Rose Garden PhotographsMargaret Griffiths (Hunt) McCormick, sometimes called "Maggie," "Allie" or "Madge," was born on May 3, 1843, in Rahway, New Jersey, to Caroline and Isaac G. Hunt. She spent her childhood on a large farm and was an accomplished pianist and horsewoman. When she was twenty-two, she traveled to San Francisco accompanied by her cousin and her cousin’s husband to participate in the San Francisco social season. It was a common occurrence at the time for a well-bred young woman due to the availability of suitors who might prove to be proper marriage material.

According to correspondence with her friend Emma Denike, Margaret enjoyed her stay in San Francisco but did not accomplish the purpose of her trip.  However, on the steamship returning home she met Richard McCormick, and it seems to have been love at first sight; they were married a few months later at the First Presbyterian Church in Margaret’s hometown on September 27, 1865.

Shortly thereafter, she and her husband began the long trip to Arizona Territory, she as the new bride of the first Territorial Secretary.   They made their home in a large log cabin, which was later named the Governor’s Mansion.  It was considered a mansion by the majority of the territory’s population who lived in tents or meager dwellings. Later, Richard McCormick was appointed as the second Territorial Governor.

By all accounts Margaret was very happy in her new home.  She made many improvements to the cabin and endeared herself to the people of Prescott.  She often threw parties at the mansion and made her visitors feel welcome.  She was the first “First Lady” to actually live in the territory.

Margaret also planted a rosebush beside the doorstep of the mansion.  This Boursault rosebush became part of the inspiration for the Territorial Women’s Memorial Rose Garden, which was established in 1948.  Shoots from the same rosebush planted approximately 150 years ago still grow in front of the Governor’s Mansion at the Sharlot Hall Museum. Additionally, a cutting from this plant is in the Northern Arizona University Arboretum and grows beside Old Main.

Margaret accompanied her husband on many of his trips throughout the territory, exploring the landscape and meeting its inhabitants.  In letters to her friend Emma, she states that “she was never so happy in her life,” and describes her attentive and devoted husband as “the very best husband who ever lived.”  Despite knowing each other for only a few months before marrying, they seemed to have had a very happy marriage.

Tragically, she gave birth to a stillborn child on April 30, 1867, and died one hour later.  The Arizona Miner reported that “the sudden and unexpected death of the most estimable and greatly beloved woman has cast a gloom over the community which language cannot describe…Her funeral was attended by the entire population of Prescott, the officers of Fort Whipple, and many persons from the adjacent country.” 

Her body, together with her infant daughter, was interred near the Governor’s Mansion, but in 1869 her remains were exhumed and taken back to New Jersey by her husband to be reinterred in Hazelwood Cemetery, near her childhood home.

The Sharlot Hall Museum Library and Archives has an entire collection devoted to and entitled the Richard and Margaret McCormick Collection, MS-35.

Donor: Ester Workman and additional information added by Cynthia Vaughn, 2015
Photo Located: Richard and Margaret McCormick Papers MS-35, Box 2, F-5
Updated: 6/1/15, Brenda Taylor