Rose Garden PhotographsMary Ellen (Dwyer) White, daughter of John and Marguerite (White) Dwyer, was born on October 15, 1851, in Caherdaniel, Kerry County, Ireland. In 1872, she immigrated to the United States from Ireland and arrived in Prescott, Yavapai County, Arizona Territory, on April 23, 1880.

Mary worked at Fort Whipple in Prescott as a servant. She met Fergus John White there, and they were married on September 21, 1881, in the Catholic Church. According to the Weekly Journal Miner in an article citing their marriage on September 23, 1881, the groom was from Tiptop, Yavapai County. After her marriage, she and Fergus moved to Minnehaha, Yavapai County, Arizona Territory, on a one-hundred-sixty-acre land grant. The couple had seven children: Mary Abbie “Kate” or “Kit,” born May 2, 1882; James Fergus, born April 1883, Minnie Ellen, born May 12, 1884; Nicholas Ferguson, born June 17, 1885; Grace Francis, born December 18, 1886; Blanche Julia, born April 23, 1888; and Estella Ester, born April 8, 1889.

Fergus suffered due to mental illness and could not help support the family, so Mary had to provide for herself and her children. She and the children ran a cattle ranch that provided meat to the miners. Her two oldest children, Kate and James, cared for the cattle while she negotiated the sale of the beef. Fergus died in 1895 in the Arizona Territorial Insane Asylum, and James died in 1905. In 1908, Mary’s daughter Kate married William W. Jackson and moved to Phoenix.

In 1910, Mary moved to Prescott with her now-grown children. Mary ran a boarding house there with the help of her daughters. Minnie undertook the cooking responsibilities, while Grace, Blanche and Estella took care of the gardening and cleaning. Her remaining son, Nicholas, had Down's syndrome and required much care.

Mary managed to save enough money to purchase one-hundred-sixty acres in the Phoenix-Tolleson area. Later, her daughter Minnie and son-in-law, Arthur Webster, purchased forty acres from Mary.  Her daughter Blanche White purchased forty acres, as well. Mary lived on the remaining eighty acres and was doing well until her tragic death on April 7, 1924. She was walking in front of her home and was struck by a car and killed. She is buried in St. Francis Cemetery in Phoenix, Maricopa County, Arizona.

Mary’s daughters, Minnie (White) Webster and Blanche Julia White, are also commemorated in the Territorial Women’s Memorial Rose Garden.

Donor: Barbara Downing, great granddaughter, 2011
Photo Located: RGC MS-39, Box U-Z, F-White, Mary Ellen (Dwyer)
Updated: 6/14/2015, Gretchen Hough  Eastman