May 13, 2018

The "Graces" Who Got Things Done in Prescott

It was probably inevitable that Grace Sparks and Grace Chapman would join together. They both had a deep love for serving civically. Even in their own day "they were known as the 'Graces' who helped get things done in Prescott."

Each served Prescott and Yavapai county dutifully in their own ways, but when their good friend, Sharlot Hall, passed away, they came together to make sure that the Sharlot Hall Museum would not only stay open, but would begin to grow into the facility it is today.

Grace Marion Sparkes 1893-1963
Grace Sparkes was born in Lead, SD, on January 21, 1893. She came with her family to Prescott in 1907 and was educated at St. Joseph's Academy and the Lamson Business College in Phoenix.

She helped organize, and was secretary, of Prescott Frontier Days for 30 years as well as its arena director. She was known throughout the West as “the girl who bosses 200 bronco busters.” She helped establish the rodeo rules, many of which are still in use today.

Sparkes is also credited with coining Prescott's slogan: "Cowboy Capital of the World."

"Do you like sightseeing in northern Arizona? Have you driven to the West Coast on I-10? Then say thank you to Grace Sparkes because she campaigned for good roads across the state, including a shorter, more direct route – and bridge – to California."

In 1921 she helped organize the Smoki (pronounced smoke-eye) People of Prescott which promoted Indian lore for over 70 years. She inducted President Coolidge an honorary member of the organization.

Seeing the need for a first class hotel downtown, Grace spearheaded funding and construction of the Hassayampa Hotel. It opened in November, 1927 and is on the National Register of Historic Sites today.

As chairman of the Yavapai Civil Works Administration in 1933-34, Sparkes was instrumental in securing the New Deal funding necessary to construct many buildings and improvements that are still with us today. These include the Lindley Field and Park; Smoki Museum; and no less than four road bridges in Prescott.

She also secured approval for the establishment of the Veterans Hospital at old Fort Whipple and the restoration of the Old Governor’s Mansion in Prescott.

Sparkes also played a crucial role in preserving other historic sites in Arizona including the Coronado National Memorial and the Tuzigoot Indian Ruins. She also campaigned successfully to add more land to the Montezuma Castle National Monument.

Grace served on the Arizona State Board of Welfare; was coordinator for the Arizona exhibit at the Chicago World’s Fair; and was volunteer secretary of the Northern Arizona State Fair Association.

Upon her retirement in 1945, she moved to Cochise County to oversee her own mining claims. She also enjoyed hiking, horseback riding, and reading.

The Old Armory building in Prescott is now named The Grace M. Sparkes Activity Center in her honor, as well as the bridge on Williamson Valley Rd. that crosses over Mint Wash.

Grace Sparkes passed away at age 70 on October 22, 1963 and was buried in the family plot at Mountain View Cemetery, Prescott.

Because of her effective interest in public welfare and her estimable personal qualities, she had an extensive number of acquaintances and was highly esteemed by all who knew her.

She was inducted into the Arizona Women's Hall of Fame in 1985.

The account of the first Carnegie Library in Arizona. It was brought to Prescott, AZ by a group of educated women called The Monday Club.

Grace Laura Genung Chapman 1883-1959
Grace Chapman was born to early Peeples Valley settlers, Charles and Ida Genung. She "established friendships with the Yavapai Indians who lived nearby," which affected her all her life. 

Even as a teenager she was mindful of serving her community. In 1899, the newspaper reported: "Miss Grace Genung of Prescott, who has interested herself in securing contributions to the Captain (Buckey) O'Neill volunteer monument fund" obtained $10 from 9 people.

She was educated at "the normal" (now ASU) entering the institution with two of her siblings at age 15.

"As a young woman, Grace married Harry Chapman and lived in mining camps with him for several years. The couple had two children, but later divorced. She was a single mother when she began working at the Yavapai County Courthouse."

She was best known for her court recording work, having done it for over 30 years. However, before that, she served in many other civil positions. Several times she served as a registration officer during election years. Grace was so well liked in the Peeples Valley area, that due to popular demand, she was named Justice of the Peace of Kirkland Justice District in 1916.

It was later that year when she was appointed Deputy County Recorder, writing everything in longhand before the county introduced typewriters in 1918.

In 1917, she was appointed Deputy School Superintendent as well as Deputy Clerk of the Superior Court.

In 1921, Grace was elected to attend the conference of the YWCA at Asilomar, CA, as a delegate of the Business and Professional Women's club.

She served as the Deputy Recorder until 1922 when she resigned to run against her boss for the County Recorder job. She won by a 3 to 1 margin and was consistently reelected until she retired in 1954 when her health started to decline. "She had been state president of the County Recorders' Association and had made many friends statewide during her career."

"Grace not only worked for Sharlot Hall Museum and the Prescott Historical Society in her spare time; she also found time for involvement in other organizations.  She was a member of the Eastern Star, Rebekah Lodge; a member of Yavapai Democratic Women's Club; and a participant in the Smoki ceremonies. She was very active in many local charities."

Grace died on May 30, 1959, at the Pioneers' Home where she had been residing for two and a half years and was buried at Mountain View Cemetery.

True episode of a raid in the Indian Wars near Prescott, AZ where a woman and a hired hand fended off 20 Indians in September, 1867.

The Two Graces Together:
In 1935, the two Graces and Sharlot Hall, along with Yavapai leaders, Sam and Viola Jimulla, "convinced the federal government to set aside seventy-five acres of land for the Yavapai Reservation.  This was the first reservation established solely for the Yavapai in the state."

Additionally, Chapman worked with Sparkes "to keep the Sharlot Hall Museum open after Sharlot Hall's death in 1943. The two women reopened the museum on May 28, 1943, less than two months after their friend's death. They worked with a loose affiliation of museum supporters to organize the Prescott Historical Society activities through 1946."

It's amazing what one can do for her community when she puts her mind to it.


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