How did Casa Grande come about?
It began as many other towns and cities across the west began: as the end of the railroad. As the Southern Pacific Railroad was being built across Arizona, construction had to stop for a variety of reasons. Each place it stopped was called Terminus until the railroad continued. Each temporary stop was either renamed as a town or abandoned.
Why was Casa Grande different?
A brief history of railroads in Arizona helps explain. In 1871, the Texas and Pacific Railroad Company was authorized to build from Marshall, Texas to San Diego, California. At about the same time, the Southern Pacific Railroad Company obtained permission to build from the west to the Colorado River at Yuma. The Southern Pacific arrived at the river opposite Yuma on May 20, 1877—only to have to halt construction until September 29, when the bridge across the Colorado was finished. Because Arizona was a territory, the government in Washington refused entry into Arizona until proper charters were obtained, the right-of-way was defined, etc. The Texas and Pacific Company had made no progress in constructing their part of the line, so the Southern Pacific Company secured a charter and had the building ban lifted.
Work was resumed November 19th, 1878. As the railroad progressed across the desert from Yuma, largely through the efforts of Chinese laborers, the heat became oppressive. By May 19th, 1879, a point was reached about where the present town of Casa Grande is now located. Work was stopped until January 24th, 1880 and that temporary stop was called "Terminus." In September 1880, executives of the Southern Pacific Railroad renamed the town after the prehistoric Hohokam Indian structure (Great House) and ruins located 20 miles to the east. The Casa Grande Post Office was established September 10th, 1881.
The traveling post office, or Terminus, moved on and can be traced as far as the arrival of the Southern Pacific Railroad in Tucson in late 1880. On May 19, 1881, the Southern Pacific Railroad reached EI Paso and connected with the Texas and Pacific Railroad, thereby opening the southern Continental route almost four years to the day from the time it reached the Colorado River.
Envelopes with postmarks that document many happenings in our country's colorful past are sought by collectors. One of the collectors, H. H. Longfellow of Flagstaff, specializes in Arizona covers, particularly those that relate to territorial days. He has one post card with the Terminus stamp on one side and the Casa Grande location on the other side. The cancellation does not carry the year but it must have been 1879—since the railroad arrived in Casa Grande in that year. So Terminus, Arizona was never really a town; it was a traveling post office. Disagreements and litigation with the Texas and Pacific Railroad kept the traveling post office in Casa Grande for several months. Apparently at the time the card was written freight shipments for Tucson were billed to Maricopa, forwarded to Terminus by mail, and then hauled by wagon to Tucson.
Historic photo © the Casa Grande Valley Historical Society
In this photograph of the interior of the Southern Pacific Depot in Casa Grande the office staff and latest equipment attest to the railroad's efficiency. Pictured in this 1910 picture are, left to right, Arthur Elliott and Paul Hobby. Note Elliott's leather puttees, and the latest model typewriter and the roll-top desk.