Sharing thoughts on just about everything--travel, history, dogs, the spiritual life, keeping life simple.
It was field trip day in week four of isolation at Casa Wallace and so we headed out where the population is sparse or non-existent. It’s not hard to do in Cochise County, which helps us get out and enjoy the countryside while practicing social distancing. Over the hills toward Tombstone, my good husband drove, which is the way to the Ghost Town Trail. The spring flowers are still abundant along the roadsides and I resisted asking him to stop so that I could get some photos. It’s a winding and sort of dangerous road, so stopping on the narrow shoulders isn’t a great idea. But, I wish I’d been able to capture the purple, yellow, and pink beauties on my camera. Anyway, we drove into a very quiet Tombstone—it’s a little eerie to see the streets so empty and businesses closed. Very sad.
Taking North Camino San Rafael Road outside of Tombstone, we turned onto East Gleeson Road to head to the ghost town of Gleeson. The drive is spectacular—rolling hills, ranching country, mountain views in every direction, and cattle grazing on the hillsides. It was lovely. And there were more flowers along the roadsides--we didn't stop to take pictures either.
If you’re not careful, you can totally miss Gleeson, but we managed to read the sign, slowing down in time. First of all, there isn’t much to see since it’s a ghost town. However, folks still live in the area and there are plenty of “Private Property” and “No Trespassing” signs about. We stopped by the jail which is the easiest building to locate. It’s been restored (with a bit of humor thrown in) and if we weren’t in quarantine mode, we could’ve gone in the building. Perhaps another time, when they’ve reopened. We admired it from afar and snapped some photos. We traveled down High Lonesome Road made famous by J.A. Jance in her Joanna Brady series and took a look at the ruins of Gleeson which was once a thriving copper mining community.
Here’s a quick history lesson about Gleeson. Originally the Apaches mined turquoise in the area, but prospectors came in around 1890 to look for gold, silver, copper, etc. A rich copper vein was discovered by John Gleeson, who staked out a claim for his Copper Belle Mine in 1900. The town of Gleeson was quickly established and the population grew to about 500 in no time. In 1912, a fire swept through and destroyed many of the buildings, but mining was going strong and the town was rebuilt. The population continued to grow to about 1,000. There was a post office, stores, school, saloon, jail, residences, and even a hospital back in the day.
John Gleeson sold out in 1914 and the mine continued on, doing well through World War I. Copper prices fell after the war and by the time of the Great Depression, mining was a struggling industry. Most of the residents had moved away by 1939, although there was still some mining activity until 1958.
Gleeson is typical of the boom towns that sprang up around Cochise County in the 1800s and early 1900s, and most of them met similar fates. Like the April wind, they rushed in and out, tumbleweed towns that were here today and gone tomorrow. But it’s fun to imagine what life was like in those rough-and-tumble days of the Old West and soak in the beautiful scenery that is timeless.
In May of 1926, Aimee Semple McPherson was enjoying celebrity and wealth as one of the most recognized Pentecostal evangelists in the United States. What was about to happen to her, perhaps rather what she said happened in that month was to become an unsolved mystery to this day.
Aimee was born in 1890 to Minnie Pierce Kennedy and Robert Kennedy. Her mother was from a Salvation Army background and her father was of the Methodist persuasion. From her early years, she was involved in church and at 17 converted to Pentecostalism after becoming disillusioned with the Methodists. She met evangelist Robert Semple as a teenager and married him at age 18 in 1908. Early in their marriage, the couple traveled to China to become missionaries in 1909. Their daughter, Roberta was born in China in 1910 just after Robert died from malaria. The young widow and her infant daughter then made their way back to Canada. Aimee felt the pull of the pulpit and began traveling to Chicago and then to New York City, where she joined her mother in working for the Salvation Army.
It was in New York City that Aimee met Harold McPherson, an accountant and the two soon fell in love and married in 1912. A year later, their son, Rolf was born. In that same year, Aimee began her preaching career, traveling throughout the U.S. while Harold tagged along. By 1915, she’d purchased a large tent and was scheduling revival meetings along the East Coast and then to other parts of the country. Harold was weary of his attention-seeking wife and their marriage soon crumbled as Aimee pursued her “calling” over family responsibilities. Harold filed for divorce in 1918 on the grounds of abandonment, having been left at a depot while Aimee and the children traveled on. The divorce was granted in 1921 and Aimee, accompanied by her mother and children began traveling the revival circuit in earnest. Her fame had grown with her skill at dramatic preaching and theatrics to attract the curious. Her focus was faith healing, speaking in tongues, and big shows.
The travel got old and she landed in Los Angeles seeking to settle down. She was the consummate fund raiser and before long the Angelus Temple, center of the Four-Square Gospel (Aimee’s newly created denomination) was erected. Thousands of people gathered there to hear her preach. Healing services, radio programs, magazines, and 24-hour services to feed and clothe the poor were all a part of Sister Aimee’s empire. She was known for her luxurious, long reddish-brown hair, expensive clothes, publicity stunts, (riding a motorcycle onto the platform for a service after receiving a speeding ticket was just one), and dramatic pulpit performances with celebrities making guest appearances. By 1923, the mortgage for the Temple was burned in a grand display in front of an adoring crowd. With Aimee’s gift to raise money and her mother’s business acumen, the Temple had rocketed to national fame.
As one can imagine, the constant pressures of celebrity take a toll, and on May 18, 1926, Aimee decided to escape the crowds and go for a swim near Venice Beach. Her secretary, Emma Schaffer accompanied her and the pair was looking forward to a relaxed day. That was not to be. Emma was sent to run a few errands at Aimee’s behest and left her boss for a period of time. Upon her return, there was no sign of Sister Aimee and no one had seen her leave. After an exhaustive search of the beach, Emma had to report to Minnie that her daughter had disappeared—possibly drowned while swimming. Minnie stood in the pulpit that night and declared to a stunned congregation that “Sister is with Jesus.”
