The Southwestern Legacy of Sara Lemmon

Sara Plummer in 1865, before her marriage to John Lemmon. | Wynne Brown/Original at the University and Jepson Herbaria Archives, University of California, Berkeley

By Wynne Brown

As Sara Allen Plummer waved goodbye to her family from a wooden sidewheel steamer, she wondered what lay ahead for her. It was 1869, she was 33 years old, and she was hoping to save her own life by moving — alone — from New York to California.

She probably never imagined that she would one day be hailed as “one of the most accurate painters of nature in the state.” Or that Mount Lemmon, the highest peak in Southern Arizona’s Santa Catalina Mountains, would be named for her.

How did a young woman born in Maine leave such a long-lasting legacy in the Southwest?

Sara’s early education was as a teacher in Worcester, Massachusetts. She then moved to New York City to become certified in chemistry and physics while supporting herself by teaching calisthenics (gym) and giving art lessons.

In her spare time, she nursed wounded Civil War soldiers. Ironically, her own health was terrible, and after barely surviving pneumonia, she realized her life depended on escaping the bitter Northeastern winters.

After moving across the continent, she settled in Santa Barbara, where she became intrigued by Western plants. It wasn’t uncommon for 19th century women to be knowledgeable botanists, and Sara, a skilled observer and gifted illustrator, soon was among them. She also started Santa Barbara’s first library and established a lecture series, which attracted a certain Civil War veteran in 1876.

John Gill Lemmon, born in Michigan in 1832, was a teacher and school superintendent before he enlisted in 1862. Thirty-six military engagements later, he was captured and sent to Georgia’s infamous Andersonville Prison. After the war, he was released — emaciated and traumatized — and moved to Northern California to recuperate. He had always liked natural history and collected a few odd-looking plants that turned out to be new species.

By the time John met Sara, he was considered an important Western field botanist. They soon became “botanical comrades,” fell in love and married on Thanksgiving Day, 1880.

Where would two frail botanists spend their honeymoon? Sara wrote her family March 20, 1881:

Tomorrow at 4 p.m. Lemmonia and I start for Arizona and New Mexico on a botanic exploring expedition. …  I have long desired to see the far-off land of the Apaches and then to go with Mr. Lemmon exploring, and gathering the rare and perhaps new species of flora will be sufficient delight to more than balance the fatigues consequent upon such a trip.

These two were definitely not armchair botanists:

I wish you could see our rough outfit of two gray/rubber blankets — old flannel vests and drawers, old boots and hats, a big lunch basket — filled with corned beef, crackers, cheese and three or four jars of nice currant jelly, brought in by good, thoughtful friends. We have a little alcohol lamp to make tea and cocoa over a wash dish, soap and towels. An umbrella tent, a lot of botanical books and traps. The whole outfit and occasion brimful of interest and enthusiasm if you will allow the expression.

She also brought her watercolor supplies.

After three attempts to scrabble up the Catalinas’ south-facing side, the Lemmons were introduced to Emerson Oliver Stratton, who owned the Pandora Ranch on the range’s north side. Stratton knew a better route: “We went to the highest peak of the Santa Catalinas,” he wrote later, “and christened it Mount Lemmon in honor of Mrs. Lemmon, who was the first white woman up there.”

From Tucson, the couple took the train to the Chiricahua Mountains, staying at Fort Bowie until the June heat drove them away. Two months later, they returned, and Sara wrote her family from Teviston (now Bowie) on August 24, 1881:

On Sunday at 8:30 a.m. went on to Tucson about 250 miles farther, a tedious trip, hot, dusty in some places the roadbed washed all out. Spent one night there and at noon the next day started for Bowie Station, 100+ more miles out. This place was reached between 9 and 10 p.m. The inhabitants of about a half dozen houses in bed — a saloon was open. Four or five men came to our rescue, as we were landed by the side of the track, all dark except when the lightning flashes revealed the distant mountains across the wide open plains. It was a desolate scene to us tired mortals.

