Honk if You Love Higley!

Welcome to the the Make Higley Historic! blogspot! Your definitive source of Higley happenings - past, present and future.

Anyone who knows Higley is aware that its boundaries and residents have been quite elusive the last 100 years. This page has been created to bring together fellow Higleans, Gilbillies, San Tan-ites, travelers and friends who all have something to say about the history of this unique place.

Higley needs your voice! If you are interested in authoring posts for this community blog, we'd love to hear from you and the site administrator will get you set up.

Please feel free to email any photos you would like to share to makehigleyhistoric@gmail.com and we will add them to the page. And if you know of any older folks who may not be technologically savvy or speak only Spanish, let us know and we can arrange an interview so their stories are recorded as well.

We look forward to hearing from many and hope you all check in weekly for updates and new posts about our history and our efforts for recognition. Thank you kindly for all of your support in making Higley's historic value known!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Home, Home on the Germann Homestead

Much of the land that we are familiar with in and around Higley was claimed and farmed by pioneers who took advantage of the federal government’s homesteading program during the 1800-1900s. One such pioneering family was the Germanns.
On January 2, 1913 Anna Mathilde H. Germann applied to the U.S. Department of the Interior for a 311-acre tract of desert land in Higley. Her intentions were to convert this harsh and untamed land into a working farm. That she did, and soon after, her husband , John, and sons Paul, Edmund and Walter would follow her example and  increase the Germann farmland holdings to over 1,700 acres.     
I invite you to my website, www.germannhomesteaders.org to learn more about the homesteading process, the original Germann homestead and what was to follow.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Dust to Dust...

This week, Higley lost an important piece of the town's story. Not just its own, but in the Town of Gilbert where Higley now resides. We all have a sentiment about what role history plays in strengthening our communities, our economy and our environment. But when our visible reminders are razed without public recognition and deliberation, benefits are likely to remain unrealized or forgotten. Hopefully, that's not where the story ends for little ol' Higley....

 Gilbert Razes Iconic Higley Store by Srianthi Perera at azcentral.com

To learn more about Higley's history and the surrounding communities, please visit the San Tan Historical Society in Queen Creek, Arizona. Research what fits your fancy, share your story, or support ongoing preservation efforts in our area.

Monday, October 4, 2010

OPEN HOUSE: Crossroads of Historic Higley

Well, there have been no blog posts this year about Higley's history, but with good cause. Your Friendly Higley Historians have been hard at work completing Crossroads of Historic Higley: An Oral History Project/Narrated Driving Tour of the San Tan Mountain Communities with the San Tan Historical Society.

We invite the public to attend the free event and learn about the San Tan Historical Society's efforts in preserving the areas of Higley, Chandler Heights, Combs and Queen Creek history in the rapidly changing landscape of the Southeast Valley. The disc with the self-guided, narrated driving tour will be available at the event for a nominal charge of $3.00 and free for download on the Society's website after the event. The dates are as follows:

Higley Center for the Performing Arts
4132 E. Pecos Road
Gilbert, Arizona 85295

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010 - 5 PM to 8:30 PM
Wednesday, October 20th, 2010 – 10 AM to 8:30 PM

This project is honor of the community of Higley's Centennial this year. We look forward to seeing you there to learn and share about the area's people and places which made us who we are today, all the while looking ahead at the next 100 years. Contact Project Director, Leslie LeRoux - 480.220.0341 leslie_leroux@cox.net for any additional information.

This project was made possible in part with grants from the Arizona Humanities Council and Southwest Oral History Association.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Thoughts on the New Year, Courtesy of the Higley Family

As we approach the New Year, Your Friendly Higley Historians have been laboring away to bring Higley, AZ's recorded story to light. In addition to our new project, Crossroads of Historic Higley at the San Tan Historical Society, history continues to unfold at Make Higley Historic! courtesy of a uniquely American family.

S.W. Higley was described by his grandson Thomas Stephen Higley in a letter dated 1973 (University of Arizona Library Special Collections):

"S.W. was my grandfather, a tough, western man, post Civil War railroader, rancher, farmer, saloon owner, mercantile store owner, stagecoach shotgun guard, newspaper publisher and the owner and lover of some fine horses in territorial Arizona and later."

S.W. Higley

For a man so prominent in Arizona territorial times, who had his hands in everything as Arizona became a State in 1912; settling in Prescott while working for Santa Fe Rail; living in Phoenix at the Rosson House (even longer than the Rosson's themselves); his is a story which has really taken some work to uncover. Thankfully, the Internet can stretch to all ends of the research spectrum and as a direct descendant of Captain John Higley, his family's history is well recorded and definitely worth sharing.

