Founder’s Day Coming Up: Who Was Winfield Scott?

While Scottsdale (and much of Arizona) isn’t necessarily prone to dwelling on the past, we do have a few points of history that are worth recognizing and honoring. One of those very events is coming up next month has turned into a point of local pride for the city, and as such is worth expounding on.

Founder’s Day is coming up next month on February 26th, and has turned into a bit of a day of local lore, a stamp of history on a city that is much better known for the here and now than it is the past. So what is Founder’s Day? Simply put, it’s the birthday of Scottsdale’s founder Wilfred Scott, who would be turning 187 years old on this year’s Founder’s Day.

So while we encourage you to participate in the festivities yourself, we’ll use our platform to give you a little history lesson regarding the man.

Wilfred Scott was a man of contrast, most notably in his line of work. He started his professional life by being named a church pastor after finishing seminary, but soon found a calling in what could be considered the antithesis of godliness: on the battlefield. He rallied a volunteer group together to fight in the Civil War, leading them as a captain for the Union army. However, one could make the argument that fighting to end slavery was doing the Lord’s work.

After being wounded several times, he was discharged and became the pastor of a church in Kansas, serving as a church organizer and spreading the gospel throughout the state, then to Denver, CO and then to California, always on the forefront of the frontier and within new areas of growth. He then merged his professional passions and became a U.S. Army Chaplain in 1882, and it was in this role that he first visited the Salt River Valley in 1888 and immediately saw promise.

A renaissance man of sorts, he saw promise in the area not just for the sunny weather and boundless opportunity, but also for agriculture. He is credited with being the first person to grow peanuts, citrus trees, and grapes there, paving the way for an entirely new industry to grow roots. As a signal of his growing influence and respect garnered, he was appointed to be the Chaplain for the Arizona National Guard, and later elected to represent Maricopa County in the Arizona Territory legislature.

As for how Scottsdale fits into his history, him and his wife founded the Arizona Baptist Foundation in the area, became local leaders, and after a school was built in the area in 1896 the area around his ranch was named “Scottsdale” in an obvious nod to his influence. And the rest, they say, is history.

While we’ve clearly come a long way since those days, it’s an interesting exercise to look back at how we began, and in the case of Scottsdale, it all started with a man of God and battlegrounds who also happened to have a green thumb and an aptitude for leadership.