Sometimes the Blues, the Letters and Diaries of Frank Hammon, a Lonely Frontiersman in Globe and Phoenix, 1882-1889, is much more than that. The book began when author Susan Clardy found her relatives’ letters, diaries, and photographs in her grandparents’ attic. Then Aaron and Ruth Cohen, owners of Guidon Books, introduced her to Arizona historians. From that point the book became much more comprehensive that just a collection of pioneer letters.
In 1878, at age twenty-three, Frank Hammon went with his cousin Wendell to the boomtown of Globe City, established only a few years earlier. Frank became a partner in The News Depot, a tobacco, stationery, and magazine store almost in the shade of the hanging tree on Broad Street. The cousins rented rooms in an adobe house aat Broad and Mesquite from English butcher Joseph Redman and his wife, Elizabeth. This is the kind of attention to detail you will find all through the book, a researcher’s dream and a true labor of love.
After a few years women and children began to follow their husbands to the boom towns, creating churches, schools, and voluntary organizations. Sometimes the Blues describes their roles in taming the West. The Silver Belt welcomed Frank Hammon’s future father law by announcing their arrival on January 1, 1881: “Frank Howell’s family from California arrived on the 30th . . . intend making this place their permanent home. Such people are always welcome.”
The following year, Frank Hammon married Howell’s daughter Daisy on March 1st, 1882. He probably at a church picnic or charity ball.
Clardy’s book is an incredibly detailed social, economic, political, Native American, and military history of the Tonto Basin and early Phoenix. Trained in research techniques Pleasant Valley War historian Don Dadera and Arizona Historical Society Press editor Dr. Bruce Dinges, Clardy presents accurate summaries of major events in the clash of cultures between Anglos and Apaches, detailed accounts of the Pleasant Valley War, the Battle of Cibecue, the Camp Grant Massacre, and countless other crimes, scandals, booms, busts, fires, and floods from the time Frank Hammon arrived until his return to his children and family in 1889.
Sometimes the Blues is not just a chronicle of events and pioneer biographies. It is an in-depth social history of the day-to-day lives, deaths, loves, and hardships of pioneer families — miners, ranchers, farmers, and entrepreneurs — from Payson to San Carlos to Phoenix and all the homesteads in between.
Frank and Daisy’s letters to relatives back home take you into their lives and their hearts, reliving each triumph and heartbreak as though it happened to your own sister or daughter-in-law.
Clardy provides background details of frequent Apache raids on surrounding homesteads: “On the front steps, a bullet entered Henry Moody’s eye, killing him instantly, and clipped a lock of hair from Hattie’s forehead.”
Frank Hammon must have been aware of the newspaper stories that reached the East, because in a letter to his mother dated June 22nd, 1883, he wrote, “Do not worry about us mother for we are in no danger, yet will be careful. We always go armed. I am so used to wearing my six shooter buckled around me that I should be lonesome without it.”
A hardworking young man with a loving family to support, Frank Hammon becomes the Tonto Basin’s “Everyman,” at one time or another a storekeeper, farmer/rancher, miner, dairy owner, and assessor. He even ran one of the first public bath houses in Phoenix, at Central and Van Buren. He was known as upstanding and reliable, volunteering for churches, charities, and town parades.
PHOTO: Of Old Jail. This undated photo is believed to have been taken in the late 1800’s or early 1900s and shows men standing in front of the jail house (before the current Territorial jail was built in 1910)
Clardy’s coverage of the Pleasant Valley War and Hammon’s lawman connections to it are clear and succinct, perfect for someone who wants to understand this complicated subject.
The author certainly had her work cut out for her filling in the blanks between Hammon’s letters and diaries. A master of the understatement, one of taciturn Frank’s diary entries said simply this about a major setback: “George felt better and we harnessed up and came to town. Found house burned. Otherwise nothing new.”
As riches and rivalries added up, justice often took a back seat as friends and bullies kept people from telling the truth in court. Clardy writes, “As a prosecution witness, Hammon testified that he had seen Tom Burns pistol-whip Carl Smith.” He knew what repercussion might come of this contradiction of defense witnesses. As with many other law-abiding citizens, he kept a wide berth from wrongdoers as often as possible.
In spite of his efforts, Hammon was appointed deputy sheriff by George Shute In November, 1887. Frank was involved in several court cases related to the Graham-Tewksbury Pleasant Valley War. As with many others, the case against Joe Ellenwood was dismissed because lack of evidence made a trial impossible.
His usual cases were more mundane. Hammon’s diary, Saturday, March 10, 1888: “Arrested Tom Mulvenon [Mulheron] and another man for fighting. The man Arkansaw, bit Toms ear off.” Such are the details of the real Wild West.
His entry for December 25th that year: “Christmas Day and lonely for me. Cloudy and sunshine mingles. Attended Christmas tree last eve, and enjoyed it much.”
Pushed out of civil service jobs by the political opposition, Hammon went back to grueling mine work, and Clardy describes the surroundings and provides plenty of details about conditions and procedures. In addition to labor conditions, she presents biographies of mining entrepreneurs like John “Black Jack” Newman, W. H. “Idaho Bill” Sutherland, and future first Arizona state governor George W. P. Hunt. PHOTO: The mines. The mines offered tough, grueling work. But the pay was good.
Why the title Sometimes the Blues? In one of his diary entries Frank Hammon describes his life that way. After his wife’s tragic death and sending his children Back East, Frank’s life could be better described as “most times the blues.” This book is without a doubt the most comprehensive, thought-provoking, and poignant book ever written about Globe’s early days.
This was originally published in May of 2014.
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.