Alice Jane (Donovan) Curnow, the second daughter of Edward and Sarah (McNally) Donovan, was born in Whitefield, Lincoln County, Maine, on February 13, 1861. Edward, an engineer, went to California to work shortly after Alice’s birth, leaving his family in Maine, where he apparently believed his children would receive a better education. Alice attended a convent school in Whitefield until 1873 and then attended Augusta, Maine schools.
The Donovan family was reunited in Gold Hill (part of Virginia City), Nevada, in January 1877. Alice was sixteen years old and recalls that Mark Twain was writing a column for the Virginia City Enterprise when they arrived in Nevada.
On December 18, 1879, Alice married Thomas W. Curnow at Carson City, Nevada. Thomas, a miner, rancher and blacksmith, had been carrying silver bullion from the Comstock Mines in Virginia City to the United States Mint in Carson City. With the decline of the silver boom in Nevada, the couple moved to Globe, Pinal County, Arizona Territory, arriving on January 6, 1881.
Alice and Thomas had five children: Alice Holmes, born February 14, 1882; Murray, born November 4, 1884; Charles, born in 1887; Helen Curnow, born December 23, 1891, died December 1895; and Frances Griffin, born July 17, 1897. Thomas ventured into many undertakings during the couple’s marriage, and Alice followed him faithfully, often traveling in a wagon over the Pinal Mountains with a baby in her lap.
The Arizona Silver Belt newspaper dated February 3, 1898, carried an article stating, “Mr. Curnow informs us that he has bought into the best blacksmithing business in Mesa, and with his family will remove there.” In 1907, the family again relocated to San Diego, California, where Tom worked for the city sanitation department. Returning to Arizona in 1916, Tom became part owner of the Lower Miami Stage Company and served on the Miami Town Council. Alice was active in the Miami Women’s Club, serving as president in 1923 and as club representative to the General Federation of Women’s Clubs convention in 1924. She was installed as corresponding secretary in 1925.
Alice recorded her experiences in a retrospective narrative written between 1925 and 1940. A member of the Arizona Pioneers’ Society in Tucson, she presented the Society with a copy of her 223-page manuscript titled “The Journey with Tom."
Alice and Tom returned to California in their later years. Alice died in Los Angeles on October 27, 1940, with her funeral being held in the Little Church of the Flowers. She was buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, California.
Donor: Mona McCroskey, September 2003
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Updated: 6/03/2015; D. Sue Kissel