By Sue Willoughby and Terry Munderloh

The simple task of preparing meals or doing laundry today is an easy job compared to the travails women faced in the barren and hostile environment of the early west. In addition to providing the basic sustenance's for their families, many of these frontier women made time to spin and weave, make their families' clothes and quilts, teach their children to read and write, feed ranch hands and animals, grow gardens, keep diaries and provided art and culture to the community. 

From an early age, daughters and granddaughters worked at their mothers' sides learning these domestic skills and toiled in the fields and worked the range with their fathers and brothers. These emerging generations of the early pioneer women also pioneered new frontiers. As life became less harsh, they were able to acquire more education, become politically informed and active in women's clubs, and became the custodians of their heritage by recording and preserving history.

Norah (Clough) Hartzell was a third generation Prescottonian of pioneer stock. Her maternal grandparents and mother, Mary Jane Alexander, arrived in Arizona in 1864, the same year Governor Goodwin convened the First Arizona Territorial Legislature assemblage at Prescott. 

Her father, Alfred Sumner Clough, was a native of New Hampshire who left home to explore the west at age 21. He was in Salt Lake City, Utah when he heard of the gold strike on Lynx Creek and came to Arizona via Lee's Ferry in the winter of 1864-65. Having poor luck at mining, he took up such odd jobs as cutting hay in Williamson Valley and working as a teamster. Sharlot Hall stated that he cut, hauled and set up the first flagstaff in Prescott. Norah's parents were married in 1874 and her brother, Frank Sumner Clough, was born in 1875.

By this time, her father had taken up farming. The Arizona Miner published the following item on July 30, 1875: "Mr. A. S. Clough, of Point of Rocks, whose corn was as promising as any in the county, informs us that the rains came too late to do him any good. His crop was higher than his head, and if it had rained ten days earlier than it did, his prospect for the finest field ever obtained in these parts was first rate. The rain, however, held off and while it descended copiously on his neighbors in several refreshing showers, it was not until the 15th of July that it rained on the Clough farm, and now his corn is past redemption except it may be for fodder. This is the sixth year Clough has lost his crops either by drought or hail. The few vines and vegetables left him by the demon this year were beaten into the ground by hail on Sunday night." 

Alfred finally gave up trying to grow crops with rainfall and in 1877 purchased the Joseph Curtis Ranch near Point of Rocks, which consisted of 200 acres of irrigated land on Granite Creek. On this ranch Norah was born on April 1, 1878. 

Little is recorded about Norah's youth, but one can assume that, like her contemporary and friend Sharlot Hall's youth, many demands were made on this only daughter of a farming and ranching household. The family began to prosper on their new land and Norah was able to attend the rural schools and she later attended a school of home economics in Boston. 

Her brother had died in 1892 and by 1908, upon the death of both her parents, Norah sold the family ranch. In 1914, she married Clark K. Hartzell, a practicing dentist who had come to Arizona to relieve his asthma. The Hartzells made their home at 228 South Pleasant Street in Prescott. 

Norah was a member of the Monday Club and took an active part in its projects. She and Sharlot Hall served as Arizona delegates to the General Federation of Women's Clubs conference in 1924. She was one of the founding members of the Prescott Historical Society, which was established in 1928 and what is today the Sharlot Hall Museum. 

The Hartzells enjoyed studying the history of the early Indians and collected many fine artifacts through the years. Upon Dr. Hartzell's death in 1951, a portion of his estate was donated to build an addition to the museum to house the Hartzells' priceless collection of Indian rugs, bowls, baskets and jewelry. Due to rising costs, the building addition was delayed so Norah provided the extra money needed for its construction. 

Norah had been a patient at the community hospital for 3 1/2 years when the Hartzell Room was finally completed. She was taken on a stretcher by ambulance for the dedication. When she died in January of 1957, the Sharlot Hall Museum closed on the day of her funeral, honoring this pioneer woman who was one of its chief benefactors. 

Sue Willoughby is the Director of the Phippen Art Museum and Terry Munderloh is a Sharlot Hall Museum archives volunteer.

Illustrating image

Sharlot Hall Museum Photograph Call Number: (bui190p)
Reuse only by permission.

Norah Clough Hartzell, born in 1878, shown here working in the kitchen of the Clough ranch in Granite Dells not far from the location of the Phippen Museum. The museum is opening an exhibit about pioneer women in the west.