Column No. 78

Difficult Separations

Bob Ring, Al Ring, Tallia Pfrimmer Cahoon

Note: Bob and Al Ring wish to announce the availability of their new website, Visit the new website for all the latest on the
Ring brothers’ books, history projects, and research.

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, Ines, and their young daughter Daphne are living at their Los Alamos mining camp, near the border with Mexico:

With each succeeding child after Daphne, Jack again sent me away from Los Alamos to be near family and friends. So I was apart from Jack for months at a time. As you might imagine, Jack and I found these separations very difficult. Not only was it hard personally, but the travel and “extra residence” situation put an additional strain on our limited finances. Besides money, I worried about Jack’s increasing despair with his unsuccessful mining and his safety, with seemingly more frequent raids into Arizona by Mexican bandits. The only things that made it bearable for me were Jack’s wonderful letters. Luckily for me and perhaps for you too, I saved those letters written 50 years ago. In fact they are stacked right in front of me as I write this. The letters will help me to tell you our story.

But I’ve gotten ahead of myself, because by May of 1913, I was in Salida, Colorado getting ready to have my second child. Jack was with me for the birth of Richard Sterling Fraser on June 30, 1913. We had gone to Colorado rather than San Diego for the birth for two reasons: first, Jack could check into his mining interests there and second, my mother was in poor health and Salida seemed the place to be. Sadly Bruce, your great grandmother passed away on August 23rd after a long illness.

I remained in Salida for while to console family members and to gain my strength back after Richard’s birth. My sister Mary (Tudie to the family) was especially helpful and comforting. Jack had to return to Arizona to try and make a go of his mining interests there. In his almost daily letters to me during November, Jack expressed his concern about our financial condition and kept me up to date on his activities:

Saturday night, November 15, 1913 Dearie Precious Sweetheart, … I am always glad there’s no rent to pay, nor fuel bills, nor light, nor water, nor sidewalks, nor sewers. We could actually stand a chance of going broke if we had those to pay here. What do I call the present condition if it is not being broke? I guess I shouldn’t ask such leading questions, dear, and I love you, just the same. … Your lover, Jack

Friday night, November 21, 1913 Dearie, … Worked this morning in the tunnel. Baked bread this afternoon – a very slow process, for some reason, as it took until four o’clock to finish. Yeast cakes probably old, but the bread is first class. Hope there is a letter from you dear saying you will be along very soon. Give my love to your sister and the rest of the family and hug our dear babies for me, I love you sweetheart. Your lover, Jack

By the end December 1913 I was back at Los Alamos, this time with two babes. Jack had made some repairs on the house and while we were gone, had a larger, concrete dam built in the canyon to replace the original dam that had failed. So we settled down again in Arizona; mining was a continuing struggle, but our life with our two rapidly growing children was wonderful. We generally had chicken for Sunday dinner and sometimes beef, supplied by hunters or an occasional supplier from outside the district. I even made cakes, usually nut cakes. We gathered native walnuts around Los Alamos or over the line in Mexico.

The babies got along splendidly. Daphne was certainly precocious. At age four she was starting a fourth grade reader and galloping along in other lines! Daphne was quite an elocutionist and it was very diverting to watch the gestures she used so lavishly in her renderings of her favorite pieces. Richard enjoyed being read to from his Teddy Bear book and experimenting with his pronunciation and spelling. And thank goodness, the children enjoyed playing together!

In the interim the Irishman Phil Clarke I mentioned earlier, who had bought the Andrews’ general store in Ruby in 1913, decided that the store was too small and dilapidated. In September 1915 he completed building a larger adobe store and post office, with plenty of living space for his family. The 62x32 feet building included a wide screened porch around two sides. The living quarters were fitted with acetylene gas and had running water in every room, supplied from a nearby hilltop tank. It was really quite nice and much the showplace for the district.

By then my dears it was clear that problems with Mexico, so close to the south, were getting worse. Mexican revolutionists plagued the entire border between the United States and Mexico. There were many incidents of murder, robbery, kidnapping for ransom, and property destruction. In March 1916 “Pancho” Villa, raided Columbus, New Mexico. In response to Villa’s incursion, the U.S. sent a punitive expedition under General John J. Pershing into Mexico. President Woodrow Wilson mobilized the National Guard from every state in the country for service on the Mexican border. Troops soon patrolled the entire southwest border with Mexico. The U.S. established new military camps in remote areas, including one at Arivaca, a few miles north of Los Alamos. And so grandchildren, we soon sighted regular patrols of troopers “protecting” the border. Believe me, this eased our concerns greatly and we experienced no problems.

Meanwhile, Jack’s brother Al started working at the nearby Montana mine at Ruby. The Goldfield Consolidated Mining Company was about to begin mining lead and zinc there. Al first helped get the water out of the old shaft and tunnels and then helped the Company develop and check out a new ore milling operation. Al was becoming a very well known and respected mining engineer; he was a member of the professional organization, the Institute of Mining Engineers.


Caption: Phil Clarke opened his new Ruby store on September 8, 1915. The sign above the door reads: P. M. Clarke, General Merchandise. (Courtesy of Nancy Clarke Rice)

(Sources: Fraser Family Records, courtesy of Connie Fraser Kiely)
Next Time: The End of the Road
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