Territorial Women's Memorial Rose Garden

Frankie Belle, daughter of Cora Ellsworth Chishom and Charles M. Middleton, was born on August 11, 1879, at Hallettsville, Lavaca Vegas County, Texas. She arrived in Geronimo, Arizona, on August 24, 1896.

According to a short history of her life that Frankie wrote, she hadn’t made any plans about what she wanted to do upon her arrival in Geronimo. Teachers at that time were hard to get, but, as for teaching, she didn’t think she knew enough.

She hadn’t been in Geronimo very long before two trustees approached her about teaching in early-day Arizona Territory. The first one had come from Bonito, a district above Klondyke, and the other had come from Shilo, a settlement above Ft. Thomas. She took the Shilo School job and taught there one term.

On January 19, 1899, Frankie married John Martin Wood, a rancher, at Geronimo. The couple had five sons: Clyde G., born June 21, 1900; Leslie Martin, born May 3, 1902; Fredrick Duncan, born November 29, 1904; Bertram Henry, born January 19, 1907; and Charles Clifford, born March 21, 1915.

The family lived in the areas where John Martin ranched including Ft. Thomas, Livingston, and the Globe and Phoenix areas. Frankie became well acquainted with the first State Governor, George Hunt, and enjoyed the freedom of walking into his office, appointment or not.

By 1919, Martin had started ranching at El Capitan on the east side of the Pinal Mountains in Gila County. Frankie Belle was the postmistress at their small store close to their home and had business cards printed that promoted the area. The cards read: “Pure Air and Water – Beautiful Scenery – El Capitan Camp, An Ideal Summer Campground At The Crest of Pinal Mountain- Elevation 5000 feet – On the Famous El Capitan Scenic Highway – Halfway Between Globe and Winkelman – There Is a Store Near The Camp – For Further Particulars Address Mrs. Martin Wood – Globe, Arizona.” Frankie Belle had become the one who conducted the business affairs of the family.

In October of 1920 Frankie received the deed to 40 acres by the Eastern Canal in Mesa, Arizona. Here the family had a home and a store in the front of the property with hand-cranked gas pumps. In November 1921, Frankie received a deed to 40 acres on lower Aravaipa Creek in Pinal County, the beginning of the Panorama Ranch, where she and Martin would live the longest time. Frankie was a promoter of the new Aravaipa Road, completed in 1937, that enabled people to travel out of the creek bed.

An abundance of produce was raised on the Panorama Ranch and sold in the surrounding towns of Winkelman, Hayden, Mammoth, Tiger, Oracle, Ray, Christmas, Florence, Tucson, Globe, Midland City, Miami and Claypool. Frankie kept a record book of the sales of fruits and vegetables, her homemade preserves and relishes as well as eggs, milk, cream, buttermilk, butter, hens and turkeys. A potential but hesitant buyer was known to say that if his wife was like Frankie Belle, he’d be a millionaire!

Frankie’s youngest son, Cliff, credits his mother with keeping track of the changing times and knowing how the family could better themselves with what they had. Although Cliff had gone to school, his mother had been a good tutor and had taught him how to read. She wanted her sons to be responsible, not to be troublemakers, and to know how to take care of themselves. She did a good job.

Donor: Dorothy Wood
September 2002

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