Territorial Women's Memorial Rose Garden
LAURA FRANCES CRAIGHEAD OLMSTED

Laura Frances, daughter of Carrie Swingle and George W. Craighead, was born on January 15, 1891, in Phoenix, Arizona. The family moved from Phoenix to Craig Station near Walnut Grove when Frances (as she was called) was three years old.

The Craigheads ran the way station where freight wagons stopped on their routes to and from Phoenix and Prescott. Frances recalled when she lived at the station that the freighters who stopped there would bring her candy. She also remembered she had a little handmade wagon, a favorite toy that she left in the dry Hassayampa riverbed one day, and a flash flood came up and washed it away.

When Francesís father died from tuberculosis, her mother moved back to Phoenix where she and Frances lived on East Van Buren Street. In 1898, Carrie married George Merwin. Frances accompanied Carrie and George on their honeymoon to San Francisco and Mazatlan, Mexico, after which the new family settled in Walnut Grove on the Merwin Cattle Ranch. The Merwin family grew with the births of David Copperfield and Ruth Louise Merwin.

In 1909, the Merwins moved to Phoenix where Frances attended business college. She went to work for the Arizona Water Users Association (now Arizona Public Service). There she met Harry Francis Olmsted, a civil engineer and writer of western stories. The two were married on February 26, 1919, at the home of her fatherís old business partner, Levi Hewins.

Frances and Harry had two children: Frances Hewins Ackermann, born November 18, 1919; and Carolyn Craighead Decker, born October 23, 1921. The family lived in California until 1950 when Frances and Harry bought the Aztec Ruins Trading Post in Aztec, New Mexico. Frances and Harry became very interested in Navajo crafts, artifacts and culture and were very supportive of their Navajo neighbors.

The couple retired from the trading post business in 1965 and returned to California. Harry died in April 1970 in Riverside, and Frances died on March 7, 1980, in San Bernardino. They were both buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.

Donors: Frances (Fran) Ackermann and Carolyn (Kay) Decker, daughters



Additional documentation and photographs may be available in the Sharlot Hall Museum Archives and Library.