In 1896, Mary Coffin Johnson, completed a publication named "The Higleys and their Ancestry: An Old Colonial Family" describing in great detail the family's first American immigrant from England, Captain John
Higley, who arrived in Connecticut in the late 17th Century. As an apprentice glove maker, he fled England to escape the clutches of his abusive master and start a life in the new American Colonies. At the time, England was a place marred with oppressive politics, Puritans and pestilence (the Plague), so despite leaving his family, it wasn't that hard for John Higley to say goodbye to his home country. However, his departure was very much illegal since he broke the term of his apprenticeship to stow away on a ship heading West. Once he arrived in Connecticut, he was sold for labor to the Drake Family to cover the expense of passage across the Atlantic. In his new home, he labored hard, returned to England to pay his dues to the "offended employer" whom he left, returned again to America and married his new employer's daughter, became a military and political leader, a wealthy landowner, legislator, and even had a hand in starting the Collegiate School, later to become known as Yale.

Now the life of Captain John
Higley as written in this book (all 854 pages of it), extends over 200 years of family history, including the life of his great-great-great-great-grandson S.W. Higley. It describes him just at the beginning of his life, married with one child (both had passed away by the time the book was printed), yet to reach the places where he left his mark and name in Arizona. The author mentions the intended audience as the new generations making their way in the 20th century, who will one day look to see how their ancestors' history touched on every aspect of not just being American, but the tragedy and triumphs of being human. As you can imagine, the family has grown even larger since. Leroy Higley, family historian, has accounted for over 37,000 descendants of Captain John Higley, with countless members who had lost their lives in every war America has been in, including the attack of 9-11.

Near the completion of her work recording the
Higley family history, Mary Coffin Johnson writes in the book's appendix of a family reunion in 1890 with over 300 members who gathered in Simsbury, Connecticut. They visited together and shared a glimpse of how far they all had come since John Higley left his mother and sisters in England and stowed away on a 50 day journey across the Atlantic to make his home in America. Together at the old First Church they sang a song which your Friendly Higley Historians find appropriate as we think of days long past, family near and far, here and gone, and as we celebrate another new year...

Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and days of Auld Lang Syne?

For Auld Lang Syne, my friends
For Auld Lang Syne
We'll join the hand of kindness now,
For Auld Lang Syne.

Our fathers here their dwellings reared
In social life combined,
These swelling fields their labors cleared
For Auld Lang Syne.

For Auld Lang Syne, etc.

Those ancient homes they guarded well,
And stood by freedom's shrine;
And many a fearless warrior fell
In days of Auld Lang Syne.

For Auld Lang Syne, etc.

And we were nursed amid these hills
And in these vales reclined;
But we have wandered far away
Since days of Auld Lang Syne.

For Auld Lang Syne, etc.

We've roamed across the prairie wild,
The mountain pass we have climbed,
And placed the schoolhouse in the wild
Since days of Auld Lang Syne.

For Auld Lang Syne, etc.

We've mingled in the city's strife,
We've delved within the mine;
And braved the ocean's stormy waves,
Since days of Auld Lang Syne.

For Auld Lang Syne, etc.

Our sturdy sires of yore have gone,
And kinsfolk in their prime;
The lov's and good have disappeared
Since days of Auld Lang Syne.

For Auld Lang Syne, etc.

We'll part again to distant scenes,
And leave this hallowed shrine;
But oft we'll think with grateful praise
Of days of Auld Lang Syne.

As we move further into the 21st century, rest assured that the common thread of history's lessons are still the same with family seeking a place for opportunity, justice, safety and peace for their young ones, ACROSS ALL NATIONALITIES AND CREEDS.

However, today, we thank the
Higley family for demonstrating the greatest lesson of all, it is only history when we take the time to record and preserve it in the present. What we do with it remains part of the mystery which belongs solely to the future.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Crossroads of Historic Higley

We are very proud to announce that our Friendly Higley Historians have been hard at work with the volunteers at the San Tan Historical Society in Queen Creek, and are gearing up to do a history project 100 years in the making, Crossroads of Historic Higley.

For new readers, when Higley was settled in the years leading up to Arizona becoming an "official" state in 1912, the town was representative of the whole San Tan farming community, providing postal, educational, and commercial services to the expansive lands around San Tan Mountain. As the years passed, the unincorporated town became smaller when communities moved forward on their own including Rittenhouse (Queen Creek), Chandler Heights, and Combs. What we now know as Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport was Higley Field before it was Williams Field Air Force Base. And we are most familiar today with the last bit of Higley holdings near Williams Field and Higley Roads annexing into the Town of Gilbert again proving wherever you look, you can always find a little bit of Higley.