The place erupted in grief and the people were frantic to find her body. Lives were lost looking for her in the Pacific adding to the tragedy and Minnie began to plan to raise money for a memorial service. Rumors circulated within days of a murderous attack or of Aimee running off with Kenneth Ormiston, her former radio editor. Many believed the couple was having an affair and Ormiston was trying to divorce his current wife.
On May 24th, Minnie received a ransom note for $500,000 signed “Revengers.” The money was to be paid in the lobby of the Palace Hotel. Two detectives in plainclothes took a bag filled with what looked like cash to the hotel and waited. No one ever came and nothing else was heard. At this point, Asa Keyes, L.A. District Attorney initiated a full investigation.
Attorney, R. A. McKinley notified authorities on May 31st that he’d been asked by two men, who called themselves Miller and Wilson to get a $25,000 ransom from Minnie. McKinley, who was blind, was told since he couldn’t ID the men, he was to be the courier. Minnie turned that request down flat and responded by offering a $25,000 reward for information on her daughter’s whereabouts.
Nothing new came to light until June 19th, when Minnie received another ransom note for $500,000. This was signed “Avengers” and included a lock of reddish-brown hair that could have been her daughter’s. She tossed the note in the trash. At this point, Minnie decided to go ahead with the grand memorial service that was scheduled, since she’d collected over $30,000 for the event. She seemed convinced her daughter was dead.
On June 20th, the service was held in a style befitting Sister Aimee at the temple with thousands attending. Imagine Minnie’s surprise when she received a telephone call on June 22 from the Cochise County Sheriff, telling her that Aimee was alive and well at the Calumet-Arizona Hospital in Douglas, Arizona. She needed to come right away and confirm her identity.
Hallelujah! Aimee’s Back from the Dead
Since there was an official investigation into Aimee’s disappearance, the trip to Douglas wasn’t a simple family reunion. Herbert Cline, Chief Detective of the L.A. Police and Joseph Ryan, L.A. Deputy District Attorney came along, as did reporters. Minnie and her grandchildren had plenty of company on the train to Douglas.
Minnie duly identified the patient as her daughter and crowds formed outside the hospital to sing and pray for Aimee’s recovery. It was reported that 2,000 people gathered to keep vigil. Someone sent a gift of a silk nightgown and robe so that she might be presentable to the flow of reporters that traipsed to her bedside for an interview. In fact, law enforcement was squeezed out from too much conversation with her because of the press. Sister was in her element.
The tale that Aimee told to the papers and to a stenographer hired by deputy D.A. Ryan seemed consistent in content.
The preacher said she was lured to a car by a distraught couple, who begged her to pray for their dying baby. The woman carried a baby-like bundle which turned out to be just a bunch of clothing. It was quickly clapped over her face and she was pushed into a car. The clothing was apparently permeated with chloroform and she was unconscious until sometime around dawn the next day. She believed she was in Mexicali or somewhere near San Diego as she caught bits of conversation. There were three people in the house. A heavyset woman called Rose who had black hair and brown eyes. There was also a man named Steve. He was clean shaven, heavyset with brown hair and wore a brown suit. A nameless, second man was with them as well. She was told by Steve that they wanted a $500,000 ransom for her at which Aimee told them she didn’t have that kind of money. They were not convinced.
After about four days, she was loaded into a car at night and they began driving across what she now believed was Mexico. The new abode was a shack in the desert and she was kept prisoner in a bedroom bound hand and foot on a cot. Rose had another cot in the room. The men slept elsewhere in the house and were respectful to her except for the time one of them burned her finger with a cigar while trying get information from her. Finally, she was left alone one day and made her escape. She discovered a tin can lid on the floor of the bedroom and used it to cut her bonds and flee the house through a window. Aimee insisted she’d walked through the desert to Agua Prieta—a trip of about 14 hours in the June heat without water.
She knocked on the door of a house and when it was answered by a man in his underwear, she was a bit surprised. The man was German and wouldn’t provide help from the police as she asked. He merely asked her to come in and spend the night. When she asked if he had a wife, he told her no and said it was a slaughterhouse. That clinched it. She kept going. Coming to a residence that looked promising to her, since there were children and dogs in the yard, she knocked and it was answered by a husband and wife. The man was Ramon Gonzalez who happened to be the mayor of Agua Prieta. Aimee collapsed and he ran to find help. The Gonzalez’s believed the woman had died. Once Ramon brought help back, Aimee revived much to their relief. After some confusion and the finding of a translator, Aimee was taken over the border to the hospital in Douglas. There she made a case for her identity with the sheriff and hospital staff. Once word was out that the celebrity woman preacher had been found alive, the city of Douglas was like a powder keg. Reporters swarmed in to get the exclusive from her. By 5:00am the next morning she was animatedly talking with a reporter from the Bisbee Daily Review, elaborating on her terrible experience. Eating a hearty breakfast, she continued holding court that day and into the next.
Upon the arrival of her family and authorities from Los Angeles, Ryan closeted himself with other law enforcement folks to quiz McPherson, along with Minnie and the children. After this extensive interview, her mother saw the chaos at the hospital with the reporters, and she moved the conclave of press to the Gadsden Hotel. By the third day, Aimee was well enough to be released and the crowds were thrilled as she addressed them triumphantly. She went back to Agua Prieta to thank the Gonzalez family for assisting her and then tried to direct trackers and law enforcement to the shack where she’d been held. No shack was found. The entire trip back to L.A. was a celebratory parade back to the pulpit at Angelus Temple with stops in Tucson and Yuma.
