A Place To Settle

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    Beginning in 1910, many Mexican citizens fled their homeland, uprooted by the violence of the Revolution. Opportunities in Arizona’s mining, railroad and agriculture industries drew these immigrants northward, into a region that had been Mexican territory until the 1850s. Driven from their lands by the Mexican military, many Yaqui Indians also migrated to the Salt River Valley. They settled throughout the East Valley, with the largest group founding the town of Guadalupe.

    These various families settled in town, lived on a local ranch, or joined other families at the scattered settlements that sprang up near canals between farms. One such settlement became today’s Hightown. In the early 1920s, Mexican farm workers and Yaqui Indians settled on this patch of desert land. The two ethnic groups were separated by an irrigation canal. Early residents initially called the area El Chamizo, a reference to the type of desert bushes growing throughout the area.

    Prior to the 1940s, El Chamizo was located about 4 miles west of Chandler, and 6 miles south of Tempe. At first, families had no electricity or running water. While they could use the nearby irrigation canal for washing, they needed to travel several miles west to the town of Kyrene to get their drinking water. Sometime during the 1930s, residents dug a well and installed a pump for water. The Salt River Project brought in electricity to the community during the late 1940s.

    In the late 1920s Ray and Rose Estrella purchased land west of Pueblo Alto in order to build a small store. Known as the Estrella Market, this store supplied the residents of Hightown as well as farmers from the surrounding area. The Estrella Market became an important fixture in west Chandler, as Indians from the Gila River Reservation stopped by the store to trade mesquite firewood for supplies, and Basque sheepherders bought provisions while grazing their flocks in the area.

    This rural neighborhood stayed small for many years, with around twenty families in the area by 1946. 

     

       Becoming Hightown ►

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