Four days later, she wrote from Fort Bowie:

This morning at 5 o'clock as the first sounds of the horn are heard, we rose and with botanic press started for the ravine and the site of the Indian scouts who were encamped last season at the Fort. … Just beyond this place is the graveyard in which are buried about 60 people, most of them bearing this touching notice on the wooden headboard: “Killed by the Apaches,” “Killed by the Indians” — “Unknown,” or “Supposed to be.”

One of the many plants they collected was a new genus, and Harvard’s Dr. Asa Gray named the plant Plummera floribunda, honoring Sara’s scientific work — and her maiden name.

A week later, still at Fort Bowie, she described the Apaches:

We have been deeply anxious here for the past week owing to the Indian troubles. Of course with you the news from so great a distance sounds like a myth, but with the dwellers in the midst, it is a solemn reality. Nothing that prowls over the earth is probably more to be dreaded than the Apache Indians. They are sly, treacherous, revengeful, cruel and love to shed the blood of the white man as much as we take pleasure in killing rattlesnakes.

On September 19, 1881, the Lemmons were finally allowed to go to Fort Rucker, a closed post 40 miles away. They camped in a primitive cabin belonging to Dr. Robert Monroe, the “Hermit of the Chiricahuas,” who was convivial — at first. He even trusted them to show off the tunnel he’d hand-dug behind his cabin. The passage zigzagged through the ridge for about 125 feet, with a central room, 8 by 6 by 4 feet, especially “for occupation when Apaches were expected.”

The pièce de résistance was a fuse leading to a hidden half-keg of gunpowder. John reported:

The eyes of the inventor gleamed wickedly … as he disclosed this device and declared that by the simple possession of one match he “could blow the whole Apache Nation into shoe-strings and jumbled bones!”

Privately, John and Sara laughed about the “demented” miner and his ridiculous plan. The hermit grew increasingly moody until, one evening, he suddenly threatened the Lemmons with a rifle, accusing them of intending to rob him. John faced him down by pretending he, too, had a gun, and the hermit subsided into his customary good nature.

One day, as Sara was alone in camp, working on plant illustrations, Fort Bowie’s commander sent word that the Apache leader Juh had escaped from the San Carlos reservation — and was headed their way. 

Suddenly, the refuge tunnel no longer seemed ridiculous, and Sara quickly moved all their supplies into its central room. John wrote:

How glad were we now, that we knew of its existence! How ashamed that we had ever spoken of it, slightingly, to each other, or doubted the sanity of the miner who excavated the long channel.

Their enthusiasm for the cramped, dank refuge wore off until, 11 days later, the cavalry rode to their rescue.

Yet, even with all the excitement, the couple discovered dozens of new species, including a fern named Woodsia plummerae, again in Sara’s honor.

Despite the scares they’d experienced, the Lemmons returned to Southern Arizona the following year. This time, they camped at Fort Huachuca, because Apaches were still a worry. The Huachucas turned out to be a botanical heaven, with 40 species new to science. At least a dozen of Sara’s exquisite paintings from that 1882 trip have survived.

In 1884, they traveled to Northern Arizona, and in 1892, they returned to the Chiricahuas. When revisiting the Rucker Canyon tunnel, Sara commented, “How did we live in here so long — 11 days! I couldn’t stay an hour now!”

In June 1905, they returned to Tucson, and, reunited with Stratton, they retraced their route up Mount Lemmon to mark their 25th anniversary. Sara was 70, John 74.

When not collecting plants from Alaska to Mexico, the Lemmons lived in their Berkeley-based herbarium, eking out a living by selling specimens to collectors and producing several books, all illustrated by Sara.

From 1888 to 1892, John was the state botanist for the California Board of Forestry, and Sara shared his salary as official artist. She also held positions in the Women’s Federated Clubs, the California Press Women and the local Red Cross chapters. As an early activist, she gave talks around the West on the importance of forest conservation.

Californians might claim Sara’s most lasting legacy was her successful effort to make the California poppy the state flower in 1903. However, Arizonans could contest that claim: The Lemmons discovered, described and named 110 species, or 3 percent of the state’s vascular plants.

