Randolph, Arizona, is essentially a little island of Pinal County land sitting in Coolidge, just off of State Route 87.

The town, established in 1925, hosted large plots of agricultural land and drew people from all over the country. Cotton was plentiful and it caught the attention of Black farmers who migrated primarily from Arkansas, Texas and Oklahoma.

They started buying the lots in Randolph,” said long-time resident Ron Jordan. “That was the only place a person of color could buy property.

Jordan’s father opened up his multi-acre property to fellow Arkansas farmers where they stayed in small cabins close to the fields. There were six structures on what was known as Preacher Jordan’s Camp although Ron said his father wasn’t preacher-like at all.

His kids totaled 25, the births overlapping relationships.

Ron, whose ethnicity consists of Black, White and Native heritage, stuck out to the rest of the community. His fairer skin and bright eyes earned him the nick name “Cat Eyes,” but he was never cast out for how he looked.

Everybody was close-knit. You didnt have to lock your doors. We shared tools. Everybody helped out each other, he said.

So much so that he stayed friends with some of his classmates from elementary school. One of them Gussie Taylor was originally a Coolidge resident, but was still a big part of Randolph through the church, St. Paul, which burned down about three years ago.

This church, this community made me what I am, she said, looking at the charred remains.

Her father was the head deacon of the church. He came from Texas with sights set on California. But he met Taylor’s mother and decided to settle in Arizona instead.

Despite no running water and little power at the time, Randolph’s family atmosphere was strong, but that was only inside the town’s borders.

Jordan and Taylor both recall discrimination from teachers and bus drivers as they entered integrated schools. Jordan missed out on prom king and Taylor was cheated out of breaking a state track and field record.

Thats just the way we were treated back then, she explained.

Farmers slowly moved out of Randolph as technology advanced, taking over the cotton fields. It wasn’t long before large asphalt and gas corporations bought land and made the area unrecognizable in many ways.

Several companies pledged to give back to the community it was invading but those were all empty promises.

When Salt River Project applied to expand its gas-fired power plant in 2022, residents sued the company, citing pollution and health concerns. The groups reached an agreement in June of last year in which Randolph would receive two installments of nearly $12 million.

The money is allotted for a community center, home repairs, in-home air quality monitoring, scholarships and job training.

Much like the St. Paul church walls that still stand after the fire, Randolph is building itself up again. Right now, the town is getting paved streets and sidewalks.

Sidewalks in Randolph? I mean, people never wouldve figured that would happen, Taylor noted.

The community also designated a portion of the funds to a historical site designation on the east side of town, a project headed by Jennifer Levstik with WestLand Resources.

The state recently approved the application and it’s now being reviewed in Washington D.C. Levstik expects federal approval in a few months.

Im 79,” said Jordan. “I dont know how many more days I have. But it would be great if this could be a place where people can come back and see.