“It says here Aunt Susie died,” said George Smalley, reading a letter from home at the family dinner table. “Oh, who shot her?” asked his daughter Yndia. It seemed like everyone died that way in Globe in those days.
Yndia Roca Smalley Moore was true child of the Arizona Territory. Born in Tucson in 1902, her family moved to the roaring boom town of Globe, known as the “Queen City,” when she was 3. Her memories of those Wild West years included weekly shootings and even a hanging.
Her father was a Minnesota newspaperman. Her mother, Lydia Roca, came from a prominent Chilean-Mexican merchant family. The Smalleys were one of thousands of multicultural families that helped settle the West. George came to Phoenix for health reasons in 1896 and became a reporter, editor and eventually publisher of the Tucson Post.
When President Theodore Roosevelt selected Rough Rider Alexander Brodie to be Arizona’s territorial governor, Smalley served as Brodie’s secretary. Brodie returned to the Army in 1905, and Smalley was appointed clerk of the newly-created Fifth Judicial District. He moved his little family to Globe, by then one of the largest and rowdiest towns in the territory.
“Of course, no one ever died a natural death in Globe,” Yndia said when she was in her 90s. “There was always a shooting. I remember my father coming home and telling about these things, you know.”
One day when she was about 4 and her parents were out of town, Yndia’s nursemaid (Mattie) told her that if she was a good girl, she could skip her afternoon nap and go to see a hanging. It took place behind the courthouse; behind that was St. John’s Episcopal Church where Yndia went to Sunday school.
“Well, I couldn’t wait,” Yndia said. “I was so excited, because Mattie made it sound exciting. And so she dressed me all up, and down we went to the hanging. And, oh, there was a lot of singing and everything, and I thought it was wonderful.”
“It wasn’t depressing; it was sort of fun because all these Negroes were there singing, and shouting hallelujah. Of course they were mourning, probably, but I thought they were having a great time; at least I was having a good time. I wasn’t afraid at all,” Yndia said.
To top it off, Yndia was such a good girl she got to carry home a lock of the hanged man’s hair!
Lydia Smalley was mortified to learn that her little girl had been a spectator at such a morbid event. She asked if she was frightened.
“Why would I be frightened?” Yndia recalled 90 years later. “There was that figure dangling at the end of a rope, but I didn’t connect it at all.”
You can still visit the courthouse and St. Johns Episcopal Church in downtown Globe. Chances are no little girl has seen a hanging there in more than a 100 years.
— Jim Turner. Photo courtesy of the Gila County Historical Society.