The land that is now the state of Arizona was acquired by the United States after the Mexican-American War through the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848 and the Gadsden Purchase in 1853. Arizona was originally part of the New Mexico Territory. It became its own territory in 1863 and a state in 1912.
In the 1860s, miners discovered gold and silver in Arizona. This attracted many fortune seekers from the eastern United States. The territory had been home to Indigenous people, settlers of Mexican origin, and descendants of Spanish colonists. As more white settlers moved to the territory, the U.S. government wanted to give more land to white settlers. They pushed Indigenous people onto reservations, where resources were scarce and the land was difficult to cultivate. In 1880, the same year Angie Mitchell arrived in Tonto Basin in the Arizona Territory, the government forcibly relocated the Apache tribe to the nearby San Carlos reservation.
Angeline “Angie” Mitchell moved with her parents and brother to Prescott, the capital of the Arizona Territory, in 1875. She was 21 years old when she arrived. Angie previously worked as a teacher in Kansas and started teaching in the Arizona Territory in 1876. She took a teaching position in the remote Tonto Basin in 1880. Only a few families who ran ranches lived in the area.
During her time in Tonto Basin, Angie kept a diary. The diary is a rare glimpse into the daily life of a woman on the so-called frontier. The first excerpt describes the labor required to complete the basic task of laundry. The second excerpt describes an encounter with a group of Apache visitors. Angie’s inhumane description of her Indigenous neighbors is an important and painful example of the racism that informed and defined the relationship between white settlers and Indigenous communities. The third excerpt describes a Gila monster in Angie’s classroom. The poisonous lizard is native to Arizona.