Column No. 64

Frontier Lady of Letters – the Heroic Love Story of Ines Fraser

Bob Ring, Al Ring, Tallia Pfrimmer Cahoon

Maestro, a drum roll please. … This is a momentous milestone in the publication history of this column, the 64th column we have written since October 2003. We have selected a new subject for our next book and would like to tell you about it today. That subject is Ines Fraser, widow of Jack Fraser, who along with his brother Al, was brutally murdered by Mexican bandits in the February 1920 robbery of the general store at the Ruby mining camp. We told you a lot about this crime, the Fraser brothers, and Ines Fraser in previous columns and in our first book, Ruby, Arizona – Mining, Mayhem, and Murder, but we have long thought that the story of Ines Fraser and her family deserved its own book.

So why Ines Fraser? First of all, Ines Fraser was the epitome of a frontier woman, braving unbelievable hardships to make a home for her husband and young children in borderland territorial Arizona - in a mining area with absolutely no conveniences. Her efforts set a high standard for the so-called “woman’s role” in the old Oro Blanco district mining camps. She was a loving wife and mother and these traits characterized everything she accomplished.

Secondly, Ines Fraser was an intellectual, in the sense that she thought deeply about family life, education, politics, and religion. She read a lot. She spent most of her life trying to understand her relationship to the Almighty and exploring daily practices to illuminate and strengthen this relationship. And she expressed her thoughts and opinions wonderfully, first in beautifully composed letters, later in poetry, and finally in scholarly articles for national “thinking persons” publications. Ines Fraser had a very positive influence on many people.

Our working title for the new book is Frontier Lady of Letters – the Heroic Love Story of Ines Fraser. We plan to tell Ines’ story in her own words, in a long letter to her grandson Bruce and granddaughter-in-law Claudia. This is in fact what really happened. In 1968, 1969 Ines wrote a series of letters to Bruce and Claudia, telling them her life story. We will use Ines’ letters to frame and develop the main storyline in several chapters, through her death in 1970. We will supplement her letters with reasonable conjecture in Ines’ voice to bridge any gaps in the story, not supported by our research. We will also add selected other supporting and/or interesting anecdotes as if Ines were speaking to tell a complete story that flows smoothly. Since this is Ines’ story as told to Bruce and Claudia, there will be phrases such as, “Let me tell you Bruce and Claudia about the time …”

The final chapter of the book will be a letter from Bruce and Claudia to Ines, expressing to Ines what her letters have meant to them and bringing Ines (and the reader) up to date on Fraser family history to the present day. We have been in touch with Bruce and Claudia; they have enthusiastically agreed to assist us in this final chapter and tribute to Ines.

This book is going to be very different from our first book. It will not be a detailed scholarly-written history book, with our research fully documented in end notes tied directly to assertions in the text. This is going to be primarily a love story and the book will unfold and read that way.

As with our first book, we have done exhaustive research on this story. Our most important find was locating Constance Fraser, the fourth child of Jack and Ines Fraser, and the mother of Bruce. (See our tribute to the recently deceased Constance Fraser in our column published on February 1st of this year.) Connie was our source for much of the material in the new book - including a really incredible stash of family letters, photographs, Ines’ poetry, and other documents.

The centerpieces of this literary “goldmine” are 75 letters that Jack Fraser wrote to Ines from 1913 to 1919. Many of these historical treasures will be included in our new book. We plan to dedicate the book to Constance Fraser.

The scope of the book will range from Ines’ birth in a tent in Salida, Colorado, the first white woman born in that new railroad town, through her complete life and the lives of her four children. Along the way we’ll cover her family history, Fraser family history, how she met her husband Jack, her honeymoon trip from Colorado to borderland territorial Arizona, her life in Los Alamos mining camp during her husband’s 16-year mining struggle, her heart-wrenching experience when her husband and brother-in-law were murdered, her subsequent life raising her children and expanding her literary horizons in San Diego, and her later years living with her family and remembering her past. Plus of course that last chapter, the letter from Bruce and Claudia.

In succeeding weeks, we’d like to share some of this story with you – literally as we write the book. Remember, we’re just getting started on early drafts, so things may change as we go along.

Much as we did with the Ruby book, we will try to divide the story into column-size pieces that will be palatable to Kathy Engle, Managing Editor of the Green Valley News & Sun, and be self contained enough and interesting to you readers. So stand by and please let us know what you think!

By the way, we have now officially exceeded 1000 sales on the Ruby book. Thank you so much. We printed another 500 copies, so if you haven’t yet …

Ines Fraser was the epitome of a successful frontier woman. (From Fraser family collection)

Next Time: A Sturdy Beginning in the Mountains of Colorado
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