Vanished Arizona, Recollections of the Army Life by a New England Woman
Part 5 out of 5
And so I wrote, and the story grew into a book which was
published and sent out to friends and family.
As time passed on, I began to receive orders for the book from
army officers, and then one day I received orders from people in
Arizona and I awoke to the fact that Arizona was no longer the
land of my memories. I began to receive booklets telling me of
projected railroads, also pictures of wonderful buildings, all
showing progress and prosperity.
And then came letters from some Presidents of railroads whose
lines ran through Arizona, and from bankers and politicians and
business men of Tucson, Phoenix and Yuma City. Photographs
showing shady roads and streets, where once all was a glare and a
sandy waste. Letters from mining men who knew every foot of the
roads we had marched over; pictures of the great Laguna dam on
the Colorado, and of the quarters of the Government Reclamation
Service Corps at Yuma.
These letters and pictures told me of the wonderful contrast
presented by my story to the Arizona of today; and although I had
not spared that country, in my desire to place before my children
and friends a vivid picture of my life out there, all these men
seemed willing to forgive me and even declared that my story
might do as much to advance their interests and the prosperity of
Arizona as anything which had been written with only that object
My soul was calmed by these assurances, and I ceased to be
distressed by thinking over the descriptions I had given of the
unpleasant conditions existing in that country in the seventies.
In the meantime, the San Francisco Chronicle had published a good
review of my book, and reproduced the photograph of Captain Jack
Mellon, the noted pilot of the Colorado river, adding that he was
undoubtedly one of the most picturesque characters who had ever
lived on the Pacific Coast and that he had died some years ago.
And so he was really dead! And perhaps the others too, were all
gone from the earth, I thought when one day I received a
communication from an entire stranger, who informed me that the
writer of the review in the San Francisco newspaper had been
mistaken in the matter of Captain Mellon's death, that he had
seen him recently and that he lived at San Diego. So I wrote to
him and made haste to forward him a copy of my book, which
reached him at Yuma, on the Colorado, and this is what he wrote:
YUMA, Dec. 15th, 1908.
My dear Mrs. Summerhayes:
Your good book and letter came yesterday p. m., for which accept
my thanks. My home is not in San Diego, but in Coronado, across
the bay from San Diego. That is the reason I did not get your
In one hour after I received your book, I had orders for nine of
them. All these books go to the official force of the Reclamation
Service here who are Damming the Colorado for the Government
Irrigation Project. They are not Damming it as we formerly did,
but with good solid masonry. The Dam is 4800 feet long and 300
feet wide and 10 feet above high water. In high water it will
flow over the top of the Dam, but in low water the ditches or
canals will take all the water out of the River, the approximate
cost is three million. There will be a tunnel under the River at
Yuma just below the Bridge, to bring the water into Arizona which
is thickly settled to the Mexican Line.
I have done nothing on the River since the 23rd of last August,
at which date they closed the River to Navigation, and the only
reason I am now in Yumai s trying to get something from
Government for my boats made useless by the Dam. I expect to get
a little, but not a tenth of what they cost me.
Your book could not have a better title: it is "Vanished Arizona"
sure enough, vanished the good and warm Hearts that were here
when you were. The People here now are cold blooded as a snake
and are all trying to get the best of the other fellow.
There are but two alive that were on the River when you were on
it. Polhemus and myself are all that are left, but I have many
friends on this coast.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
* * *
The nurse Patrocina died in Los Angeles last summer and the
crying kid Jesusita she had on the boat when you went from
Ehrenberg to the mouth of the River grew up to be the finest
looking Girl in these Parts; She was the Star witness in a murder
trial in Los Angeles last winter, and her picture was in all of
I am sending you a picture of the Steamer "Mojave" which was not
on the river when you were here. I made 20 trips with her up to
the Virgin River, which is 145 miles above Fort Mojave, or 75
miles higher than any other man has gone with a boat: she was 10
feet longer than the "Gila" or any other boat ever on the River.
(Excuse this blowing but it's the truth).
In 1864 I was on a trip down the Gulf of California, in a small
sail boat and one of my companions was John Stanton. In Angel's
Bay a man whom we were giving a passage to, murdered my partner
and ran off with the boat and left Charley Ticen, John Stanton
and myself on the beach. We were seventeen days tramping to a
village with nothing to eat but cactus but I think I have told
you the story before and what I want to know, is this Stanton
alive. He belonged to New Bedford--his father had been master of
When we reached Guaymas, Stanton found a friend, the mate of a
steamer, the mate also belonged to New Bedford. When we parted,
Stanton told me he was going home and was going to stay there,
and as he was two years younger than me, he may still be in New
Bedford, and as you are on the ground, maybe you can help me to
All the people that I know praise your descriptive power and now
my dear Mrs. Summerhayes I suppose you will have a hard time
wading through my scrawl but I know you will be generous and
remember that I went to sea when a little over nine years of age
and had my pen been half as often in my hand as a marlin spike, I
would now be able to write a much clearer hand.
