Rose Garden PhotographsMata Eliza Dexter was born August 16, 1872, in New Albion, Cattaraugus County, New York, the daughter of Cordelia Ann (Day) and Thomas B. Dexter. Mata’s mother died early, and Mata was living with her father and brother, James, at her maternal grandparents’ home in New Albion, New York, in 1880. She attended Edinboro State College in Edinboro, Pennsylvania, and taught there, as well as in Kentucky.

Mata came independently to Yavapai County, Arizona Territory, in 1905 to accept a teaching position that paid a salary of $800 for a ten-month period. Her family wondered about her decision to travel to Arizona, which they viewed as the ends of the earth.  She was a very successful teacher who became principal of Washington and Lincoln Schools in Prescott. "Miss Dexter was a small, gracious woman," remembered Merrill Windsor, editor of Arizona Highways, in the August 1985 issue.  Dixon Fagerberg, Jr. recalled in Meeting the Four o’clock Train that she was a strict, hard-working teacher, who was determined to teach her first grade students the rudiments of the English language. The Mata Dexter School in Prescott was named in her honor.  It closed in 1997.

Mata applied for a U.S. passport in March 1922, indicating that she planned to travel to the British Isles, Norway, Sweden, and Demark, leaving from New York City on or about March 25, 1922. The Prescott Evening Courier dated February 23, 1944, reported on her retirement: “Miss Mata E. Dexter, for 38 years teacher and principal at the Washington school, was guest of honor yesterday afternoon at a tea given at the Washington school by the teachers of the Prescott public schools…On behalf of the Prescott public school teachers, A. W. Hendrix, acting superintendent of schools, presented Miss Dexter with a war bond.  Another bond was given to her by the students of Washington.”

In addition to her active career in education, Mata belonged to the Arizona State Teachers’ Association, Business and Professional Women's Club, Monday Club and Yavapai Republicans. She was also a member of Eta Chapter, Delta Kappa Gamma.

Mata lived at the Arizona Pioneers’ Home from August 30, 1960, until January 23, 1962.   The Prescott Evening Courier of August 15, 1961, reported “Matta Dexter, the woman for whom Prescott’s school was named, will celebrate her 89th birthday Wednesday.  An open house in her honor will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. at 642 Dameron Drive, where Miss Dexter now resides.  Mrs. Mona Warfield, manager of the guest home, will be the hostess.”  Mata died on June 27, 1962, at the Prescott Community Hospital after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage.  The Greenwood Crematory in Phoenix, Arizona, handled arrangements.

Donor: Eta Chapter, Delta Kappa Gamma, on occasion of their Golden Anniversary
Photo Located: PB-4, F-77-169, I-307
Updated: 11/18/2015, D. Sue Kissel