Territorial Women's Memorial Rose Garden
ELIZABETH BENTON (LILY) FREMONT

The eldest child of John Charles and Jessie Benton Fremont, Lily was born in Washington, D.C., on November 15, 1842, in the home of her grandfather, Thomas Hart Benton. Her father had returned only days before her birth from his first successful expedition in the West.

In 1852, facing a trip to Europe with her two children Lily and John (1851), Mrs. Fremont admitted, "I already lean on Lily. She isn't a child; she's a protectorate."

Lily, who remained single all of her life, with her practical intelligence and stolid literalness, became a shield between her parents' dreams and reality. Lily was multilingual, fluent in both Spanish and French.

During the family's difficult financial times in New York, she worked at a law office. She was the keeper of the family accounts in California and in New York. At the age of 36, she came to Arizona in 1878 when her father was named the 5th Territorial Governor, and she remained the only in-resident family member for the full length of his term, first in Prescott and then briefly in Tucson.

When her mother returned to New York from Arizona, Lily's correspondence kept her in touch with activities in Arizona. Lily ran the Prescott household, here she performed such "first lady" duties as "sampling the babies." In the home that now stands on the grounds of the Sharlot Hall Museum, Lily lived with the Irish maid, Mary McGrath and loyal Ah Chung, their Chinese cook, who turned down lucrative employment in Prescott to accompany Lily to Tucson.

Lily was a lover of nature and an expert horsewoman who regretted that, while so close, she could not afford a trip to see the Grand Canyon. When Garfield was assassinated, the Fremonts lost their sympathetic ear at the White House and Fremont resigned.

Lily and Mary went back East. An attempt was made to write Fremont's biography with John dictating, Jessie writing and Lily typing. The book was not a success.

The Fremonts went to Los Angeles in the late 1880s where Lily visited with old Prescott friends, the Silents. Her father died on a trip to New York on July 28, 1890. The ladies of the City of Los Angeles furnished Lily and her mother Jessie with a house on the corner of Hoover and 28th Streets, where they lived out their lives.

In 1912, Lily was interviewed by I.T. Martin, who published a book of her "Recollections." She died May 28, 1919, never having criticized either the dreams or the deeds of her father or the interpretations of them by her mother. Her mother is also represented in the Rose Garden.

Donor: Museum Rose Garden



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