John died of pneumonia in 1908, and Sara had a nervous breakdown in 1913. She moved into the Stockton State Hospital, dying in 1923.

How fitting that the two of them are buried together. Their gravestone reads: “Partners in Botany.”

EDITOR'S NOTE: Wynne Brown traveled three times to the University and Jepson Herbaria Archives at the University of California, Berkeley, to photograph all 1,200 pages of Sara Lemmon's letters with her iPhone. She’s now in the process of transcribing Lemmon’s letters from 1856 to 1908, and she’s done enough of them, she says, “that I walk around contemporary Tucson with her voice in my ear.” She hopes to turn Lemmon’s story into a book, and her proposal is making the rounds with publishers and agents. To learn more, visit

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On the Market: Once a Train Depot, Now a Hilltop Home

This house on a Phoenix hilltop has a colorful history that includes Arizona Highways. | Courtesy of HomeSmart

A Phoenix home that used to be a railroad depot — and was repurposed by a former Arizona Highways editor — is now on the market for just north of $1 million.

In 1962, as The Arizona Republic reported recently, author and editor Don Dedera purchased a shuttered train depot, built in 1898, in Mayer, located north of Phoenix and just southeast of Prescott. He then had the 750-square-foot depot trucked down the freeway — a trip that included getting permission to haul it across a Deer Valley Airport runway to avoid telephone lines.

Two huge cranes then hauled the depot up a mountain near State Route 51 and Northern Avenue, near what today is the Phoenix Mountains Preserve. It became the centerpiece of a nearly 2,700-square-foot house, designed by architect Fred Guirey in 1963, that has three bedrooms, three bathrooms, a rock-wall fireplace and other amenities.

The home was renovated in 2010 and 2011 but still includes fir hardwood and other materials from the depot, The Republic reported. It's been put on the market for $1.05 million. To see the listing and more photos, visit this link.

Dedera was Arizona Highways' editor from 1983 to 1985. He's written more than 20 books on a variety of topics, plus thousands of journal and newspaper articles. To learn more about Dedera, click here.

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2018 Documentary Will Examine the Lost Dutchman Myth

The Superstition Mountains have yet to reveal their biggest mystery: the location of the Lost Dutchman gold mine — if it exists. | Gerry Groeber

Treacherous, rugged trails have long been a thorn to countless souls who have passed through the Superstition Mountains east of Phoenix. The mountains are home to many tales of gold and treasure in which men have lost their lives looking for the hidden gem of the area — the Lost Dutchman gold mine.

Now, a new documentary looks to revisit the Lost Dutchman’s purported $200 million treasure — and the myths and tales of the Superstitions. 

A portion of the documentary, by New York City-based SenArt Films, will be similar to the History Channel show Legend of the Superstition Mountains and will explore the story of the lost treasure. The film, which has the working title of The Last Expedition, will be written and directed by Robert May; it's expected to be released in 2018. The film will focus on treasure hunters and include cast members of the History Channel show. 

May was executive producer for the 2003 Oscar-winning documentary The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara. He was also the writer and director of Kids for Cash, a film that covered a Pennsylvania judicial scandal. “We are a character-driven production company,” May said. “We look for character-driven stories that place regular people in extraordinary circumstances. They can be funny, they can be sad. If it’s a documentary, then they are real-life situations, and basically, we journal what happens in people’s lives — just like a journalist would. It’s not reality television.”

May said he found out about the Lost Dutchman story through a collegue and that he's “fascinated” by treasure hunters. As of mid-2017, he and his crew had spent about 30 production days in and around Apache Junction. So far, they've filmed at locations that include the Treasure Hunter of the Year Awards, held at Apache Junction’s Mammoth Saloon in March, and at Goldfield Ghost Town, an attraction that features a zip line and live staged gunfights.

“I think we really wanted to find the real people and the journey they have in finding this treasure and how it gets into their blood,” May said. “They go through an evolution of excitement and euphoria.”

He said the subjects — who include Wayne Tuttle, a cast member on the History Channel show — are hardworking people who know a lot about the subject matter. And he called the documentary “a journey of people” — some of whom, especially in the Lost Dutchman case, have spent upwards of 40 to 50 years of their lives seeking treasure. 

