Sharlot Hall


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Many Arizonans know the name Sharlot Hall, but few know the story of this remarkable farm girl. Sharlot Hall was an historian, an adventurer and a teller of tales whose stories, poems and passion for collecting helped keep the early days of Arizona alive. Hall wrote over 500 articles, and poems and penned 10 books. She was the only woman in the territorial governor's cabinet and her extraordinary collections and writings formed the foundation for the Sharlot Hall Museum in Prescott, Arizona.


Narrator: Sharlot Hall was an historian, an adventurer, and a teller of tales whose stories, poems, and passion for collecting have helped keep the early days of Arizona alive. It was 1882, and 11-year-old Sharlot, her brother Ted, and their parents Adeline and James left Kansas to start a new life near Prescott, where Adeline's brother settled a few years earlier.

Margaret Maxwell: James Hall decided he had to move west, so they hit the Santa Fe Trail in the middle of the winter, and they settled on Lynx Creek, and James Hall took up hydraulic mining on lynx creek. And they lived in a little shack, but he wanted to have a ranch. So it wasn't too long before he bought the property on which he built what they called Orchard Ranch. It was very hard work, and they all had to pitch in.

Narrator: Sharlot's formal education was brief, but Adeline encouraged reading and creative expression, so at the tiny desk in her room at orchard ranch, Sharlot started to write.

John Langellier: Here is a person who sits facing the blank page with this cumbersome piece of equipment in front of her and turns out 500 or so articles and poems and 10 books. If that young Sharlot Hall could come back and look at a laptop, oh, my goodness.

Narrator: Publishing successes fetched modest honorariums that helped sustain the family. Sharlot submitted one story to Land of Sunshine Magazine, which would soon change its name to Out West. Thus began her association with renowned western writer Charles Lummis.

Margaret Maxwell: He became very interested in this young, untrained, uneducated westerner out in the wilds of Arizona, and he invited her to come out, because he was going to take a leave of absence and he needed an assistant editor for his magazine. So off she went to Los Angeles, and I tell you, it was wonderful for her. Working with Lummis was certainly one of the seminal periods of her life. He was a great mentor for her, really taught her a great deal.

Narrator: When she returned from California, Sharlot transformed herself into a public figure and formidable advocate for causes she believed in. Her efforts did not go unnoticed.

Margaret Maxwell: Governor Sloan really liked Sharlot, and he knew how competent she was, and he appointed her Territorial Historian, and over the opposition of I don't know how many thousands of people, but he stood his ground, and the picture there shows Sharlot sitting with the cabinet officers, the one woman in the governor's cabinet.

Narrator: As Territorial Historian, Sharlot believed it was important to make a grand trip around the territory to collect and preserve objects and oral histories.

Margaret Maxwell: And off she went on this marvelous adventure. She was determined she was going to every corner of this territory of Arizona. She was going to interview every pioneer in the whole territory of Arizona. Kind of an ambitious project, but she did an awful lot.

Narrator: When the U.S. Congress started talking about admitting New Mexico and Arizona as a single unit to the United States, Sharlot took action.

Margaret Maxwell: She was so angry that she wrote a really powerful poem. Governor Sloan was so impressed that he had it put on the desk of every representative and Senator in the U.S. Congress. Did this actually turn the tide for Arizona, I'm not sure, but I think it had a part in doing this.

Narrator: Arizona's statehood in 1912 brought bittersweet consequences for Sharlot. Governor Hunt asked the entire territorial cabinet to resign. Hunt chose to appoint Mulford Winsor as Arizona's first State Historian. For the next ten years, Sharlot remained in seclusion at Orchard Ranch. Her isolation escalated with the death of her beloved mother. Friends finally coaxed Sharlot back to public life with an irresistible proposition.

Margaret Maxwell: When Coolidge became the president, she was asked to carry Arizona's electoral votes to Washington. One of the copper companies in Arizona financed the making of a wonderful copper gown for her. She said it was very heavy and uncomfortable, but she wore it on state occasions and felt, I'm sure, very grand. So off she went to Washington. She met President Coolidge; she said she felt like Cinderella at the ball.

Narrator: Sharlot's intense fascination and love for Arizona drove her even harder to conserve what she understood to be its vanishing heritage and traditions.

John Langellier: The miners, the ranchers, and others were still in the area, and so she would've been hearing stories from the very lips of the primary source themselves. She didn't have to go to a book to read about early Arizona, she was living early Arizona.

Narrator: Sharlot started her campaign to get the state of Arizona to give the old governor's mansion to a group who could preserve and care for it. In the only known recording of her voice, Sharlot recalls a prophetic childhood memory.

Voice of Sharlot Hall: This was a log house and it had a shake roof and trees around it and I said to myself sometime I’m going to own that house.

John Langellier: It's not a mansion in any sense of the word; it's kind of the rustic log cabin. But in 1864, it was the only game in town, virtually. And that became the set piece for the museum when she moved in 1927, brought her collections here, and worked with the city as well as then the state to begin that very first step in developing a museum.

Margaret Maxwell: She moved in and started the most wonderful part of her life, the collection of artifacts that are peculiar to this area of Arizona and the preservation of the old governor's mansion.

John Langellier: Sharlot Hall's legacy as an individual is this museum. It was the combination of her objects and her library, which we have here still to this day, and the structure itself that melded together to create the entity known as the Sharlot Hall Museum. A love of the past, a passion for that that has gone before us; she continues to inspire people.

Narrator: She never married, choosing her love of preserving history above romance. She was an accomplished woman: a devoted daughter, a poet and prolific writer, an activist, and a politician. One remarkable farm girl chose adventure over convention.