Arizona historians mistakenly reported that
1. Russian Spiritual Christians are Russian Orthodox, and
2. they arrived in Arizona 20 years earlier than reported in the same newspaper!
The other groups may also have major errors.
[Mexican] [Japanese] [Chinese] [Lebanese] [Russians Molokans] [Basques]
The Arizona Republic/The Phoenix Gazette — June 12, 1992
Section: Community Northwest — Page: 1N2
Series: Glendale Remembers
Variety of Ethnic Groups Helped Develop GlendaleBy Jerry W Abbitt, and Shelley L. Schauberger
The history of Glendale is in part a history of diversity, a history of how people treated people.
The life histories of people — individuals — tell the true story of Glendale's century-long quest to handle the issues of diversity. In some cases, the stories reflect failure, given today's standards. For many, if not most, the mood of the present was evident in the past.
But in the broadest sense, a simple look at the many ethnic and religious groups represented in Glendale ought to provide an appreciation for the complexity of the issue of diversity and how it has shaped the Glendale of today.
The completion of the Arizona Canal in May 1885 opened up for settlement the area that is now present-day Glendale. At the request of W.J. Murphy, who was responsible for construction of the canal, the promise of fertile farmlands and religious tranquility was marketed successfully to members of the Church of the Brethren in the Midwest.
By February 1892, the town of Glendale was established as a Brethren colony with approximately 70 families. It did not take long, however, before a wide variety of ethnic and religious groups had settled in Glendale, giving the community a distinct character of diversity.
From its earliest days, Glendale was primarily an agricultural community. The early Brethren settlers considered farming one of the few respectable professions. They also took a dim view of sinful and excessive living: Strict laws were passed forbidding gambling and the sale of intoxicants.
Glendale was proclaimed to be a "temperance colony". This claim, coupled with the increased access brought by the completion of the Prescott-to-Phoenix line of the Santa Fe Railroad, helped attract other religious groups to Glendale.
By 1920, Glendale boasted a diverse list of denominations, including Methodist, Baptist, Lutheran, Nazarene, Christian Church, Church of Christ and Roman Catholic.
When the Brethren arrived in the region, there was already a small settlement of Mexican-Americans in the area that is presently south of Glendale Avenue and between 51st and 55th avenues.
They had worked as laborers during the construction of the Arizona Canal and eventually found work as farm and ranch hands as the settlers began to increase in number.
Mexican-Americans[Note that Mexicans are the only ethnic group in this series "American" suffixed. For some reason the historians did not also label the Chinese as Chinese-Americans, etc.]
A few Mexican-Americans, like Antonio Maldonado, were able to save their earnings and start small businesses.
Maldonado moved to Glendale from Mexico in 1901 in order to avoid a family-arranged marriage. He eventually married Cleotilde Jerez while living in Glendale, where he worked at various jobs until he earned enough money to open a blacksmith shop.
Being a blacksmith wasn't Maldonado's only business venture. He was also hired to play music and sing at weddings, rodeos and other social functions. His musical abilities were known and appreciated not only in Glendale but also in Prescott and Wickenburg.
The Mexican-American population increased significantly in 1920 when the Mexican Revolution, accompanied by the passage of the Immigration Act, brought Mexican immigrants into the area. Another large influx of Mexican-Americans in Glendale occurred in 1956, when crop failures in Texas prompted many families to move.
Since many Mexican-Americans were Catholic, they had to go to Phoenix for services until they built their own mission church. When a fire destroyed that building, the parishioners replaced it with the ''Rock Church.''
The JapaneseJapanese-Americans also settled in Glendale early in its history. They were skilled farmers and often successfully raised crops despite drought and other unfavorable conditions. Early Japanese farmers primarily grew lettuce and cantaloupe, though some developed a variety of fruit orchards.
Hiroshi Yamamoto is an example of a successful Japanese-American farmer who took a chance at growing strawberries. After years of farming lettuce and cantaloupe, he finally succeeded in growing a bumper crop of strawberries.
As a prosperous farmer, Yamamoto was also a leader in the Japanese community. As one of the founding fathers of the Arizona Buddhist Temple, he gave both time and money in support of the priest and the construction of the temple.
A sizable group of Glendale's Japanese residents attended the Japanese Free Methodist Church.
It is thought that the farming success of the Japanese led to jealousy among some Valley settlers. Throughout the 1930s, the Japanese were openly discriminated against through both legal and illegal means.
House Bill 78 was introduced in Arizona's Senate in February 1935 to virtually prohibit "alien Japanese" (Japanese not born in the United States) from acquiring and cultivating land in Arizona.
Amidst great national controversy, the House of Representatives refused to vote on the bill before adjourning March 21, thus avoiding even more severe discrimination.
A few Japanese-American farmers who lived in Glendale were threatened and intimidated. Anger, resentment and prejudice prompted acts of aggression, as homemade bombs were thrown at Japanese homes and used to sabotage their irrigation ditches.
These isolated incidents did not, however, accurately reflect what was in the hearts of most Glendale citizens.
As World War II broke out, many Japanese were interned in camps, displaced from their homes, farms, businesses and friends.
Friendship is the context within which prejudice and divisiveness lose their power. Glendale children and young people developed bonds of friendship in school and at play that eased the tensions of diversity.
Helen Tanita and Mary McAllister, for instance, knew each other as Helen and Mary, and celebrated their differences as friends.
Generations of those friendships have somewhat blurred the lines of distinction. Whether Chinese, Russian, Basque or Lebanese, Glendale children learned to enjoy each other as friends. The political power structure, lacking this positive rational context, provided the means to discriminate for those that felt it in their hearts.
