The street known today as West Miracle Mile began its life as the Casa Grande Road because it was the starting point from Tucson for people heading to the town of Casa Grande.

Casa Grande Union High School, photo likely taken in the 1920s.

The Casa Grande Valley, situated between the Gila and Santa Cruz rivers, was inhabited by Native Americans long before Christopher Columbus arrived in the New World. By 300 A.D., the Hohokam Indians built irrigation canals and planted crops including beans, corn, quash, tobacco and cotton.

Around 1150 A.D., many Hohokam left their settlements for more concentrated river villages. Each consisted of clusters of homes, public structures and public plazas surrounded by walls on all sides. Around 200 years later, what we now call the Casa Grande (Great House or Big House) was built in one of these villages.

The valley eventually passed into the control of the Spanish. During this time Father Kino, a Jesuit priest, became the first known European, in 1694, to see the Casa Grande ruins, at that point long since abandoned.

Courtesy of UA Special Collections: Casa Grande Rail Depot

In 1821, the land became part of Mexico. During the Mexican Period, in the mid-to-late 1820s, a small number of European American trappers such as James O. Pattie traveled in the area hunting the plentiful beavers.

By the 1830s, some small mines were being developed in the area.

In 1854, James Gadsden, the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, negotiated the purchase of land south of the Gila River, including the Casa Grande Valley from Mexico, making it part of the United States. In 1875, the Casa Grande Valley become part of the new Pinal County, which was formed from parts of Maricopa and Pima counties. Florence was appointed the county seat.

The Southern Pacific Railroad Co. began building a line from California to Yuma and then east, but in May 1879 it stopped construction in the Casa Grande Valley, calling it Terminus, meaning "end-of-the-line." In January 1880, construction of the railroad began again. 

Casa Grande. Photo likely taken in the 1920s.

By September 1880, the town had been renamed Casa Grande in honor of the Hohokam ruins about 20 miles to the northeast. That same year, Jeremiah "Jere" Fryer was appointed the first postmaster of the tiny town. He was probably best known for being the husband of Pauline Cushman, a famous Union spy. At one point they operated the Fryer Hotel in Casa Grande.

Casa Grande would remain a town connected with mining for many years — supplies were dropped off for local mining camps and ore derived from local mines was send elsewhere for smelting.

In 1912, the Casa Grande Times newspaper began publication, likely the first newspaper in town. It later become part of the Casa Grande Dispatch.

The following year the first grammar school opened and in 1914 the town incorporated. The first town election was in 1915 and, the year after that, the first municipal bond election.

In 1917, as a result of that bond election, the first water system was installed and electricity came soon after. Three years later, the Casa Grande Union High school building was completed.

In 1927, Casa Grande saw its first female mayor, Fanne Gaar, in office. The following year, work began on the city sewer system.

In 1929, the Coolidge Dam was completed. While farming in the valley had existed since the time of the Hohokam, the promise of large-scale irrigation drew many new people and the town's population quadrupled from 300 in 1910 to some 1,200 in 1930.

The same year, Casa Grande dedicated new streetlights, sidewalks, the first two miles of paved streets and an airport.

During World War II, from 1942 to 1945, a Japanese-American relocation camp was set up outside of Casa Grande, called the Gila River Relocation Camp. Two notable people interned there were future actor Pat Morita and baseball player Kenichi Zenimura, who built a baseball field and set up a league in the relocation camp.

In 1959, the population of Casa Grande was over 8,000. By 1970, it was the largest city in the Casa Grande Valley, surpassing the county seat of Florence. Farming continued be a large factor in the economy, with cotton being a significant amount of the output.

In the 1990s a few Hollywood movies were filmed on location in Casa Grande: "Three Kings" starring Mark Wahlberg, and "Bodies, Rest & Motion," which was also shot in Tucson and featured local Native American actor Jon Proudstar.

In 2010, the population of Casa Grande had grown to 48,571. In 2012, among the largest employers in the city were the Casa Grande Elementary School District with 1,030 employees, Frito Lay Inc., with 450 workers, and the Casa Grande Valley Newspapers with 150 employees.

Casa Grande Road was officially established by the Pima County Board of Supervisors, on May 5, 1920. It ran from present-day Oracle Road west to the train tracks and north to the Pinal County line following what is now Interstate 10. It was later renamed Casa Grande Highway, and then Miracle Mile.


Special thanks to Patricia Stephenson, author of “Trial and Triumph: The Life and Accomplishments of Louise Foucar Marshall.”

F.J. Cornick, "Our Famous Valley of the Casa Grande," The Bulletin (newspaper), Sept. 11, 1913 (AHS)

Bernard L. Fontana, "Biography of a Desert Church: The Story of the Mission San Xavier Del Bac," The Smoke Signal, Spring, 1961

Melissa Keane, "Cotton and Figs: The Great Depression in the Casa Grande Valley," The Journal of Arizona History, Autumn, 1991

Casa Grande Ruins National Monument:

Dawn Snell et. al., "Casa Grande," Arcadia Publishing, 2011

Bill Staples Jr., "Kenichi Zenimura, Japanese American Baseball Pioneer," McFarland, 2011

Byrd H. Granger, "Will C. Barnes: Arizona Place Names," The University of Arizona Press, 1985

John J. Dreyfuss, "A History Of Arizona's Counties And Courthouses," National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the State of Arizona, 1972

Casa Grande Centennial Committee, "Casa Grande Centennial 1879-1979: 100 Years of Progress," Casa Grande Centennial Committee, 1979

Casa Grande Valley Historical Society town history:

Casa Grande Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for 2012:

Movies shot in Casa Grande: