Sharlot Mabridth Hall was born in a prairie dugout house in Lincoln County, Kansas. As a child, she made the classic covered-wagon journey with her family on the Sante Fe Trail to the Arizona Territory. The family started a ranch; after it failed, they worked in mining camps. She attended schools near the present location of Dewey, Arizona and later in Prescott, and wrote poetry. At age 20, she sold her first article to a children's magazine, and a few years later was working as a journalist, poet, and essayist. She eventually became the associate editor of Out West Magazine. In 1909, she was appointed Territorial Historian, and the following year she published Cactus and Pine: Songs of the Southwest, her first collection. Her personal collection of photographs and artifacts related to Arizona pioneers and pre-historic Yavapai County served in 1928 as the starting collection for a history museum that now bears her name. She was a popular public speaker, giving talks on local history and folklore to schools and clubs throughout Arizona.