Wolf (Lukinitsky) Lukin: Pioneer Jewish Merchant of Tempe, Arizona and Friend of the Pima Indians

Wolf Lukin

Values Codes I – E – L


Wolf Lukinitsky was born, in 1854, in Kovno, Latvia, near border of Lithuania.

He left Latvia with his son, Samuel, for the port of Hamburg, in 1890.


Along the way . . .

Wolf Lukinitsky and Samuel arrived in Philadelphia, later in 1890.

He appears to have changed his family name to Lukin while in Philadelphia.

His wife, Rose Etta Abelson, and other children followed, in 1892.

Wolf Lukin worked as a carpenter in a railroad boxcar factory.

His son, Samuel Lukin, became a cigar maker’s apprentice (and married his daughter).



In 1892, Wolf Lukin set out for Tempe, Arizona with invitation to work for his cousin, Wolf Sachs.

He took a train to Arizona via the New York Central Railroad to Chicago, then on the Texas Pacific & Southern Pacific Railroads to Maricopa Junction, and finally on the Arizona & Western Railroad to Tempe, Arizona.

There, Wolf Lukin worked as a cattle ranch foreman and slaughterhouse manager for his cousin, Wolf Sachs.

Wolf Lukin built a small house on an acre of land he purchased with his savings.

In 1895, his family arrived from Philadelphia — minus Samuel, who had to finish his apprenticeship.

To augment his  income, Wolf Lukin rigged up a horse-drawn “dust extinguisher” — a 100 gallon water tank fitted with sprinkler heads and mounted on a wagon.

He offered to sprinkle the dusty streets in front of people’s homes twice a day. He did quite well.

Soon the town of Tempe bought out his business.

Circa 1900, Wolf Lukin  became a broker for the Salt River (Pima) Indians to sell their wood, grain, and hay.

1909 Adv. for Lukins Store

1909 Adv. for Lukins Store

He built a large storage barn on his one acre property.

Lukin then opened a general store in Tempe, the W. Lukin Cash Store.

 “W. Lukin started work on the foundation for his new store building on 5th St.  It will be 30×60 feet in area and 2 stories high.”       — Tempe Daily News, March 10, 1903

 “W. Lukin has purchased 2 lots on 4th and street between Goodwin’s Store and the old Butte Stables.” — Tempe Daily News, April   3, 1904

 “A neat brick sidewalk has been laid in front of the Lukin building.  The first of its kind in Tempe.”

  —Tempe Daily News, May 7, 1904


Wolf Lukin learned the Pima language and carried on a good relationship with the Indians.

When he died in 1931, long after he quit trading with them, over 200 Pima Indians came to his funeral in Tempe.



Wolf Lukin was active in the Republican Party.

He led the fight to bridge the Salt River — a project completed in 1911.

1914, Wolf Lukin was elected to the Tempe City Council.



Wolf Lukin had attended cheder, followed by a Talmudic school in Europe, where he was presented with a Torah scroll, which he carried with him all the way to Arizona.

Lukin’s Torah was used in early Phoenix area services.

There were only two Jews in Tempe when Wolf Lukin lived there — he and his cousin, Wolf Sachs.

Wolf Lukin owned the first Model-T Ford in town.

He taught his grandson, Edward Herzberg, to drive it, and repair it, and gave Edward a Model-T when he entered high school.



Wolf Lukin married Rose Etta Abelson in the “old country.”

Together they had six children: Samuel, Harry, Minnie (Mrs. Adolf Herzberg), Abe, Joseph, Ruby (Mrs. Max Krause) — all born in Europe.

Harry and Abe Lukin opened the Lukin Brothers store in Tempe, in 1911.

Wolf Lukin passed away in Phoenix, Arizona, in 1931.

He was buried at Beth Israel Cemetery in Phoenix — part of Beth Hebrew Cemetery and Workmen’s Circle Cemetery.

So was wife, Rose.

Rose Lukin's Grave Site in Phoenix

Rose Lukin’s Grave Site in Phoenix


  • Edward Hertzberg, “Lukin Family, Including Relationships with the Hertzbergs,” Western States Jewish History 31/1.

Regina Merwin is curator of this Wolf Lukin Family exhibit.