William H. Kirkland

William H. Kirkland

Born: July 12, 1832, in Petersburg, Virginia
Died: January 20, 1910, in Winkelman, Arizona

William H. Kirkland was a well-known Arizona pioneer who played an important role in the founding of Tempe. He arrived in Tucson in January of 1856, just as the United States was taking possession of the area from Mexico after the Gadsden Purchase. Kirkland had a contract to supply army camps with lumber and provisions. He raised cattle in the Santa Cruz Valley for a few years, but often lost most of his herd to raiding Apaches. Kirkland left the Tucson area and traveled throughout the Southwest. He discovering gold in 1863 in the area now known as Kirkland Valley.

By 1870, he moved to Salt River Valley and joined with James B. McKinney to direct construction of the first irrigation ditch on the south side of the Salt River. He joined the original Hardy Irrigating Canal Company that was formed in 1870 to extend the Kirkland-McKinney Ditch, and then became a member of the Tempe Irrigating Canal Company, which eventually completed the job of developing a network of irrigation canals throughout the area. Kirkland built a home in the Tempe area, and started a farm just east of Tempe Butte. In 1872 he donated an 80-acre site on the south side of Tempe Butte for a new Hispanic settlement called San Pablo. He served as the local justice of the peace, and was elected to the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors. But two years later he resigned his posts and moved on to Silver City, New Mexico, and then on to Texas, where he went into the cattle business. Kirkland later returned to Tempe shortly before his death in 1910. He is buried in Double Butte Cemetery.

William Kirkland married Missouri Ann Bacon in 1860. He was the father of three sons and four daughters. His first daughter, Lizzie Kirkland Steele, was always considered to be the first white child born in Arizona.