At age fifteen, Cordelia Adams, daughter of the owner of a ranch located about 75 miles from Globe, AZ, married Bush Crawford on August 8, 1880. Bush owned a small ranch located about four miles north of what is now Roosevelt Lake.
Living conditions on the ranch were primitive. Water was carried in buckets from the creek. Food generally consisted of beans, jerky, and biscuits, supplemented by vegetables and fruits from the garden. All the cooking was done outdoors over an open fire or in the fireplace.
Cordelia quickly became known for her healing skills. Even the Apaches "brought their sick children to the Crawford Ranch for her to heal. They would sit under a tree at the bottom of the hill in front of the ranch house and when she came down to them they would lay the child in her arms and remain under the tree until Cordelia returned it."
During the local conflicts between the Apaches and the U.S. Military, the Crawford ranch was never burned or damaged in any way by the Native Americans. In all likelihood, it was because of Cordelia's kindness to the Apache women that the ranch and the family were saved from destruction and death.
Many Apaches exhibited determination to oust Anglo settlers during the multi-year U.S. Army-Apache conflicts, especially at the Battle of Cibecue Creek in 1881. The Tonto Basin was one of the targets, but sixteen-year-old Cordelia and her newborn child were left unharmed and the ranch house not burned.
In 1887, the family moved from the farm to Tonto, a stage stop not too far from Jake's Corner on present day Highway 188. This was during the Pleasant Valley War and participants on both sides of the feud occasionally stayed at the Tonto Stage Stop. Cordelia came up with a clever plan to serve the men without seeing them, so she could maintain her neutrality to protect herself and her child.
"If [the men] needed a meal they could get it after dark by coming to the door and telling her how many men were in the party, and how many meals and beds they would need. While she prepared the meal, they cared for their animals. When the meal was ready, she called the men and left the kitchen where the food was either on the stove or the table. When the men finished they went outside again and mounted to the sleeping quarters, a loft over the kitchen and sleeping rooms downstairs. Breakfast was prepared and served before daylight. Money for the meals and beds and the fodder for the animals was left under a stone on the stoop. Thus she could honestly say that she had not seen the men in the party."
By the fall of 1887, the feud was over with the main participants either dead or in custody. At that time, Cordelia and her family returned to their ranch in Tonto Basin. The Crawfords remained at the ranch until 1893, when they moved to Globe. After an altercation, Bush Crawford spent two years in prison, while Cordelia worked in a local hospital to support herself and her children. When Bush returned after his release from prison, he and Cordelia built and operated a hotel for several years.
Bush died on September 26, 1935 at the age of eighty-four. Cordelia Adams Crawford died at age 77 on January 31, 1943. Family and friends remember her as a "remarkable woman of courage, tall and straight as an arrow, who was as easy on her horse as she was in a rocking chair."
Cordelia Adams Crawford exemplifies the courage and resilience of the pioneer women of the historic Southwest and that of the Native Americans who came before her.
Maxwell, M.F. (1985). Cordelia Adams Crawford of the Tonto Basin. The Journal of Arizona History, 26(4), 415-428.
Last updated: June 26, 2017