By Mick Woodcock

"Married Sept. 27 1865, at Mr. Sheddane's church, Rahway, N. J., at quarter past four o'clock in the afternoon.  I took the five o'clock train for Washington accompanied by Johnnie Woodruff and his bride."  So begins the diary of Margaret Griffiths Hunt McCormick, wife of second territorial governor Richard C. McCormick.  While very sketchy and incomplete, it is one of only two known sources of information on Margaret's trip west, the other source is a letter written by Margaret while on her trip that has recently been donated to the Museum.


The first page, and part of the second, of this document was actually written in San Francisco upon her arrival.  She stated, "Sailed from New York Oct. 2 and reached here this noon."  The next date is Wednesday, October 25.  This was within a day or two of having arrived if not the day after. 

To give you an idea of the relative ease with which the east and west coasts were accessible to each other because of the gold rush to California in 1849, we quote from Women in Waiting in the Westward Movement by Linda Peavy and Ursula Smith.  This relates a portion of the voyage of Sarah Burgert Yesler in 1858, to meet her husband in San Francisco. 

"The ship stopped only once on its way to the isthmus, in Kingston, Jamaica.  Soon underway again, the passengers arrived in the Caribbean port city of Aspinwall a scant eight days after their departure from New York.  In stark contrast to Henry's trip across the isthmus six years earlier, Sarah's was made in relative ease by train, which carried her to Panama City in approximately four hours so that she was able to board her ship on the Pacific Coast that evening.  Stopping only at Acapulco for fuel and supplies, Sarah's steamer made the voyage to San Francisco in fourteen days, arriving in early July, her entire trip having been accomplished in three weeks." 

Even though made seven years later, Richard and Margaret would have found that portion of their travel experience similar.  Margaret's diary mentions, "Had a delightful trip.  Richard has been very very kind.  At Acapulco he took me ashore and we roamed about the town, which is at present deserted, owing to the French having taken possession of the port and having driven the Mexicans out of the town.  We met a few pleasant acquaintances on the steamer." 

On October 26th, they Margaret and Richard boarded the steamer for Wilmington, California.  Margaret wrote, "Sat. Oct. 28. Reached Wilmington this morning and found a letter from Gen. Banning, and his carriage in waiting, to take us to his house.  Neither the General nor his wife were at home, so we took possession of the house.  Mrs. Banning returned this evening."  After spending two days at the Banning's, the McCormicks left for Los Angeles. 

"Sat. Nov. 4.  Started for our journey to Prescott this afternoon, with two ambulances, six government wagons, and two private baggage wagons.  Arrived at Monte to-night."  Thus Margaret recorded the beginning of the final portion of her trip to Arizona.  She recorded some interesting occurrences of the early portion of the trek.  "This morning we started for the first crossing of the Mojave which we reached at about noon, and to our delight found Gov. Goodwin & party.  Thurs. Nov. 9.  Spent the day quite pleasantly, having been well entertained by Capt. Curtis. Like Gov. Goodwin very much.  Fri. Nov 10.  Gov. Goodwin and party left this morning, and Richard and Capt. Lord accompanied them a little way, in order to find the private baggage wagons." 

The formal part of the diary ends with the following quote, "Tues. Nov. 14.  Train arrived this morning.  Had quite a rain.  Horses ran away by 'Peppers' carelessness.  Wed. Nov. 15.  Train went on eight miles.  Sent out in all directions for horses, but have not been found.  Capt. Lord and I attempted to reach the monument, but gave up in despair.  Thurs. Nov. 16.  'Peppers' returned without the horses.  Will Cory, and Mr. Weaver started out on a search."  Apparently the horses were never found as an expenses entry in another part of the diary noted a $100.00 expenditure for horses. 

Whether Margaret recorded the rest of her journey elsewhere, or whether the problems of the journey took her mind off of writing we will never know.  We do know that she made it safely to Prescott.  There she presided as First Lady of the territory until her untimely death in child birth April 30, 1867. 

For the next month the Governors' Mansion at the Museum will be decorated for mourning Margaret's death the same way mourning practices were done in Victorian times.  The museum will be hosting a slide show by Georgene Lockwood this afternoon at 2 p.m. on Victorian Mourning Practices. 

Mick Woodcock is the Registrar at the Sharlot Hall Museum.

Sharlot Hall Museum Photograph Call Number: (po0958pc). Reuse only by permission.
Margaret Hunt McCormick traveled through the isthmus of Panama in 1865, with her husband Richard McCormick on their way to Prescott from New Jersey.  Richard was to serve his appointment as governor of the Arizona Territory.  The town was plunged into mourning when Margaret died in 1867, at the age of 24.