From the outset of the investigations, law enforcement was skeptical of Aimee’s story for several reasons. Steve and Rose, whom she named as captors were the names of gypsies she knew well and who were converts of the Temple. When located and questioned, they were found to be innocent of any wrong doing. No other suspects were located.
Aimee’s clothes were taken by Cochise County Sheriff McDonald and stored for safekeeping in a bank vault. When they were examined, it appeared that the clothes did not have signs of excessive perspiration to be expected in a desert trek of many miles. She’d kept her corsets on, which defies the imagination in hiking the desert in the June heat.
Her shoes weren’t scuffed by the terrain and only grass stains were on them. She hadn’t asked for water at the Gonzalez’s and seemed to be in quite good physical condition at the hospital, despite her arduous experience in the Sonoran desert.
Sister Aimee’s reputation for publicity stunts plagued the investigation although she was adamant that it wasn’t the case. However, her behavior before the crowds announcing her resurrection was troublesome. She had gained attention again and perhaps that had been on the wane in May. An offer of $10,000 to appear at the Hollywood Bowl had already come in and she was making plans.
She also intimated that perhaps an enemy of another “religious sect” had perpetrated the crime. It was well known that Rev. Robert Schuler of the Trinity Methodist-Episcopal Church in Los Angeles was an ardent critic of her preaching and performances. She would later even call him out as the devil which he really took exception to.
Ramon Gonzalez was quite sure “the lady is lying” and the trackers who attempted to locate her trail through the desert and the mysterious shack were unsuccessful. It was head scratcher to everyone.
The Los Angeles D.A. called for a grand jury to look into the matter since there was a witness in Tucson who swore he’d seen Aimee at the International Club, a saloon in Agua Prieta. The bars in Mexico enjoyed a brisk business during Prohibition and many traveled over the border to drink. There were reports she’d been seen in a car with her purported lover, Ormiston, and the list went on. Despite all of the efforts of the D. A.’s office, Aimee slipped through their fingers and remained triumphant in her innocence. Asa Keyes was defeated and gave up the case. The questions remain and the mystery is unsolved. Did McPherson orchestrate the publicity stunt of all time or was she really kidnapped? What do you think?
Aimee continued to be plagued with litigation for the rest of her life, which ended sadly in a hotel room in 1944. She overdosed on sleeping pills and was discovered by her son, who took over the reins of church leadership. Angelus Temple remains a Pentecostal mega-church, located near Echo Park.
Unsolved Arizona by Jane Eppinga
Tucson Citizen, June 24, 1926
San Francisco Examiner, June 24, 1926
The San Bernardino County Sun, June 26, 1926
So, it seems the world has lost its mind. People are clearing store shelves of non-perishable items as if the Apocalypse is happening tomorrow. Toilet paper is like gold, as well as rubbing alcohol and hand sanitizer. Even pantry staples like rice and pasta are unavailable. Fear of a low possibility of being quarantined in your home for two weeks or the low possibility of contracting coronavirus has overrun good sense. How could this happen in a week’s time?
Despite medical experts calling for common-sense measures, like simply washing your hands and staying home if you’re sick, the country seems determined to overreact. What do we do now in the midst of panic and irrational fear? If we’re only hoping in our ability to take care of ourselves, then we're in trouble. The national culture of rugged individualism and self-sufficiency will let us down. We will behave in terrible ways to put ourselves first and who we really are surfaces in an ugly manner. Everyone loses.
If you’ve entrusted your life to Jesus, you should have an entirely different perspective. Christians, we have a Savior to see us through the storm of panic and uncertainty. God’s Word is full of promises for times of trouble, which happen to everyone. No one is ever exempt from them, but as God’s children we have assurance in His care and provision. He has always taken care of us in the past; He will surely do so now.
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.
Remember Jesus’ response to the disciples who panicked during a terrible storm on the Sea of Galilee?
The disciples went and woke him, saying, "Master, Master, we're going to drown!" He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm.
"Where is your faith?" he asked his disciples. In fear and amazement they asked one another, "Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him."
It’s tempting to fall into the cycle of constantly watching the news or browsing social media for the latest updates. We’ve been well trained by the media to stay tuned. That, I believe is a trap. It easily overtakes our thoughts and can direct our behavior in the wrong ways. It takes our eyes off Jesus, which is what happened to the disciples in the storm. They focused on the circumstances and not the One who could command the storm to stop.
Paul gave instructions for the right way to handle fear and trouble to the Philippian church who had a lot of angst from a cruel emperor and a Roman government that persecuted Christians in unimaginable ways, including torture and death.
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.
What does that look like in our present unpredictable circumstances? Here are a few suggestions for your consideration.
Stay informed, but don’t spend hours with newscasters or Face Book. Set your mind on reading and listening to His Word, more than the news. Spend more time with Jesus in prayer and His Word. This is definitely counter-cultural behavior.
Be ready to help your neighbors. If shortages come because of the panic, share your supplies with those in need—even TP. Buy groceries and supplies sensibly, not with a hoarding mentality.
Pray for our leaders on the national, state, and local levels. They need extraordinary wisdom and leadership abilities.
Obey recommendations put out by the CDC and government authorities. This can mean inconvenience and disruption of routines for a while. Do it anyway. My church is modifying several things in worship services for a few weeks upon recommendations from the CDC and church authorities. Yes, it’ll be different, but we’ll survive the change.
Most importantly, be ready to give an answer for the hope that it in you. Everyone needs Jesus and in times of trouble, Christians need to be on the front lines to demonstrate the Good News in word and deed, because God has already demonstrated His love for us.
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
The date was May 23, 1907. The place was Lowell, Arizona Territory, a small community just outside of Bisbee. Around 6:00am, a shotgun blast shattered the silence of a quiet street near the Palace Livery Stables. R. G. McBride stood looking at George Cason lying in a pool of his own blood before turning on his heel and returning home. At first glance, it appeared to be a random act of violence. Why would this well-respected citizen walk up to George Cason and shoot him in a public street like a mad dog?
