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‘Edward Jackson’

Edward Jackson, in Willcox about 1920.

Edward Jackson, in Willcox about 1920.

Dressed in overalls and leaning on an open touring car is Edward Jackson, a man rarely seen without a pipe between his teeth. The gentleman wearing a suit is unknown, and so is the building, which is located somewhere in the Willcox business district. The posters in the window read: Harvey’s Greater Minstrels — Theater, Sat., Mar. 29. 

Unfortunately, the posters don’t indicate the year, although we know the photograph was taken during the early 1920s.

Little is known of Jackson’s early life. He claimed to have been born in Denver in 1877, but may have been born in San Antonio in 1878. He volunteered for military duty during the Spanish-American War, served in Manila in 1898 and — like many of his contemporaries — returned home with dysentery that would reoccur throughout his life.

Jackson came to Arizona about 1900, and developed an all-consuming passion for prospecting and mining. However, unlike most men of his era, he did not seek the relative security of employment with a major mining company. He was an independent man with an entrepreneurial spirit, who refused to be tied to a lunch pail and paycheck. He also had no aversion to forming a partnership with a financially secure woman, and that is what he did.

Edith Sandberg (nee Kimball, later Lee) was 38 when she abandoned her husband and Mexico — where she had lived much of her life — for the Arizona Territory and Jackson.

Edith went to Safford and claimed a ranch lost to her in a divorce settlement from her first husband Brig Lee. Meantime, Ludwig Sandberg, her much older, wealthy Scandinavian mine-owning second husband, plied her with letters begging her return to Mexico. She ignored him, and in 1915, before the ink was dry on new divorce papers, made Jackson her third husband. Thus began a unique 19-year odyssey.

Like Jackson, Edith possessed a passion for mining and was fiercely independent. Unlike Jackson, she had the money to pursue her passion. 

Over the years, countless mining claims were made in her name, his name and both their names, and several properties were worked. Edith bought the equipment, Jackson hired the men and dug the tunnels, and both dirtied their hands.

A moderately successful venture was the Red Mountain Copper Mine in Graham County. However, the most enduring — though not necessarily successful — enterprise was the Golden Rule, a gold mine near Dragoon in Cochise County. There the couple built workers’ quarters, a rock home, constructed a smelter, opened a general store and worked the Golden Rule for years. The name and the venture outlived them both.

A thorn in their sides during those years was the unimproved, often treacherous, Sunset Highway, which ran through Dragoon to the New Mexico border. The main highway from New Mexico into Cochise County ran south through Douglas and Bisbee before turning north and west to Tucson. The money interests, primarily Phelps-Dodge and associated companies, were in Bisbee and Douglas, and guarded highway funds vigilantly. Each time a bill went before the Legislature to improve the Sunset Highway, it was soundly defeated.

In 1934, Jackson ran for the county board of supervisors on a ‘Sunset Highway Ticket’ and lost. Two months later, lingering dysentery from the Spanish-American War killed him. He was said to have been 57.

Edith got on with her life and became an active voice in an unsuccessful movement to form a new county out of the northern part of Cochise County. At the same time, while attempting to settle the estate of the man to whom she had been married 19 years, she inadvertently discovered that he was not “Edward Jackson” at all, but a man named Edward J. Hermann. Undaunted by the discovery, she told people she had known about it all along, even though she had not.

Edith Mae Kimball Lee Sandberg Jackson-Hermann did not take a fourth husband but remained a widow and lived another 23 years.

   — W. Lane Rogers. Photo courtesy author.

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