Carolin Benjamin 

Wayne Standage - Aizona Centennial and Roosevelt's Ride

In the span of only a few months two separate events in Arizona’s history are being celebrated; the 100th year of Arizona’s Statehood on February 12, 1912; and the 100th anniversary of the completion of the Theodore Roosevelt Dam - dedicated on May 18, 1911.

Local historian Wayne Standage, whose passion for Arizona’s history stemmed from his pioneer ancestors, filled us in on some of the events leading up to building the Roosevelt Dam and some interesting background on the history of Apache Junction.
During the 1800’s the Salt River provided precious water needed for early settlers … but it was unreliable. Droughts and floods were common and played havoc with ranchers. With the passing of the Reclamation Act of 1902 the way was clear to build a dam to control the flow of the river. In 1903 the Salt River Project was created by 26 ranchers who put up their land as collateral for a loan to build the dam and construction began.
The trail leading from the valley to the location of the dam site passed through very difficult terrain. Despite the fact that the trail had existed for hundreds, if not thousands, of years the challenge of making it into a passable road was enormous. The trail had been used by Native Americans to move from winter homes in the Valley to summer homes in the mountains. It was also used by marauding Apaches and Yavapai to raid Pima villages along the Salt River.
Native Americans took on the task of widening the trail and constructing a road. Apaches worked from the dam site going west and Pimas from the Valley going east toward the dam. The road was initially called the Mesa-Roosevelt Road or the Tonto-Wagon Road and traveled 62 miles from Mesa to the dam site. Mule teams and steam driven tractors were used to haul building materials to the dam.
Upon completion of the dam, Theodore Roosevelt was driven along the road to the dam for its dedication on May 18, 1911. This drive is now known as “Roosevelt’s Ride”. At the upcoming 2012 Lost Dutchman Days in Apache Junction an actor portraying President Theodore Roosevelt will be the Grand Marshall for the parade. During the festivities he will be driven in period antique cars to venues where he will speak about the history of building the road and the dam. Planned speaking locations include the Superstition Mountain Museum, the Goldfield Ghost Town, the Apache Junction Chamber of Commerce and the Rodeo Grounds.
So what role did Apache Junction play in the building of the dam? Surprisingly – none. The town’s beginnings began in 1921; a full decade after the dam was completed. Even the name “Apache Trail” was never used during the construction of the dam. It was a marketing name that was created in 1915 for a stagecoach tour going to the dam and operated by the Southern Pacific Railway.
The original road did not even follow our modern day Apache Trail through town. It passed north of present day Apache Junction and cut right across the parcel of land that today is Prospector Park. In fact it passes through undeveloped desert landscape only a short walk away from where the Lost Dutchman Days Rodeo Grounds is today. The dirt road still exists and it looks pretty much like it did then – 100 years ago.