“They happen to be treasure hunters, for the most part,” May said. “But you could debate whether this is really about treasure hunting or this is really about reconnection of people who connected once before. Or a camaraderie or a community of people who admire each other and some who have had a difficult life. I think it’s much more about an Americana that we rarely see.” 

Jacob Waltz personifies the danger of the mountains as much as his likeness gives treasure hunters promise and hope of finding his desert jewel. Legend says he left a $200 million gold mine in the Superstition Mountains before his death in October 1891.

Waltz, a German-born prospector, arrived in La Paz in Arizona Territory in the early 1860s, according to James Swanson's book Superstition Mountain: A Ride Through Time. According to the book, Waltz filed a mining claim in the Walnut Grove District south of Prescott. 

Waltz also worked digging irrigation ditches on the north bank of the Salt River near Phoenix for a company operated by Jack Swilling, a key figure in Arizona’s history. The Waltz homestead was near Buckeye Road and 16th Street in Phoenix.

The prospector became a well-known miner who supposedly became rich off of gold he carried out of the Superstitions. There are stories of him selling small quantities of gold in the 1870s in the Florence area, and he's said to have given out mysterious clues as to the location of the mine.     

There are rumors that Waltz prospected gold from mining claims owned by the famed Peralta and Gonzales families. Or that the Lost Dutchman mine is really an existing mine with a different name. Still another story claims the buried treasure was from ancient Jesuits, who are said to once have occupied the mountains.    

The German, according to legend, prospected every winter from 1868 to 1886. He died in 1891, and if he left a treasure in the Superstitions, his friends and acquaintances were unable to pinpoint it.

No one has ever come up with ore that matches that of the Dutchman, Tuttle said. He and a team of “Dutch hunters” searched for the treasure for about six consecutive weeks on the show, which ran for six episodes in 2015. He's spent 40 years looking for the gold mine, which he believes exists in the western half of the Superstitions.

But Ron Feldman, a local historian, said the mine is on the opposite end of the mountains, to the east, and is an existing mine called the Silver Chief. 

Feldman owns Mammoth Mine Gift and Rock Shop, and his sons operate O.K. Corral Inc., a horse rental business on the same property. He's written two books about the legend and owns several mines in the area — including the Black Queen, which his family still operates. 

“I followed everybody’s footsteps that led you nowhere,” Feldman said. “The first 25 years, I became an expert on where the Lost Dutchman was not. It was the next 25 years of my life that I got into information that took me to the east side, and I explored the east side.”

Feldman moved to the area in 1968 and said there was a time when he took “a steady stream” of people into the mountains to search for the gold. But those numbers have dwindled since a 1984 moratorium that prohibited mining in the Superstitions. 

 He said that unlike the west side of the range, the east side has “perfect geology” for gold.

“Most of the information on the Lost Dutchman mine is bogus — except for what I have written,” Feldman joked. 

Over the years, the folklore of the mine has grown via events such as Lost Dutchman Days and the construction of Goldfield Ghost Town.

Tuttle said he and the “close-knit” group help host the Treasure Hunter of the Year Awards and the Dutch Hunter Rendezvous, an annual camping event held to pay homage to Waltz. He said the group does its best to protect the legacy of the mountains.  

“We value what’s in the mountains,” Tuttle said. “We don’t always want to just share everything, because we worry there are people out there that are just going to go out and ruin it.” He said there are artifacts in undisclosed locations, such as a copper cross wedged in rock in a cave. 

Tuttle said there isn’t yet a way to protect similar items left in the mountains, other than mines that have been intentionally dynamited shut. “There’s nothing we can do, and the biggest shame in the world is to go up there and find it’s gone,” he said. “Because that’s what’s going to happen. There’s no way to protect it.”

Feldman said area historians and Dutch hunters alike have done their best to not reveal every tidbit they know — such as the whereabouts of a famed matchbox said to contain a small portion of gold ore from the Dutchman’s treasure.