I have a little bungalow on Coronado Beach, across the bay from
San Diego, and if you ever come there, you or your husband, you
are welcome; while I have a bean you can have half. I would like
to see you and talk over old times. Yuma is quite a place now; no
more adobes built; it is brick and concrete, cement sidewalks and
flower gardens with electric light and a good water system.
My home is within five minutes walk of the Pacific Ocean. I was
born at Digby, Nova Scotia, and the first music I ever heard was
the surf of the Bay of Fundy, and when I close my eyes forever I
hope the surf of the Pacific will be the last sound that will
greet my ears.
I read Vanished Arizona last night until after midnight, and
thought what we both had gone through since you first came up the
Colorado with me. My acquaintance with the army was always
pleasant, and like Tom Moore I often say:
Let fate do her worst, there are relics of joy Bright dreams of
the past which she cannot destroy! Which come in the night-time
of sorrow and care And bring back the features that joy used to
wear. Long, long be my heart with such memories filled!
I suppose the Colonel goes down to the Ship Chandler's and gams
with the old whaling captains. When I was a boy, there was a
wealthy family of ship-owners in New Bedford by the name of
Robinson. I saw one of their ships in Bombay, India, that was in
1854, her name was the Mary Robinson, and altho' there were over
a hundred ships on the bay, she was the handsomest there.
Well, good friend, I am afraid I will tire you out, so I will
belay this, and with best wishes for you and yours,
I am, yours truly,
J. A. MELLON.
P. S.--Fisher is long since called to his Long Home.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
* * * *
I had fancied, when Vanished Arizona was published, that it might
possibly appeal to the sympathies of women, and that men would
lay it aside as a sort-of a "woman's book"--but I have received
more really sympathetic letters from men than I have from women,
all telling me, in different words, that the human side of the
story had appealed to them, and I suppose this comes from the
fact that originally I wrote it for my children, and felt perfect
freedom to put my whole self into it. And now that the book is
entirely out of my hands, I am glad that I wrote it as I did, for
if I had stopped to think that my dream people might be real
people, and that the real people would read it, I might never
have had the courage to write it at all.
The many letters I have received of which there have been several
hundred I am sure, have been so interesting that I reproduce a
few more of them here:
FORT BENJAMIN HARRISON, INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA. January 10, 1909.
My dear Mrs. Summerhayes:
I have just read the book. It is a good book, a true book, one of
the best kind of books. After taking it up I did not lay it down
till it was finished--till with you I had again gone over the
malapais deserts of Arizona, and recalled my own meetings with
you at Niobrara and at old Fort Marcy or Santa Fe. You were my
cicerone in the old town and I couldn't have had a better one--or
more charming one.
The book has recalled many memories to me. Scarcely a name you
mention but is or was a friend. Major Van Vliet loaned me his
copy, but I shall get one of my own and shall tell my friends in
the East that, if they desire a true picture of army life as it
appears to the army woman, they must read your book.
For my part I feel that I must congratulate you on your
successful work and thank you for the pleasure you have given me
in its perusal.
With cordial regard to you and yours, and with best wishes for
many happy years.
Very sincerely yours,
L. W. V. KENNON, Maj. 10th Inf.
HEADQUARTERS THIRD BRIGADE, NATIONAL GUARD OF PENNSYLVANIA,
WILKES-BARRE, PENNSYLVANIA. JANUARY 19, 1908.
I am sending you herewith my check for two copies of "Vanished
Arizona." This summer our mutual friend, Colonel Beaumont (late
4th U. S. Cav.) ordered two copies for me and I have given them
both away to friends whom I wanted to have read your delightful
and charming book. I am now ordering one of these for another
friend and wish to keep one in my record library as a memorable
story of the bravery and courage of the noble band of army men
and women who helped to blaze the pathway of the nation's
progress in its course of Empire Westward.
No personal record written, which I have read, tells so
splendidly of what the good women of our army endured in the
trials that beset the army in the life on the plains in the days
succeeding the Civil War. And all this at a time when the nation
and its people were caring but little for you all and the
struggles you were making.
I will be pleased indeed if you will kindly inscribe your name in
one of the books you will send me.
Sincerely Yours, C. B. DOUGHERTY, Brig. Gen'l N. G. Pa. Jan. 19,
SCHENECTADY, N. Y. June 8th, 1908.
Mrs. John W. Summerhayes, North Shore Hill, Nantucket, Mass.
My Dear Mrs. Summerhayes:
Were I to say that I enjoyed "Vanished Arizona, "I should very
inadequately express my feelings about it, because there is so
much to arouse emotions deeper than what we call "enjoyment;" it
stirs the sympathies and excites our admiration for your courage
and your fortitude. In a word, the story, honest and unaffected,
yet vivid, has in it that touch of nature which makes kin of us
How actual knowledge and experience broadens our minds! Your
appreciation of, and charity for, the weaknesses of those living
a lonely life of deprivation on the frontier, impressed me very
much. I wish too, that what you say about the canteen could be
published in every newspaper in America.
