Rose Garden PhotographsFrances “Frankie” Belle (Middleton) Wood, daughter of Cora Ellsworth (Chishom) and Charles M. Middleton, was born on August 11, 1879, at Hallettsville, Lavaca Vegas County, Texas. She arrived in Geronimo, Graham County, Arizona, on August 24, 1896.

According to Frankie’s short autobiography, she had no plans for what to do upon her arrival in Geronimo. Teachers at that time were hard to get, but Frankie didn’t think she knew enough to teach.   However, she hadn’t been in Geronimo very long before she was approached about teaching in the Arizona Territory.  She accepted a teaching job in Shilo, a settlement above Fort Thomas, in Graham County. She taught there one term.

On January 19, 1899, Frankie married John Martin Wood, a rancher, at Geronimo. The couple had five sons: Clyde G., born June 21, 1900; Leslie Martin, born May 3, 1902; Fredrick Duncan, born November 29, 1904; Bertram Henry, born January 19, 1907; and Charles Clifford, born March 21, 1915.

The family lived in the areas where John Martin ranched including Fort Thomas, Livingston, and the Globe and Phoenix areas. Frankie became well acquainted with the first state governor, George Hunt, and enjoyed the freedom of walking into his office, appointment or not.

By 1919, Martin had started ranching at El Capitan on the east side of the Pinal Mountains in Gila County. Frankie Belle was the postmistress at their small store close to their home. She had business cards printed to promote the area. The cards read, “Pure Air and Water – Beautiful Scenery – El Capitan Camp, An Ideal Summer Campground At The Crest of Pinal Mountain- Elevation 5000 feet – On the Famous El Capitan Scenic Highway – Halfway Between Globe and Winkelman – There Is a Store Near The Camp – For Further Particulars Address Mrs. Martin Wood – Globe, Arizona.” Frankie became the one who conducted the family’s business affairs.

In October 1920 Frankie received the deed to forty acres by the Eastern Canal in Mesa, Arizona. Here the family had a home and store in the front of the property with hand-cranked gas pumps. In November 1921, Frankie received a deed to forty acres on lower Aravaipa Creek in Pinal County, the beginning of the Panorama Ranch, where she and Martin would live the longest time. Frankie promoted the new Aravaipa Road, completed in 1937, that enabled people to travel out of the creek bed.

They raised an abundance of produce on the Panorama Ranch and sold it in the surrounding towns of Winkelman, Hayden, Mammoth, Tiger, Oracle, Ray, Christmas, Florence, Tucson, Globe, Midland City, Miami and Claypool. Frankie kept a record book of the sales of items such as fruits and vegetables, her homemade preserves, eggs, milk, butter, hens and turkeys. A potential but hesitant buyer said that if his wife was like Frankie Belle, he’d be a millionaire!

Frankie’s youngest son, Cliff, credits his mother with keeping track of the changing times and knowing how the family could better themselves with what they had. Cliff had gone to school, and his mother had also been a good tutor, who taught him how to read. She wanted her sons to be responsible, rather than troublemakers, and to know how to take care of themselves. She did a good job.

She died at the age of 81 on November 27, 1960, in Tucson, Pima County, Arizona.

Donor: Dorothy Wood, September 2002
Photo Located: RGC-MS-39, Box U-Z, F-Wood, Frances
Updated: 6/11/2015, Gretchen Hough Eastman