Submitted by Michael Wurtz
Few events in Prescott's history have so stirred the community as the death of Margaret Hunt McCormick, wife of the Governor. On the 130th anniversary of her death, the Sharlot Hall Museum presents her obituary from the Arizona Miner, May 4, 1867:
"DIED At Prescott, Arizona, on Tuesday April 30, 1867, at 7 p.m., Margaret Griffiths Hunt, daughter of Isaac L. Hunt, Esq., of Rahway, New Jersey, and wife of Hon. Richard C. McCormick, Governor of Arizona. Aged 24.
The sudden and unexpected death of this most estimable and greatly beloved woman, has cast a gloom over this community which language cannot describe. Since she came here in November 1865, as the companion of the Governor, she has been the pride of the Territory, and the demise of no other person could have created such a widespread sensation, or more universal and profound grief. As it is made known in the various settlements, in the mining and ranching camps, at the military posts, and at the roadside stations, business will be suspended, and stout-hearted men, who seldom mourn, will be excited to tears, for no one had a stronger hold upon the popular affection.
Mrs. McCormick came here fresh from the comforts and luxuries of the best society in the east; educated and accomplished, but singularly unpretending, and to this attractive trait, combined with a rare nobility of soul and mind, a most amiable and benevolent disposition, a love of adventure which well adapted her to pioneer life, and a glowing interest in the country, may be attributed her remarkable hold upon the public esteem and admiration. In the priceless elements of character which constitute the genuine woman, the 'true and honorable wife,' the useful and commanding member of society, and the practical and consistent Christian, she greatly excelled. In the purest and best sense she was to her honored husband
'A guardian angel o'er his life presiding,
Doubling his pleasures, and his cares dividing.'
Her married life was exceedingly joyous and promising; no woman in the Territory was more happy. Her hospitalities were dispensed with an open and generous hand, a charming freedom and grace, which made the guest, whether in buckskin or in broadcloth, (for she was no respecter of persons) at once at home and delighted. Her dinners to the last Legislature will long be remembered as the most agreeable entertainments of the kind that could possibly be provided in this remote country.
An intrepid traveler she had, with her husband, from whom she was never separated, visited all parts of this broad and wild Territory, and everywhere by her simple and unostentatious tastes, her genial manners, and her ready and cheerful conformity to circumstances, however unpleasant, been most heartily welcomed and kindly cared for.
Some of her mountain journeys upon horseback, for she was an expert rider, were attended with serious difficulties and dangers, but she met them with a resolution and equanimity which challenged the highest admiration.
Her recent trip with the Governor, to San Francisco via Mohave, and home via Yuma, Tucson and Fort McDowell, which occupied some four months, and included nearly 1,500 miles of land travel, much of it over the dreariest deserts and roughest roads on the Pacific slope, and through the worst Indian districts, was accomplished in a really heroic manner. Her return to Prescott was upon the 4th of April, when she appeared unusually well and hearty, and was in exuberant spirits, and she continued so until about a week since when she was attacked with violent illness, and on the 30th of April, after much suffering, she gave birth to a mature but lifeless child. An hour later, as the sun settled behind the stately mountains encircling her loved and romantic home, and when those in attendance were congratulating her upon the preservation of her life, she suddenly fell back and with scarcely a struggle, quickly and quietly passed to the better home of God's elect. During her painful and prostrating sickness, she displayed evidences of the loftiest Christian patience and endurance, and it was remarked by her faithful physicians that in all their practice they had not known so brave a woman. Her death is attributed to no result of her journey, but to the unusual size of her child and the consequent exertion of delivery. In her illness she was constantly surrounded by tender and sympathizing friends. She spoke frequently of death, but never in gloom or dejection and she was conscious to nearly the latest moment.
When the sad, startling news of her decease was made known, the town was hushed with sorrow, and her funeral at noon on the second instant, (the day preceding the 24th anniversary of her birthday) was attended by the entire population, the officers from Fort Whipple, and many persons from adjacent country. Prescott was never before so still and melancholy; every store, saloon and shop was closed, and no one talked or thought of business. The Rev. Charles M. Blake, Chaplain at Fort Whipple, and the only clergyman here, delivered a touching discourse, full of beautiful allusions to the dead, at the Governor's house, and ceremonies were also had at the grave in the pine forest nearby. When the remains (with those of the child) were deposited in the earth, many wild flowers were scattered upon them, and the weeping audience uttered a fervent amen to the earnest prayer of the Chaplain for the comfort and support of the stricken and disconsolate partner, and that the spotless and lovely example of the dear departed might be rightly improved by the whole community.
It is seldom that such a woman as Mrs. McCormick becomes a pioneer, and it must be a mournful pleasure to her devoted husband, and to her relatives and friends in the east to know that amidst all the privations and trials of life upon the frontier, and the duties pertaining to the most conspicuous position in the Territory, she performed her part so admirably as to make her death a public calamity, and that, in view of the many excellencies and graces of character which marked her daily walk and conversation,
'Her memory long will live alone
In all our hearts as mournful light
That broods above the fallen sun,
And dwells in heaven half the night.'
To commemorate this event, Sharlot Hall Museum is presenting a special exhibit in the Governor's Mansion, "Mourning for Margaret," which will run April 30 through May 30, 1997.
Margaret's and her infant's remains were moved from Prescott in 1869 to her home in Rahway, NJ.
Sharlot Hall Museum Photograph Call Number: (po0958pd)
Reuse only by permission.
A young Margaret, c.early 1860's.
Sharlot Hall Museum Photograph Call Number: (po0958pg)
Reuse only by permission.
Margaret, c.mid-1860's, as Mrs. McCormick.