Mary Decrow Ramos  (1818 - 1876)
Fort Misery, Sharlot Hall Museum, Prescott
Mary Decrow Ramos arrived in Prescott in 1864 and opened a restaurant and boarding house there. An early businesswoman in the mining camp, she also owned a ranch and, with her husband Cornelio, bought mining claims. She is representative of the independent women who braved the mining camps of the West and developed thriving enterprises.

Region: North Central Arizona
Theme: Women at Work

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 meals.

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.


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