The storied river of the west and ageless, natural highway passing through the desert southwest
Duncan is different. It belongs to the Gila, the storied river of the west: the ageless natural highway whose passage through the mountain and desert southwest has served mankind since prehistoric times.
Cliff dwellers, conquistadors, Apache warriors, mountain men, Westering immigrants, bad men and good – each in their time has traveled its banks.
In modern times, the Arizona communities along the Gila grew up around the stage and freight stations and the military posts that began to bloom in the valley as the country opened to settlement around the middle of the 19th century.
As one of these, the site of contemporary Duncan had its origin sometime in the 1870s. Called Purdy in the Post Office register of 1883, it was founded by two men named Purdy and Bachelor as a way station on the ore haulage line that ran between Clifton and Silver City, New Mexico.
With the adventure of rail travel one line called the Arizona and New Mexico Railroad, passed through Purdy, the settlement moved to the south bank of the river and renamed Duncan, after Duncan Smith, the managing director of the Arizona Copper Company.
The move toward settlement of the valley increased rapidly as farmers and ranchers moved in to cultivate the vast expanse of naturally irrigated acreage.
Soon Duncan, already assured of the mining town market in the north, became a shipping point for markets in the middle west and east as well.
A rural community to its core, it derives from the immensely rich and fertile Gila Valley. If contentment and well-being are valid hallmarks of the good life, then Duncan, in the valley of the river of the sun, has going for it all that anyone could want.
Text adapted from Greenlee County Arizona website www.co.greenlee.az.us.