Although the endless miles of land in Higley's past are gone, Crossroads of Historic Higley will record the voices of our community, creating a narrated driving tour of the people's history around the San Tan Mountains. The project will be produced over the next year and will aim to inform residents and tourists alike of the area's heritage so in Higley's 100th year, its legacy will not be forgotten.

Visit San Tan Historical Society's web page for information about the kick-off to our project on Saturday, October 24th, 2009. We will host an open house and special guest speaker, Dan Shilling, who will discuss the relationship to Civic Tourism and its place-based approach in creating sustainable communities.

We welcome all who would like to attend the free event and hope you all can be there to share and learn the stories of YOUR heritage... in Historic Higley.

Update - 10/19/09
Project Aims to capture Higley's History by Amanda Keim - East Valley Tribune

Update - 10/22/09
Public can get early look at Higley history project Saturday
by Astrid Galvan - Gilbert Republic

History Abound in Higley

Last Sunday, 9/27/2009, the Arizona Republic released a special edition filled with "Good News" in the Southeast Valley's papers. The feature touched on "More good news, good people, good things" with all stories relating to the history of Chandler, Gilbert and Mesa and the community's central role in preserving it. Below is a link to the series of articles on azcentral.com:


For obvious reasons, the "unofficial" town of Higley was not given its own section within the special edition; however, we were rather proud that our history was distinctively featured under all three cities, proving our findings that wherever you are, you can always find a little of bit of Higley :)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Mr. Conrad's Airship

On the front page of the Arizona Republic dated July 2, 1974, an article by Dave Spriggs reads "Pilot hopes to revive age of zeppelins." For many newcomers in the area, such a title may have little significance in understanding Higley's history; to long-time residents and travelers of the past, it strikes a chord of remembrance for Mr. Conrad's airship, constructed in the grassy pasture off of Williams Field Road.

For a short introduction into the semantics of airships, the rigid type has an internal frame (airships, dirigibles and zeppelins) differing from the non-rigid type (blimps) which are most commonly associated with Goodyear's current aerial advertising. Goodyear was in charge of constructing rigid-frame airships for the US Navy, but stopped its efforts after the crashes of the USS Akron in 1933 and the USS Macon in 1935. A couple of years later, the famous German passenger Zeppelin, the Hindenburg, crashed in New Jersey on May 6th, 1937, killing 36 passengers/crew and crippling global interest in the industry.

Despite the dirigible's flaws having been so widely broadcast to the world, rigid-frame airships did have successful flights as well, having logged thousands of hours and miles of trans-Atlantic service for military assistance and passenger flights during the 1900's to 1930's. Since the construction of any aircraft is a costly venture with little expense for error, and the peak of the airship's trials and tribulations pushed towards the start of WWII (the industry leader, Zeppelin, was based in Germany), experimentation with technological advances were set aside. Consequently, the idea of constructing a successful rigid airship took on a mythical interest to many aviators, including Clarence "Clare" Conrad forty years later, just "east of Chandler" in Higley, Arizona.

Clarence W. Conrad hailed from Washington state where his life-long interest in aviation was honed as a private pilot. After years of independent study, he started a 20' airship project in 1969. His son Darwin moved to Arizona to attend ASU in 1972 and Mr. Conrad followed the next year to start a task of epic scale, the construction of a dirigible 225' in length and 50' in diameter. The airship was envisioned for advertising and touristic purposes. It was designed to travel 100 miles per hour and carry 25 passengers all the while being "petroleum free" and raising to the skies on helium, the non-flammable alternative to hydrogen.

While laboring as electrical contractors during the day, Mr. Conrad and Darwin, along with family and friends, toiled on nights and weekends to complete the airship. As they were pursuing the amazing feat, the press picked up the story, and Mr. Conrad's vision was spread across the state and country ("Father and son try to bring back airship," John Fialka, Washington Star Service, St. Petersburg Times, FL 5/27/1975). As the Conrad's finished the frame and prepared to move closer towards completion, a tornado-like monsoon storm came through the area and blew Mr. Conrad's airship with it, reducing it to rubble 100 yards from the construction site (Storm Losses High, Mesa Tribune, 7/17/1975). Although smaller models including a saucer-shaped airship were constructed by the father-son team, the storm, along with financial constraints, stymied their efforts and the project was never completed.

