Territorial Women's Memorial Rose Garden

Edith Schrab Hayt was born in Iowa on April 19, 1887, to Ernest Schrab, a carpenter, and his wife Sarah. The family came to Arizona in 1892 when Edith was five. Because there was no train service directly to Phoenix at that time, they traveled by rail to Maricopa, then by stagecoach to Mesa.

The family later moved to 1206 West Polk Street in Phoenix and lived in a house built by Edith’s father. Edith was the oldest daughter in a family with seven children, two boys and five girls. She helped her mother raise her younger brother and four sisters, thus setting the stage for a lifetime of being a loving, hardworking and responsible woman.

Edith attended primary school on Central Avenue, where the San Carlos Hotel now stands. After graduating from Phoenix Union High School, she went to work for a well-known photographer named Mussey. He took a lot of pictures of Edith, testing angles, lighting, equipment and various backgrounds. Her family now has this marvelous collection of photographs of their beloved Edie, in the pines and on the beach, all taken inside Mr. Mussey’s studio.

In 1913, Edie married Walter J. Hayt, and they lived in a duplex on West Polk Street near her family’s home. Mr. Hayt was an undertaker and owned a funeral home in partnership with the Merryman family. He had a wonderful voice and often sang at weddings, funerals and other gatherings.

Walter and Edie had two children, Gail, born in 1915, and Lester, born in 1916. Several years later they moved their family to Bakersfield, California, where Walter worked in the oil fields.

Edie returned to Phoenix in 1921, a single mother with two children to care for and support. She was an excellent seamstress and was fortunate enough to find work making uniforms for the student nurses at the old St. Joseph's Hospital located on Fourth Street between Polk and Taylor. She rented a spare room in her home to one of the nursing students and often worked 18 hours a day, just to make ends meet.

Edie’s son, Lester, started working at various jobs at a young age, and eventually began working at a grocery store on weekends. This job paid for groceries and helped supplement the family’s income. Any left-over change was kept in a sugar bowl in the cupboard, and every once in a while they would all go to Grosso’s soda fountain for a treat.

Edie’s daughter Gail married and had three children. Edie’s son Lester worked his way through college and law School at the University of Arizona and is still practicing law at the age of 87. He and his wife Eloise have three grown children all of whom have the most wonderful memories of their beloved “DeeDee."

Edie loved to tell them about life in the old days, and they never got tired of hearing the stories and seeing all her amazing pictures, somehow knowing even as small children that the words and pictures were cherished pieces of the past to be loved and savored.

Edith arrived in a still untamed Arizona Territory at the age of five. The Salt River still flowed through Phoenix, and occasionally flooded the streets. Central and McDowell was “out-of-town.” Camelback Mountain was a distant landmark.

She grew up in a simple time with no hint of the changes she would see in her lifetime. Edith lived a full and independent life and died in 1980 at the age of 93. She was buried at Greenwood Cemetery next to her parents, brothers and sisters.

This remarkable woman was not an artist, writer or musician. She was not an educator, a politician or a community leader. Her contribution was living a life of dignity, pride and love and teaching others by her example. Her legacy is that of being an exceptional person from an era that valued patience, hard work, perseverance and overcoming life’s obstacles with strength and grace--of being the kind of woman who was admired and loved by all who knew her.

Donor: Lester J. Hayt, son
January 2004

Additional documentation and photographs may be available in the Sharlot Hall Museum Archives and Library.