A few weeks ago, I wrote about my grandparents, Ambrose and Grace Ring, who in 1905-06 lived near the old Ruby mining camp in Southern Arizona, close to the border with Mexico.
Today I'd like to tell you about Ines Fraser - who my grandparents met by chance in Ruby - and how that encounter led my brother and me down another fascinating historical path to write a book.
Twenty-three-year-old Ines, a schoolteacher from Salida, Colo. - just married to miner Jack Fraser - arrived in Tucson by train in August 1904. Ines and Jack were on their way to the Los Alamos gold mine, near Ruby, where they hoped to strike it rich.
Jack and Ines struggled to make a living in an unforgiving environment. Ines would later recall in letters to her grandchildren her "loneliness and isolation." She also would write about meeting new friends, Grace and Ambrose Ring.
Between 1911 and 1917, Ines had three children. For each birth, Jack sent her to San Diego or back home to Salida so she could receive better medical care than was available in the rough borderland.
During those long separations, Ines and Jack wrote beautiful, loving letters to each other - Ines keeping Jack apprised of her condition and hopes to return soon, and Jack telling Ines of his struggles to make the mine successful.
In late 1917, with Ines and the kids back at Los Alamos, Ines experienced "some of the happiest times of her life," as photos in the Fraser family album would clearly show. But the mining troubles continued - Jack wanted desperately to find another occupation. And Mexican bandits were raiding across the border with increasing frequency.
As Ines left for San Diego in mid-1919 to prepare for the birth of the couple's fourth child, Jack was eagerly negotiating to buy the general store in Ruby.
He did buy the store and was happily awaiting Ines' return from San Diego with their new daughter, Constance, when, on Feb. 27, 1920, he was shot by Mexican bandits in the store.
Ines frantically returned to Southern Arizona, reaching her husband's bedside in a Nogales military hospital just after he died. She heartbrokenly settled her husband's affairs, sold the store and returned to San Diego.
Ines raised her four children alone in San Diego during the Great Depression. She spent the rest of her life (she died in 1970) trying to understand her relationship with the Almighty. She expressed her thoughts in beautifully composed letters, poetry and later in scholarly articles for national publications.
So how did these details come to light?
Several of the 33 photographs that my grandfather, Ambrose Ring, took during his and Grace's few months in Southern Arizona included the Frasers. When my brother Al and I started research on our grandparents' history around Ruby, we noted the names of the Frasers in Grace's old address book. Who were these people?
After years of trying without much success to trace Fraser family relatives, the breakthrough came when Al found an obscure newspaper obituary for Daphne Fraser, the first of Ines and Jack Fraser's children, who died of cancer in 1981. That obituary listed surviving relatives, including a sister, Constance, and her son, Bruce Kiely.
Al tracked down Bruce on the East Coast, confirmed that "Constance" was the Constance Fraser we were looking for, and received Bruce's enthusiastic permission to talk to her about Fraser family history. And guess where Constance was living? In Apache Junction, just east of Phoenix.
Al called Constance (she preferred Connie) and thus began a truly delightful - and certainly fruitful for us - relationship with a wonderful lady. She was interested in our research and writing plans and was eager to help.
And what a treasure trove of family history records she had - an example for all us! She showed us scores of old letters, photos, records of all kinds - and she willingly shared them with us.
In 2007, Al and I, along with our partner, Tallia Pfrimmer Cahoon, published "Frontier Lady of Letters - The Heroic Love Story of Ines Fraser."