By Deborah E. Miller
A Glimpse of her Life By Deborah E. Miller Angela Hutchinson Hammer was twelve in July 1883 when she and her three sisters had their first glimpse of Casa Grande. Their faces pressed against the hot window pane of the train, hoping to catch sight of their father. The girls had been sent to a convent in Reno, Nevada, until the Apache wars were over. William Hutchinson, a steam engineer working at the Silver King mine, was coming from Picket Post some sixty miles away. He was anxious to collect his girls, but the wagon was no match for the train. There they stood, with their luggage on the platform in the hot sun, waiting, causing the people passing to stare. Four young ladies were an unusual sight in the Arizona Territory. When William arrived, there was a joyous reunion and a long trip home.
They hadn’t seen this house, for William’s job kept them moving from mine to mine. This one faced the plaza in town and their mother kept the drapes drawn to the window, trying to protect her daughters. She told them, “All kinds of wickedness took place in the plaza: bad language, drunks, gangs of toughs, lowborn women.”
Picket Post wasn’t the only mining town that left a lasting impression on Angela. At twenty, she taught school in Wickenburg with her friend Kate. The mine had played out and it was almost a ghost town by 1890. If that wasn’t enough to make it dreary, it had rained for two months straight. Angela and Kate worried over the rumors about the stress the rain was putting on the dam. Their fears were realized on February 21. The Walnut Grove Dam broke and sent an eighty foot wall of water down the canyon. It opened into a valley where the town sat and the water dispersed. The girls survived, but at least forty-six others did not. Because of the scarcity of women in town, it became Kate and Angela’s job to clean the sandy female bodies. As soon as the task was finished, the girls, emotionally and physically exhausted, sat down and cried.
In the summer, Angela and her sister Pattie wanted to make some extra money. They got a job setting type and proofreading at The Phoenix Gazette. Typesetters usually belonged to a male union. The men, who objected to these females and called them scabs, gave them a hard time at every opportunity. This male contingent underestimated the determination of the Hutchinson sisters, who grew up in rough mining towns. Plus, the editor found these women to be hard workers, educated, and sober. Apparently, these traits were hard to find.
Joseph Hammond married Angela when she was twenty-six and they divorced eight years later. She took their three boys, moved back to Wickenburg to take care of her ailing father, and bought a newspaper, the Wickenburg Miner. After a few years, she had a chain of papers in different mining towns: the Wickenburg Miner, the Swansea Times, the Wenden News, and the Eagle’s Eye. For several years, she ran a successful business, until a controversy in town demanded she take sides. Her answer was to pack up the paper and leave.
In Phoenix, Ted Healey sought her out and convinced her that Casa Grande needed a paper. She knew the business and had a printer. Forming a partnership, the Bulletin was born and so was their rivalry. They argued bitterly over water reclamation for the Casa Grande Valley and other political issues. He didn’t want her opinion in the Bulletin. She was determined her point of view should be represented. The partnership ended abruptly, when she discovered he intended to move the paper without consulting her. She moved her equipment out in the dead of night. With her boys to help, she immediately started the Casa Grande Valley Dispatch, in Gordon MacMurray’s corral. It was 1914 and we are still enjoying the paper today. After her death in 1952, Angela found her place in the Arizona Newspaper Hall of Fame and Arizona Women’s Hall of Fame.
This article was only a small peek into a remarkable woman’s life. For more information on Angela Hutchinson Hammer, there is a book written by Betty E. Hammer Joy at the Casa Grande Valley Historical Society Museum.