Residents of the neighborhood rushed out to see what was happening and found the macabre scene. The police were called and presently the fatally-wounded man was hauled away to the Calumet and Arizona Hospital. Doctors took one look at the man whose face was blown half away and told the police the victim wouldn’t last the day. Nothing could be done to save him. He would later die around 4:30 that afternoon.
Meanwhile, McBride was taken to the jail by officers. The man was stoic about the whole affair and it wasn’t but a few minutes later that Mrs. Hattie Lee swept into the place, announcing she was pressing charges against McBride. She swore she’d been an eyewitness to the crime and that McBride had assaulted Cason with the intent to murder him. She was unaware of Cason’s grave condition. For good measure, she charged Mrs. McBride with threatening to kill her. Mrs. McBride was consequently brought to the jail and arraigned after being told her rights. She was immediately released by posting a $500 bond. Mrs. McBride was not to be trifled with and upon her release, she turned around and accused Hattie Lee of arson and threatening to kill her. Judge Greer had his hands full with defendants that day.
Hattie Lee was hastily arraigned and remained in a cell in Bisbee since she was unable to post the $1500 bond required for her freedom. It was soon discovered, Mrs. Hattie Lee was at the center of the whole mess which had started back in November of 1906.
Hattie Lee was married to J. D. Lee. Both had reputations of violence. Neighbors regularly heard fighting in and out of the Lee residence. When J.D. was drunk, he was jealous, mean, and vicious. He may have been the same without the alcohol. Hattie was no slouch in a fight and the neighbors were heartily sick of the couple’s constant domestic battles. At some point, J.D. Lee went to Globe, Arizona to work, leaving Hattie to her own devices in Lowell. Upon returning home, November 6, 1906, J. D. found Hattie “entertaining” J. L. Davis. Grabbing his Winchester, J.D. killed Mr. Davis then and there. This led to Lee’s arrest for murder. He made bail and wasn’t arraigned until May 2, 1907 at which time he pleaded not guilty.
Although not certain, it seems likely that J.D. went back to Globe or somewhere out of town to work after he was released on bail. Hattie was once again in the market for a man and took up with George Cason. According to Hattie’s neighbors, George Cason was a man of despicable reputation. He was a drinker and brawler—a man of bad character, quite similar to J. D. Lee. He’d been arraigned on the charge of assault with intent to murder at the Tombstone courthouse the same day J.D. Lee had been there. The noise and fighting continued with Cason keeping company with Hattie, which appalled and angered the neighborhood. A few days before Cason’s murder, there was a ruckus at the Lee house. Two unidentified men and Hattie ran from the house, which was suddenly in flames. Arson was immediately suspected by everyone as the hose company came to put out the blaze.
From the time of Davis’ murder, Hattie was on a mission to see her husband convicted of murder. She wanted to be rid of him once and for all. Once she hooked up with Cason, they began a plot to ensure that conviction. R. G. McBride, her neighbor was to be a witness for the prosecution and she cajoled and pleaded for him to change his testimony. What exactly she wanted McBride to say isn’t known, but it would have meant he’d perjure himself. When McBride proved uncooperative, Cason and Hattie employed intimidation tactics against Mr. and Mrs. McBride which included threatening their lives. In apparent desperation, Cason insulted Mrs. McBride to terrible heights of profanity in public, which sealed his fate.
McBride had had enough of Cason, and he was determined to put an end to the reign of terror that morning of May 23rd. On the 24th, the coroner’s jury found that Cason had indeed been killed by McBride and his shotgun. Bond was provided for McBride upon the recommendation of the coroner’s jury. Hattie was able to get her bond covered and was released that day as well. She went to the undertaker to view Cason’s body and it was reported that she wept upon seeing him. The undertakers made inquiries as to next of kin in an attempt to get Cason out of town. After much telegraphing, a brother was finally located, who told the undertakers to bury his brother in Bisbee. He wasn’t coming to get him. The funeral was held at the Palace Undertaking Company on May 29.
It wasn’t until December of 1907 that two unusual murder trials took place in Tombstone. On December 7, McBride was finally tried for Cason’s murder. After a short deliberation, the jury returned a verdict of not guilty. R.G. McBride was a free man. After months of uncertainty, his life could go on.
On December 9, J.D. Lee stood before the judge to be tried for the murder of Jack Davis from the previous November. It took some time to empanel a jury due to a number of men who objected to the death penalty and others had already formed opinions about guilt or innocence. Finally, the trial got underway and the prosecution concluded its case in good time. Defense counsel, George Neale then asked the judge to have the jury excused while he argued a motion. The jury was removed and Neale made his argument to the judge that the prosecution hadn’t made its case and his client should be found not guilty. The judge agreed and the jury was brought back in. They were instructed to the shock of all present to bring a verdict of not guilty which they did.
Apparently, some of the prosecution’s witnesses had lapses of memory about the whole event, which makes one wonder about witness tampering and intimidation. However, it led to the happy verdict for Lee who was now living in Deming, New Mexico with Hattie. The expectation was that the trial would take the entire day, but now Lee could catch the train and make it home that night.
Hattie was counting on her husband's absence the evening of December 9, and invited yet another paramour to visit her while J. D. was safely in Tombstone. When J.D. entered the house, surprising the occupants, he found former Lowell resident, Jonas Harris carrying on with his wife. He’d warned Harris before to stay away from her according to reports. Pulling out his Colt .45, he shot Harris through the neck, severing his spinal cord and killing him instantly. You cannot make this stuff up.
