By Rita Wuehrmann

The untimely death of a man, Charles Bradner Rhodimer, in Missouri on a June day in 1911, set off a chain of events that resulted in my family's involvement with Prescott and Yavapai County.  My great grandfather, a saddle and harness maker, was only 33 when he succumbed to tuberculosis, leaving a cherished young wife to care for their three children.


Did his wife, Sara Louisa Weaver, "Sally," contract the disease from him?  It seems likely, because before long, she made the decision to depart her home, and strike out on her own in the drier, more healthful climate of Colorado Springs.  The change must have been good for her; she was able to complete her job of raising a daughter and two sons in that mountain town. 

What prompted the family's decision to head even farther west?  We are not sure, possibly a continuing quest for a cure to the lung disorder that plagued them.  In any event, we know that my mother (Mary Louise Catron) was born in the San Fernando Valley in 1922, the only child of Sally's daughter.  At that time, it would seem that my grandmother Grace and at least one of her brothers suffered from the dreaded tuberculosis, in addition to my great grandmother, who finally was taken by it in 1925, in Van Nuys, California. 

How did the family know about Prescott, Arizona, and that its climate that was touted to be beneficial for tuberculosis sufferers?  Probably medical advice was what prompted them to depart for Yavapai County, where many others had sought a cure.  Evidently here shortly after my mother's birth, my grandparents Clyde "Roy" Catron and Grace, settled in and became part of the community.  They moved often during their Prescott sojourn.  We know their first residence here was high on the hill behind the Arizona Pioneers Home.  Next, they lived below the Pioneers Home at the foot of the hill just above the creek, then in two different houses, now demolished, where the Park Plaza shopping center stands.  Park Avenue was the site of one of their abodes.  Evidently, Grandma was close to Kate Cory; we have a letter she received which was addressed to her in care of the well-known artist.  Then, they were off to Miller Valley, abiding on Valley Street at different times in two neighboring houses, the last where they remained when my father (Ira Kelley), son of a ranching family from near Yarnell, courted my mother (but that's another Yavapai County story). 

At one point, Grandma was among a small group who came together for the purpose of sewing for needy families.  Members originally called themselves the Dorcas Club, but because that name had previously been used by the First Baptist Church, adopted the moniker of Tillicum Club (according to a newspaper clipping, the name is from a word meaning "friend" in the language of Minnesota Indians). 

Grandma, a member of the Methodist Church and its missionary society, was an artist; I suspect that there are paintings of hers hanging in local homes.  Many were signed with her later initials, GRS, or Grace Rho Smith.  She married Eugene Smith after her divorce from Grandpa.  She was a contemporary of Sharlot Hall, and attended some of Sharlot's talks.  As a member of the Miller Valley Sewing Club in 1935, Grandma was among the "first group to be entertained in Miss Sharlot Hall's new quarters in the stone museum recently built near the old governor's mansion."  On that occasion, the ladies sewed and listened to "Miss Hall's reminiscences of pioneer days," according to a newspaper article. 

Grandfather Roy was employed as parts manager at Webb Motors, and in charge of the parts delivery service of the old Floyd Williams Motor Company, among other endeavors. 

Mom, Mary Louise Catron (later married to Ira Kelley), attended Lincoln School from kindergarten, later walked just a block to attend classes at Miller Valley School, then was a student at the old junior high school, which stood on the prominence now occupied by the Yavapai County jail edifice on Gurley Street. 

As a child, my mother performed piano recitals in Prescott, some of them for the auxiliary of the Woodmen Circle and for the Monday Club.  I believe Grandma was a member of the Monday Club. Grandma also played the piano, and they both were guitarists.  Accompanying themselves on the guitar, they sang songs passed down by my great grandfather, who learned songs from the plains cowboys and pioneers who traveled through their Missouri town near the beginning of their covered wagon journeys. 

During her growing-up years, Mom was one of many youngsters who benefited from the American Red Cross' "Splash Week," during which they learned to swim at The Gardens, a resort and pool at Granite Dells. 

Grandma had two brothers, both of whom were part of the Prescott community, Charles Rhodimer, named for his father, a single man who resided in the Arizona Hotel, now Coyote Joe's, and Perry Dale Rhodimer, a businessman who we believe started the tire shop near the corner of Montezuma and Goodwin, the spot where a tire store remains to this day.  We have been told that Dale served on the Prescott City Council. 

Then, there was my other great grandmother, Molly Catron, who lived with my grandparents in Prescott.  Her obituary in a 1940 Prescott Courier identified her as a "pioneer" of the area. 

In Miller Valley, the nearby Johnny and Clara Williams family produced Margaret Williams, who later became my aunt by virtue of her marriage to Uncle Lewis Kelley.  Uncle Lewis' first wife, Lucille Thomason, from a family farther down in the desert, near Congress, was Mom's best friend.  Another good friend of Mom's was Laverne Yearry, whose sons remain well-known contributors to this community. 

After their marriage, my parents worked their ranch, the AD, at Hell's Gate between Morristown and what was then known as Lake Carl Pleasant.  My older brother was born in the Mercy Hospital on Grove Avenue in 1939, the year before it burned. 

There were three Prescott funerals in my family.  Molly Catron's final resting place was long lost to our kin, but a visit to the Mountain View Cemetery office and a perusal of its "book of deaths" was enough to restore her to us (these and other cemetery records for most of Yavapai County can be found at the Sharlot Hall Museum's Archives).  Now we remember her regularly with graveside visits and flowers.  While we are hearkening back to our ancestors in the burying ground, we place flowers on the graves of two of Uncle Dale and Caralyn (Hill) Rhodimer's babies lying there. 

A move to the "Valley of the Sun" occurred before my birth and those of my younger siblings, and so we were raised in the desert.  After that relocation, my Grandmother always returned to Prescott when difficulties overwhelmed her.  I don't know with whom she stayed, but here is where she found her solace.  In later years, it was our pleasure to return to our "old stomping grounds," visit "Verne" and her family and absorb the peace that comes to us in this place. 

By the time of America's bicentennial, 1976, I could no longer bear the city life which had overrun our previously rural setting, and returned to the place where my heart had long resided, Prescott.  Thus, this area became my refuge, as it has long been the refuge for my family in their times of troubles. 

Rita Wuehrmann is an active volunteer at Sharlot Hall Museum.

Sharlot Hall Museum Photograph Call Number: (submitted by author). Reuse only by permission.
In about 1920 Clyde "Roy" Catron worked in the tire shop on Montezuma Street south of Goodwin belonging to his brother-in-law, Dale Rhodimer.  The author's family originally wound up in Prescott probably due to health reasons.