May 23, 2013

Osborn Road, John Preston Osborn, and the Osborn family in Phoenix

The Osborn family are not relatives of mine, but they, like so many other pioneer Phoenix families, helped to make my adopted city possible. I've been doing a lot of research lately on the Phoenix pioneer families, and have found that information is not really all that easy to come by. So as I'm finding it, I am sharing it.

Oddly enough, this fascination with Phoenix started for me with trying to figure out the names of the streets. It turns out that many of them, such as Bell, Thomas, and of course, Osborn, are named for the persons who owned the farm on that property. The roads were probably just called "The road to the Osborn place", which just got shortened when they started making maps.

Anyway, John P. Osborn (pictured at right) started his farm right around the time of the establishment of the Phoenix townsite, which was a little over three miles away, in the 1870s. The farm is along Grand Canal, which was built in 1878, so it was probably the late 1870s, early 1880s. His son Neri was born in 1864 in Tennessee, so they weren't in Arizona that early. Neri's son, Sidney, was born there on the farm in Phoenix in 1884, however.

By the way, Sidney Osborn was the 7th Governor of Arizona, so you history buffs know about him. That's him at the left. So, to keep the family records straight, Sidney was the grandson of John P. Osborn, for whom the street was named.

The Osborn family was a large and influential family in Phoenix. So much so that some people around the turn of the century complained that they were overly-influencing the politics. And this concentration of power is something that always happened with wealthy and well-connected families. My research is that the Osborns were good for the city of Phoenix, and the state of Arizona. Sidney served four terms in office, and died while still in office, of Lou Gehrig's Disease.

John Preston Osborn is buried at Pioneer & Military Memorial Park cemetery at 15th Avenue and Jefferson. There is an active organization, of which I am a member, called The Pioneers' Cemetery Association, that helps preserve the memories of the people who made Phoenix.

So there you go. If someone tells you that the city of Phoenix isn't that old, just show them John P. Osborn's beard!
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