Originally Published: June 10, 2018 6:01 a.m.
Young Sharlot Hall traveled to Prescott in the Arizona Territory with her family by covered wagon in 1882, settling at what became the family homestead near Lynx Creek and the Agua Fria in the area that is now Dewey.
Growing up on the family ranch, Sharlot’s formal education was limited, but she studied a great deal at home and became fascinated with Arizona history. After learning about the Governor’s Mansion and the early Territorial days from Henry Fleury, secretary to the first territorial governor in 1864, she began writing and recounting old timers’ stories in her poetry and magazine articles, and saving Arizona artifacts.
Travel articles, short stories, essays, and more were the prose she wrote, often from her own experiences and the rough-‘n’-tumble life of the frontier.
She became editor of the popular “Out West” magazine. Her lengthy bibliography includes published poetry and articles on politics, marketing, photography, hired men, history, and on being single. She was often referred to as “Arizona’s beloved poetess laureate.”
As a political activist she favored statehood for Arizona, but did not advocate President Theodore Roosevelt’s position that the territories of Arizona and New Mexico be combined and taken into the Union as a single state.
She arranged for her impassioned poem “Arizona” to be delivered to all members of Congress, advocating a separate state for Arizona — perhaps influencing the ultimate defeat of the bill for joint statehood.
In 1909, she became the official Arizona Historian, the first woman to hold public office in the Territory. Through this position, she continued to learn about the area’s history by traveling and researching the entire territory.
She later represented the new 48th State of the Union at the Electoral College casting Arizona’s three ballots for President during the 1925 election. Sharlot carved out a life as a writer, historian, activist and ranch woman.
She remained centered on the family ranch until after her parents’ deaths when she rebuilt her public life and negotiated a lease for the “Old Governor’s Mansion” turning it into a museum. In 1928, she began receiving visitors to the old log cabin, referred to as a mansion because — when it was built in 1864 — it was a formidable structure compared to the more common tents and shanties of those first settlers.
In the 1930s, two new buildings were constructed on the Museum grounds through New Deal programs. The stone building opened in 1936, provided space for additional exhibits and a new apartment for Sharlot. New Deal workers also built the Ranch House to commemorate early territorial ranchers. Fort Misery, the oldest log cabin in the state and the building where settlers first met to create the town of Prescott, was relocated to the Museum grounds in 1936.
Sharlot Hall continued to operate the Governor’s Mansion Museum for 15 years until shortly before her death in 1943, after which the Museum was named in her honor. In subsequent years, the Sharlot Hall Museum continued to expand adding exhibits and new buildings, which include:
• A replica of the town’s one-room school house;
• The Frémont House, residence of the fifth territorial governor John C. Frémont (1875), and moved to the Museum grounds in 1972;
• The Bashford House, an 1879 classic Victorian home of Prescott businessman William Coles Bashford, was moved to the Museum grounds in 1974;
• The Transportation Building, housing the Museum’s rolling stock, including Sharlot’s own Durant Star Four touring car;
• The Lawler Exhibit Center, which includes the Museum’s world-class pre-History exhibit; and Sharlot’s Depot (admissions building).
The Museum she began 90 years ago has grown from the single log cabin on a grassy, Prescott knoll, to a four-acre campus featuring beautifully landscaped grounds and 11 exhibit buildings. It has long been considered the “Crown Jewel of Northern Arizona.” According to the late-Clay Thompson, columnist with the Arizona Republic, Sharlot Hall was the epitome of “all tough Arizona women” and described the Museum she began as the “Mother of all Arizona Museums.”
Information and photographs provided bySharlot Hall Museum.