Curious how Gilbert, AZ got its name? Here’s how…

Sometimes you just can’t help but be curious as to the origins of the names of places right? Take for example Gilbert, Arizona. This beautiful city with warm communities, comfortable houses and contemporary garage doors actually got its name from a person.

That person is William Michael “Bobby” Gilbert and the story for how this former Hay Shipping Capital of the World got named after him is quite interesting.

Bobby Gilbert was a rich homestead owner back in the 1800s. In 1898, he owned 160 acres of land from the federal government in what is today known as the west side of Gilbert Road or Main Street back in the day.

During that time, a man named Frank Murphy was intent of building railroads from Kelvin along the Gila River to Phoenix in order to transport gold and copper from that mining area. He built a railroad in Prescott to bring gold out of Crown King, located in the northern part of the Valley. The railroad traversed Phoenix to Mesa then to Florence and from there, along the Gila River to Kelvin. In 1902, he began buying rights of way from land owners along the route.

Bobby Gilbert was among those landowners from whom he bought a piece of land. Gilbert sold a 66-foot strip of his land in order for a railroad to be built.  The railroad traversed the northwestern tip of his property to the eastern side, heading towards Florence.

As part of the grants, it was agreed that a spur track was to be built along the northern side of the main land and that it would be known as the Gilbert Spur. This area was used to ship the alfalfa hay grown in the area to Phoenix. It was also used by the dairymen to sell their milk, butter and cream to the miners in Kelvin.

This resulted in a booming business that the Phoenix and Eastern Railroad built a depot next to it in 1905. The depot was called the Gilbert Depot. In 1908, when businesses began to move to the area and commerce began to move, the place became known as Gilbert. In 1912, a post office was opened in the area and the name of the place became official.

The town was incorporated in 1920, and by that time there were many businesses and families living in this small agricultural community.

The population had grown to approximately 500 when the town was organized on 640 acres.

So when you think of a founder of Gilbert, it might be fair to say that Frank Murphy’s Phoenix and Eastern Railroad was the true founder. The namesake, however, is Bobby Gilbert, who sold the right-of-way on his land to bring modern civilization to this farming area in what was previously thought of as southeastern Mesa.

Indeed what an interesting anecdote which resulted in the naming of a beautiful township after a landowner. As business moved and the area developed, Gilbert became a name that was loved by its residents.