About 48 pounds of gold ore was found underneath the Dutchman’s deathbed, according to legend. After Waltz’s death, the legend goes, gold ore from that location was sent to an out-of state jeweler who made items such as cuff links, earrings, the matchbox and other jewelry out of the treasure. Those items were given to different individuals as gifts; the matchbox is now owned by a local historian and is one of the last surviving objects said to contain Dutchman gold.  

“(Not everything is revealed because of) the history behind it,” Feldman said. “It’s because it’s the most publicized, famous mine in the world. ... I can probably dig more gold out of the Black Queen than I could’ve today out of the Dutchman. Why is [the Dutchman] more important? It’s more story. The Black Queen has a story. But it’s not as famous. It’s not as well-known.”

— Brent Ruffner

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50 Years Ago, Two Iconic Films Featured Monument Valley

Monument Valley has graced movie screens many times over the past century. | Coral C Coolahan

Half a century ago, and just months apart, two celebrated movies were shot in Monument Valley, and they couldn't be more different.

Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West and Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, both released in 1968, used the Navajo Nation landmark as a backdrop for filming in 1967 and 1968.

For Leone, the landscape gave him an opportunity to pay homage to a legendary director. John Ford, best known for his collaborations with John Wayne, put Monument Valley on the national map with his 1939 film Stagecoach. Other directors and film stars had taken notice of the formations over the decades as they drove past to work in the region, but none put their lens on Monument Valley. Ford changed that as he returned to the area with nine other films, including one of the finest Westerns ever made, The Searchers.

In Ford's wake, scores of films have featured Monument Valley, which straddles the border between Arizona and Utah. They include Forrest Gump, Mission: Impossible 2, Easy Rider, Back to the Future Part III, National Lampoon's Vacation and the 2013 version of The Lone Ranger. But perhaps none of the directors involved in these projects were as dedicated to the Ford tradition as Leone.

Leone was so keen to shoot in the area that he changed his standard set of practices. Once Upon a Time in the West was actually the first of the "spaghetti Westerns" to be filmed outside Europe. Typically, these projects were shot in Spain or Italy.  But Leone was set on honoring Ford. In fact, on the initial scout of Monument Valley, Leone is said to have memorized all the spots used in Ford films and pointed them out to his crew.

Matching Monument Valley to Italy proved to be something of a challenge. The red dirt in Italy looked darker on camera than the light brown soil of Monument Valley. The crew brought in bags of red dust to fake it. In one scene, they used fans to blow this false dirt into a saloon, at the eye level of the cast.

Turning Monument Valley into an alien landscape was easier. The valley is briefly visible in 2001, during a surreal exploration sequence toward the end of the film. The telltale features of the Valley are discernible but faint, with a bluish tint.

The location work at Monument Valley harked back to an older tradition of filmmaking, but much of 2001 was experimental and groundbreaking. Widely regarded now as a classic, 2001 is also a bleak warning about the future and the perils of artificial intelligence. The film grew out of The Sentinel, a short story written by Arthur C. Clarke, and was shot mostly on a soundstage in London. Filmmakers needed a massive stage space to experiment with new technologies, including an oversized "centrifuge" used to replicate the effects of gravity during spaceflight.

Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park is open to visitors and managed by the Navajo Nation. Many visitors see it on a scenic drive through the park. Fittingly, one of the stops along the way is John Ford's Point.

— Jason Strykowski

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Find an Old Arizona Highways Issue at the Arizona Memory Project

Arizona Highways World Headquarters in Phoenix. | Noah Austin

One of the most common reasons our readers email us is to ask for help finding a story in an old issue of Arizona Highways. We're happy to help, of course, but you might not know that most of our previous issues are now available online — free.

A few years back, we partnered with the Arizona Memory Project, a division of the Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records. The reason? As you may have noticed, paper magazines don't last forever, and the issues of Arizona Highways printed several decades ago are starting to show their age. We wanted a way to make sure our 90-plus years of history were preserved digitally — hence the Memory Project partnership.

The added benefit to this partnership is that the old issues are available to the public, at no charge, via a searchable archive. With a few clicks, you can download a complete PDF of each issue.