Despite the setbacks, the press coverage continued for Conrad Airship Co. and in the subsequent years, fascination and support still proved to be widespread. The Kingman Daily Miner (AZ) reported on 12/22/1975 "There's Still Hope - Dirigible Will Be Aloft by Christmas." Over a year past the storm on 10/21/1976, the Christian Science Monitor featured a special article penned by reporter Dale Van Atta revisiting the story. Because of the national syndication of CSM's articles, the story "Backyard builders working on airship" appeared in such places as the Boca Raton News (FL) on 11/7/1976. Ten years after that, Mr. Conrad and his airship appeared in the 5/26/1986 Tucson Daily Star article titled, "Airships are making comeback to become new heroes of the skies."

In May 2002, Mr. Conrad passed away in Mesa, Arizona with his dream of completing the airship to the scale of his vision unrealized. However, after crawling all over the place to piece together his history, rest assured that his legacy is not one forgotten. When it came to contributors, they were everywhere! Your Friendly Higley Historians thank the following:
  • Arizona State History and Archives Division with their stellar keyword searches and careful placement of the story's 7/2/1974 Arizona Republic headline in their card catalogue of Arizona history (yes- card catalogues still do exist and this is the best one in the state!). All in-state articles without links were found with the help of their service - copies will be placed at the San Tan Historical Society.

  • The staff of the Chandler Airport, whose former employees like Mike Smith, were able to recollect Mr. Conrad's airship with perfect detail, as the saucer airship was housed there prior to airport expansion. Current employees jumped at the opportunity to recite the story as well since it was a legend passed on to them.

  • Google, who is working away at making publication archives searchable and accessible across the world. Every article mentioned in this story with a link is courtesy of their diligence.

  • Countless community members, visitors and far-away readers who shared how Mr. Conrad's work made them marvel at the thought of flight. Darrell Campbell, owner of Turtle Airships, was one of these readers and cited Conrad Airship Corp. in his blog as inspiration for airship technology with upward thrust (as the saucer-shaped airship permitted). In 1979, Mr. Campbell was led to Mr. Conrad by searching the archives in his own library where he found an article in Popular Mechanics, July 1977 edition, "Big Boom in Gas Bags" by Bill Allen.

  • Darwin Conrad who thankfully shared his story and provided the absolutely spectacular photos above (make sure you click on them to get the "big picture"). He continues his legacy of taking flight in Spokane modifying aircraft with 500 completed to date.

  • The inspiration for this article, Chip Cunningham, who when asked, "What do you know about Higley?" without a breath was the first to exclaim... "the dirigible."

Modern-day rigid airships are hard to come by, but companies are still out there constructing them and tightening the technology to expand uses including cargo transport, military surveillance, humanitarian applications, touristic uses and advertising. We wish them all the best of luck in their endeavors and thank them kindly for allowing us to discover their history in Higley. As for Mr. Conrad, his airship stayed grounded but his story took flight and captured the imagination of many across the world. We owe him the biggest debt of gratitude for reminding us that great achievements take great risk, and for that, he will always be a Higley Town Hero.

“When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.”

-Leonardo da Vinci

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Higley opens 10th school; more on horizon

The East Valley Tribune.com has published a new article by Hayley Ringle on 8/22 outlining the tremendous growth of the Higley Unified School District in its centennial year.

Higley opens 10th school; more on horizon 

*Fun Facts*

In the last 10 years, Higley Unified School District has opened nine new schools with 10,000 new students enrolled.

In 1910, the US Census Bureau recorded Arizona's population at 204,354. The current estimate was at 6.5 million in 2008.

The Town of Gilbert's 2009 Business Development plan states their population is at 215,000, having doubled every five years since 1980. (And to think this was roughly the population of Arizona as we approached statehood in 1912!)

In between all of these numbers, the "unofficial" town of
Higley may have been one of the only places in Arizona to have seen its population decline, but your Friendly Higley Historians couldn't be more grateful to see the ingenuity and resilience it took to make this home in the desert continuing on through our schools.

Higley Unified School District in rising to the challenges of such rapid change. We look forward to documenting your history during this year's centennial celebration and are excited to see what the next 100 years have in store!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Higley Center for the Perfoming Arts

On June 25th, azcentral.com's Srianthi Perera wrote an article about Higley's largest cultural resource, the Higley Center for the Performing Arts. The article notes that the center has yet to have a sold out show, so Make Higley Historic! wanted to be sure to get the word out about the Center's progress and upcoming performance schedule detailed in the text.


