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MRS JACOB SCHEERER
(VIRGINIA SMITH)
Recorded by Helen M. Smith, Field Reporter


I first came to Arizona in 1881, with my mother and brothers from California, at about sixteen years of age. My father, who became known as “Coyote” Smith had arrived the year before. The railroad came only to Benson, and from there, to reach our place in Turkey Creek, we had to travel in a wagon.

Father met us at Benson, and we spent our first night in Tombstone, having reached that place about nightfall. It was a wild place indeed. We shrank from any more contact with its inhabitants than was absolutely necessary. Father found us someplace to stay—I have forgotten where, as I was quite confused and not a little frightened. I do remember that it was quite uncomfortable. We left the next morning without breakfasting, such was Mother’s fear of the place. In the future I was kept as far from Tombstone as Mother could manage. I suppose she feared that I might fall in love with some of the many outlaws with which the town was infested.

Our next stop was the roadhouse at Soldier Holes, which we reached about dusk. Some people named Sanders were running the place, and I presume were the owners at the time. I remember that Mrs. Sanders used snuff continually. There was a bar-room and a dining room, but no sleeping quarters. The Sanders’ apparently kept no roomers, or at least not such a large party as was ours. It was finally decided that we should sleep in the dining room with the Chinaman. It was in late October and quite cold. There were no beds. We used our inadequate bedding for both beds and covers, and kept the Chinaman up all night to feed the fire. In spite of that we were cold. I was indeed glad when morning came and a hot breakfast warmed us up.

Late that evening we reached our own home in Turkey Creek. This had been the Chenoweth place, and Father still used the house as it was when they had lived there. It was a two-roomed log house with a fireplace—the first fireplace I had seen. The windows were simply holes in the wall, with a window made of wood which swung inward and was held in place at night with a heavy bar. This was for protection against Indians and wild animals.

There was no stove, but fireplace cooking was nothing new to Mother. She made the finest kind of bread in Dutch ovens, and the fame of her cooking soon spread over the country. She had brought dried yeast cakes with her, and no doubt the scarcity of yeast bread at that time was one thing which made it so appetizing. She cooked some of the best steaks I have ever tasted, too. She first seared them on a ‘spider’ over hot coals, then placed them in a Dutch oven where they were cooked so tender as almost to melt in one’s mouth. Another item of food was her pies, also Dutch oven cooked.

Mother had the true pioneer spirit, for she immediately set about to make a home in the wilderness. She planted trees, garden, flowers. She had bees brought to her at the earliest opportunity. She had a special place in her heart for cucumbers, of which she made a brine pickle which simply couldn’t be beaten. People came for miles for a slice of her yeast bread and a cucumber pickle. Even to this day my brother, Henry, now owner of the old place, raises some of the finest cucumbers in the locality.

We ordered a stove in November, the next time any of the folks went to Tombstone. It reached Tombstone sometime in April.
Soon after my arrival I met Jacob Scheerer, whom I afterward married. He had come to Tombstone in 1880 from California, where he had been working at a sawmill. In Tombstone he bought three ox-teams and everything necessary for freighting. Soon he was hauling logs, etc., from the sawmill near us. It was not long until he purchased a half interest in the sawmill, although he had bought his freighting equipment on credit, and had no capital whatever. Freighting was a lucrative profession in those days, and it had taken him only a short time to pay his debt and have enough capital to start another venture.

After we were married he bought a place in the Sulphur Springs Valley, which became known as the ‘Double Rod’. There was abundance of grass on this place and the few Mexican steers with which he started soon became a large herd through the purchase of small herds of cattle from various residents of the valley and elsewhere. I remember that he received several small herds from John Slaughter. He still continued his freighting, which was quite profitable.

Soon, however, he sold his share of the sawmill. Things were not going so well in the partnership, and he thought it best to free himself from too many entanglements. About this time, too, he returned to Kansas—where his parents were—and where he bought several pair of good mules to replace the oxen for hauling. The mules and all his freighting equipment he sold to a company in Mexico for hauling ore, after his own freighting days were over.

Soon came a halt to the prosperity which had seemed to attend our cattle business. There came a drought which almost cleaned us out. Our herd had dwindled to almost nothing when the drought broke. This proved only a temporary setback, however, Mrs. Scheerer was often spoken of as the best manager in the territory, and I almost believe he deserved the compliment. In only a few years we were again prosperous. We bought more and more land, or leased it. Our herds grew rapidly.

All this time while Mr. Scheerer was freighting and raising cattle, I held down the place at home. I did my work, cooked for the cowhands, transient visitors, and even on occasion, outlaws. We had two children, Pearl and George. Also, at times Mr. Scheerer’s younger brother, George, and his family. They were with me for more than a year, once, and on shorter occasions several times. When the children had to attend school I was faced with quite a problem. I had neither time nor inclination to attempt their schooling myself. We tried boarding them out in Tombstone, which by then had become quite a quiet town; we tried letting them learn by themselves; finally I had to live in Tombstone myself during the school term, which was much shorter than the term now is.

When our daughter, Pearl, had finished school at last, she secured employment in the Company store in Bisbee. She had worked only a very short time when a proposed trip back to Kansas by my husband would have left me alone on the ranch. Pearl asked for two week’s vacation, that she might stay with me during his absence. I had a large, old-fashioned range with a reservoir on the side with which to heat water. It scarcely held enough, however, and I augmented my hot water by keeping a huge black kettle filled with water on the back of the stove. There were two small tabs on the rim of the kettle which held the lid on. I was used to this kettle, but Pearl was not. We bathed in a large tin tub, in the kitchen. Pearl was preparing a bath for herself. She lifted the kettle of water from the stove, and in attempting to pour it, she loosened the lid. The steam burned her hands, and she dropped the kettle of water into the tub, spilling most of it on one leg as she did so. She was burned quite severely, it being about six months before she could walk. Of course, that was the last of her job.

Mr. Scheerer continued to prosper; and when our decision to sell out was made, our place was such that it brought one hundred thousand dollars. We decided to make our home in Douglas, which was in its beginning at the time. There were no houses, only tents for dwellings. Mr. Scheerer built our present home in what was then “out in the mesquite”, but what is now the best residential district, and very close to down town. Whatever project we undertook seemed to prosper; our children have done well for themselves and are now honored and honorable citizens. Mr. Scheerer died last year at an advanced age, and I am now seventy-four, in good health and of clear mind.


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