By Jean Cross
"The scenery was wild and grand; in fact, all that I had ever dreamed of; more than that, it seemed so untrod, so fresh somehow, and I do not suppose that even now, in the day of railroads and tourists, many people have had the view of the Tonto Basin which we had one day from the top of the Mogollon Range. I remember thinking, as we alighted from our ambulances and stood looking over the Basin, 'surely I have never seen anything to compare with this' - but, Oh! would any sane human being voluntarily go through what I have endured on this journey to look upon this wonderful scene?"
Amazement and awe - discouragement and aching muscles. These were the conflicting feelings which engulfed the army wife or the settler's family, as they followed their adventuresome husbands into the West in days past.
Martha Summerhayes was one of these unprepared but loyal wives who endured every conceivable hardship as she took her place in the history of the West. It was incumbent upon these army wives to follow their husbands from army post to army post. The preceding quotation may be found in Mrs. Summerhayes account of her journeys from one Arizona fort to another in her book Vanished Arizona. It was uttered as she viewed the Tonto Basin from the Mogollon Rim on her way to Fort Apache from Fort Whipple. In this account she states "It did not surprise us to learn that ours was the first wagon train to pass over Crook's trail." This trail had been built "by greenhorn soldiers from the East; young men unaccustomed to the wilds of the frontier." But build it they did, marking trees, building cairns, finding water holes and springs, and this, in all kinds of weather, along precipitous and rugged terrain and with the ever threatening presence of the dread Apaches.
But trails were the only means of overland communication and trade, as they had long been for prehistoric cultures. '"No man is an island" and contact with one another is essential to livelihood. Now these trails, as much a part of our history as are cliff dwellings, cabins and settlements, are fast disappearing in the face of new settlements, new developments and, yes, new trails, our highways.
Rivers were also a part of this communication system as they are today and the Colorado River was often used as a route into the interior of the Southwest. Martha Summerhayes, in her account, relates her first introduction to the Arizona territory by way of the Colorado River. The slow monotonous river trip had its hardships too and she seemed relieved to disembark at Fort Mojave as she exclaims, "The change from boat to land traveling offers an agreeable diversion after the monotony of the river."
Little did she know what lay ahead on the old Hardyville Road from Fort Mojave to Fort Whipple. It was during this first venture along rugged trails that she recalled Kipling's soldiers singing:
"With the best foot first
And the road asliding past
And every blooming camping ground
Exactly like the last."
One could imagine that river travel could look sweet in the face of rough trails, dust, wind, creepy crawly creatures and the uncertainty of what lay beyond the next curve or hill as the wagon train wended its way across the uncharted wilderness.
But endure she did, as she relates her adventures along the Hardyville Road. "Anvil Rock and old Camp Hualapai were our next two stopping places. We drove through groves of oaks, cedars and pines, the days began hopefully and ended pleasantly. To be sure, the roads were very rough and our bones ached after a long days traveling."
The Prescott area, as well as all of Arizona, is steeped in such accounts and happenings. Such landmarks as these trails are becoming obscured by rapid development as well as neglect. To preserve what remains of these early routes, Yavapai Trails Association has joined forces with Arizona State Committee on Trails (ASCOT), Sharlot Hall Museum and Central Arizona Land Trust (CALT) to sponsor an Historic Trails Conference on Friday, August 21, 1998, at Sharlot Hall Museum. It is their hope that Conference participants will be motivated to join together to research, record and preserve what remains of these primitive roads and trails.
Jean Cross is on the Board of the Yavapai Trails Association.
Sharlot Hall Museum Photograph Call Number: (pb010f5i4f). Reuse only by permission.
Barbara Fritsche is shown here in 1953 helping with the dedication of a roadside marker indicating the location of "old Fort Hualapai". The desire to preserve trails like the ones that went through this area is the main topic of the conference to be held this coming Friday (August 21, 1998).