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I have lived for months where my only neighbors were Indians and my one music the howl of the coyote. Charlotte Tanner Nelson
It was a land the devil wouldn始t have, made of sand and mountains filled with wild beasts and wild men. Yet in the eighteen hundreds the women came. Some came to join an adventuresome husband or son, some because of their religion. They traveled the hard trail, suffering from lack of water, horrendous weather, disease and death. And once they arrived in the desolate wilderness they lived in tents, dugouts and log cabins. Everything for their life, from soap to food, from clothes to medicine they made, or grew, or did without. Husbands left to work far away leaving them to fight Indians, take care of the home and farm, and sometimes bury their children. From 1935 until 1939 Federal Writers始 Project workers interviewed Arizona pioneer women, who were then in their seventies or older. Their interviews, here in their own words, tell of heartbreak and joy, success and disappointment, and the building of a state.
CHAPTER TWO Backgrounds
The pioneer women who came west were not superwomen with extraordinary talents and a thirst for adventure; but were women whose goals were simple: getting through each day, achieving contentment, and finding a place in life. Other than these simple desires were there any other traits they shared? Was there a demographic, or an experience that they had in common in their earlier lives; a similar social standing, the same educational background? Besides the strong Mormon ties of many, they are a remarkably diverse group. While courage was an asset for Arizonaâ€™s pioneer women, the biggest virtue was their innocence of not knowing what they were to face in the journey and their new frontier life. But, sometimes in life courage is not enough. A good deal of innocence can achieve unbelievable goals. This lack of knowledge caused them to answer their problems with innovativeness, and hard work. Few complained, as least not much and not for long. They accepted what they faced as the norm. After all you really donâ€™t know what you donâ€™t know. Economically there were a few from wealthy families and some from abject poverty. They represented several religions, and no religion. They were born in Europe, in the eastern and southern -1-
parts of the United States, in America’s west. They first saw life in mansions, log cabins, and covered wagons. Some were teenage brides; a few were in their twenties or older when they took their vows. Although education was a prized commodity among the pioneer women there were those who were illiterate, and those who taught school. The families of some were close and loving; others lived a neglected or abusive family life when they were young. Was there a significant event that happened to these women in their childhood or early lives? An event so powerful it shaped them into strong, determined women, the stuff pioneers are made from? If any did experience an event, it did not manifest itself in the same form for all the women. A look at their early family life bears little similarity between the women. What marked their early years: their father’s occupation, place of birth, loss of loved ones, their parents’ economic situation, marriage—none were predictors of the role these women would play in settling the west. Yet, these experiences and their childhood environments had to have an impact on making them the type of women they became. For such a diversified group to funnel into the frontier, and for so many of them to meet and conquer the hardship is a phenomenal achievement. They covered the spectrum in demographics, and this is what makes them so interesting. There was no one dominating characteristic that defined the pioneer women except their gender. Girl and woman they came to Arizona Territory, met the challenges, and succeeded. While the original pioneers are gone, their names still mark Arizona in places, (for example Snowflake, Arizona and Kartchner Caverns); and their decedents can still be found in many of the towns and cities in Arizona including business signs, and on the rolls of Arizona’s public servants (such as Mo Udall and Jeff Flake, U.S. Congressmen.) Since there was no required format for the interviewers to follow, demographic information, when reported, was written in different styles. Some of the demographic information is reported in a very dramatic manner, some is factual, and here also is the barebones type of reporting or none at all. Roberta Flake Clayton gathered demographic information on almost all of her subjects. There are several common threads among the Mormon women. However, the interviews by other reporters that covered non-Mormon women, while scant, do provide -2-
contrasts which give us a balanced picture of the early lives of pioneer women. What there is in demographic information gives us some insight into who these original pioneer women were and how they saw their childhood. It is doubtful that any of them had thoughts of creating a legacy and a model for future generations. Yet the characteristics that define western women were shaped by them. Elizabeth Adelide Hoopes Allen Interviewer: Roberta Flake Clayton Phoenix She was the daughter of Warner and Priscilla Gifford Hoopes. It was always their belief that this little daughter was the first child born in a humble covered wagon, of the hundreds of Mormon Pioneers who were driven from their homes in Missouri. The incident occurred in Pottawattamie County, Iowa on September 8, 1847. Her early life was spent in the moving and wanderings of this much maligned people. Mr. Hoopes was a shoemaker by trade; and a good one at that. Every old boot, shoe or bit of leather obtainable was made up for his own and his neighbors families. His services were always in great demand, as he accepted leather for his work. Thus he kept his own well shod. Mr. Hoopes took his family into Buchanan County, near St. Joseph, Mississippi in 1855. His wife was in very poor health, and it was hoped that she might improve. Most of those early pioneers could turn their hands to many kinds of work. Here Warner became a charcoal burner, and as there was great demand for charcoal from the blacksmith shops and furnaces, he became quite prosperous. â€œEven in this part of the world we found a strong sentiment against the Saints and their religion. One night we entertained an Elder McGaw who had stopped at our place on his return trip from a mission to England. He told my father that he felt impressed that he, my father, should remove his family immediately to Florence, Nebraska and there prepare to immigrate to Utah. He repeated the advice that night and again the next morning. After he started away, he returned and advised him to go right away and leave his family to dispose of the property and follow later. My father was loath to leave his prosperous situation and heeded not the council. -3-
About the Author
Barbara Marriott Barbara Marriott’s insatiable curiosity has sent her tumbling into some rather interesting adventures. Among these is flying with the U.S. Navy’s Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels, writing a series of travel books for American sailors, and being elected to Who’s Who in American Women. When she moved to a west she knew nothing about, she set about researching her new home. She became so intrigued that she wound up capturing its history and its essence in several non-fiction books. It was a fertile field for her and she couldn’t get enough of it. Six books later she is still researching the old stories of the Wild West and turning its tales, facts, and sometimes mystery, into books. From University Professor, to Management Consultant and Trainer, to Creative Advertising Director, her professional fields have allowed her to observe life. However, it is her Ph.D. in cultural anthropology that gives her the tools to get to the core of her subject—to satisfy her unquenchable need to know, and the reader’s need to know more.