Tickets can be purchased for
their events through their website -

http://www.higleyarts.org/ (updated 7/27/09)

We thank
HUSD and the HCPA endlessly for their mission in “providing a facility in which all members of the community can participate as audience, as performers or as presenters.” We also wait patiently for their "historic" sold out show - you'll see the review here first at Make Higley Historic!

Sustainability for Higley - The Issue of Our Age

In 2007, ASU's Morrison Institute for Public Policy and Global Institute for Sustainability issued a publication named Sustainability for Arizona - The Issue of Our Age to bring light to a topic detrimental to the future of our communities.

For many who think of sustainability, the term "green" often comes to mind first, however, Make Higley Historic! has linked to this ground-breaking publication to demonstrate the issue is much more than recycling, keeping the air clean and conserving water. Sustainability, in a nutshell, is achieving a balance between environmental, social and economic issues as to not deplete our resources for future generations.

In all actuality, "
sustainable" can be applied to any practice it precedes, but fostering sustainability, local through global levels, has been historically challenging for citizens and governance alike. Today, azcentral.com has released two articles referencing the challenges of achieving sustainable growth in and around the community of Higley. We have included them to illustrate the broader view of the topic.

Gilbert county island fire district annexation costs millions - Alia Beard Rau

Williams Field - Higley road widening in Gilbert delayed - Astrid Galvan

To explore the history of these articles further, a library card and/or access to news archives will reveal plenty of information as they have been in discussion for years. And again, we invite everyone to report their findings on the community's relationship to sustainability here at MHH! To research other public policy issues affecting our great state and find more about the history of the Morrison
Institute's namesake, check out morrisoninstitute.org. The Institute's research is truly invaluable to Arizona and the family's Higley Road farming fame makes us swell even more with pride. We thank all the players there for making it known that in Higley's 100th year, and Arizona's upcoming Centennial, sustainability is an issue of historic proportions.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Native works to preserve what's left of Higley

Check out the July 6th azcentral.com article by Astrid Galvan. The story has also been printed in the Midweek July 8th Gilbert Republic. Someone's stirring up Higley :)


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Higley as Home

In pursuit of documenting history, Your Friendly Higley Historians have closely observed the reasons why people have come to the home they know as Higley. Varying personal differences aside, it is clear that all found opportunity and peace of mind in Higley, discovering that if you worked hard enough with the resources available, what was seen as an unforgiving desert would open up with everything needed to sustain generations to come. The damage of floods, fires, droughts, and dust over the years did not make the citizens of the area falter, instead added to the resilience of their character.

As the years have passed, the residents of
Higley have strengthened their ability to deal with the elements but witnessed their environment and common goals shift drastically under the weight of growth. While Higley faces obsoleteness, residents ponder daily on what Higley as home means to them, what they'll do to fight for it and the implications of leaving it all behind. In the upcoming months we will share the stories of residents instrumental in asking and answering these questions.

Below are links to the East Valley Tribune's articles regarding the litigation between
Leni Cazden and the Town of Gilbert. Cazden owns a home adjacent to Higley Road that TOG has slated for widening. The caveat is that Cazden's property is located on a county island in what was known as the unincorporated town of Higley. What land belongs to who has been mediated, decided in Cazden's favor and appealed by the Town repeatedly in court. Parties attribute the conflict to aesthetics, safety, greed and necessity.

For a little bit of history, county islands were created decades ago when towns all over the valley strip annexed small, thin strips of land beyond their limits creating "planning area" boundaries. The act of strip annexation kept competing towns outside the lines, and allowed incorporated towns to claim land away from city center as available for annexation, permitting that utilities/services were able to be provided in the best interest of government. As the i
ncorporated towns and cities grew, official annexations were done on an as-needed basis, leaving a map of random town holdings and non-contiguous county islands inside the "planning area."

Whether you are studying the lives of those who made
Higley home in the past or those trying to keep it as that in the present, we ask you to delve further and think about what home in your town means to you. Historical topics for research specific to Higley and Gilbert can include annexation, incorporation, property rights, sustainable growth and impact of public involvement in local decision making. If you seek information about what home means to other county island residents throughout the state, and nation for that matter, a library card, access to newspaper archives, or internet search will hopefully answer your questions. Spend an afternoon researching everything you can and report your findings here as One of Many Friendly Historians.

Homeowner, Gilbert in dispute over road proposal Beth Lucas - 11/3/2007

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Higley's Teachers of the Year

On May 13th, 2009, Your Friendly Higley Historians were honored to be in attendance of a very special "first" in Higley schools. The evening launched Higley Unified School District's "Teacher of the Year" award ceremony, giving accolades to one exemplary teacher from each of the nine schools.

