Charles Trumbull Hayden, who has been given the title of founder of Tempe, could have stayed in Tucson and remained focused on his flourishing freight hauling business.
But, according to archives, his destiny was changed when, while he was on a business trip to Prescott, Hayden was held up for several days by floodwaters on the Salt River. So, he camped out. He decided to climb the nearby butte from where he gazed across the desert. He imagined the commercial potential of the area. Charles filed land claims on two sections along the south side of the Salt “for milling, farming, and other purposes.” In short order, he would build a cable ferry, a general store, and a water-powered flour mill, which began producing flour in 1874.
At the start, his name was conveyed on the settlement: Hayden’s Ferry, but that gave way to the permanent name, Tempe, in 1879.
The entrepreneur is credited as being a force in founding the Territorial Normal School that would eventually become Arizona State University. And he was the father of Carl Hayden, who would serve nearly 57 years in the United States Senate, a record that stood for 40 years.
Born April 4, 1825, in Windsor, Connecticut, Charles was a descendant of English settlers who arrived in America in 1630 and settled in the Connecticut River Valley. He was just 6 when his father died, leaving him and his sister, Anna, to help his mother run the family farm. He completed his education at age 16, then worked several years as a clerk. Partly because of a lung ailment, he went to New York City, studied law, and took teaching jobs in Kentucky, Missouri, and Indiana.
Charles was motivated by the words of iconic Kentucky U.S. Senator Henry Clay to head west where thousands were now settling. By 1848, Charles had started running freight wagons on the Santa Fe Trail, stretching from Missouri to New Mexico. He caught the California Gold Rush just right. He outfitted a train of ox teams and met parties from California who bought 14 wagons laden with goods, plus the ox teams. He returned to Missouri to restock. Charles set himself up in business in Santa Fe. He was a passenger on the first Overland Stage trip to Tucson in 1858.
By a decade later, he had established a freighting business in Tucson, benefitting from the fact the railroad had not yet reached Arizona. Charles supplied army posts, mining camps, and towns across the territory. He established a store in Tubac, serving area mines. In 1860, Charles could claim titles of the merchant, freighter, and mail clerk. In 1864, the territorial governor appointed Charles the first probate judge. He would preside over just one criminal case in his first year. He would tell a friend that Mexicans and Americans on the frontier “settled their own disputes without the aid of courts.” Soon his operations included the mill, a mercantile business, a blacksmith shop, a carpenter shop “and practically the whole town” by one account in museum archives. He established his adobe home across from the mill, and “La Casa Vieja” would one day be a historic landmark amid several public uses.
Charles joined in a partnership in Prescott that included ranch property obtained through the Homestead and Timber Claim Law. There he pastured cattle and other stock.
On October 4, 1876, in Nevada City, California, he married Sarah Calvert “Sallie” Davis, an Arkansas native. She was a school teacher when she met Charles, 17 years older than she. They had four children – three daughters and Carl.
Briefly, Sallie would serve as postmaster of Hayden’s Ferry. Interested in politics, she hosted suffragist speakers and was a founder in the Arizona movement to women the right to vote.
Sallie served on the local school board and actively participated in the local women’s suffrage groups. It was there that young Carl was first exposed to suffrage, the women’s movement, and political activism. Additionally, Sallie created a household environment that demanded physical and intellectual rigor. Carl helped his mother haul water from the river to tend to the garden and to hydrate the livestock. Sallie also maintained a small library that included both classics of English literature and contemporary writings.
Carl Trumbull Hayden, the only son of Charles and Sallie Hayden, led a full and distinguished life of purpose like his father. Born in Mesa on October 2, 1877, Carl attended Tempe’s Eighth Street School and graduated from Arizona Territorial Normal School in 1896. He went on to Stanford University studying economics, history, language, and philosophy with the intent of going to law school. He was sophomore class president and took part in the debate, fiction-writing, football, and track. In December 1899, one semester short of graduation, he dropped out of school because his father Charles had become ill, and Carl was needed to look after the family and oversee the business.
Charles died on February 5, 1900. The mercantile business was sold to cover debts. In 1903, Carl enlisted in the Arizona Territorial National Guard. He would lead a delegation to the Democratic National Convention in 1904, then was elected Maricopa County treasurer, moving on to be elected county sheriff two years later. Arizona statehood came in 1912, and Carl, a Democrat, was elected as the first congressman from the state. He was re-elected consecutively to two-year terms until winning a six-year term in the U.S. Senate in 1926. Carl would serve seven terms and would chair such committees as the Senate Appropriations and the Senate Rules committees, plus the chair of the Joint Committee on Publishing.
Carl was the floor manager of the bill the established the Grand Canyon National Park, and he sponsored the 19th Amendment to the Constitution giving women the right to vote.
During his time in office, Hayden avoided publicity and speech-making. Following his filibuster of Boulder Dam (renamed Hoover Dam), because he believed it would not benefit Arizona enough, Hayden did not make another speech from the Senate floor for 20 years. A colleague said of him, “No man in Senate history has wielded more influence with less oratory.” Yet he was regarded as “the master of compromise.” He was the Senate’s president pro tempore from 1957 to 1969.
While in Congress, Carl concentrated on areas of special interest to Arizona —reclamation, irrigation, highways, and silver mining. As chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee (1955-69), he wielded great power. As president pro tempore of the Senate, he found himself in the unique position of acting vice president after the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963. Because of his seniority, Carl would remain second in the line of presidential succession until January 1965. He was considered the “Dean of the Senate.” Carl fought hard for the Central Arizona Project that directed Colorado River water to Valley and other areas.
On September 30, 1968, “Carl Hayden Day” was proclaimed at the White House in honor of the signing of the Lower Colorado River Basin Bill authorizing a massive $1 billion development project for central Arizona, which he had done much to promote.
He suffered viral infections in 1962 when he was running for his last term – a year when he was honored for a half-century in Congress. Rumors had spread that he had died. To respond to that rumor, Carl held a press conference at Bethesda Medical Center three days before the election to affirm he was alive. In a race against Evan Mecham, he won with his lowest percentage of 54.9 percent of the vote. Passage of the CAP legislation is what the senator considered the most significant accomplishment of his years in Congress. He announced his retirement on May 6, 1968, saying “Among other things that 56 years in Congress have taught me is that contemporary events need contemporary men.”
Carl served that term retired to his home in Tempe in 1969 after serving an unprecedented 56 consecutive years in Congress. He died in Mesa in 1972. Among the things where his name was bestowed is Carl Hayden High School in Phoenix. The Carl T. Hayden Bee Research Center and Carl T. Hayden Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Phoenix.