Territorial Women's Memorial Rose Garden

Ursel Irene, daughter of Thomas Edward and Ernest Maud Spence Thompson, was born in her aunt’s Prescott house on August 27, 1905. Irene’s grandparents came by covered wagon from Missouri to Arizona in 1873. Her grandfather, Alfred Barum Spence, built the Palace Station in 1875 where her mother was born on January 8, 1881. Irene spent a great deal of time at the Palace Station until it was sold in 1910.

Thomas was the Mayer deputy sheriff, and Irene attended the old school house in Mayer until she reached her third year of high school. Then she stayed with her aunt in Prescott and attended St. Joseph’s Academy. When her mother became ill, Irene dropped out of high school to care for her. Her mother suffered a stroke and died in June 1924.

“I couldn’t eat or do anything. I just loved my mother and couldn’t see how to live without her,” Irene recalled. Clyde Allen McDonald, her boyfriend, attempted to persuade her to do something else--marry him.

The two met on the Fourth of July when Irene was 17, and her parents asked the 26-year-old freight wagon driver to join them during the holiday festivities. The pair became inseparable from that day. The couple married on July 31, 1924, in Prescott and moved into the Thompson home where Irene ran the household and the family dairy.

Clyde and Irene had six children all born in Mayer: Charles Bruce, born September 25, 1925; Maud Ernestine, born August 30, 1927; Clarence Allen, born December 26, 1929; Walter Wesley, born October 11, 1931; Clyde Edward, born June 15, 1933; and Carrie May McDonald-Soriano, born May 29, 1937.

Irene spent decades raising her children and dedicating her time to her family. Clyde was nominated to succeed his father-in-law as Mayer's deputy sheriff, a position in which he served for more than 40 years.

Irene was a housewife who helped her father and husband with their jobs, which kept her very busy answering phones and taking messages. At age 49, she began working as a clerk at the Mayer post office, a job she held for 14 years. Clyde died in September 1966.

Irene has 15 grandchildren, 44 great-grandchildren and 24 great-great grandchildren. “I really have lived for my family,” Irene was quoted as saying in 1995, “I’ve been as happy as I can be. People tell us these are the golden years. But my golden years were spent raising my family.”

Ursel died on June 26, 2004, and was buried in Mountain View Cemetery.

Donor: Carrie Soriano, daughter
October 2003

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