We're still in the process of adding all our old issues to the database, but as of this writing, everything from the mid-1950s to 2013 is available online. We anticipate scanning and uploading all the back issues — all the way back to 1925 — by the end of 2018 or so.

Of course, if you use the archive and still can't find what you're looking for, feel free to get in touch with us.

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The Time Arizona Lost a National Monument

Yasmina Parker | Papago Park

America's national monuments are in the news quite a bit lately. Arizona, for its part, is home to numerous national monuments, along with national parks, historic sites, memorials and recreation areas. But in the 1910s and '20s, there was one more — right in the middle of the Phoenix area.

In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson, under the Antiquities Act of 1906, designated Papago Saguaro National Monument, a 1,200-acre site in Phoenix known for its red sandstone buttes and Sonoran Desert vegetation. In his decree, Wilson cited the monument's "splendid examples of the giant [saguaro] and many other species of cacti and the yucca palm, with many additional forms characteristic of desert flora, [that] grow to great size and perfection and are of great scientific interest." He also noted the archaeological value of the area's pictographs, drawn by early Native Americans.

According to the National Park Service, the monument became a popular tourist destination and camping spot, but there was little funding for preservation or management. Graffiti and advertisements were painted on the iconic red rocks, and many of the monument's saguaros were stolen for landscaping or sale.

That deterioration, plus a push to install a canal and power lines in the area, spurred calls to revoke Papago Saguaro's monument status — something that could only be done via an act of Congress. On April 7, 1930, Congress did just that, making Papago Saguaro the first national monument in the U.S. to be "abolished." (Since then, 10 others, all in other states, have seen the same fate, for a variety of reasons.)

The congressional act transferred ownership of the land to the state of Arizona, which gave part of it to the city of Tempe to use as a National Guard rifle range. The city of Phoenix then purchased it in 1959, and it became Papago Park, which today features hiking trails, the Phoenix Zoo, the Desert Botanical Garden, the Hall of Flame Museum and Papago Golf Course, along with the tomb of the state's first governor, George W.P. Hunt.

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From a Reader: A Special Copy of an Old Book

Courtesy of Bill Wheeler

Our April issue, on Sonoita-Patagonia, featured a reprint of a story originally published in the September 1966 issue of Arizona Highways. The story, San Ignacio del Babacomari, was written by Frank Cullen Brophy and recounted the history of the Babacomari Ranch, which the Brophys still own today. And it spurred Bill Wheeler of Upland, California, to send us an email.

"In the second paragraph on page 39, Brophy includes a brief quote from the book by Arizona pioneer Captain James H. Tevis, Arizona in the Fifties (meaning the 1850s, of course)," Wheeler writes. "I found this interesting because I have a copy of Tevis' book in my personal library. It's a very engrossing and enlightening book, and it really gives the reader an idea of just how challenging — and dangerous — it was to live in Arizona during its earlier years."

Wheeler says he bought his copy of the book many years ago in a used-book store. Inside it, he found a name label for a Mrs. A.S. Baillie in Paris, Missouri, who he assumes is the person who owned the book. But there's also a handwritten inscription that appears to have been written by the author's daughter, Minnie Tevis Davenport.

"It makes me wonder if Mrs. Davenport sent this copy of the book to Mrs. Baillie as a gift and decided to add the brief inscription about her father and a few details about his years in Arizona," Wheeler says. "Additionally, on the dedication page in the book, it appears that Minnie Davenport also added some notations, additions and one correction to the names on the page (which I believe were probably all relatives of Captain Tevis."

Wheeler scanned the book's dust jacket and the pages he mentioned, and sent the photos our way. We sure appreciate that and thought we'd share them with all of you. It does look like he's got a very special copy of a very old book on his hands.

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From Our Archives: "Oklahoma!" in Arizona

A spread from the April 1955 issue of Arizona Highways shows photos from the set of "Oklahoma!" in the San Rafael Valley.

