Frontier Teacher In Tonto Basin

Chapter 23: Epilogue, The Wedding

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Angie Mitchell returned home to Prescott on Christmas Day, 1880, after teaching at the first school in Tonto Basin. Ten days later, she received word of her appointment as clerk for the House of Representatives in the 11th Arizona Territorial Legislature. She had applied for this position before going to teach on Tonto Creek and had promised to return for the next term unless her application in Prescott was confirmed. Now she would not return to Tonto, but would remain in her hometown, “enrolling and engrossing” bills submitted in the House of Representatives.

“Enrolling” was the tedious task of writing the copy of a bill for the Legislature, and “engrossing” was to incorporate the amendments into the bill, and then enrolling the final copy. All of this was done by hand, and Angie’s diary reflects late- or even all-night sessions in which a bill had to be ready for a vote.

One might suspect Mr. Charles Brown’s political influence in obtaining this position for his fiancé, since he was a representative in the House for Yavapai County. However, Angie was highly respected on her own, having held teaching positions at several schools in the Prescott area. Her life both before and after the Tonto Basin term was quite sophisticated. She hobnobbed with political and community leaders, sermon tasted in Prescott’s earliest established churches, attended plays and concerts, danced at the many balls in town and at Ft. Whipple, and spent countless days and evenings visiting with her peers. She was also the organist for the West Side Church (Methodist Episcopal South), located just west of Whiskey Row and Granite Creek.

In a history of the local Eastern Star chapter, its author remembers the following. “There was no night in Prescott that business did not close up for either darkness or for Sunday, but there was a union Sunday morning church and when Angie Mitchell began to sing and play there all the gambling houses closed tight shut for that hour and in their best clothes the proprietors went to church, listened to the really fine music, put a generous handful of coins in the contribution box, and went back to open up the most prosperous and lucky games of the week.”[1]

Saturday, Jan. 1, 1881, her diary continued, “Had a number of calls from friends and also from the legislators who have already arrived...” This kind of “open house” became the rule throughout the legislative session. On Tuesday, Jan. 4 her election as clerk of the House was formalized. Her daily diary was maintained, but the brief entries are taken up primarily with her sewing projects, her visits, the weather, and George’s “bad cold and sick headache.”

George Brown owned a ranch on the headwaters of the Agua Fria River, near the present town of Meyer. It was a long ride into town, so during the sessions of the legislature he stayed with the Mitchells.

Soon after her return from Tonto Basin, Angie reported that her dog Onyx had developed distemper. On Sunday, Jan. 2, in her usual dispassionate reporting, she simply wrote, “Onyx died tonight.” Although Angie could record intricate details and be enthusiastic over the adventures she had almost daily in Tonto Basin, her diary reveals no emotion regarding personal feelings. There is no expression of sorrow over the dog’s death, and she reported tragedies such as murders or mine accidents as mere facts. Furthermore, the details of her courtship with George Brown remained a secret.

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Angie Mitchell

On Jan. 20 she reported an evening visit from someone named Hussey who offered George a bribe of $1,000 “to vote for the repeal of the Bullion Tax, but he wouldn’t touch it of course.” In that same entry she says simply, “I set our wedding day for April 20th.”

January 31, Monday, “Lots of engrossing, so I went up and got crackers, cheese, apples and canned chicken for lunch and took to the office as we didn’t have time to go home.”

One of the ongoing political discussions had to do with the location of the Territorial Capitol. From the beginning of the Territory in 1863-64 the capitol had been established at Prescott, but not without contention from Tucson. In 1867 it was moved to Tucson, and then back to Prescott in 1877. In 1889 the capitol was moved a final time to Phoenix.

Diary entry February 9, “Big supper given tonight to the members in favor of Prescott retaining the capitol. George went but came home early, 5 minutes of 11, greatly to my surprise.”