For a small
back story, Higley School District was founded in 1909 with one K-8 school. The Rittenhouse School in Queen Creek (current home to the San Tan Historical Society) was originally in the school district when it opened its doors in 1922 and remained until Queen Creek started their own district in 1947. The little Higley School braved many years by itself until 2000 to 2009 when the district added nine new schools, including the opening of Centennial Elementary this fall.

During the past 100 years, the faculty, staff and volunteers, many one in the same, have been integral to the district's survival and more importantly, to the students' success. Now we may all have our opinions and know our facts as to what makes a good teacher and a bad one, but it is undisputed that the teachers who make learning fun and memorable (*sometimes this isn't always fun), are worth their weight in gold. In
Higley, there have been many who have risen to the occasion and remained tirelessly committed in finding ways to engage their students in education.

Carol Johnson, science teacher between 1974 and 2004, thrilled her students arranging a "magic show" of the year's science lessons which were demonstrated to the extremely impressed younger students. Ann Udall, librarian, orchestrated the "Book Brigade" in 1989 when the new library was built. She lined the students from the new building to the old and, in a lesson of teamwork, they passed the books along to each other until the new shelves were filled. As noted in
MHH!'s post "Higley Elementary Cornerstone Contents Revealed," Sue Sossaman instructed and made her students marvel in the way of being fearless, especially when it came to snakes!

Wednesday evening's ceremony was 100 years in the making. It would have been impossible to name all of the teachers from Higley whose commitment to education has left a lasting impression; but let it be known, on the evening of May 20
th, 2009, before the eyes of students, colleagues and the business community that depends on our best and brightest, we clapped for each and every one of them and the difference they made in the life of a child.

Thank you kindly
Higley Teachers of the Year, Yesteryears, and Future - YOU make US proud. We are eternally grateful for your support in the past and excited to see your efforts in the years to come.

Higley Unified honors nine teachers of the year, Emily Gersema, azcentral.com - 5/15/09

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Cartography of Higley

As with all cities, the publication of maps is a defining attribute in recording it's actual existence. However, "elusive" is not an understatement for Higley and those who seek a map of the place have endured a different experience. The visual aid of Higley's boundaries has depended entirely on who you ask. If you were to do an Internet search today for a Higley map, the marker would probably be on the spot where the post office stands, since that is technically the only place you can be from Higley now. Some utility maps today still have Higley marked with a southern boundary of Hunt Highway on the Pinal County line.

When founded, Higley served as a postal district, school district and commercial center for the entire San Tan farming community, what we now know as Queen Creek, Combs, Chandler Heights, south Mesa and Gilbert. Additionally, census records ran through Higley until the respective communities carved their own way. As small of a place that it started out to be, Higley truly was a "gateway" between the cities of the southeast valley and Pinal County's capital in Florence.

Your Friendly Higley Historians ask anyone who has a map of Higley to let us know, we would greatly appreciate a copy for posterity. Please email makehigleyhistoric@cox.net with any research leads, we can look on your behalf as well.

In the meantime, Make Higley Historic! is pleased to announce Higley's revival on a very special map. With the help of Andrew Phelps' internationally acclaimed work, Higley has made it on to the Future Arts Research at ASU's "101 Things We Love About Arizona" interactive map. FAR @ ASU is an initiative of the university president's office to expand the role of arts in Phoenix and greater Arizona through action research, public programs and new commissions. To see all of their "hot spots" and find out more about their sponsored events, go to http://futureartsresearch.asu.edu/hot-spots .

Your Friendly Higley Historians all concur that it's a breath of fresh air to be put on a map - we had grown quite accustomed to the opposite! Thank you kindly FAR @ ASU for your hard work and making both Higley's historic value and continued presence known.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Higley by Andrew Phelps

Higley's gone international!

While your Friendly
Higley Historians were digging into the past in ASU's library catalog, we were were pleasantly surprised in coming upon a relic of the present, Higley (Kehrer Verlag Heidelberg, 2007), a photographic documentary on, you guessed it, Higley, AZ.

Raised in Mesa and Austrian resident since the early 90's, photographer Andrew Phelps returned to the
Higley of his past and spent the years 2005-2007 documenting Higley as it stood. Contributor Tamarra Kaida writes "Photography may be the most important medium to express the loss that time and change foist upon us." Now, we try at MHH! to refrain from opinions, but we agree whole-heartedly with her sentiments on this one.

And...... have
Higley, will travel! Andrew Phelps' Higley has been seen in gallery showings in Austria, Germany, and New York - the photo above is Higley in Hamburg! Higley was also shortlisted in 2008 for both the German Photo Book award and Arles book list.

