About The Book – Introducing Elsie

“I love and still love Arizona….” The detailed, well-crafted, handwritten manuscript did not appear to be the work of someone who was almost 97 years old.  It was author and educator Elsie Reed Hayes Roberts’ final manuscript, but was a project never she unfortunately never completed.  A year after Elsie’s death, I discovered this manuscript nestled among her many published short stories and articles.  Never before had she written anything that stirred me like this unfinished story of love and adventure in the early state of Arizona. Obviously, these three years in her early twenties had been an unforgettable time for her.

While doing research I came across a tape recording Elsie had made for the Jerome Historical Society.  On the tape she said in closing, “I don’t see how people who have lived in Arizona’s Verde Valley or the mountains, even briefly, can bear to live in a real city.”  Elsie in fact lived in a “real city” for most of her 71 years after she left Arizona.  Perhaps she lived on memories of her time in Oak Creek Canyon and Williams, memories kept fresh by re-reading her daily journals and letters to her family.

I have left her letters and diary in this manuscript as she wrote them, editing out unrelated events.  I used additional  narrative  from her cassette tapes, manuscripts , recollections by her former students, and newspaper accounts.

Arizona from 1913 to 1916 was a wild and wonderful place. For those of you who enjoy a grand sense of adventure I want to give you Elsie’s memories of the fledgling state of Arizona as seen through the eyes of this delightful, spirited, young  teacher.

I hope you enjoy her memoirs as much as I have.

Barbara Anne Waite

13 Responses to “About The Book – Introducing Elsie”

  1. Shirley November 30, 2011 at 4:05 pm #


    Elsie sounds like a wonderful woman, and you are doing Arizona and all lovers of memoir a service by publishing this book. All best to you and your readers. So glad you found the top memoir lists on my site and hope we can stay in touch!

    • Barb Waite December 2, 2011 at 4:51 pm #

      Thanks Shirley, I have always loved memoirs. Viewing life through the eyes and words of someone who was actually there is my type of history reading. You have challenged me to start my own list of 100 favorite memoirs.

  2. James Girdner January 21, 2012 at 5:13 am #

    I just finished Elsie and want to let you know I truly enjoyed it. Elsie, it seems touched many lives positively including my family. Dale Girdner was my grandfather and Eva, of course, my great aunt. I enjoyed learning more of my family through Elsie’s eyes! Another aspects of the book I especially enjoyed is the view from a pioneer teacher. As an educator myself I found that to be rather intriguing. A painting by Eva which she gave me for my high school graduation hangs in my school office. The pictures in the book drawn by my great grandmother reminded me of where her talent may have oringinated. Thank you for compiling this book I very much enjoyed it.

  3. Barb Waite January 21, 2012 at 11:09 am #

    Thank You James. I so enjoyed meeting Eva and Stanley back in 1988. It seemed hard to believe that Elsie’s old letters could create a bond for me with these former students she had loved so many years before. Now the book has widened that circle of those who can enjoy her writings in both letters and journal. I think there were some valuable lessons to be learned from teachers of years ago. Elsie loved reading and I know that love spilled over into many lives. When I look at the pictures of what she had been accustomed to in California and compare it to what she accepted in Arizona not as just ok but as delightful I am challenged. Elsie’s focus was always so positive and her joy in life is to be found in her letters.

  4. Becky June 15, 2012 at 6:14 am #

    Just completed reading Elsie’s story on my new Kindle touch. It is wonderful how you honor your Grandmother in this way and at the same time left a legacy for your children and grandchildren and generations to come. I have read several books about school teachers on the “frontier,” including Tisha and Christy. How these brave women endured…I do not know. They probably would not say they were brave or spirited but we know they were. Thank you Barbara for all the research and love you put into this book. I am glad I will have it in my archives and can’t wait to recommend it to friends.

  5. Pat October 23, 2012 at 11:43 pm #

    Was it ever discovered what Karl did to be placed in a mental institute?

  6. Kaye Bess February 3, 2013 at 12:44 pm #

    I just finished reading Elsie’s story. I truly enjoyed it. I especially liked the descriptions of nature and surrounding landscapes. I could imagine being there and lose myself in her words.

  7. Peggy Schevis February 12, 2013 at 6:55 pm #

    Hello Barbara,
    I was able to download Elsie on my kindle, it was free and I have many that I am thankful to have. Your book kept me reading to the end. Your grandmother was so easy to picture doing each of the things she wrote about. She must have had great energy too.

    I have been reading on your website how you were blessed to have the diary and the resources to write the book.

    I would love to know about any other books you write about Elsie.

    Peggy Schevis
    Peabody Massachusetts

  8. Art Phillips February 18, 2013 at 2:50 pm #

    I have just finished reading your delightful book “Elsie” and enjoyed it tremendously. I lived in Arizona for 37 years, from 1969-2006, most of the time in Flagstaff. I was very familiar with the Verde Valley and Williams, and her descriptions of the “early days” were truly fascinating.

    I knew one of her students in Cornville, Stanley Girdner, in his later years. He and I were both ham radio operators, and members of the “Arizona Weather Net.” Hams from all over central and northern Arizona got on the air each morning to share their weather observations. We got to know the other members quite well, and had about three get-togethers yearly, which Stanley would sometimes attend. He was always willing to share stories of Pioneer days, much to the delight of all. At that time (early 1990s) he was living in the Pioneer Home in Prescott. So having been acquainted with one of the “characters” and learning more about his early life certainly added to my appreciation of the book and the times Elsie described.

    I am by profession a botanist (retired), and Elsie’s descriptions and names of wildflowers were also very interesting to me.

    Thank you so much for sharing this invaluable historical insight.

    Art Phillips
    Eckert, Colorado

  9. Michelle Pals February 19, 2013 at 4:22 pm #

    I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed Elsie’s story. While I understand that Elsie’s last letter to Karl is unknown, did I misread the implication that Elsie could not or was not ready to commit to a relationship with him?

  10. RHONDA ZINN May 1, 2013 at 10:58 am #

    I just finished reading your book about your Grandmother, on my Kindle. Oh, how I wish I had known her and I had lots of questions that I would of asked!!! You are so blessed to have her in your family as I know you do feel that way. Thank you for a most lovely book!

  11. Janice Timberlake June 18, 2014 at 10:16 am #

    So enjoyed reading the book, Elsie – Adventures of an Arizona Schoolteacher. Hard to imagine the hardships of her life and how she turned everything into an adventure. I wish my mother had kept family letters instead of destroying them. There is so much family history in diaries/journals/letters/notes. Thank you for sharing and look forward to another book.

  12. barbara miller January 24, 2016 at 10:31 pm #

    So enjoyed the story. Elsie was such a sweet lady and I would have loved to know her. I have always been fascinated by story of teachers from the ‘old days’. From Alaska, Oregon, Kansas and now Arizona . Thank you letting Elisa live again through your book. I hope to read the second one sometime . God bless you, b.miller

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