No further information has been found about the Lees and what happened after this particular murder. One can only wonder how many other men met similar fates after succumbing to the questionable and deadly charms of Hattie Lee.
Resources: The Tombstone Epitaph and the Bisbee Daily Review.
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father's care. Matthew 10:29
Research for the next book has me plumbing the depths of my hometown’s history in the late 1800s and early 1900s. This exploration of another time has also jarred loose some memories of people who influenced my life in the 1960s. They were quite old at that time—or at least it seemed that way to me. One such person was a tiny, gray-haired lady called Mrs. Norton.
Her hair was parted down the middle and it was scraped back into a bun held in place by hairpins and hairnet. She had a thin face and sharp eyes aided by wire-framed spectacles. Her voice wasn’t what I’d call melodic, but more like an irritated chipping sparrow. Her clothes were old-fashioned; a long dark skirt with a white blouse was often her ensemble. Despite her diminutive size and drab appearance, she was a force to reckon with when it came to storytelling.
My fondest memories of Mrs. Helene Norton were during summer Vacation Bible School at our church or during Released Time on Friday afternoons. Released Time was an hour of religious education on Fridays—probably from 1pm to 2pm throughout the school year. With parental permission, students in grades one through six walked from the school to either the Baptist church or Community church for this hour away from school. Sidewalks on opposite sides of the street were filled with kids trooping down to either the red church or the white church (as the two churches were referred to) in the village whether in sunshine, rain, or snow. It was good to flee the classroom on Friday afternoons.
Mrs. Norton regularly taught at the Baptist church which I attended. She either told us a Bible story full of adventure or a missionary story equally exciting. This tiny woman commanded the attention of all when she began to put flannel-graph figures and elements on the big board. The scene would be set either in the desert, the mountains, a pasture, or on the sea. Then she’d place the animals in the scene along with the people. Sometimes she used colorful cutout figures glued to toothpicks to stick on foam boards for a more 3D telling of a story. Boy, did I love those multilayered scenes! And I listened to every word.
In her reedy, chirping voice she recounted Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, Jonah, David, Jesus walking on the water, and many more. Even those troublemaker-type boys were mesmerized by her storytelling. Sometimes they got a bit out of line, but Mrs. Norton could bring them back to the fold with a wagging finger and a stern warning without missing a beat. Her warmth and passion in teaching us the most important stories we’d ever hear was evident in her delivery and the care with which she had prepared.
These memories of Mrs. Norton surfaced when I ran across her name and that of her husband in a local history book. I’d never known the details of her background—which was always a bit mysterious and being one who enjoys solving a mystery, I began digging into her past.
The first appearance in official records of Mrs. Norton was when she was eight years old and was Helene Daily. She lived at the Castile Sanitarium, Castile, NY in 1900 with her adopted mother who was employed at the Sanitarium. The Sanitarium is a whole other story, but it was specifically for women who had various ailments (some quite serious). They were under the care of Dr. Cordelia A. Greene and Dr. Mary Greene, who I’ll tell you about another time. They were fascinating people as well.
The census record has Helene Daily born in Canada of a Canadian father and English mother. Her adoptive mother, Jennie Daily was from Ireland and a single woman. Helene immigrated to the United States from Canada in 1897 with her adoptive mother when she was five years old. Time went by and eventually Helene was sent to Smith College in Geneva, NY for her education. She returned to Castile and became the librarian of the Cordelia A. Greene Library which was located right across the street from the Sanitarium. Helene was also an active member of the Castile Presbyterian church and was heavily involved in its activities. It was during her time as librarian that Mr. and Mrs. John Norton arrived in Castile and they became acquainted.
Mrs. Norton was seriously ill and was a patient at the Sanitarium for over two years. She was confined to a wheelchair and her bed, but she was known for her cheerful and positive outlook despite her ill health. The Nortons had come from Canada where John had been an organ designer and builder. As you might imagine, he was also an organist. He was a native of England and a member of the Anglican Church.
In May of 1924, Mrs. Norton died and the funeral services were held at the Sanitarium. In September of 1924, the engagement of Helene Daily to John Norton was announced in the paper. By December, 1924, they were husband and wife. This was when a new adventure began for the new Mrs. Norton. John felt a call to become an evangelist and the couple soon left for Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. They both graduated and returned once again to Castile where they made their home on South Main Street. From about 1929 until 1939, the Nortons traveled around the United States and Canada—he to preach and Helene to teach the children with Bible stories and object lessons. John was known for his wit and sense of humor in preaching the gospel and Helene for her teaching ability.
In 1960, when John was 86, he took a fall and passed away a few days later at the Sanitarium. Helene, who was much younger—about 17 years younger, continued to teach children at the churches in Castile throughout the 1960s. The Community church (now Castile UCC which was previously the Castile Presbyterian church) and also the Castile First Baptist church down the street, welcomed her to help with children’s ministries.
She and John never had children and in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the local churches helped her secure healthcare and assistance as her health failed. The Castile community became her family in those difficult years. Mrs. Norton went to meet her Savior in 1985 having lived a long and full life of service to her Lord and to the children of Castile.
I’m oh, so grateful for Mrs. Norton’s humble and faithful retelling of the stories of Jesus and those heroes of the Bible. She made them come alive and I can still see her on the platform, pressing the next figure on the scenic flannel board. She may have been a sparrow in appearance and background, but extraordinary as a daughter of the Heavenly Father.
Got plans in 2020? I do … did … um … maybe. A phone call from our youngest daughter on December 29 allowed us to formulate an orderly, totally in-control plan for when Grandma and Grandpa would come to help out with our two-year-old grandson when she was close to her due date in late January. My husband and I would arrive early enough to help with any last-minute preparations before the baby came and we’d be on hand to take care of our grandson whenever our daughter and son-in-law had to make a trip to the hospital. Sounds great right?
