Looking Back: The Original Territorial Capital of Arizona

Chino Valley’s history began with the declaration of Arizona as a United States territory on Feb. 24, 1863.

The Post of Fort Whipple, the site of the first territorial government, was set up near Del Rio Springs on Dec. 23, 1863. In May of 1864, it moved closer to Prescott. Within months settlers homesteaded the land and the long story of farming and ranching in Chino Valley began.

In 1909, the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad and the Fred Harvey organization continued the farming tradition when they purchased the farm to supply the Fred Harvey Houses along the Santa Fe Railroad with milk, eggs, meat and produce.

The coming of the railroad signaled a new era for Chino Valley.

Jerome Junction was created to provide a transfer point between the narrow gauge coming over from Jerome, and the Santa Fe Railroad going from Prescott to the main line at Ash Fork. The center of activity now moved there.  It became a major railroad junction complete with stockyards, Wells Fargo office, post office, school and a hotel. In May 1920 the railroad line from Jerome was moved farther north.

Jerome Junction remained a stop on the Santa Fe line, but most of the activity of the area moved west along Highway 89. Many of the buildings were moved there, too. From 1920s through the late 1940s most families were engaged in farming or ranching.

Dairy farms took on a new impetus from the mid-1950s through 1965.  The increasing costs for electricity and water for irrigating soon made it unprofitable for farmers to work their land. While the farm dollar decreased, the land values increased and many made the choice of selling their land for new homes and businesses.