My Dad, Parley Taylor McRae, was born 19 January 1882 at St. David, Cochise County, Arizona, on a small homestead northeast of the San Pedro River and about one-half mile south and west of the St. David Church and schoolhouse. He was the son of Joseph and Maria Taylor McRae, very early pioneers of the San Pedro Valley. The year Dad was born was one of turbulence and violence and progress in Cochise County. Tombstone and Bisbee were the scenes of great ore strikes, and a continuous stream of people were settling the entire Southwest, many of whom were undesirable in former communities of residence.
Now and then hostile Apaches under the leadership of Geronimo raided the many settlements in the Southwest, pushing these people into the safety of the old Fort.
We mention these things because they have considerable bearing on the life and work of Dad.
The mining communities and the ravenous appetites of its hard-working and hard-living people, demanded food in great abundance for its sustenance. Moreover, the needs of the Army, stationed at Fort Huachuca, for food and fodder, placed upon a small farming community considerable responsibility, as well as assured prosperity. St. David being a religious community of hard-working, sober citizens, was more or less immune to the invasions of serious depredations and immoral people, and took advantage of the prosperous era offered them.
Grandfather McRae was busily engaged in growing hay and produce in the summer months and blacksmithing during the winter months. He martialed his entire family into the industry of his projects. So it was in his very early childhood that Dad learned the important lessons of life of courage, ambition, and humility, and of all of the men I have ever known, none had more of these virtues than he.
Little can be found of his early childhood, except for the fine care and earnest teachings of his mother. At the age of seven, he began to contribute to the effort of the family farm. His schooling was slight, confined to about four years at the rule of his elder brother, Joseph Alexander McRae.
Far away in New York City in the year 1892, great financial wizards began a struggle for the control of the nation's gold. The industrial empires began to topple in the ruin of banks, railroads and mines. The price of silver skidded to a historic low, and Tombstone closed down. The militia recalled troops from Fort Huachuca, and Southwestern markets evaporated, farms were depressed and abandoned, and to a ten-year old lad in a large family on the banks of the San Pedro, came years of severe poverty and privation. Food and the necessities of life became scarce or nonexistent. The family moved to the Gila Valley for relief, but found poverty everywhere. It was while there that Grandma became ill from overwork and emotional distress. In 1897, Dad went to work for Uncle Abe Busby, cutting timber in the Huachuca Moutains to supply the mining industry which was beginning to stir with new life. He was saving his money to buy his mother a house. When at last he had enough, he sent it to her but fate had other ideas. One night he was very restless and finally dropped off to sleep; he dreamed his mother had died. When a man brought the message of her death, he was not surprised, but was broken-hearted as his mother was very dear to his heart and it was very hard for him to accept the fact that she had been taken from him. He never heard from her, as she died before she could write to him.
Dad, at the age of 14, set out to find work in the sawmills in Northern Arizona. When winter came, he migrated to Globe and secured employment with the old Dominion mine, but was dismissed when the foreman discovered his true age. He bought a bicycle and rode it through the Indian reservation into Thatcher where he spent a few weeks with his wheel and pedaled to St. David. It was while on this trip he rode into a severe storm and a bolt of lightning struck so close to him that it broke up his bicycle and left him unconscious. Reviving, he walked the few remaining miles to Aunt Pearl and Uncle John McRae's home. While he was there, another storm came up and he and Aunt Pearl were alone. Uncle John was in Bisbee at the time. Dad was frightened for them and begged Aunt Pearl to go to Aunt Annie's. They had no sooner arrived than a terrible hail fell and destroyed many roofs, and trees fell.
For some time he lived with Aunt Annie and Uncle Joe Goodman on their farm at St. David, helping with the farm work. Aunt Annie was second mother to him, counseling him wisely and caring for him.
In 1898, when Col Roosevelt was organizing the rough-riders for the war with Spain, Dad wanted to join, but Aunt Annie stopped him because of his age. The war didn't last long enough for him to get in, so he went to Bisbee and worked in the spray shaft as top car man.
At the turn of the century the spark that Edison made light began a new and powerful electrical empire and copper became King of the Metals. Bisbee hills were full of it. People began combining their money and strength to mine and smelt it into a usable material.