EDITOR'S NOTE: As Editor Robert Stieve noted in our April issue on Sonoita-Patagonia, that region of Arizona was the filming location for the musical Oklahoma!, released in 1955. The April 1955 issue of Arizona Highways included a look at the production, along with photos from the set and an account of how Oklahoma! ended up in Arizona. Here's Allen C. Reed's story from that issue.

Just twelve years ago this month, the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, "Oklahoma!", destined to be a fabulously successful hit, opened on Broadway. In the dozen ensuing years, "Oklahoma!" has played more than 8,000 performances to a delighted world-wide audience well over 12,000,000, with a gross of over $30,000,000. Such a record causes little wonder when taking into consideration the loved musical score that seems to have the immortal quality of never growing old: numbers like "The Surrey With the Fringe on Top," "Oh What a Beautiful Morning," "People Will Say We're in Love," and the title number.

Now the great musical "Oklahoma!" can reach a still wider audience, for the long-awaited screen version about to be released in full color is expected to smash this twelve-year record in a fraction of the time.

"Oklahoma!" is not only being filmed in CinemaScope but this production marks the introduction of a new camera, the Todd-American Optical big screen process, which uses a single strip of 65mm film and is designed to give audiences a sense of participation on the order of Cinerama.

After turning down a host of offers to film "Oklahoma!", partly to avoid outside tampering with their creation, Rodgers and Hammerstein formed their own company, leased facilities and equipment from M.G.M. and hired Arthur Hornblow as the producer. The director is Academy Award winner Fred Zinnemann, who has such top-flight pictures to his credit as "Seventh Cross," "High Noon," "From Here to Eternity," and many others.

The cast of "Oklahoma!" includes Gordon McRae as "Curley," a sparkling and capable newcomer making her film debut. Shirley Jones, as "Laurey," Charlotte Green as "Aunt Eller," Barbara Lawrence as "Gertie," Eddie Albert as "Ali Hakim," Gene Nelson as "Will Parker," Gloria Grahame as "Ado Annie," Rod Steiger as "Jud," James Whitmore as "Andy Carnes," Jay C. Flippen as "Skidmore" and Roy Barcroft as "Cord Elam."

Before the film got under way, more than 250,000 miles were logged by R.&H. officials in search of the ideal location site. An extensive survey crisscrossing the state of Oklahoma revealed that it would be rather difficult to capture the feeling of wide open spaces, that the territory was noted for 50 years ago, with an oil well or some such modern structure showing up in the background. Other drawbacks of the Sooner state were too many airplanes that would disturb the sound system and force costly delays, to say nothing of the great distance to transport tons of equipment and the 325 member cast and crew back and forth from the home studio in Culver City, California.

One day Arthur Hornblow, leafing through the pages of Arizona Highways, saw a color photograph of the spacious San Rafael Valley of Southern Arizona. When research revealed this area was noted, during the summer, for its green grass and picturesque clouds, arrangements were made to film the exterior sequences in this ideal setting 36 miles northeast of Nogales. There, in the shade of stately cottonwoods by a quiet country stream, "Aunt Eller's" farm of 1900 vintage took form, complete with two-story house, barn, silo, windmill and smoke house.

Shooting schedule called for a bearing peach orchard, a field of ripe wheat and a field of corn "as high as an elephant's eye," in July at an altitude of 5,000 feet where harvest time is normally in October. The peach orchard was purchased and transplanted. From the studio prop department came some 2,000 lush looking wax peaches, complete with fuzz, to be hung out each morning and taken in at night. The corn field, running up and down hill, presented an especially tough problem. Each stalk had to be coddled and nurtured with chemicals and a constant supply of water to yield what was doubtlessly the world's most costly corn crop: ten acres at something like $8.95 per ear. Of more than 6,000 props bought, borrowed or built, for this picture, by Irving Sindler and his prop department, the Arizona sky proved to be the most magnificent, with white thunderheads boiling up into the afternoon blue a daily occurrence.

There is nothing small time about the production of "Oklahoma!", with filming cost reported upwards from five to eight million dollars. The fine cast, the excelling abilities of director Fred Zinnemann, the outstanding capabilities of producer Arthur Hornblow, camerman Robert Surtees and of the entire hand-picked crew, along with the musical and story genius of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, are combined to give the world an entertainment experience surely worthy of all the awards and "splendiferous" adjectives that Hollywood can come up with, one in which Arizona can surely be honored and proud to have played such an important role.

