Effie Iola (Anderson) Spencer Smith, daughter of Adolphus and Martha Adelia (Coulter) Anderson, was born in Sevier County, Arkansas, on September 29, 1869, and grew up in the nearby city of Hope.  Effie had one brother, George, and a sister, Carrie. She attended Mrs. King’s School and Hope Female College in Hope, Arkansas. As a teenager, she developed an interest in drawing, and took up painting landscapes by her fifteenth birthday. Her artistic talents would fully blossom years later in Arizona, bringing her national renown.

Effie trained as a schoolteacher at Hope Female College.  In her first years of teaching in Arkansas, she met William Mark Spencer of Arkadelphia and married him in Hope, Hempstead County, Arkansas on December 17, 1890.  Sadly, their time together was brief. William died less than a year later, and Effie was a widow at age twenty-one.

In 1892, Effie and her ailing mother traveled west from Arkansas to Deming, New Mexico, in an effort to save Adelia’s failing health, but she died.  Effie returned home to Arkansas, with memories of the beauty and splendor of the west.

Adolphus Anderson, Effie’s father, passed away in Hope, just a few months later in 1893.  Effie and younger sister Carrie then decided to join their brother George, his wife, and other relatives in New Mexico, where Effie had accepted a teaching position.  George introduced his sisters to society in Deming during the summer of 1894. Effie soon met Andrew Young (A. Y.) Smith , a Scottish immigrant railroad clerk and later a mining engineer, at a gathering of young people who were part of “The Once a Week Club.”  Andrew had his eye on Effie, and the Arizona mining boom.  Effie agreed to join Andrew in Bisbee, Arizona Territory, and they married there on August 1, 1895.  Effie did not know anybody in Bisbee, but the local women who knew Andrew took charge of the wedding. They invited the guests, baked cakes, made ice cream and even supplied a flower girl for the ceremony, which was held at the Bessemer Hotel.

After a year in Benson as railroad stationmaster, Andrew became bookkeeper for the Commonwealth Mining, Milling and Development Company at Pearce, Arizona in 1896.  He eventually rose to be company president.  Effie and A.Y. moved into the stylish mine manager’s house. They were active in Cochise County social life and politics.  The Smiths had three children: Andrew Bosworth, born May 5,1896, Lewis Anderson, born August 12, 1898, and Janet Annadel, born September 1, 1906. Disease was rampant in the mining camp at Pearce; unfortunately, Andrew Bosworth died in infancy and Janet died just after eight months.  Of their three children, only Lewis survived to adulthood.

It was deep sorrow, following the 1907 death of the Smiths’ baby daughter, which compelled Effie to return to her art for solace.  Andrew’s business trips to the coast afforded Effie opportunities to study with Northern and Southern California’s leading impressionists.  She resumed her interest in painting, studying in San Francisco, Laguna Beach, and at the Stickney Memorial School of Fine Arts in Pasadena. As her mature style emerged in the 1920s, she painted and exhibited across the southwest, and her Grand Canyon paintings won critical acclaim.  Her paintings hung in the El Tovar Hotel at the Grand Canyon, in Tucson's Santa Rita Hotel, and the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D. C.

Just as Effie was invited to display twenty of her finest paintings for solo exhibits in Eastern cities, the Smiths’ house in Pearce burned to the ground on September 17, 1929.  Undaunted, the Smiths re-built, and Effie worked feverishly to re-create lost masterpieces for her Eastern tour in May of 1931. 

Andrew became ill and died of kidney disease in October 1931. She remained in Pearce during the depression years of the 1930s, painting prolifically, with seasonal visits to Lewis’s Morenci, Arizona home, where she also painted.  At the outbreak of World War II, Effie gave up her home of forty-five years in Pearce, and moved to the stately Hotel Gadsden, which was known as a luxury hotel with all the modern amenities of its time, in Douglas, Arizona.  She taught art classes there and sold new paintings in her third floor art studio.  The views of the local mountains inspired Effie and her students.

From 1908 to 1950, she created hundreds of desert paintings depicting Arizona’s raw natural beauty; many appeared in exhibitions in Arizona and in major eastern and West Coast cities. The Douglas Dispatch called her “The Dean of Arizona Women Artists,” and many of her finest paintings are in the Douglas Historical Society (Douglas-Williams House) museum or owned by descendants of Arizona pioneer families who acquired them directly from Effie.  There is a wonderful website dedicated to Effie’s life and art at www.EffieAndersonSmith.com.

In 1951, with health and income declining, Effie moved to the Arizona Pioneers’ Home in Prescott.  Failing eyesight prevented her from painting, but she remained active by seeking donations of books and records for the library.  After a brief illness, Effie died on April 21, 1955 and is buried in Mountain View Cemetery in Prescott.

Donor: M. Steven Carlson, great-great-nephew, January 2016
Photo Located: RGC MS-39, Box S-T, F-Smith, Effie (Anderson)
Updated: 3/5/16, N. Freer & 5/20/17, Brenda Taylor