Belle Lovelady Was On The Line -- Part 1



Bertha Belle Russell Lovelady had paternal roots with two of the earliest settler families in the Tonto Basin.

David Harer was her great-grandfather and Florence Packard was her grandfather.

Her mother was a King, of the huge King Ranch empire in Texas, but the family disowned her when she refused an arranged marriage and married Mr. Russell.

Their daughter Bertha Belle was named for two aunts, but from her earliest days she discarded the name "Bertha" and went by Belle.

Among family members and early friends, she was nicknamed Beebee, a moniker bestowed by her younger siblings. To them, she was the chief caregiver because their mother was sick much of the time.

The Russell family had come from a Texas cattle ranch to Globe, where her father worked in the Old Dominion Mine. Belle was born there March 14, 1902. She was the fourth child, and six others would follow.

In early childhood she had typhoid fever, and her father moved the family from down along Pinal Creek to Wheatfields to get them out of the sulfur smoke hanging over the Globe-Miami area.

She fondly recalled those carefree days of childhood, cavorting in the open air and along the creek. There were birds and wild game, and the farms of Wheatfields were green and productive. A Christian faith was instilled in her early, and would carry her through many difficult years ahead.

At Wheatfields the Sunday School was taught by her grandmother, and her aunt led the Sunday evening singing, meeting in the school house. After church there was a picnic under the cottonwoods, and the men and boys would choose up sides for a baseball game. The scene was one of idyllic rural America, until an ecological tragedy struck.

"When the mines began to operate full blast," she recalled in later years, "the tailings came down that creek and it became like dust; never any clear water flowed again."

The seasonal floods brought the murky white sediment of tailings to contaminate the farmland and the wells. The farmers began to talk of moving, but by this time Belle had entered the first grade. In fact, she was an eager learner and was soon skipped into the second grade at age 7. The one room school exposed her to the lessons of the higher grades, and Belle gained a thirst for knowledge and literature. With the land no longer productive for farming, the Russell family moved back to Globe, where her father became a peace officer.

During the construction of the Roosevelt Dam they moved to that site, where her father was the deputy sheriff. Since there was no jail he had a cave dug in the hill and the entrance was covered with concrete and a wooden door. That was where he held the drunks and lawbreakers until they could be taken to Globe, where the nearest justice of the peace was located. Belle's youthful life was lived between Globe, Roosevelt and her grandfather Packard's farm in the Tonto Basin.

Belle was 15 years old when, in 1917, she met Walter Lovelady in Globe.

"I thought that to be the funniest name I ever heard," she commented. However, even though he was 10 years her senior, a romance blossomed and they were married in 1919. Walter served in World War II and had returned with lung injuries from mustard gas.

He owned a ranch in the Payson area on Webber Creek, just below the Grand Prize Mine. Above that, on Webber Creek, was the fruit farm of Bill Craig and Paul Vogel. Craig had maintained the Lovelady homestead in Walter's absence. When the bride and groom returned to the ranch, Belle discovered that Bill Craig had assembled quite of library of good books. She devoured the literature as well as learning from Craig and Vogel how to harvest, can and dry all types of fruit.

During one hog-butchering time, she was making soap from the renderings and left it to dry on a bench. There had been a scare of rabies of late, and she was warned to shoot any animal that acted sick and was foaming at the mouth. It seems one of the hogs got into the soap, and having eaten it was foaming profusely as it came toward Belle. She grabbed a shotgun and was ready to fire when Bill Craig appeared and yelled at her not to shoot. He told her then that pigs liked to eat soap, and it was good for them.

Walter's lung problems turned into tuberculosis, and he could no longer keep up the ranch. He sold the 160-acre claim to Bill Craig for $4,000, and the Loveladys moved to Payson, living as caretakers on the Hammond Ranch west of town for about four years. The ranch products helped them be self-sufficient, and they went about the Rim country gathering fruit from the many ranch orchards. Belle would prepare it for sale and they shared the profits with the owners.

(Next week: How Belle became Payson's telephone operator.)

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