Scottsdale's First Catholic Church

Scottsdale, Arizona—and much of the American Southwest—would not be the same without its Mexican-Spanish heritage and culture. From its earliest days, Scottsdale enveloped a mélange of peoples and cultures, with Anglos coexisting alongside Pima and Apache peoples, Mexicans, and other adventurers who stumbled into the growing town. The cultural contours of Scottsdale owe a great debt to its Mexican settlers who added to the distinctive Southwestern flavor of the region. Indicative of their lasting imprint is Scottsdale’s first Catholic mission church, Our Lady of Perpetual Help.

Built in 1933 on the corner of First Street and Brown Avenue, this old adobe mission was the culmination of years of Mexican community-building in the Scottsdale area. Years of political and social unrest in Mexico, particularly the years surrounding the Mexican Revolution of 1910, brought thousands of Mexicans across the border, seeking new opportunities and a better life. Halfway across the globe, the advent of World War I and the high demand for Arizona’s fine but strong, long-staple Pima cotton created a steady stream of cotton work. After 1916, newspapers like the Arizona Republican reported that Scottsdale’s cotton fields were attracting wagonloads of Mexican workers each day. Many workers eventually sent for their families and set down roots, bringing their language, culture, and customs along with them.

Mexicans were builders, and within a short time, a barrio of bright, colorful pink- and blue-hued homes shot up in the area between Main and Second Streets, east of Brown Avenue. Following the church-building impulse already started by congregants of a Baptist Church in 1918 and a Methodist Church in 1929, Scottsdale’s Catholic parishioners sought a permanent home in the late 1920s. Hispanic leaders wanted a church to bind their community together through shared Catholic beliefs and traditions. Key church organizers included the Corral family who followed the trail of cotton work from Sonora to Scottsdale over a decade earlier. Emilio Corral, with his English-speaking brother Jesus, supervised the construction of the adobe-brick edifice.

Today, this adobe church is a lasting symbol of Scottsdale’s early Mexican-American’s sense of cultural pride and identity. Our Lady of Perpetual Help embraced with open arms Scottsdale’s Mexican families, children, elders, workers, leaders, and friends to the Catholic faith. Its builders and early congregants may have left their homeland, but they held on to their culture and traditions, crafting their own niche in the American frontier town of Scottsdale.

Images

Old Mission Church

Old Mission Church

The Old Mission Church, or Our Lady of Perpetual Help, opened on the corner of Brown Avenue and First Street in 1933. Its adobe construction, distinctive bell tower, and stained-glass windows give this first Catholic church in Scottsdale a distinctive southwestern flair. | Source: Image courtesy of Scottsdale Historical Society. View File Details Page

Scottsdale Ginning Company

Scottsdale Ginning Company

Cotton became an important industry to Scottsdale during World War I, so local businessman and rancher E.O. Brown, with partners, built a cotton gin around 1920. Located on the south side of Second Street just east of Scottsdale Road, the gin operated until the 1930s. | Source: Image courtesy of Scottsdale Historical Society. View File Details Page

Towing the Cotton Bales

Towing the Cotton Bales

During the golden years of the industry in Scottsdale, cotton ginning required hard manual labor. This image depicts a scene at the Scottsdale Ginning Company with a horse towing the cotton bales on a skid, circa 1920. | Source: Image courtesy of Scottsdale Public Library. View File Details Page

Church on Miller Road

Church on Miller Road

Steady growth in Scottsdale's Catholic community spurred the need to expand the walls of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in the 1950s, and then again in the 1970s. Under the leadership of Father Maguire, the congregation moved to a new, enlarged church building on Miller Road at Main Street in 1956. The Miller Road building, shown here, was expanded once again in the 1970s, with the first mass celebrated in the new sanctuary on February 25, 1978. | Source: Image courtesy of Scottsdale Historical Society. View File Details Page

Audio

Audio File 1

View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Stephanie McBride-Schreiner, “Scottsdale's First Catholic Church,” Salt River Stories, accessed June 25, 2017, http://www.saltriverstories.org/items/show/29.
comments powered by Disqus

Share this Story