To learn more about Sonoita and Patagonia, pick up a copy of our April issue, on newsstands now.

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From a Reader: Arizona's Other State Song

Jim Greer | Phoenix

Mike Harris of Poneto, Indiana, has spent several summers in Arizona. He recently wrote to us to ask about a piece of the state's past.

"I was just made aware of the state song (I Love You Arizona by Rex Allen Jr.)," he wrote. "If I can make it out, the third line is "A raise of Dos Cabezas." I know Rex Allen was raised at Willcox, and just southeast of Willcox is Dos Cabezas. Is he hoping for a rebuild of Dos Cabezas?"

As it turns out, the song is simply called Arizona, and according to the Arizona State Library, it was named Arizona's alternate state anthem in 1982 (the primary anthem, Margaret Rowe Clifford's The Arizona March Song, was adopted in 1919).

The line Mike asked about is actually "The rise of Dos Cabezas," and it refers to the Dos Cabezas Mountains, which are near the old mining town of Dos Cabezas. So Allen was referring to the mountains' iconic profile, rather than to a rebirth of the town named for the mountains.

We did some Googling and found what appears to be Allen's version of the song on YouTube. Check it out below. Several cover versions are out there as well.

Thanks for writing, Mike! And if you have other questions about Arizona that you'd like answered, feel free to get in touch with us.

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How Did Those Petrified Logs Get 'Cut'?

Patrick Fuchs | Petrified Forest National Park

Our February issue, which focused on Petrified Forest National Park, generated a lot of reader interest in this Northern Arizona gem. And a few readers wrote to ask about something we didn't mention in the magazine.

"If the age of the trees and, I assume, tree pieces are more than 200 million years old, why is it that many of the petrified tree sections appear to have been sawed cleanly apart?" asked Bob Klages of Oxford, Michigan. "A bit more of the scientific explanation of the actual process of petrification would also have been fascinating to read about."

To answer Mr. Klages' question, we turned to Bill Parker, the park paleontologist we featured in the issue. "The fossilization process itself is fairly complex," he says, but it goes something like this:

A tree dies, falls over and is buried in a river channel or floodplain, under layers of mud, sand and gravel. In the groundwater table, the tree becomes saturated like a sponge and expands. The water, sand and gravel cut off exposure to oxygen, so the tree doesn't rot. Volcanic ash in the water breaks down, and the silica that was in the ash goes into solution — forming silicic acid, which enters the waterlogged tree and interacts chemically with the wood, altering it to silica and replicating the features of the wood. Over time, you end up with a silica replica of the tree.

The process actually happens fairly quickly, geologically speaking — within "a few 10,000s of years," Parker says.

Eventually, the log leaves the groundwater table and goes through a process of "dewatering" and recrystallizing, this time as solid quartz. "Thus, all of the Triassic logs at Petrified Forest now consist almost entirely of quartz," Parker says. This process takes much longer — tens of millions of years, according to the fossil record.

But why do so many of the logs appear "cut"? It has to do with how they got to their present location, Parker says: "About 60 million years ago, forces of geology started the uplift of the Colorado Plateau. This area went from deeply buried to being uncovered and raised more than 1 mile above sea level. As a high point, it is continuously eroding away, exposing old rocks and their fossils, such as the petrified logs from the Triassic."

So the movement and erosion of the land is what caused the logs to break. And the inner surfaces where they've broken are flat because quartz doesn't break neatly across its crystal faces, so instead it snaps across the log's shortest area across — sort of like when you snap a piece of chalk, Parker says.

"These logs are pure quartz, and to cut them would require a diamond saw," he adds. "Rock shops use these saws to cut log portions and polish them for sale," but here at Petrified Forest, this has happened naturally over very long periods of time."

We hope you found this explanation as informative as we did. To learn more about Petrified Forest National Park, visit the park's website or sign up for a class through the park's field institute.

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