|Mary Kuykendall grew up in Texas and married Howard Decrow in 1837.
The couple had four children. It is not known why Mary decided to
travel to Prescott in 1864, but she arrived there when she was 46,
accompanied by an African American man known as Compton Brown.
Reportedly, he was fleeing after killing his master. Mary brought
along a few dozen goats and quickly opened a restaurant and then a
boarding house in a building that had just been constructed a year
earlier. She attracted customers to her establishment, in part,
because she served goat's milk with the coffee. Her closest competitor
offered only stewed prunes, and chili at every meal. Mary charged
miners $25 per week, paid in advance. She succeeded even though other
boarding house operators charged $16 per week, mostly because the
goat's milk gave her an advantage.
On January 1, 1865, Mary married Cornelio Ramos, a Mexican-born
blacksmith, described by those who knew him as "an honest and
industrious citizen." Theirs became the first recorded marriage in
Prescott. She and Cornelio ran a ranch on Lynx Creek and started
buying mining claims. Mary Ramos was known for being charitable. She
helped anyone in need and was dubbed "Virgin Mary" as a result.
At the time, taking in boarders was a common means for women to earn
money. In 1870, six years after Mary arrived in Arizona, white men
outnumbered white women in the territory by a ratio of 249 men to
every 100 women. Even fewer women lived in mining camps like Prescott.
Typically, working men, especially new immigrants, boarded with a
fellow immigrant and his family. In mining camps, miners often arrived
without families and with few possessions. They needed places to stay.
And women, like Mary Ramos, provided the newcomers with lodging and
Reportedly, Mary and Cornelio "lived in utmost happiness and concord
until the time of her death." She died on July 7, 1876, at the S. O.
Frederick Ranch in Prescott and is buried in Citizens Cemetery.
The building where Mary ran her boarding house later was dubbed Fort
Misery because a subsequent owner cooked so poorly his customers gave
it that name. Sharlot Hall purchased it and moved it to the Sharlot Hall Museum in approximately 1930 because it is one of the oldest territorial buildings in Arizona.
The Sharlot Hall Museum is located at 415 E. Gurley Street in Prescott.