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Vanished Arizona: Recollections of the Army…

Vanished Arizona: Recollections of the Army Life of a New England Woman

by Martha Summerhayes

Other authors: Dan L. Thrapp (Introduction)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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This is a memoir of a life spent as a US Army wife from the 1870s through the early 1900s. As the title suggests, some of this time was spent in Arizona. There is a fair amount of description of the various postings in the early part of the book, with a great emphasis on the discomforts and dangers endured. The author's husband was apparently involved in the campaigns against the Indians, but not much is said about the campaigns or the indians themselves. An interesting aspect of the book is the author's expectations of and mostly complete helplessness without competent servants. She writes a good deal about the challenge of finding good help on the frontier. I also noted her disparaging comments about the temperance movement, and its effects on soldiers and her family. While there isn't a lot of detail, there is enough to give a flavor of the time, the place, and the people involved. ( )
  baobab | Sep 9, 2012 |
Outstanding personal memoir of Army life on the civilian side. As an Army veteran who has served in Arizona myself, I could empathize with some of the horrors of marching on foot through Arizona in summer and early autumn. I recommend using an historical atlas of Arizona to get an idea of the amount of land covered by these folks in wagons and on foot. Martha's account is highly readable and realistic, not shying away from uncomfortable truths like many of her contemporaries would. She even allowed as how the soldiers used strong language on occasion! When I finished this book I turned back to the beginning to read it again. Interesting and educational. ( )
  grundlecat | Oct 3, 2010 |
An autobiographical account of life as an army wife in the 1870s. Martha S accompanies her husband on his postings to Arizona which at that time was on the frontier of civilised life. A fascinating first hand account of how they lived and coped with the unbearable heat in the days before air conditioning. She is a lively writer and this was very readable. ( )
  samsheep | May 14, 2010 |
First published in 1910, Vanished Arizona is a memoir of Mrs. Summerhayes's adventures as an Army wife in the last quarter of the 19th century. Even though they were stationed everywhere from New York to Nevada, the heart of this book focuses on her time in Arizona. Those were definitely her most formative and challenging years.

Arizona in the 1870s was a hostile place. Indians were barely held in check. There was no air conditioning. The journey from San Francisco by itself took three weeks and involved a long paddle boat ride up the Gulf of California and the Colorado River. Martha looked on her new home with abject horror - this was a desolate place that lacked green, the company of womenfolk, or even the presence of doctors or priests. After her son was born, Martha was left very ill, and in her state of weakness they were restationed - again - traveling by mule train across the state. Somehow, despite the terrors of Arizona, the place grew on her. She came to love the peaks of the Superstitions, the copper muscles of the young Indian bucks, and the practicality of the Mexican women (her husband refused to let her "dress as a Mexican", forcing her to wear long sleeves and to-the-neck dresses when it was 122-degrees - no wonder she was constantly so ill!).

This book was absolutely fascinating. I share many of Martha's opinions on Arizona, though I haven't had to go through any of her extreme travails. I wouldn't last a week without air conditioning. Martha has kind views on the minorities she encounters, though they are still within the context of the times. I loved to read of her travels across the state; despite her duress, there was something magical about seeing the countryside in such a raw form.

I am definitely keeping this book on my shelf. ( )
  ladycato | Aug 13, 2009 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Martha Summerhayesprimary authorall editionscalculated
Thrapp, Dan L.Introductionsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Merrifield-Beecher, JaneNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0803291051, Paperback)

In 1874, when Martha Summerhayes came as a bride to Fort Russell in Wyoming Territory, she "saw not much in those first few days besides bright buttons, blue uniforms, and shining swords," but soon enough the hard facts of army life began to intrude. Remonstrating with her husband, Jack, that she had only three rooms and a kitchen instead of "a whole house," she was informed that "women are not reckoned in at all in the War Department," which also failed to appreciate that "'lieutenants' wives needed quite as much as colonels’ wives." In fact, Martha had only a short time to enjoy her new quarters, for in June her husband’s regiment was ordered to Arizona, "that dreaded and then unknown land."
Although Martha Summerhayes’s recollections span a quarter of a century and life at a dozen army posts, the heart of this book concerns her experiences during the 1870s in Arizona, where (as Dan L. Thrapp observes in his introduction) the harsh climate and "perennial natural inconveniences from rattlesnakes to cactus thorns and white desperadoes, all made [it] a less than desirable posting for the married man and his wife." First privately printed in 1908, Vanished Arizona was so well-received that in 1910 Mrs. Summerhayes prepared a new edition (reprinted here), which was published in 1911, the year of her death. Among "the essential primary records of the frontier-military West," the book "retains its place securely because of the narrative skill of the author, her delight in life—all life, including even, or perhaps principally, army life and people—and because it is such a joy to read.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:23:52 -0400)

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The stalwart men of the Prussian army, the Lancers, the Dragoons, the Hussars, the clank of their sabres on the pavements, their brilliant uniforms, all made an impression upon my romantic mind, and I listened eagerly, in the quiet evenings, to tales of Hanover under King George, to stories of battles lost, and the entry of the Prussians into the old Residenz-stadt; the flight of the King, and the sorrow and chagrin which prevailed. For I was living in the family of General Weste, the former stadt-commandant of Hanover, who had served fifty years in the army and had accompanied King George on his exit from the city. He was a gallant veteran, with the rank of General-Lieutenant, ausser Dienst. A charming and dignified man, accepting philosophically the fact that Hanover had become Prussian, but loyal in his heart to his King and to old Hanover; pretending great wrath when, on the King's birthday, he found yellow and white sand strewn before his door, but unable to conceal the joyful gleam in his eye when he spoke of it. The General's wife was the daughter of a burgomaster and had been brought up in a neighboring town. She was a dear, kind soul. The house-keeping was simple, but stately and precise, as befitted the rank of this officer. The General was addressed by the servants as Excellenz and his wife as Frau Excellenz. A charming unmarried daughter lived at home, making, with myself, a family of four. Life was spent quietly, and every evening, after our coffee (served in the living-room in winter, and in the garden in summer), Frau Generalin would amuse me with descriptions of life in her old home, and of how girls were brought up in her day; how industry was esteemed by her mother the greatest virtue, and idleness was punished as the most beguiling sin. She was never allowed, she said, to read, even on Sunday, without her knitting-work in her hands; and she would often sigh, and say to me, in German (for dear Frau Generalin spoke no other tongue), Ach, Martha, you American girls are so differently brought up; and I would say, But, Frau Generalin, which way do you think is the better? She would then look puzzled, shrug her shoulders, and often say, Ach! times are different I suppose, but my ideas can never change.… (more)

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