Column No. 77

Starting Our Family

Bob Ring, Al Ring, Tallia Pfrimmer Cahoon

This column continues the life story of 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 are telling the story in Ines’ own words, in a long letter written in 1968 to her grandson Bruce and her granddaughter-in-law Claudia. At this point Jack and Ines are living at their Los Alamos mining camp, near the border with Mexico:

Jack and I started the year 1911 knowing that I was pregnant for the first time. Oh my, such care and concern from my Jack. A few months before I was due, Jack sent me to stay with friends in San Diego to receive better medical care than was available in Arizona at the time. Jack joined me there later to support my delivery of our first daughter Daphne Fraser on July 25, 1911. Such joy! By October, we were all back in Arizona at Los Alamos, proudly showing off our new baby.

And now my dears, I will answer one of your burning questions, why we called Jack Laddie. I did not call him that nor refer to him that way until Daphne was learning to talk, which was when she was very tiny. We found that she meant her uncle Al when she said “Yal,” and her father when she made a sound like “La,” so we began to say “La” and she showed that she could add the “d” sound, so it was soon developed to “Laddie,” and we all used that to indicate him and so he was never anything else to the other babies when they came along. He liked it. He had rather dreaded “daddy” or “papa.” He may have felt “fatherly,” but Laddie fitted him and pleased him. I have always, since, thought of him as Laddie, and have to think when I talk of him to others and remember that they knew him as Jack.

Laddie and his brother Al continued to work at Los Alamos but there was little return from all their hard work. In order to make any income at all, they also began taking on other mining jobs in the Oro Blanco district. One of those jobs was at El Oro (the gold) mine, a couple of miles southeast of Los Alamos.

The owner of El Oro, George B. Williams, became both a boss and a good friend to the Fraser family. Mr. Williams is the ultimate example of a part time, long distance miner. Two thousand miles away in Geneva, New York, George was a newspaperman, who eventually rose to the position of Editor and Publisher of the Geneva Times. El Oro was originally worked successfully in the 1890s through a group of businessmen from Rochester, New York, including George’s father. In April 1898 George Williams came west to take charge of the mine, but not much was going on. George made periodic trips to inspect his property and evaluate conditions for restarting operations and it was on one of these trips that he met Jack and Al. From 1906 to 1912 the three of them did a little joint exploration of mining prospects in the area. In July 1912 George hired Al to sink a shaft and resume operations at El Oro. By November 1913 El Oro’s shaft had reached a depth of 340 feet, following a gold vein. Over the next six years Al and Jack helped their friend Williams work his mine and dig 400 feet of tunnels.

Of course, Bruce and Claudia, you will recall from your history that Arizona became the 48th state in 1912, as a matter of fact on Valentine’s Day, February 14th. I’m not sure if statehood precipitated their actions, but after so many years in America as Canadian citizens, Jack and Al both applied for citizenship, and in 1913 became naturalized citizens of the United States. A father now, I remember Laddie thinking this would be better for Daphne too. Also Jack and Al may have thought that U. S. citizenship would make it easier to cross the international border in their frequent mining exploration trips to Mexico.

Another result of Arizona statehood was the establishment of a Post Office in the general store of the mining camp at the site of the Montana mine, five miles northeast of Los Alamos. For 25 years the mining camp had been called Montana camp after the mine, but now the post office was officially named the Ruby Post Office, after the family name of Lille Andrews, the storekeeper Julius Andrews’ wife. Soon everyone was referring to Ruby camp.

The Andrews were friends of ours; they were among the first in the district to see baby Daphne. Julius and Lille had owned and operated the store in Ruby since 1897. The store had been very successful, drawing both mining and ranching customers (including us) from all over the district. But Julius who was 61 years old was suffering from rheumatism and was now looking to retire. The Andrews sold the store in May 1913 to an Irish immigrant named Phil Clarke and moved north to Tucson.

Just after Clarke bought the old Ruby store, an unknown assailant shot and killed storekeeper, Jasper S. Scrivener, owner of the store at Oro Blanco camp just three miles away. Scrivener was said to have had $1,400 in gold dust on the premises. Since the scene of the crime was only two miles from the Mexican border, it was assumed that the murderer had fled into Mexico. This crime appeared to an isolated incident, but our nerves were certainly on edge for a while.


After returning to southern Arizona, Jack and Ines (shown here with baby Daphne) visited their friends Julius and Lille Andrews at the Ruby general store. Montana Peak, whose unique upper face was shaped by an earthquake in 1887, appears in the background. (Courtesy Connie Fraser Kiely, 1911)

(Sources: Fraser Family Records, courtesy of Connie Fraser Kiely)

Next Time: Difficult Separations

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