Story of Flagstaff
Although Flagstaff became an incorporated town in 1894, the modern history really dates back to 1876 when settlers passing through honored the nation’s centennial by raising an American flag up a pine tree. Their “flag staff” became a landmark for those who followed, and eventually became the town’s namesake. The western expansion of the railroad in the 1880s attracted merchants and saloonkeepers to set up shop for the railroad workers and lumbermen. Within a couple of years, Flagstaff was a thriving town of railroad, lumber and ranching industries. Early families such as the Riordans (lumber) and Babbitts (ranching) have descendants who still live and work in Flagstaff today. In the ensuing century since; the Normal School would become Northern Arizona University, Lowell Observatory was established, and the surrounding area became a vast National Forest. Flagstaff’s early history is described in the brochure “The Early History of Flagstaff,” available at the Visitor Center or for download here.