Rose GardenHazel Bernice (Swiger) Aiken was born on April 19, 1902, in Bellingham, Whatcom County,Washington,the daughter of Miner Emerson and Lavine (Mutchler) Swiger. Hazel came to the Arizona Territory with her parents and her mother’s parents in 1910. The family took up a homestead east of Jerome Junction (now known as Chino Valley) along with other new settlers. Hazel attended school at Jerome Junction through the ninth grade and took a two-year business course in Prescott.

 On June 29, 1920, Hazel married Claude Webb Aiken, whom she had met while attending the Jerome Junction School.When Claude was sixteen, he went to work in Yavapai County for the big Baker-Campbell Ranch, and later he worked for Marion Perkins as camp cook and drove the chuck wagon.

Claude and Hazel’s first home was on the Charley Burton ranch. Hazel recalled that while she lived on the Burton ranch, during the summer months she saw huge herds of sheep driven through the area on their way to higher country around Williams, Arizona. She also stated that it was not unusual to see fifteen to twenty burros tied outside Henry Peter’s store while the sheepherders purchased salt, barley, and other supplies for the drive.

Hazel and Claude had two children: Doris May (Aiken) Echols,born May 25, 1921,and Betty Lou(Aiken) Wells, born January 30, 1924. In 1928, the couple purchased a 360-acre ranch parcel.It is reported Claude and Hazel had adjoining homesteads in each of their separate names. In order to fulfill the requirements of living on the land, they built a house on the boundary lines, and thus they could live on both homesteads.  These were the years of the Great Depression, and their daughter Betty stated that by today’s standards “they were certainly poverty-stricken, but thank goodness, they didn’t know it.”Claude worked a variety of jobs wherever and whenever he could. The couple grew huge gardens and many times those gardens were watered by lantern light. Claude and his father helped with the preparation of the produce, and Hazel canned hundreds of quarts of fruits, vegetables, jams and jellies. Hazel also took in washing for many years to supplement the family income. The family was always well fed, clothed, and happy, lacking many of today’s luxuries, but probably better for it.

 On April 1, 1958, while attending to ranch duties, Claude was killed in an accident with his pickup truck. Hazel continued to live at the ranch home, quietly going about the things she enjoyed and continuing to sing in the church choir.

Hazel was a member of the Homemakers' Club of Chino Valley, the Friendly Club, and she belonged to the Chino Valley Community Congregational Church and sang in the church choir. She loved to play the piano and gifted the church with a piano and hymnals as a memorial to her husband.  Her love of music went back to her days as a little girl at Jerome Junction, when she rode the narrowgauge train to Jerome for piano lessons.

In her later years, she went to Prescott weekly, visiting friends, those hospitalized and those at the Arizona Pioneers' Home. She was generous with others and transported friends to town, to the post office, and to church. For many years, she kept the weather records for the U. S. Weather Bureau, faithfully recording the rainfall and barometer readings.

At the time of her death, Hazel was one of the last homesteaders living on Chino Valley land she actually homesteaded.  She passed away on June 8, 1971, at the age of sixty-nine and is buried in the Prescott Masonic Cemetery. Her sister-in-law, Annie Laura Aiken, is also commemorated in the Territorial Women’s Memorial Rose Garden.

Donor: Betty Wells, daughter, July 2004
Photo Located: RGC-MS-39, Box A, F- Aiken, Hazel
Updated: 10/31/2015, D. Sue Kissel