The Wickenburg area with much of the Southwest became part of the United States by the 1848 treaty that ended the Mexican-American War. The first extensive survey was conducted by Gila Rangers who were pursuing hostile Indians who had raided the Butterfield Overland Mail route and attacked miners at Gila City.
In 1862, a gold strike on the Colorado River near present-day Yuma brought American prospectors, who searched for minerals throughout central Arizona. Many of the geographic landmarks now bear the names of these pioneers, including the Weaver Mountains, named after mountain man Pauline Weaver, and Peeples Valley, named after a settler.
Ranchers and farmers soon built homes along the fertile plain of the Hassayampa River. Together with the miners, they founded the town of Wickenburg in 1863. Wickenburg was also the home of Jack Swilling, who prospected in the Salt River Valley in 1867. Swilling conducted irrigation efforts in that area and helped ground the city of Phoenix, Arizona.
As the town grew, conflicts developed with the Yavapai Native American tribe, who rejected a treaty signed by their chiefs. When the American Civil War began in 1861, the Federal troops were all withdrawn and the settlements were left unprotected.
The Yavapai promptly began a series of attacks on the white intruders. A company of Confederate cavalry brought temporary relief, but it fell back before the advance of Union troops from California. By 1869, an estimated 1000 Yavapai and 400 settlers had been killed, with many on both sides fleeing to safer areas. With the end of the war, the Union troops and local volunteers forced the Yavapai onto a reservation, where they remain to this day.
However, Yavapai recalcitrants remained for years, and raids on stage-coaches, isolated farm houses, and periodic raids on villages kept the area in a constant state of tension. Finally, following several murders of Yavapai chiefs allied with America by insurgent Yavapai warriors, hostile warrior tribal leaders mobilized the entire Yavapai warrior band into a massive assault on the primary American settlement of Wickenburg and massacred or drove out much of the American populace.
Having broken their treaty with America several times, with most of the friendly and allied chiefs killed by insurgent Yavapais, who also killed Americans, Crook was authorized to enter into new negotiations with the aim of reducing the size of the Yavapai reservation and removing it to an area more readily cordoned off from American communities and their communication lines. The surviving Yavapai warrior leaders grudgingly accepted the treaty which left the nation in far worse conditions than previously. They were compelled to surrender their firearms, move to the Fort Verde Reservation, accept a permanent Army garrison on their territory, accept direct administration by American Bureau of Indian Affairs agents and commissioners, have trade firmly emplaced in the hands of American government agents, and be regulated by an Indian Police force picked and trained by the US Army and later Arizona Territorial officers. After only two years on the Rio Verde Reservation, however, local officials grew concerned about the Yavapais' continued hostility, success, and self-sufficiency, so they persuaded the federal government to close their reservation and move all the Yavapai to the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation.
The infant town of Wickenburg went through many trials and tribulations in its first decades, surviving the Indian Wars including repeating Indian raids, outlaws, mine closures, drought, and a disastrous flood in 1890 when the Walnut Creek Dam burst, killing nearly 70 residents. In spite of such challenging circumstances, the town continued to grow. Its prosperity was ensured with the coming of the railroad in 1895. In those years, the town had even once been viewed as a possible candidate for territorial capital. The historic train depot today houses the Wickenburg Chamber of Commerce and Visitor's Center. As of 2007, however, only freight trains pass through Wickenburg; passenger trains ended their runs in the 1960s.
Along the town's main historic district, early businesses built many structures that still form Wickenburg's downtown area. The abundant clean air and wide-open spaces attracted new residents. Guest ranches offered a unique experience to tourists who fell in love with the West. The Garden of Allah became the first true guest ranch in 1913, followed by Remuda, Kay El Bar, Rancho de los Caballeros, and Flying E ranches, just to mention a few. The construction of the Phoenix to California highway (U.S. Route 60) brought even more tourists, making Wickenburg the Dude Ranch Capital of the World. As of 2007, some of these ranches still offer their hospitality. Rancho de los Caballeros is now a golf resort, while Remuda has been converted into the nation's largest eating disorder treatment facility and is now Wickenburg's largest employer. The Hassayampa community became a vital contributor to the US effort during World War II when the Army trained thousands of men to fly gliders at a newly constructed airfield west of Wickenburg. After the war, modern pioneers and home builders developed Wickenburg into a typical American community.