The Rev. Dana Prom Smith, S.T.D., Ph.D. (7/8/2014)
A touch of class, a hint of civilization, a love story, and a tragedy, these are the themes entwined in the tale of the McCormick Rose, a cutting of which graces the bottom of the steps into Old Main at the North Campus of NAU. The first McCormick Rose was brought as a cutting by Margaret Hunt McCormick, the bride of Richard McCormick,
Arizona’s Second Territorial Governor, to in November
1865. A French Boursaid (rosa gallica),
an ancient French hybrid, this pink rose was the first cultivated rose in Prescott . Arizona
The McCormick Rose at Old Main is the granddaughter of the grande dame original McCormick Rose. It was a cutting from the McCormick Rose at the
in Prescott which was in turn a cutting from the
original rose planted by Margaret McCormick by front door of the Governor’s
Mansion in . The Class of 1934 planted the third
generation cutting at Old Main. Prescott
The McCormick Rose began its journey in Margaret McCormick’s trousseau luggage as she and Richard made their way to
First, the cutting accompanied them by
steamship from Arizona New York to Jamaica and thence to Aspinwall at the Isthmus of Panama.
Next, the cutting went with them overland on mule back to the Pacific Coast
where they and the cutting again boarded a steamship for .
Finally, the cutting went with them to Acapulco . Los Angeles
After a few days rest in
Los Angeles, they and the
cutting took a stagecoach to Yuma where they
boarded a steamer for a trip up the Colorado River
to Ehrenburg. Then as Margaret described
the last leg of the journey, it was “two ambulances, six government wagons, and
two private baggage wagons” crossing the Mohave Desert to .
A hearty cultivar, it flourishes today at Old Main and at Cline Library. Prescott
The McCormick Rose was but a symbol of the civilization and class Margaret brought to
. She transformed the rude log cabin into a
frontier mansion where she made a home for Richard and herself, an office for
him, and accommodations for guests. She
threw levees, entertained quests, and bade visitors and strangers welcome. Margaret wrote of her “own dear home” to her
friend Emma in New Jersey, “We danced in the house” and “served cold roast beef
, veal, pies & cakes in variety, almonds, raisins, jellies, coffee,
lemonade, & wine.” Prescott
A considerable horsewoman, Margaret accompanied Richard on many of his trips throughout the Territory, becoming acquainted with many of the pioneers, impressing them with her grace. Well‑loved, she touched the frontier settlement with her charm. In another letter to her friend Emma, she wrote that she "was never so happy in her life," and that Richard "acts much more the ‘lover’ now, than he did before we were married."
On her return from a trip with Richard to
, she gave birth to a stillborn child. Thought to have been recovering well, she
suddenly lapsed into a violent sickness and died one day short of her 24th
birthday. She was buried with her
stillborn child in her arms in the forest near the mansion. Her grave was strewn with wildflowers. San
Miner in May 3, 1867 wrote that Margaret was “a greatly loved woman,”
whose death had “cast gloom over the community,” adding that “no woman in the
Territory was more happy.” Prescott Arizona
So when is a rose a rose? When it has a story to tell.
Copyright © Dana Prom Smith 2014
Dana Prom Smith and
Freddi Steele edit Gardening Etcetera for the Daily Sun. Smith emails at email@example.com and blogs at http://highcountrygardener.blogspot.com.