Some of the shenanigans that were going on are reflected in entries such as this one on February 10, “House met in morning and adjourned at 1 until 2:20; met and adjourned till 6. Met again at 6 and they ‘put up a job’ to move the Capitol. George Steadman and Wallenberg and the outside members friendly to Prescott, who were in the minority, bolted so there would not be a quorum. The Sergeant at Arms and his assistant caught Harry Woods of Cochise but he broke away from them and jumped out of the window and ran. Fickas, another friend of Yavapai, succeeded in adjourning the Council. George came home at 8:30.”[2]

The achievements of the 11th Territorial Legislature were highlighted by the creation of the three new counties: Cochise, Gila and Graham. There was much contention from other towns and objection to the name of Cochise “due to the depredation and murderous attacks of that bloodthirsty savage.” Angie prepared those bills, with their many amendments and changes. Also there was the incorporation of three towns, Phoenix, Prescott and Tombstone. The Prescott newspaper, always fascinated by the attractive Angie, reported, “Miss Angie Mitchell, with her acceded ability in penmanship, accomplished the very wonderful task of enrolling the Tombstone incorporation act in a little over 18 hours.”

During this legislative session, the House of Representatives passed a bill on February 16 to move the capitol back to Tucson. After Angie engrossed it, she records on March 19th, “Council finally killed removal of the Capitol on the 12th. At midnight on the 12th the Legislature adjourned.”

By the middle of March, with the April 20th wedding date approaching, she was having to catch her rest in short snatches between long hours enrolling bills. Her wedding dress, apparently mail ordered, arrived March 15th, “in good condition despite the storms.” There had been much snow and winter weather. She wrote, “Between times I’ve sewed on my wedding clothes.”

On Wednesday April 20, 1881 Angeline B. Mitchell was married to the Honorable George E. Brown, at the Mitchell home in Prescott. The officiating pastor was Rev. Mr. Hunt of the Congregational church, identified by the Prescott Weekly Miner as a “preacher whom they had enjoyed hearing.” Their wedding night was spent near the Agua Fria ranch at the home of a neighbor. However, they were discovered and the paper reported, “The happy pair were serenaded by the citizens, all the instruments were of the same kind, tin drums.”

For all practical purposes Angie’s diary ends with her wedding. The Brown/Mitchell collection at the Sharlot Hall Museum contains numerous scraps of paper on which she has written notes, such as this impersonal line, “Apr. 20, ‘81, Geo B. and Angie M. married.” The archive also contains numerous lists of dated events in Prescott and Yavapai County, along with notes about individuals and lists of personal possessions and the artifacts she had collected.

The Daily Arizona Democrat wrote, “So our friend Brown has become a bridegroom, a much more reputable position than as a Republican member of the Legislature.”

The Republican leaning Weekly Miner was more generous in an article on April 22. “Mr. Brown was a member of our last Legislature, where he distinguished himself by his honest and upright course on all matters of public interest. He was above petty legislation, and marked out a true, upright and proper course, which he pursued through the session....” The paper was equally generous regarding Angie. “The newly elect Mrs. Brown has been, since her advent into Arizona seven years ago, a teacher of music and schools; has held positions as clerk in the legislatures of the Territory, and in none of her duties has she been remiss or derelict, but always did her work up brown. May their ship ever run smooth, never founder or sink, but keep above the silvery surf, and may the Brown family and name... continue to increase and flourish until finally the White house at Washington will be occupied by President Brown, is our wish, and should that person be a son of George and Angie, so much the better.”

In 1904 George was appointed to the Maricopa Indian Reservation as an agricultural specialist and superintendent of irrigation. Angie’s mother, now a widow, went to live with them and in the summer of 1906 and died at the age of 82. Two years later, in March 1908, George contracted spinal meningitis and died. He was 62 years old. The following year Angie died, January 23, 1909. She was 54 years old. Both George and Angie are buried in Phoenix.[3]

NOTES

[1] 1932 history of the Golden Rule Chapter #1, Eastern Star, an unpublished manuscript, vertical file “Masons”, Sharlot Hall Museum archives.

[2] To “put up a job” was slang for arranging a scheme or plot. The Council was the upper chamber of the Legislaturem ie: the Senate.

[3] Burial places for George and Angie have escaped this historian’s searches. There is a George E. Brown buried in the Rosedale Cemetery in Phoenix, part of the Pioneer Military Park. However, public records list his date of death as Nov. 21, 1904, not at all correct for “our” George Brown.

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