Very sincerely yours,
M. F. WESTOVER, Secretary Gen'l Electric Co.
THE MILITARY SERVICE INSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES. Governor's
Island, N. Y. June 25, 1908.
Dear Mrs. Summerhayes:
I offer my personal congratulations upon your success in
producing a work of such absorbing interest to all friends of the
Army, and so instructive to the public at large.
I have just finished reading the book, from cover to cover, to my
wife and we have enjoyed it thoroughly.
Will you please advise me where the book can be purchased in New
York, or otherwise mail two copies to me at 203 W. 54th Street,
New York City, with memo of price per copy, that I may remit the
Very truly yours,
T. F. RODENBOUGH, Secretary and Editor (Brig. Gen'l. U. S. A.)
YALE UNIVERSITY, NEW HAVEN, CONN.
May 15, 191O.
Dear Mrs. Summerhayes:
I have read every word of your book "Vanished Arizona" with
intense interest. You have given a vivid account of what you
actually saw and lived through, and nobody can resist the
truthfulness and reality of your narrative. The book is a real
contribution to American history, and to the chronicles of army
Faithfully yours, WM. LYON PHELPS,
[Professor of English literature at Yale University.]
LONACONING, MD., Jan. 2, 1909.
Col. J. W. Summerhays, New Rochelle, N. Y.
Captain William Baird, 6th Cavalry, retired, now at Annapolis,
sent me Mrs. Summerhay's book to read, and I have read it with
delight, for I was in "K" when Mrs. Summerhays "took on" in the
8th. Myself and my brother, Michael, served in "K" Company from
David's Island to Camp Apache. Doubtless you have forgotten me,
but I am sure that you remember the tall fifer of "K", Michael
Gurnett. He was killed at Camp Mohave in Sept. 1885, while in
Company "G" of the 1st Infantry. I was five years in "K", but my
brother re-enlisted in "K", and afterward joined the First. He
served in the 31st, 22nd, 8th and 1st.
Oh, that little book! We're all in it, even poor Charley Bowen.
Mrs. Summerhays should have written a longer story. She soldiered
long enough with the 8th in the "bloody 70's" to be able to write
a book five times as big. For what she's done, God bless her! She
is entitled to the Irishman's benediction: "May every hair in her
head be a candle to light her soul to glory." We poor old
Regulars have little said about us in print, and wish to God that
"Vanished Arizona" was in the hands of every old veteran of the
"Marching 8th." If I had the means I would send a copy to our 1st
Serg't Bernard Moran, and the other old comrades at the Soldiers'
Home. But, alas, evil times have fallen upon us, and--I'm not
writing a jeremiad--I took the book from the post office and when
I saw the crossed guns and the"8" there was a lump in my throat,
and I went into the barber shop and read it through before I
left. A friend of mine was in the shop and when I came to
Pringle's death, he said, "Gurnett, that must be a sad book
you're reading, why man, you're crying."
I believe I was, but they were tears of joy. And, Oh, Lord, to
think of Bowen having a full page in history; but, after all,
maybe he deserved it. And that picture of my company commander!
[Worth]. Long, long, have I gazed on it. I was only sixteen and a
half years old when I joined his company at David's Island, Dec.
6th, 1871. Folliot A. Whitney was 1st lieutenant and Cyrus
Earnest, 2nd. What a fine man Whitney was. A finer man nor truer
gentleman ever wore a shoulder strap. If he had been company
commander I'd have re-enlisted and stayed with him. I was always
afraid of Worth, though he was always good to my brother and
myself. I deeply regretted Lieut. Whitney's death in Cuba, and I
watched Major Worth's career in the last war. It nearly broke my
heart that I could not go. Oh, the rattle of the war drum and the
bugle calls and the marching troops, it set me crazy, and me not
able to take a hand in the scrap.
Mrs. Summerhays calls him Wm. T. Worth, isn't it Wm. S. Worth?
The copy I have read was loaned me by Captain Baird; he says it's
a Christmas gift from General Carter, and I must return it. My
poor wife has read it with keen interest and says she: "William,
I am going to have that book for my children," and she'll get it,
yea, verily! she will.
Well, Colonel, I'm right glad to know that you are still on this
side of the great divide, and I know that you and Mrs. S. will be
glad to hear from an old "walk-a-heap" of the 8th.
I am working for a Cumberland newspaper--Lonaconing reporter--and
I will send you a copy or two of the paper with this. And now,
permit me to subscribe myself your
Comrade In Arms,
WILLIAM A. GURNETT.
Dear Mrs. Summerhayes:
Read your book--in fact when I got started I forgot my bedtime
(and you know how rigid that is) and sat it through.
It has a bully note of the old army--it was all worthwhile--they
had color, those days.
I say--now suppose you had married a man who kept a drug
store--see what you would have had and see what you would have
Yours, FREDERIC REMINGTON.
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