As you might have guessed, that’s not what happened at all. In fact, about eight hours after that conversation, we received another call at 3:40am. “My water broke,” was all I needed to hear. That baby was coming on a different timetable. Instead of leisurely packing and traveling over two days, we were slurping coffee and tossing assorted paraphernalia into our suitcases to make a direct shot to their home 500+ miles away. I have to say it was much more exciting than our staid plan of a few hours before. Kind of invigorating, even.
Our newest grandson made his entrance into the world a couple of hours after we pulled into their driveway and despite his early arrival, was delivered safe and healthy into his mother’s arms on December 30.
In the joyous arrival of this precious new life, there were some things that came to mind as I considered God’s sovereignty over our lives. His timing is always best, even when it seems early or late to us. He is in charge, which is a GOOD thing. He’s God. He also must have a sense of humor—I can imagine the Father chuckling as I spoke with my daughter that afternoon--can't you? I am thankful for the neighbor who came to stay in the middle of night while our daughter and son-in-law took off for the hospital. And thankful for the other Grandma who lives closer who made a similar exciting trip to care for our mutual grandson until we arrived and sorted out the situation. We were blessed with light traffic and good road conditions the whole way, making the trip much more enjoyable. God’s plan was way more dramatic than my original idea and it all came together perfectly.
As Christians, we must learn to hold our plans loosely, knowing that our loving Father may have entirely different and much better ones than we’ve composed, even as we prayerfully make them. James’ warning to believers popped into my head that day:
“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’--yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’" James 4:13-15 ESV.
As we follow Jesus in 2020, may we find joy in God’s timing and changes to our journey, growing in our trust of the Heavenly Father.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. Proverbs 3:5-7 ESV.
There are always new and off-the-beaten-track places to explore in Cochise County and we recently took a day to visit one that’s a national landmark, the Slaughter Ranch.
John Slaughter (1841-1922) remains one of Cochise County’s most famous sheriffs and in general a colorful western character. Someone you'd enjoy getting to know. He was tough, honest, and well liked. Not an easy combination to find in the Wild West of the 1880s. He was born on October 2, 1841 in Louisiana, but grew up in Texas which is where he received the nickname “Texas John.” The family business was cattle and John grew up learning the ways of cattle ranching, Indian lore, marksmanship, and tracking. He was a confederate soldier and Texas ranger before relocating to Arizona.
He became a widower after his first wife, Adeline (marriage 1871-1877) succumbed to small pox, leaving him as a single parent of two children. He remarried in 1878, bringing his new wife, eighteen-year-old Viola Howell, children, and family members, along with herds of cattle to the southeast corner of Cochise County. He purchased a massive tract of land—65,000 acres, the majority of it located over the border into Mexico. Eventually, he would own and lease 100,000 acres.
It was a hard life on the ranch, but John and Viola had a vision to make their dreams of a prosperous life possible in the treacherous times of Apache renegades and dangerous border incidents. Constant cattle rustling and outlaw violence kept everyone on the ranch vigilant. The U.S. Army even kept a regular presence at the ranch.
In 1886, five years after Tombstone’s famous shootout at the OK Corral, John was elected sheriff of the county and served two terms. He was determined to clean up the crime which plagued the area with the likes of the Clantons, Earps, the Jack Taylor Gang, and Johnny Ringo. He was also acquainted with the notorious Pancho Villa and helped track Geronimo who was caught on his San Bernardino Ranch. It was common for lawmen to straddle the thin blue line of law and order, but Texas John made no compromises. He hunted down outlaws with a vengeance and made himself judge, jury, and executioner at times. Plenty of tales about Slaughter’s exploits, including poker games with John Chisum are available in book form and a few vintage TV shows.
Now, for the ranch. It’s in the middle of nowhere, where it’s still open range and about fifteen miles from the border city of Douglas. It’s located just off Geronimo Trail which becomes a dirt road and one you don’t want to travel during monsoon season. The international border is visible and is marked by a fence running parallel with a busy Sonoran highway. A beautiful pond is the centerpiece of the ranch grounds which was built by John. The land has an abundance of springs and he capitalized on that with the construction of the pond and a dam. It’s stocked with native endangered fish such as Yacqui chub and Yacqui catfish by the nearby San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge which borders the ranchlands. The Slaughter’s home is spacious and has several outbuildings including the cook’s residence (a bedroom and they had a Chinese cook) with the commissary (for their neighbors and employees since they were far from town) adjoining it, an ice house, wash house, small garage which houses a Model T, and barns. Horses, a donkey, goats, and longhorn cattle are in the pastures. You’ll find an abundance of birdlife around the pond. We spotted a vermilion flycatcher, Say’s Phoebes, various ducks, a snowy egret, broad-bill hummingbirds, and a few others. One of the park staff also made us aware there was an active mountain lion in the area, but we didn’t encounter any signs of the big cat--a good thing I believe.
The Border Patrol from the Douglas station keeps a presence there with some equipment on site, but mostly they’re on horseback patrol in this remote area. We enjoyed talking with the agents who were resting their horses in the shade of the cottonwoods. It was a relaxing, beautiful, and informative day. If you enjoy Western history and a peek into the past, a visit before or after the monsoon season is well worth the effort. Bring a picnic lunch and you can enjoy the peaceful pond surroundings at a table on the wonderful grass lawn or you can do as we did and get a delicious Mexican lunch at La Fiesta in Douglas on the way back.
Admission to the ranch is $5.00 per person and it’s open Wednesday through Sunday. It receives no federal funds. No pets are allowed. You’ll find it a friendly and peaceful place, where you can step back into time for a bit, and let your imagination roam.
For more information on the Slaughters and the ranch, here are a couple of websites. Check out the slideshow below for photos of the ranch and the neighborhood.
