Angeline Mitchell, known as Angie, moved from the glamour and sophistication of Prescott, the territorial capitol of Arizona to the primitive, wild-west life of Tonto Basin. A well-educated and experienced school teacher, Angie applied to become the first teacher in the Basin. She did so to spite her fiancé, George Brown, who'd broken his promise not to run for political office, and then got himself elected to the 11th territorial legislature. On a rainy September 14, 1880, Angie, her mother, and George Brown set off for the Tonto Basin. They traveled in a wagon drawn by a team of two horses, a trip of 130 miles that lasted a very rough six days. At one point, they were given false directions, which led them to a near impassable trail up the side of a steep canyon. Looking over the edge, they saw "the total wreck of what had been at some time a loaded freight wagon, the bones and hides of four horses, and parts of the harness."
After spending a few days in the Basin with a local ranching family, Angie's mother and George left for the return trip to Prescott, leaving Angie to write in her diary that "Today for the first time in my life, I know what it is to feel utterly cast away and homesick..." Almost two weeks after leaving Prescott, Angie undertook the one day journey to her new home, located along Tonto Creek near what is now Roosevelt Dam. There she would live with another family, the Vineyards, until her own small house was built. When built, her home was constructed of "mud and poles - or poles and mud as the case may be."
After settling into her new role as schoolteacher, she took her students to the nearby cliff dwellings.
She describes in her journal the magnificent structures she and her students explored, narrating the various materials and building styles of the structures, as well as artifacts they found along the way.
Ahead of her time, Angie understood that the dwellings she visited were once home to people who were like her, but lived quite differently. Read Angie's account of her visit to the Tonto Cliff Dwellings.
Her well-crafted words, detailed recollections, and love for the mystery of prehistoric dwellings and archeology provide vivid details of how pioneers viewed these prehistoric sites.
Through A Frontier Teacher in Tonto Basin: The 1880 Diary of Angeline Mitchell, the pioneer school teacher and her writing serve as a valuable resource for educating the public about early pioneer history in the Tonto Basin area. Her life is an inspiration to all women.
Updated: January 20, 2017