A SPECIAL WOMEN IN BUSINESS HISTORICAL FEATURE
by Drew Desmond, writing for Prescott Western Heritage Foundation
Photo Courtesy Of Sharlot Hall Museum
- Grace Sparkes was born Jan. 21, 1893 in in Lead, South Dakota. She came with her family to Prescott in 1907.
- Sparkes graduated from St. Joseph’s Academy in 1910 and later from Lamson Business College in Phoenix.
- Sparkes served as secretary of the Prescott, (later renamed the Yavapai) Chamber of Commerce, from 1911 until 1945.
- She helped organize and was secretary and arena director of Prescott Frontier Days for 30 years. She was known throughout the West as “the girl who bosses 200 bronco busters,” and she helped establish the “Prescott Rules” of rodeo, many of which are still used by professional rodeos today.
- Sparkes is also credited with coining Prescott’s slogan, “Cowboy Capital of the World.”
- Seeing the need for a first-class hotel downtown, she spearheaded funding and construction of the Hassayampa Hotel. It opened in November 1927, and is on the National Register of Historic Sites today.
- In 1921, Sparkes helped organize the Smoki (pronounced “smoke-eye”) People of Prescott, which promoted Indian lore for over 70 years. She inducted President Coolidge an honorary member of the organization.
- As chairwoman of the Yavapai Civil Works Administration in 1933-1934, Sparkes was instrumental in securing the New Deal funding necessary to construct many buildings and improvements that are still with us today. These include the Lindley Field and Park, Smoki Museum and no less than four road-bridges in Prescott.
- She also secured approval for the establishment of the Veterans Hospital at old Fort Whipple and the restoration of the Old Governor’s Mansion in Prescott.
- In 1935, Sparkes and Sharlot Hall, with Yavapai leaders Sam and Viola Jimulla, secured 75 acres of land to create the Prescott Yavapai Indian Reservation. Sparkes also secured money for the Yavapai Indians to build their own houses on the new reservation.
- Sparkes also played a crucial role in preserving other historic sites in Arizona, including the Coronado National Memorial and the Tuzigoot Indian Ruins. She also campaigned successfully to add more land to the Montezuma Castle National Monument.
- Sparkes served on the Arizona State Board of Welfare, was coordinator for the Arizona exhibit at the Chicago World’s Fair and was volunteer secretary of the Northern Arizona State Fair Association.
- Sparkes spearheaded the effort to bring us Interstate 10 – a faster way to California and an economic boom for the state.
- Upon her retirement in 1945, she moved to Cochise County to oversee her own mining claims. She also enjoyed hiking, horseback riding and reading.
- The Old Armory building in Prescott is now named The Grace M. Sparkes Activity Center in her honor, and so is the bridge on Williamson Valley Road that crosses over Mint Wash.
- Sparkes passed away at age 70 on Oct. 22, 1963 and was buried in the family plot at Mountain View Cemetery in Prescott.
- Because of her effective interest in public welfare and her estimable personal qualities, she had an extensive number of acquaintances and was highly esteemed by all who knew her.
- She was inducted into the Arizona Women’s Hall of Fame in 1985.
Sources: Arizona Women’s Hall of Fame and Sharlot Hall Rose Garden Biography.
For more interesting stories, go to www.VisitWesternHeritageCenter.org