There is no dearth of interesting tales in Cochise County, the land of Wild West legends. One of the fascinating things about the mountains around us is the variety of caves which have some interesting stories attached to them. There were many caves discovered in Bisbee’s Mule Mountains during the heyday of copper mining. They were wonderlands of glorious mineral formations which visitors compared to King Solomon’s splendor. The Masons and the Elks held ceremonies and grand occasions in these massive caverns that are now mostly backfilled for safety reasons.
The Huachuca Mountains have their own secret caves that were used by Apaches, Mexican bandits, soldiers, smugglers, and other nefarious characters. I'm sure they're still used today for illegal activities. There are tales of lost treasure and of Coronado’s trek to find the cities of gold only to wind up somewhere in Kansas. Now that was disappointing. No wonder he gave up exploring upon a humiliating return to Mexico City around 1542.
However, there are a couple of curious incidents that surround the Pyeatt’s Cave located near the west gate of Ft. Huachuca. Let me tell you about one that occurred in May 1888. John H. Slaughter was the sheriff of Cochise County at the time, a legend in his own right. I’ll save his exploits for another day, but you should know that he brought law and order to the county five years after the gunfight at the OK Corral. He also helped track down Geronimo and arrested many outlaws over his four years as sheriff. But, before I become sidetracked, here’s the story of The Dutch Oven Mystery, so named by Sheriff Slaughter.
One fine spring morning in May, 1888, a U.S. Army patrol was making a sweep of the canyon near Pyeatt’s Cave. As always, they were on the lookout for bandits, Apaches or any sort of troublemakers. There were plenty to be found in those days. The canyons afforded excellent places to hole up to plan illegal activities and were often bases of operation for outlaws.
The soldiers halted their mounts as they stumbled upon an empty campsite in the mesquites and began looking around for any occupants. A spanking new cast-iron Dutch oven stood out like a sore thumb amid the usual camp equipment, which caught the patrol’s attention. Wondering who might be passing through, the men made a more careful search of the area. Not finding any horses nearby, they continued scanning the nooks and crannies of the rocky area. Something looked out of place under a cut bank where the summer rains had eroded a pathway under a rocky outcropping. The smell might have been their first clue and what they must have suspected was quickly confirmed. Under a pile of blankets and gunny sacks, the soldiers found a decomposing man holding a copy of the Police Gazette dated April 20, 1888 in his hands. He’d obviously been deceased for a time since maggots were present.
Captain W. C. Wyeath, who was also the Assistant Surgeon for Ft. Huachuca reined his horse in near the spot to make his examination of the body. After dismounting, I imagine he covered his nose and mouth with his neck scarf. The decedent's skin was quite dark and alongside the body were several items. A pack saddle and bridle, a tall white felt hat, and several bags of provisions had been cached underneath the blankets as well. After his cursory exam, he gave orders for the soldiers to bury the remains and quickly.
After returning to the fort, the captain hand wrote his official report concerning the unknown man's death and sent it off to Sheriff Slaughter. Now, the sheriff had some serious questions about the death after reading the captain’s account. The captain wrote that because of the darkened skin he expected that the deceased was a Mexican peon and that he had determined the man died from natural causes. There was something entirely fishy about the report in the sheriff’s opinion. So, he swore in a coroner’s jury of five men consisting of J. S. Taylor, J. M. Empey, Frank and Thomas Frary, and W. H. Constable. The men rode out to the Huachucas to take a look at the case for themselves.
The jury wasn't squeamish and wasted no time in disinterring the body from the shallow one foot-deep grave. Despite the poor condition of the corpse, it was quickly determined that the man had died from a skull fracture above the right ear. This method of injury was called “buffaloing” and was used by Wyatt Earp in controlling men he intended to arrest. A quick blow above the ear with a gun barrel quickly dropped the man making the arrest less exciting for Wyatt and more painful for the cowboy. However, too hard a blow and the man never got up again.
There were other things that didn’t add up upon a more careful examination. Mexican peons traveled light, looking for day labor. They outfitted themselves with the bare necessities. A serape, a sombrero that not only kept the sun off them, but was used as a makeshift bowl to mix up cornmeal and water for tortillas. They would then bake the tortillas on a heated rock. The additional provisions didn’t fit the captain’s theory. He was completely wrong about the manner of death. And what really stood out was that nice new Dutch oven. Slaughter remarked that even he didn’t travel in such luxury.
The jury ruled out Apaches as the perpetrators since they certainly wouldn’t have left a perfectly good saddle and blankets, not to mention food supplies, the Dutch oven, and the man’s clothing. Mexican bandits would have taken everything except the man’s clothing and the Police Gazette. Nothing indicated the identity of the murdered man who must have been able to read if he’d brought along a newspaper on his expedition.
Not coming to any further conclusions, the sheriff had the man reburied in a proper grave that was piled with enough rocks to keep predators out. They made a marker inscribed, “Name Unknown, died May 1888.” I wish I’d been able to hear the conversation between the sheriff and the army captain. I suspect the captain got a good dressing down at the very least for his sloppy handling of the case.
So, was the man a prospector looking for gold which was common then, or just a cowboy passing through? Did he have a falling out with a partner or was it a random act of violence? Was it a cover-up of some sort by the army? Unfortunately, we’ll never know. The mystery of the murdered man in the western Huachucas remains to this day, the marker of his lonely grave disintegrated long ago in the Arizona sun.
References: So Said the Coroner by Grace McCool
Fort Huachuca: The story of a frontier post by Cornelius C. Smith, Jr.
Texas John Slaughter: Arizona’s Meanest Little Good Guy by Roger Naylor
A few weeks ago, my husband and I headed out for a birding adventure that has been on our list for quite some time. Less than an hour from Casa Wallace, there are wetlands, yes--in the desert which are a siren call to thousands of migrating waterfowl and other birds.