The ChineseIn 1904, George Sing moved from San Francisco to Phoenix and then to Glendale, where he opened the community's first Chinese-operated grocery store and meat market.
Chinese-Americans such as the Ongs, Tangs, Wongs and Gins eventually joined the Sings in Glendale. In the 1940s, the Ongs opened their own grocery and meat market. The Tangs owned restaurants and import stores.
According to newspaper reports, Sing originally moved to Glendale as a cook's helper to assist in feeding the Arizona Canal laborers. After the canal was completed, he moved to Phoenix, where he sold vegetables on the streets from a cart.
A friend of Sing's who came from Philadelphia purchased the property at the corner of what is now 56th Avenue and Lamar Road, and began operating a feed store. Sing decided to go into business as well and opened a grocery store in the same location, which prospered for decades.
He also opened, in the back of his building, the first dance hall in the community. Local Mexican-American musical artists provided the music.
Many of the Chinese who came to America did so in order to earn enough money to return to China and establish businesses there. Most of them never made it back to their homeland, as political turmoil and revolution left them unsure of what their status as Chinese citizens would be if they chose to return.
The LebaneseFred Koory was a member of one of the Lebanese families who settled in Glendale. He owned and operated the Fifth Avenue Market, a small grocery store near Sing's market.
Other Lebanese families, such as the Courys, Daous and Musas, moved into the community as well, also setting up small businesses. Competition increased among the small businesses.
The Russians MolokansOn June 18, 1892, Glendale was incorporated with a population of 1,000. 13 years later in 1911 During the following year, about 170 Russian Spiritual Christians Orthodox Molokan (which translates, literally, as "milk drinkers") families moved from the Los Angeles area to farms west of Glendale. The first group were mainly of the Maksimist faith, followed by Pryguny, Zionisty, Novie Israili, Dukhoborsty, Molokane, and others. Many were in in mixed-faith marriages, but all were Spiritual Christians who dissented from the Orthodox Church, historically analogous to protestants who dissented from Catholics in Europe.
The Russian-Americans came to Glendale seeking the promise of prosperity in the sugar beet industry. A factory to process the sugar beets had been constructed in 1906 at what is presently Glendale Avenue, just west of 51st Avenue.
Expecting all Spiritual Christians from the Caucasus to come to Arizona, a lead elder signed an option to purchase all the land needed to supply all the beets for the new factory. By 1920 there were about 200 families living in 4 separate Russian villages, each with a congregation and presbyter, spanning 8 square miles from west of Glendale to north of Tolleson, from Northern Avenue to McDowell Road along 75th and 83rd avenues. The beet sugar factory was never profitable due to lack of beets and clean water. Less than 1% of all Spiritual Christians came to America, while twice as many moved to Canada, mostly Doukhobors.
They farmed the land for sugar beets and worked in dairies, which had become fairly prevalent in the community. Former Glendale High School students remember the Russian-Americans as sturdy, hard-working people who excelled in high school athletics. In contrast, Spiritual Christians who attended Tolleson High School generally excelled in academics and were of different faiths than those who remained near Glendale.
As America entered World War I, 35 of the Russian-American residents refused to register for the draft due to religious convictions. Apparently, they could not be convinced that their signatures on exemption requests would not lead to their being drafted into the armed forces at a later date.
To petition the U.S. government for military exemption, they collectively agreed to follow the example established in Los Angeles by using the faith label dukhovnie krestiane-pryguny, Spiritual Christian-Jumpers. See: Arizona WWI Prygun Petition.
They were each sentenced to one year imprisonment and served 10-month jail sentences in the Yavapai County Jail in Prescott. This situation, along with the closing of the sugar beet factory in 1920 and fall in cotton price, prompted an exodus for many Russian-American families to the Los Angeles area.
Those who remained in Glendale began farming vegetables, cotton and grain, as well as developing large dairies on the west side of town. One family has a cheese factory on the south side of Glendale Avenue about one block west of 75th Avenue (demolished by a developer in 1996).
More: Spiritual Christians in Arizona
The BasquesAnother group that settled in Glendale were the Basques, who were descendants of Pyrenees mountain sheepherders. The Basques grazed their sheep in the area of Flagstaff during the winter months. Many settled in Glendale when winter weather conditions forced them to move the sheep to pasture in a warmer climate.
Because Glendale was an agricultural community and had little available land for grazing, according to sheep rancher J.Y. Otondo, the Basques kept their sheep in the present-day communities of Buckeye and Gilbert.
As it became increasingly difficult for the Basques to obtain permission to cross the land of the farmers and ranchers who lived between Phoenix and Flagstaff, they formed an association, using dues to purchase property along their route, which ran adjacent to what is now Interstate 17.
For years, the boys of Glendale were able to use the Basques' burros through the winter months as their own private transportation. The sheep ranchers would tie up the burros outside of town, near the Arizona Canal, and the boys would borrow them until it was time for the spring drive to the north country.
As Glendale celebrates its centennial, every ethnic and religious group has played its own significant role in contributing to the growth and development of the community. An appreciation of these contributions is what helps Glendale truly celebrate the rich blessings of its diversity.
Memo: ON MICROFILM, SEE SECTION 22
Jerry W. Abbitt operates Historically Significant, a Phoenix-based research firm.
Shelley L. Schauberger, a student at Grand Canyon University, is an intern at the firm.
See also: Glendale to mark 100th year
Record Number: 9206120344