Into the canyon drifted people from almost every corner of the world except the Orient, who were forbidden. There were dozens of new mining companies sinking new shafts. Houses were built over hills; hospitals, stores, libraries, schools, railroads and streetcar beds were built all over the entire district. Huge construction gangs of Mexican laborers, Finns, Greeks, Italians, English, Irish and Bohunks from central Europe; gamblers, desperados, dance-hall girls, and thieves were milling with miners, business men, and mining executives, ministers and teachers and plain good people in this cauldron of bubbling activity. Dad had risen to the Head Shaft Man at the Spray when in the midst of confused labor problems, where there were some extreme cases of exploitation and other cases of kindness, there arose a labor organization. The Western Federation of Miners, composed partly of earnest working people and anarchists, set off a strike. Dad, in all fairness, could not concur (with) the exploitation of the corporation, nor would he associate with any kind of anarchy, so he resigned and went to Ray, Arizona to work - an act that was never forgiven by the corporation.
Before the strike, however, an incident happened which was an important event in the lives of his children. While working at the Spray, Dad was living at the Smith Boarding House. He was considered by his friends to be a very bashful fellow. There was a comely and very nice girl working in the boarding-house close by, called "Mrs. Haskell's." The fellows were teasing her to flirt with Dad. They told her she would never be able to get a second look from him. She took them up on the dare and started to flirt He invited her to church with him, which was held at the J.S. Warren home, so she accepted. A few days later she was invited to go horseback riding on New Year's Day, their second date. So Dad became the fastest-working bashful boy in the acquaintance of Miss Nellie Jane Sevey of Colonia Juarez, Mexico.
While the strike was in progress and Dad was in Ray, Nellie went to Mesa with Estella Mae Spillsbury to work at the Alhambra Hotel. Dad had been writing to her and decided to quit his job and drift to Mesa and visit. He was with his brother Orson who was having a serious courtship with Estella Mae. Arriving in full bloom of a glorious May, brother Orson's romance met with little resistance, and May 15 was designated as the time of Orange Blossoms and Silver Bells at the home of Isaac Dana. Dad immediately began to plead his troth with Nellie Jane, but was meeting more resistance, so he summoned the aid of his brother and his bride-to-be and all of the relatives to have a double wedding. Due to Nellie's financial problems, resistance melted and they became man and wife in a double ceremony and she will henceforth be known as "Mother." Dad had just enough money to buy a ring, so he had to leave mother in Mesa, and thumb his way to Bisbee where he borrowed enough money to send for her. They set up housekeeping in South Bisbee while he went to work as cager at the Irish May shaft for the Calumet and Arizona Mining Co. During the year 1908, Dad's friends prevailed upon him to seek the Constabulary of Bisbee Police in the fall elections; his bid being successful, he was sworn into office on 1 January 1909.
While serving the people as Constable, varied were his experiences and I would like to mention a few stories that will exemplify Dad's personality and character.
These were harsh, booming times as I have already related. Many gangs of foreign-born people were employed at the various activities. Most of these peopoe cliqued together under a bond of their nationality; therefore, when one got into difficultity, it was the business of his own community to protect him. One day at the apex of the subway and Brewery Gulch, Danny Torney, City Marshall, had arrested a fellow for the killing of another of a different race. A mob of the dead man's people were gathering at the Gulch to take the prisoner from him. Dad was down Main Street by the old Central Pharmacy when he heard the shouting and commotion, so he went up the Gulch where the crowd had gathered. Sizing up the situation as an angry, dangerous mob, he ran over to a horse-trough in front of the French Kitchen where he stood before the crowd. Drawing his gun, he shouted, "Hold up boys, we'll take the prisoner." One of the mob said: "Knock him off there." Whereupon Dad said, "You get the first bite." The leaders milled around a bit, then slunk away, leaving the fellow and the officer at peace. One witness told me that he would not have stood before that crowd for $16,000.
Two days after Lincoln's birthday, Arizona became a State. With the entrance of the State into the Union, came some new laws - most of them good. The State forbade gambling, red light, and began to govern the activities of the saloons - there were 52 on the Gulch alone.