Art is truly a personal experience and in light of such a fact, below is the description of the project in his own words. A copy of the book, inclusive of the essay, Losing Ground, scribed by Tamarra
Kaida will be available at the San Tan Historical Society by 4/24. Selected photos, along with additional work, can be seen at Phelps' website -http://www.andrew-phelps.com/ and copies are available for purchase through the distributor - http://www.photoeye.com/.

Thank you very kindly, Andrew, for making
Higley's present historic value known, and more importantly, speaking with your voice loud enough for the world to hear. We are very pleased that it carried far enough to make it back home.


Andrew Phelps

The Higley of my childhood was a farming expanse of cotton, alfalfa, citrus, and otherwise empty desert pierced by two-lane, rough-paved roads with names like Pecos and Ray. Higley was always east. We drove west to go to parties, to the university, to the city, and, if you drove long enough, to the Pacific Ocean. West was where the action was.Higley always seemed east of everything.

Higley was a farming town, but there are few farmers in my blood. My grandfather was a dairy man, but he left Phoenix early in search of a spiritual higher ground. My other grandfather came to service airplanes during WW2 and, drawn by the legend of the “Lost Dutchman Goldmine,” stayed after the war to become the local postman, conveniently leaving his afternoons free to plan assaults on the supposedly gold-ridden flanks of the Superstition Mountains.

I moved to Europe in the early 1990’s. At that time, my last visit to Higley had most likely been in 1987 to try my luck on a skateboard half-pipe called the “Hillbilly” ramp. When my sister called me a few years ago to tell me that she bought a house in Higley, I had visions of her tending alfalfa fields; romantic, in a sense, but not exciting. I simply had no memories and no recollections of a Higley that could possibly appease my sister’ suburban standards.

What I didn’t know is that the turn of the century had changed Higley from a community of farms to a community of bedrooms. The sudden need for affordable housing in an ever expanding Phoenix had basically arisen from two factors: first, there was the eastward wandering of tech companies that preferred the low-cost of Phoenix to the high cost density of “Silicon Valley,” and second, there was the financially stable, sun-seeking consumer group known as the “senior citizen.” Uninteresting to the true Yuppie who preferred to buy in the north, Higley supplied what progress demanded: great expanses of flatland and no historical infrastructure to stand in the way of the giant strip malls, fast food chains, and freeway turnpikes that would become the brightly-lit circulatory system of this new, affordable Higley.

What has happened to Higley is nothing new. Driven by the fleeting historical anomaly of readily available fossil fuels, cheap transport, and the commercial opportunism of affordable real estate, Higley is happening at the fringe of almost every urban space on the planet. “Globalization” is the catchphrase, but globalization is just too monumental to take on in a photographic series. Higley is thus my microcosm; I can get my hands around it, and when I want, Higley remains the kind of place I can walk across in an afternoon.

Neither the Higley of twenty years ago, nor the Higley of the future, are of interest to me. It’s this moment, where one place, with a definitive history, is rapidly losing ground to an undifferentiated sense of progress. These images from Higley and the surrounding townships of Queen Creek and Gilbert will hopefully bear witness to this brief three year period, a period when the American dream either collapses or blooms; it’s not my place to judge.

More than once, in the last three years, have I found myself at five a.m. in a borrowed car, missing my family, with a box of unexposed film haunting me from the passenger seat, unsure that anything in this now foreign place would ever open itself to me again. Though it is thinning, I still have family in Higley, and when I lose my way and don’t know where to set up the camera, I can always go back and find pieces of myself in this landscape, these fields, this light.

Andrew Phelps, Summer 2007

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Higley Elementary Cornerstone Contents Revealed!

During a recent interview with our Friendly Higley Historians at Higley Elementary, Vicki Simer and Michelle Young, the contents of a cornerstone placed in 1954 were uncovered! The building that held the cornerstone was constructed in 1954 and removed nearly 50 years later when Higley Elementary underwent major reconstruction. Below illustrates the occurrences on dedication day along with a poem read aloud. A list of the parents and patrons attending and all of the students in their respective classes will be available at the San Tan Historical Society for viewing. Come take a look and see if any of your relatives or friends were there. If you have memories of this day, building, or events surrounding the time, please share! All items of Higley historical significance are greatly appreciated at Make Higley Historic!

