Mammy Haught: A Rim Country Matriarch



They called her "Mammy." She was born in England Dec. 22, 1869, the youngest of six children in the Bell family. As was the custom, none of the children had middle names. She was Sarah Bell.

Her father, Thomas Bell, came to America first, and then his wife, Margaret, followed with the six children, sometime in 1870s.

The family settled in Dallas County, Texas, where the teenage Sarah was courted by Henry Haught. His forebears had come from Germany, migrating to Pennsylvania under the influence of William Penn, but the family had continued on to Virginia, then Illinois, and finally to Texas.

Henry Haught and Sarah Bell were married Sept. 2, 1888. He was 21 and she was four months short of 19.

Soon they had two children, Samuel and Ida Bell. At that point, they moved to Oklahoma's Indian Territory and joined Henry's half-brother who needed help with his very large farm.

Two more children were born there, Mary Margaret, later affectionately called "Babe," and Columbus, nicknamed "Boy."

As the Haught descendants multiplied, many of the cousins had the same first names, so to keep them straight most developed nicknames. Samuel would later be called "Green Valley Sam," and the children of Henry and Sarah called their parents "Pappy" and "Mammy." They would be known by those sobriquets until they died many years later. Henry's Uncle Alfred (Fred Haught) had been the first of the family to come to the Rim country, and he found it so rich with game and range land he urged others to follow. Two of Henry's other uncles, Peter and Samuel Ache Haught, had already settled here when the call became too strong for Henry and Sarah to resist.

In 1897, they packed up their four children and Henry's 69-year-old, widowed mother, Mary Ann, along with a nephew, and began the trek. They had two covered wagons, and were joined by families in two other wagons.

The young mother of four faced many challenges on the long and difficult trip, especially since she was pregnant with a nearly full-term baby.

While crossing New Mexico, 8-year-old Sam broke his arm falling off a rock and Mammy set the arm. On another occasion one of the horses had to be destroyed after breaking a leg in a gopher hole.

Along the way, they rescued a calf from certain death because its mother had perished, and Mammy fed it milk from their cows. She raised it to become a prize bull on the Haught ranch, the first white-face bull brought to the Rim country.

Their daughter, Ida Bell, nicknamed "Sis," later recalled how they stopped at every windmill to refill the water kegs that hung on the side of the wagons. "We only got a drink at noon, morning and night. They never stopped to give us a drink, and we didn't know enough to have a little can in the wagon with us."

When they did stop, they'd build a fire to cook the meal, and at night let the chickens out of their cage to browse. As darkness fell, the chickens would come back to roost.

While crossing the White Mountains of Arizona, "Mammy" knew her time had come. The wagon train stopped for several days while she gave birth to their fifth child, a girl, and she rested. The little one was named after a character in a magazine article they had been reading along the way.

The story was about Irene Champion, a millionaire, and so they named the new Haught daughter Irene Million Champion. She would be called "Million."

After the barren plains of Texas, the country they were now entering "looked like a million" to Henry's family.

When the family continued on, they reached the Mogollon Rim and with great difficulty came over the Rim at Gordon Canyon. Million was 10 days old when they reached Uncle Fred's place, which at that time was on the old Ellison Apple Farm at the headwaters of Ellison Creek.

The Henry Haught's stayed there for three years, then moved several miles east to land owned by Elam Boles. There the family worked together to build a log house, complete with a dirt floor.

Early in 1909, the water gave out, and the family moved again. This time they settled along Tonto Creek in the area of today's Tonto Creek Estates, on a homestead that included today's Baptist Camp. It was called the Dick Williams' place.

They had dismantled their log house, and carted it to the new location where it was reconstructed. This house had no windows, and the candles for lights were made from tallow in a mold Henry's mother brought with her.

Mammy apparently thrived in this difficult role as a pioneer mother. She worked alongside her husband in their developing cattle business, kept a large garden, canned food for the winters ahead, and sewed all the clothes for the girls.

The Haughts operated the only sorghum mill in the area, and neighbors brought their crop each year to be processed into molasses. Those were times of happy celebration when the various Haught families, who were a majority of the surrounding settlers, held a regular camp meeting. Mammy pitched in with the work, but she also filled the role of nurse and midwife for the dwellers under the Rim.

In the summer of 1911, the Henry Haught's traded 100 yearling heifers for the squatter's rights in Little Green Valley, and Henry would gain a patent to that land in 1919. Their oldest son, Sam, remained on the Dick Williams homestead, proving up for a patent there in 1916. That same year his father, Henry, received a patent on a

homestead for another tract that today is Tonto Village. In the forest at that location, the family established a sawmill, where everyone, including Mammy, did their share of the work. The mill serviced families all around, and provided the lumber for Zane Grey's lodge in 1922.

With an eye to warmer weather during the winters, the family bought a 240-acre farm at Chandler in 1917. However, they could not make a living there and moved back to Little Green Valley in 1919, heavily in debt.

While Pappy became famous throughout the Rim country for his fiddle playing at local dances, a trip to town for the whole family was a rare occasion. Mammy and Pappy's daughter, "Sis" Garrels, recalled that the family only went to Payson several times a year. Those times would usually be for the New Year's dance, the August Doin's and the Community Christmas Tree. They also would go to town for family weddings, as when Sis was married to Henry Garrels in 1913, at Tammany Hall. Judge George A. Randall presided, her sister "Babe" was maid of honor, and her brother Sam was best man.

It was a big affair, a regular Haught reunion, with "a wagonload of presents," lots of food, and dancing to Pappy's fiddle playing.

Mammy and Pappy retired in Payson in the early 1930s, and Pappy died in 1953. After living with "Sis," Sam bought them a house where Mammy lived until she died. That house became a center for happy family gatherings and overnight visits from the children and grandchildren.

Her children had married into other pioneer families. Sam married May Martin and they had five children; Ida Bell married Henry Garrels and then Dave Martin and had seven children; Columbus married Flora Hunt, and they had four children; Margaret married several times, finally to Bob Holder, and had no children; Million married Charles Baxter and had three children.

One of Mammy's grandsons, Ernest Garrels, wrote of her, "She was a very gracious person, always kind and thoughtful of others, with a gentle looking face."

Material things were not so important as was the well being of loved ones. Things her grandchildren remember about Mammy include her straightforwardness in telling things like they were. She used snuff most of her life and always wore a full denim apron made from old Levis.

She never wasted anything, including scraps of material and tin. For example, she would use an old license plate to cover a hole in the floor. Mammy became famous for saving string.

She would hang trinkets on string from the living room ceiling. When she had something she could not use but did not want to throw away, she would hang it up on a string. After the living room was full, the collection extended to the front porch. Friends and family would study the objects hanging on string in Mammy's house, as one would browse a museum. When folks would send her mementos, as her grandsons did during World War II, she would display them on the ends of string.

Sarah Bell Haught, known affectionately as "Mammy," was one of the Rim country's pioneer mothers who forged the way for those of us who came later. She died in May 1959, at the age of 88, and is buried in Payson Pioneer Cemetery along with her husband and all five of her children.

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