William Hancock, a native of Massachusetts, came west following the gold rush and settled near Sacramento, California. In 1864, he enlisted in the Seventh California Infantry and was sent to Fort Yuma. He transferred to the First Arizona Volunteers in 1865 and spent his enlistment at Camp McDowell in central Arizona.
Hancock was mustered out of service in 1866 and became superintendent of the government farm at McDowell where he served until 1868. In August, 1869, he signed a contract to build a store and become post trader at Camp Reno in the Tonto Basin. In 1870 he moved to the hamlet of Phoenix where he set up another store. During the 1870s Hancock acted as the first sheriff of Maricopa County, Phoenix postmaster, Maricopa County district attorney, surveyor, and probate judge. He also served as an official of the Salt River Valley Town Association and the Phoenix Town Association.
The collection includes mainly handwritten documents relating to Hancock's activities as an officer of the city, county, or civic associations in Phoenix. The bulk of these documents date from 1875 to 1880 and include letters, memorandum, deeds, invoices and miscellaneous items. Of note are drafts of the meetings for 1875 and 1876 of the board of commissioners of the Salt River Valley Town Association, and its successor, the Phoenix Town Association.