It became Dad's duty to enforce the administration of these laws. He posted all gambling closed 1 January 1913. The owner of one of the very large and prosperous establishments called Dad over and told him they had no intentions of closing, and would fatten his pay by a hundred a week just to stay out of his place. Dad said to him, "Jim, we've been friends a long time, but if your place is open 24 hours from now, you'll be in jail." He was!
Dad had taken night duty and was asleep one morning when the phone rang calling him to duty immediately. Strapping on his gun he was told to go to the Detloff Boarding House as there was a mad man loose, killing people. When he arrived, he learned that a dangerous killer from Colorado, a man by the name of McCowel, had killed a fellow boarder, wounded another, and had beaten Mrs. Detloff unconsious and was threatening the whole neighborhood. The house was surrounded by officers who held a consultation to decide what to do. Dad said that there was only one thing to do, to go up and get him. Up to the porch he went, out of line of the door. When McCowel heard him, he called out and said, "Mac, if you come to this door, I'll kill you." Dad said, "Hold your fire, I'm coming up to talk." When he reached the door, Dad drew his gun, but McCowel was behind the door and stepped in front of him with his gun in Dad's middle. With both guns cocked on nervous fingers, they stood thus for an instant, eves unwavering. Dad said, "If you quit, you have a chance; if you fire, you're dead either way." McCowel said, "You're dead, too." Dad replied, "It's my job, so I'm O.K. I'd drop if I were you." McCowel dropped his gun and surrendered, and the tense moment was gone.
These are some of the tense and dangerous experiences Dad had as an Enforcement Officer. His courage carried him through without having fired on a man. For this, he was grateful.
In the election year of 1912, Dad received 10% of the popular votes cast even though he ran on the minority party. But this great popularity, and nerve-tingling experience together, brought Dad a fearful experience. He had an appetite for alcohol that was beginning to creep upon him. His friends and loved ones combined their efforts to remove the cause, so he went out of the "Law and Order Business" 1 January 1915, and thus defeated the brief encroachment of "John Barleycorn" upon his life.
Dad went to work as a cager for the C&A at the Cole shaft in 1915, and set up records of work that have never been duplicated to this day. He associated in the unfortunate deportation of the famous "July 17, 1917" for which the escutcheon of Bisbee was forever blacklisted, and so the hope of a wonderful public service career with Dad was dashed. It was upon this occasion that Uncle Orson was killed and I shall never forget the tears of anguish he suffered on that occasion.
Later, he accepted a job on the Supervisory Staff of the Green Cananea Copper Co., in Cananea, Mexico. He was Shift Boss and later Swing Foreman of the Kirk Dulith Mines. He broke with the Superintendent over the willful exploitation of his men and left in a cloud of black fury in November, 1920, returning to his "first love", St. David, to try his luck at farming. There were some good and bad years, but destiny landed him back in the Junction Shaft in Bisbee, gradually losing ground physically and financially. In desperation, he bought into a small grocery store at Bowie which failed also in a short while.
Returning to Bisbee, he suffered a severe brush with pneumonia and was left exposed by the many seasons of grinding silicon dust he had acquired in his mining experience. In 1931, with the merger of the C&A and P.D., the Phelps Dodge officials suddenly remembered he had been blacklisted in 1907 and let him go in stunning brutality and hard poverty. Dad had too much kindness in his soul to have been a Supervisor for the Bisbee companies. One must read the history of Bisbee to understand what we mean here. Dad went into "enforced" retirement without complaint with the silicon in his lungs, grinding away his life for seven more years. He staggered and fainted many times trying to do something to sustain life, with hardly anyone knowing how sick he was until the last several months of his life.
When the Angel of Death stood over him on 15 August 1938, he went down with an apology that he wished he had served man better. He blessed his family and thanked them for just being his.
Now I, the eldest son, bear witness to the angels and to all men that Dad was the most humble, most courageous and sincere man I have ever known. He was a great man because he knew no guile. This has been said of him by most of those who knew him. God rest his soul with peace which he never knew while he lived.
Parley T. McRae and Nellie Jane had four children: Naoma, Jack, Nora and Lindell.