Rose GardenJosephine “Josie” Catarina (Hegglin) Surrett was born on March 18, 1891, in Menzingen, Canton Zug, Switzerland, the daughter of Josef and Josefa Roth Hegglin. Her family was prominent in the Swiss Canton Zug, but Josie, lured by tales of the American West that were widely read in Europe, longed for adventure away from the staid traditions of her Swiss homeland. She received a letter from a friend, Paula Schrade, who, with her German husband Louis, had just purchased the White House Hotel in Mayer, Arizona Territory. Paula offered Josie a job at the hotel.

Twenty-one-year-old Josie set out for America on March 18, 1912, alone and unable to speak English. Josephine became one of the first of a number of young Swiss women who immigrated to the Mayer area to work in or near the mining camps.

On October 9, 1914, in Prescott, Yavapai County, Arizona, Josie married John Ellen Surrett, a rancher and miner who had been in Arizona Territory since 1895. The Surretts homesteaded what was to become the H-A-Y Ranch near Mayer.

Josie was touched by the poverty of an encampment of the Yavapai tribe nearby and did all she could to help them over the years until they were moved to a reservation. The Indians lived where the garbage dump is now, in a very poor part of town. She provided food and work for the local Indians. Her daughter Edgel tells stories of an old Indian named Susie, who would come to the house and do chores in exchange for the extra corn and other vegetables. Susie gave Josie a basket with a broken cross (the whirling log symbol which resembles a “swastika”) that is now on display in the Hartzell Room of Sharlot Hall Museum. Josie used it as a sewing basket. Neighborhood women saw the basket and asked if she was Nazi. “Well, I am not. What do you think of that,” Josie answered. And they said, “Well, you’ve got that swastika on that thing right here.” Josie answered, “That doesn’t matter. That’s an Indian basket.” She kept the basket and it was donated to the Museum after her death.

Josie and John had seven children: Ellen S. Tolle,  born July 15, 1915; John H., born July 21, 1917; Josie Edgel Bennett, born October 2, 1919; Della M. Schlecht, born November 12, 1921; Walter W., born January 19, 1924; Mary L. Davis, born December 20, 1927; and Herbert F., born May 7, 1930.

After the Surretts sold their ranch, they retired to Glendale, Arizona. Following her husband's death, Josie returned to live in Mayer.

She died in Prescott on January 1, 1991, just seventy-seven days short of her 100th birthday and was buried at Mountain View Cemetery.

Donors: The Surrett Family
Photo: RGC MS-39, Box S, F-Surrett, Josephine (Hegglin)
Updated: 2/2/2017 Gretchen Hough Eastman