DARRELL DUPPA: RISING FROM THE ASHES

From the growing number of emigres to Arizona Territory during the latter decades of the nineteenth century came many of our cousins from the “old countries” – especially the British Isles.  Some came running – running from pasts which the deserts of the west would not remember.  Some came strutting with the false aristocracy which was washed away in this class-less land.  Some came because of the freshness of freedom which the American west offered.

            No one seems to really know why Lord Darrel Duppa, as he called himself, came from France, but he stated that he’d been educated at Cambridge University in England, learning five languages, and the classics of Greeks and Romans, but in his wandering he had been shipwrecked somewhere in South America and had wandered around a bit before eventually arriving in Prescott, Arizona in 1863.

He spread the word that he’d been born in Marseilles, France to a family who had served in the diplomatic service for that country. Somehow he established a stage station somewhere along the dry banks of the Agua Fria River where the bed reaches the Salt River in the board Valley of the Sun where millions now call home. 

It was a modest place compared to his obvious learned background: an adobe hut with a lean-to Ramada.  The main room had a dirt floor and a long table.  The walls precariously supported the roof through which sun streamed to light the interior.  This relieved the tedium that came with the isolation of the place.  Stage coaches stopped no oftener than the schedule – acts of God – or marauding Apaches permitted. 

            Yet, Darrel Duppa with his keen mind made a contribution to the Valley of the Sun that

outlives the politicians who came later and the more virtuous civic leaders.

            We must give credit to this lonely classical scholar for his creative ability to attach colorful names to drab objects and places.  Had it not been for the presence of Darrel Duppa during 1870, the towns and cities of Arizona might be named Sagebrush or Swillingdale.

            Fortunately, because of this man and the Native Americans and Mexicans, colorful and catchy names such as Navajo, Maricopa, Yavapai and Supai; and descriptive names such as San Francisco Peaks, Colorado River and Verde Valley have been added to our lexicon. 

            As Duppa struggled to maintain his little stage stop in this arid valley, he was intrigued by the one spot of bright green up river on the Salt to the east.  Here the river trickled by two volcanic hills where willows and reeds combined with sunshine to create a pastoral setting reminiscent of the classic Greek legend Narcissus and the imaginary mounts of Olympus and Ossa.

            Duppa saw the legendary Vale of Tempe and left to posterity this charming name – Tempe.

            Later, when the pioneers were casting about for a name for their village further downstream, Duppa traced for them the lines of the ancient canals of a vanished civilization, and then this French gentleman, with the creative, scholarly mind, saw a new Phoenix bird rising from the dead ashes of that old civilization. 

            Arizonans should, therefore, gratefully remember the gentleman from France and England – the emigrant Darrel Duppa who left his colorful mark on two major Arizona cities: Tempe and Phoenix. 

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