Whitewater Draw is owned entirely by the Arizona Game and Fish Department and comprises about 600 acres of lake, wetlands, and riparian area. The Audubon Society has designated the draw as an important bird area. With the rise of dairy farming and other agricultural pursuits in the Sulphur Springs Valley located in eastern Cochise County, the population of Sandhill cranes has especially grown in last decade. In other words there's a lot of feed for birds in the harvested corn fields.
After wending our way over back roads and finally to a dirt road that led down to a parking lot with just a few vehicles, I was eager to take in the sights. We walked the easy trail that borders the wetlands and the lake itself is further off with spectators kept in viewing areas that won't encroach on the cranes.
Serious photographers were setting up camera equipment at one viewing platform with enormous telescopic lenses readied for use. Before settling into watching the arrival of the cranes, we decided to check out the marshlands and found lots of ducks placidly swimming around filling their bills with delicacies from the cold waters. There were American coots and Northern pintail ducks in abundance. Returning to the viewing platform, we saw that the real show was beginning. Overhead, a large flock of snow geese began their elegant descent toward the water. The sunlight glinted off their pure white plumage like snowy diamonds gliding toward the lake. It was breathtaking.
The Sandhill Cranes were making an appearance--just small groups in the beginning. And then, the sky was filled with them. Flocks coming from the Willcox area to the northeast and more from the east and south. They called constantly to one another, the air filled with their "song" which was overpowering. What a choir! It's interesting to note that mated pairs have their own complex duet that is synchronized with the female making two calls for every one of the males. No snide comments now.
And then in the midst of crane arrivals, a male vermilion flycatcher caught our eye as he preened in the branches of a mesquite tree. The photographers scrambled to catch the red bird's antics as he took center stage for a few minutes. A Northern Harrier hawk landing on the ground nearby received his few minutes of fame apart from the cranes, but the stars of the avian show weren't ignored for long. Magnificent and huge, the long-legged gray birds with red foreheads filled the lake, the flocks adjusting their positions as more flew in. They average from just under three feet in height to four feet six inches. Their wingspan can be over seven feet which allows them to be master soaring birds, riding the thermals with nary a flap of a wing. Graceful, beautiful, and noisy.
It was a lovely morning with glorious sights in hidden desert wetlands, off the beaten track in southeastern Arizona. We continue to scout out new adventures in this unique part of the world. Whitewater Draw Website
And God said, “Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.” So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. Genesis 1:20-21
There were white flakes in the air when my good husband and I awoke this morning. We stood and gawked as they thickened and began accumulating on the ground and courtyard wall. An unusual occurrence in our neck of the woods. It quickly became apparent that the storm system had made itself comfortable over the Huachuca Mountains and the surrounding area. It was a good day to stay in. Inspired by memories of homemade hot cocoa and toast sticks that my mother would make on wintry days, I stirred up a steaming pan of cocoa. In case you didn't know, plain old toast with butter is magically transformed into something extraordinary when it's cut into sticks. It was so as a child and is still true today as a grandma. I quickly made a batch and settled in to read and drink hot chocolate.
I'm finishing up a new book by a good friend, Brenda Shipman entitled Embracing Hospitality: Help for the Hesitant Host. Brenda's insights, encouragement, and biblical foundation in her debut book is well worth reading. If you're avoiding extending hospitality for whatever reason, or if you're a seasoned hospitality giver, there is wisdom and practical help for all between the covers of this little book. You'll find Brenda's book on Amazon in paperback or for your Kindle.
Now, I read a lot--both fiction and non-fiction. If you're looking for some possibilities for the coming year to challenge and strengthen your faith, here are four non-fiction books to consider:
1. When I Don't Desire God: How to Fight for Joy by John Piper. "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him." An excellent read and it's not wrong to pursue joy. Joy in God that is. He is the source of true joy.
2. Prayer - Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by Timothy Keller. Practical and energetic instruction in deepening your prayer life. Life changing stuff.
3. Why Should I Believe Christianity? by James Anderson. A foundational apologetics book that is understandable and shareable with those who have serious questions about Christianity and the Bible.
4. Valley of Vision. The Valley of Vision is a classic collection of Puritan prayers and meditations. Now, before you dismiss it as stiff and irrelevant which was my preliminary opinion, it is not. While there are thee's and thou's it is full of gems that encourage and challenge, and warm the heart. It's highly recommended to add to your devotional reading.
All of the aforementioned books are available on Amazon in paperback or Kindle.
In the realm of fiction, historical-fiction mysteries are my current focus ... er ... addiction. Please allow me to recommend a few authors, all of whom I totally enjoy for attention to historical details, clean writing, believable characters and well-constructed plots.
1. Anne Perry - The Thomas and Charlotte Pitt series and William Monk series are set in Victorian England. I've been reading Anne Perry books since the 1980s and she's still writing. Perry weaves intricate plots and creates complex characters. Settle in for a slower read.
2. Candace Robb - The Owen Archer series set in medieval England. Full of details about medieval life with captivating characters, and clever mysteries.
3. Charles Todd - The Ian Rutledge series and Bess Crawford series set in WWI era England. These are slower-paced plots, but wonderful characters, excellent mysteries, and details about WWI and the post WWI era.
4. Ellis Peters - Brother Cadfael series set in the first half of 12th century England. This series has been around for some time, and is now available on Kindle.
5. Ashley Gardner - Captain Lacey Regency series, set in England of course. Faster-paced plots, colorful characters and excellent mysteries with a bit of romance.
The snow is still falling and it's piling up. Three and four inches at the moment. We've not had such a snowfall since we left Western New York 15 years ago. Wherever you may be, find a comfy chair, a hot beverage, and I hope a good read. Blessings in the New Year.