home while penning his autobiography, My Lifetime in Letters, which was published in 1960.
Author of the 1906 muck-racker classic, The Jungle, which is based on the meatpacking industry in Chicago, Illinois; Sinclair won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1943. A member of the Socialist party, Mr. Sinclair ran for Governor of California in 1934.
He and his third wife, Mary Elizabeth Willis, lived at the corner of 7th & Roosevelt in Downtown Buckeye from 1953 until 1967.
Take a virtual stroll through Historic Buckeye and learn more about our history through our architecture.