In 1874, when Martha Summerhayes came as a bride to Fort Russell in Wyoming Territory, she "saw not much in those first few days besides bright buttons, blue uniforms, and shining swords," but soon enough the hard facts of army life began to intrude. Remonstrating with her husband, Jack, that she had only three rooms and a kitchen instead of "a whole house," she was informed that "women are not reckoned in at all in the War Department," which also failed to appreciate that "'lieutenants' wives needed quite as much as colonels’ wives." In fact, Martha had only a short time to enjoy her new quarters, for in June her husband’s regiment was ordered to Arizona, "that dreaded and then unknown land."
Although Martha Summerhayes’s recollections span a quarter of a century and life at a dozen army posts, the heart of this book concerns her experiences during the 1870s in Arizona, where (as Dan L. Thrapp observes in his introduction) the harsh climate and "perennial natural inconveniences from rattlesnakes to cactus thorns and white desperadoes, all made [it] a less than desirable posting for the married man and his wife." First privately printed in 1908, Vanished Arizona was so well-received that in 1910 Mrs. Summerhayes prepared a new edition (reprinted here), which was published in 1911, the year of her death. Among "the essential primary records of the frontier-military West," the book "retains its place securely because of the narrative skill of the author, her delight in life—all life, including even, or perhaps principally, army life and people—and because it is such a joy to read.