Dedication of New Building
May 7, 1954

1. Flag Salute led by Clyde
2. The
American's Creed - 5th and 6th Grade Pupils led by Larry Power
3. Invocation - Reverend Alford
4. Address - Mr.
5. Placing of Cornerstone - Mr. Claude
6. Dedication of Building - Mr. Wilbur Power
Presentation of Building - Mr. Tom Harris
8. Acceptance of Building - Margaret Burrows

To The Future Inhabitants Of Higley
by Claude Connell

This is a year we won't forget, the year of fifty-four,
So many things have happened, we hardly know the score,
We've built brand new building, as all of us can see;
probably when you read this note, it will all be debris.

We have a crew of teachers that is very hard to beat,
We don't know where we'd find some of them to fill their seat.
Their teaching methods are good, their moral standards are high.
goals they set to reach are almost to the sky.

The children of the school are as happy as can be,
And at recess, they laugh and play and are so full of glee.
Most are well adjusted, and like to go to school,
They learn their lessons well; not one we'd call a fool.

There are five first class
teachers in this little five room school,
Away out in the country where they use the horse and mule.
They try to teach the children the way they should act,
But at times they get together and form a pact.

At times it is discouraging trying to figure what to do,
When Mary comes complaining that her hair is full of glue.
If we are going by the rules, put blame where blame is due;
But how's a teacher going to prove just who poured the glue.

We have got a wonderful teacher, that can even charm a snake;
Her name is Mrs. Sue
Sossaman, Oh gee, she takes the cake.
reachers down behind the head and holds it by the neck,
Lifts it up over the fence, and sets it down, by heck.

There are so many other things that happen around here too,
We won't mention them, don't want to start a stew.
Most of us have been here for many, many years,
So we're all so very careful of what we say, my dears.

We hope that this new building will prove its weight in gold.
That it will help the teacher, the little children mold.
So they have happy memories, of the time that we all gave,
To help them on their journey, and help their road to pave.

This will all have happened, so many years ago,
I doubt if you will believe, if any of it is so.
You have torn down the building, that we so proudly gave;
But we will not worry, because we'll be in our grave.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Higley Post Office

For those skeptics who argue that Higley never was, here is a reminder that Higley is and always will be 85236 - our famous and beloved zip code. As an unincorporated town, annexation into neighboring communities has removed Higley street addresses, but its existence carries on through the Higley Post Office.

Records show that in 1910, Higley's post office was established with Laurence Holland Sorey (also seen with other spelling variations) as the postmaster. The post office was situated in the the building shown at the top of the Make Higley Historic website. This building is currently the Higley Stop & Shop/Taco Loco on the southwest corner of Higley and Williams Field. L.H. Sorey established a general store and the post office (not Stephen Higley), accommodating homesteaders, rail workers, and farm hands in the area . According to a written history by Elsie Owens Germann, he and his family lived on the second level up a flight of very steep stairs. His children were Jim and Matilda. Matilda delivered the mail via horseback to the rural patrons in the area commencing in 1915. The grandson of LH, Jack, says that it wouldn't matter if she would fall asleep on the route because the horse knew where to stop.

Considering lack of government in Higley, postmasters served as an unofficial mayors, if you will, openly facilitating commerce, community and communication. In Mr. Sorey's case, as a member of the Higley Chamber of Commerce, he was instrumental in lobbying for a road connecting Florence to Chandler (see 11/26/08 MHH! blogspot post). Some other early Higley postmasters include AJ Walker, Mary Owens and Mrs. English.

Post offices were eventually established in Chandler Heights (1938) and Queen Creek (1947) , but Higley continued to serve its own community along with Williams Air Force Base and neighboring towns of Mesa and Gilbert. After almost 80 years of operation in the same building, Higley's post office was built anew in 1989, 1/4 mile from the northeast corner of Higley and Ray. Unofficial records have shown Higley serving anywhere from 1000 patrons up to 4000 at its peak before Gilbert absorbed the last of the street delivery in 2007. The PO Box patrons at the Higley Post Office are the only remaining addressees of the historic community Higley, AZ 85236.

Despite the lack of street delivery, the Higley Post Office continues to be an institution most revered by the locals. Predating phone, fax, email, and annexation, the Higley Post Office remains as the original "gateway" to communication for the residents in the southeast Valley and coming up on 100 years of public service to boot! Many pine for the days when waiting lines were non-existent, but remain endlessly grateful of the role it has played in the area's progress and that it continues to stand as a testament to Higley's heritage.

If you have memories and/or inquiries regarding the history of the Higley Post Office we'd love to hear them, investigate on your behalf or point you in the right direction for more research. As with all posts on the Make Higley Historic! blogspot, please feel free to concur with or out-right question any of the information above. We want to hear from you!