“You have to ask me questions, or I can’t remember things.” That’s what Yndia Roca Smalley Moore told me after one of our first taping sessions. She was born in Tucson in 1902, but lived in Globe in its heyday, from 1905 until 1912. We began our Thursday afternoon oral history chats when she was 93, and for an Arizona historian like me it was a dream come true, like taking a Sunday drive into the past with your favorite grandmother, listening to Yndia’s eyewitness accounts of Arizona history in the making.
You could tell by the way her eyes twinkled when she talked that her years in Globe were some of the best parts of Yndia’s very full life. Tucson was still a frontier town back then, and it still had much of its Old World Spanish culture. But Globe City, the rough-edged mining camp, was a much more exciting place for a kid to grow up. Yndia had her favorite memories, and was a delightful story teller. You could tell she enjoyed telling the stories as much as we listeners loved hearing them.
When talking about Globe, she usually started off with the story about her father George reading a letter from his father back in Minnesota. In the days before radio and TV, singing around the piano and reading letters at the dinner table were popular forms of entertainment.
“It says here Aunt Susie died,” George read one evening when Yndia was about four or five years old. “Oh, who shot her?” she asked. It seemed like no one ever died any other way in Globe in those days.
George Smalley’s father was a newspaperman, and he was in the business for many years himself. He met Yndia’s mother, Lydia Roca, when he was an investigating mining reporter for the Phoenix Republican. Lydia came from a prominent Chilean-Mexican merchant family who opened their first store in Tucson in 1864. The Smalleys were one of thousands of multicultural families that helped settle the West. George came to Phoenix for his health in 1896 and became a reporter, editor, and eventually publisher of the Tucson Post.
After serving as secretary to territorial governor and former Rough Rider Alexander Brodie, Smalley When President Theodore Roosevelt selected Rough Rider Alexander Brodie to be Arizona’s territorial governor, Smalley was appointed clerk of the newly-created Fifth Judicial District.
“Of course, no one ever died a natural death in Globe,” Yndia said. “There was always a shooting. I remember my father coming home and telling about these things, you know.”
She said that most of her best stories begin, “one time when my parents were out of town . . .” One of those trips, Yndia’s nursemaid (Mattie) told her that if she was a good girl, instead of her afternoon nap she would take her to a hanging that took place behind the courthouse, next to St. John’s Episcopal Church.
“Well, I couldn’t wait,” Yndia said. “I was so excited, because Mattie made it sound exciting. And so she dressed me all up and down we went to the hanging. And, oh, there was a lot of singing and everything and I thought it was wonderful.”
“It wasn’t depressing; it was sort of fun because all these Negroes were there singing, and shouting hallelujah. Of course they were mourning, probably, but I thought they were having a great time; at least I was having a good time. I wasn’t afraid at all,” Yndia said. Yndia said that as a reward for being well-behaved she got to carry home a swatch of the hanging victim’s hair!
Lydia Smalley was devastated when she found out her little girl had witnessed such a gruesome event, and asked Yndia if she was scared. “Why would I be frightened?” Yndia said. “There was that figure dangling at the end of a rope, but I didn’t connect it at all.”
Not long ago, I walked around behind the courthouse. When it comes to historic atmosphere, Globe ranks right up there with Florence, Bisbee, and even Tombstone. I bet no little girl has seen a hanging in Globe for more than a century; I’m sure lucky to have talked to one that did.
Jim Turner is an author, historian and speaker. His recent book, “Arizona: Celebration of the Grand Canyon State,” is a pictorial history of Arizona. He has contributed several historical pieces for Globe Miami Times.