Here is an overview copied and pasted out of wikipedia. . .
For more than 1,000 years, the Hohokam peoples occupied the land that would become Phoenix. The Hohokam created roughly 135 miles (217 km) of irrigation canals, making the desert land arable. Paths of these canals would later become used for the modern Arizona Canal, Central Arizona Project Canal, and the Hayden-Rhodes Aqueduct. The Hohokam also carried out extensive trade with nearby Anasazi, Mogollon, and other Mesoamerican tribes.It is believed that, between 1300 and 1450, periods of drought and severe floods led to the Hohokam’s abandonment of the area.
American and European "Mountain Men" likely came through the area while exploring what is now central Arizona during the early 19th century. They obtained valuable American Beaver and North American River Otter pelts; these animals, as well as deer and Mexican Wolves, often lived in the Salt River Valley when water supplies and temperatures allowed.The US Army created Fort McDowell on the Verde River in 1865 to quell Native American uprisings. Hispanic workers serving the fort established a camp on the south side of the Salt River by 1866 that was the first permanent settlement in the valley after the decline of the Hohokam.
The history of Phoenix as a city begins with Jack Swilling, an American Civil War veteran who had come west to seek wealth in the 1850s and worked primarily in Wickenburg. On an outing in 1867, he stopped to rest at the foot of the White Tank Mountains. Swilling observed the abandoned river valley and considered its potential for farming, much like that already cultivated by the military further east near Fort McDowell. The terrain and climate were optimal; only a regular source of water was necessary. The existence of the old Hohokam ruins, showing clear paths for canals, made Swilling imagine new possibilities.
Lord Darrell Duppa suggested the name "Phoenix," as it described a city born from the ruins of a former civilization.
During World War II, Phoenix's economy shifted to that of a distribution center, rapidly turning into an embryonic industrial city with mass production of military supplies. Luke Field, Williams Field, and Falcon Field, coupled with the giant ground-training center at Hyder, west of Phoenix, brought thousands of new people into Phoenix
During World War II, Phoenix's economy shifted to that of a distribution center, rapidly turning into an embryonic industrial city with mass production of military supplies. Luke Field, Williams Field, and Falcon Field, coupled with the giant ground-training center at Hyder,
A Prisoner of War Camp was established at the site of what is now Papago Park and Phoenix Zoo for the internment of German soldiers captured in Europe. In 1944, dozens of prisoners had devised a plan to escape from the camp and use boats to go down the nearby Salt River to reach Mexico. However, they were unaware that the river was mostly dry had not been navigable for decades, and were thus easily apprehended near the camp.
A fire in October 1947 destroyed most of the streetcar fleet, making the city choose between implementing a new street railway system or using buses. The latter were selected, and automobiles remained the city’s preferred method of transportation.
This part makes me really sad. It would have been so nice to have a streetcar system set up all over this sprawling metropolis.
By 1950, over 100,000 people lived within the city and thousands more in surrounding communities. There were 148 miles (238 km) of paved streets and 163 miles (262 km) of unpaved streets.
Apparently between 1950 and today over 1,000,000 people moved to the city of Phoenix alone and no one seems to know why . . . I couldn't find anything about the last 60 years. My guess is tourism brought people here and created a demand for jobs. The climate allowed for the play and training of sports year round and the winters are fabulous!