Desert Messenger

May 5, 2010

Desert Messenger is your local connection for news, events, and entertainment!

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 9 of 23

P��� 10 Voices from the Past The Desert Messenger is proud to feature excerpts from Rosalee Wheeler’s “In the Shadow of Saguaros.” Volume I, circa 1540 to 1839, begins with the first recorded history in Southwestern Arizona; Coronado and the Conquistadors searching for the Seven Cities of Cibola. Volume II covers local history from 1840 to 1939. Volume III will feature stories from 1940 to the present. Her books are available at the Tyson Well’s Stage Station Museum, Reader’s Oasis Bookstore, and the Quartzsite Library. D����� M�������� Excerpts from of Saguaros” By Rosalee Oldham Wheeler “In the Shadow (Previous story: LA PAZ - County Seat of the 2nd Judicial District.) Much has been written about the tough, grizzled, hard-working gold miners and the hardships they endured. But not as much has been written about the women who followed their men out into the gold fields of Arizona Territory. Women endured the same elements that made men swear that they would have turned around and gone back home if it were not for having to face their friends and families and admit that they couldn’t take the hardships and had failed. In addition to the wives of miners and settlers, there were also “camp girls” that followed the mine camps, all woman learning to live in rather primitive conditions. Army wives came west too when their officer husbands were posted at remote locations. The Army’s quarters at these postings left much to be desired. We can learn about one brave woman’s experiences from her writings. In Martha Summerhayes’ book, Vanished Arizona – Recollections of the Army Life of a New England Woman, we learn that she came to Arizona Territory as a new bride with her husband, Army 2nd Lt. John Wyer Summerhayes as he joined his regiment at Fort Russell near Cheyenne, Wyoming. Martha had lived in Nantucket, Rhode Island all her life, except for the year of 1871 when she lived in Germany as the guest of the family of General Weste, a former officer under King George of Hanover. In 1874 she came home to marry her sweetheart, the dashing Lieutenant Summerhayes, a veteran of the Civil War. They traveled to Wyoming by train and were met by two gallant officers who assigned them three rooms and a kitchen. Martha felt that she would not be able to keep house in such small quarters. When she complained to her adoring “Lt. Jack” he teased her, “Why, Martha, did you not know that women are not reckoned at all at the War Department? Wives are merely rated as ‘camp followers.’ A second lieutenant’s allowance of quarters, according to Army’s regulations, is one room and a kitchen.” Lt. Summerhayes was next ordered to Benefiting Quartzsite’s No Kill Animal Shelter See our newly remodeled gift shop & boutique Check out our new designer jewelry! 455 E. Main St. Quartzsite Open 7 days 9-2 951-764-6072 Arizona Territory. They traveled by Union Pacific Railroad to San Francisco, then on the steamship Newbern to Port Isabel. The Newbern was known for being a roller and Martha spent most of the voyage in the cabin sick. Finally, after a voyage of 13 days they came into Port Isabel, at the mouth of the Colorado River. They would transfer to a steamboat, the Cocopah, which was to take them up the Gulf of California. At Fort Yuma they changed to the steamboat M�� 5, 2010 Women came west, too Gila which was pulling a barge loaded with soldiers. The Summerhayeses slept on the after-deck. It was August and sultry heat made sleeping almost impossible. Jack and Martha disembarked at Camp Mohave where a mule train took them to their cabin at Camp Apache. The Indian women were amused by Martha’s clothes, while Martha noticed an Indian woman with a disfigured face and was told that her husband had cut off her nose for supposedly being unfaithful. At Camp Apache, in January of 1875, Martha was alone when she gave birth to a son, Harry. Soon after, Lt. Summerhayes was assigned to a new post at Ehrenberg. They departed on April 24, 1875 in an army wagon pulled by six good mules. Their journey took them though some very desolate country. Martha wrote, “It seemed so white, so bare, so endless, and so still; irreclaimable, eternal, like death itself.” In addition to being desolate, it was dangerous. The driver was armed, as was Martha with a derringer strapped on her side. They arrived in Ehrenburg on May 16th where Martha was greeted with the same view she remembered from the Gila a year earlier, a village constructed of low, flat-roofed adobe huts. The government house was plastered white. Captain Barnard, whom Lt. Summerhayes would replace, greeted them with biscuits and wine. He said there was a soldier and an Indian named Charley that would be our help. When Charley came in he was a handsome near-naked Cocopah Indian who wore a belt, a g-string, and a knife. He seemed at home and knew to carry in the baggage. His face was smiling and friendly. Martha knew that she would like him. The living quarters had dirt floors. After getting things put away she decided to bathe Harry. Charley brought the water from the Colorado River in a half wine barrel. With all the splashing the floor became a muddy mess. Charley smiled and in his Pidgin English said, “Too much-ee water.” She asked him if he knew of a nurse. He came back with a sad-faced Mexican lady leading a  SEE WOMEN ON PAGE 15 Pattie’s RV Park OPEN YEAR-ROUND ~ LARGE LOTS 455 E. Main St., Quartzsite ~ Walk to shopping! ~ Propane Sales ~ Laundromat ~ RO Water ~ Thrift Shop Pets & Children Welcome! 928-927-4223 Animal Refuge Thrift Shop

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of Desert Messenger - May 5, 2010