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Hi, My name is Vickie and to tell you a little bit about myself, I was born and raised in Kentucky and the majority of my ancestors have been in Kentucky since the 1790’s. I have always loved history, a good mystery and puzzles and that is what Family History Research is all about. As a child we would take day trips on Saturdays and head down some dirt road looking for old cemeteries. A lot of the time we weren't looking for anyone in particular, we just like to read the epitaphs. We would have a picnic lunch packed and have lunch at whatever cemetery we were at. If the weather was bad my Dad and I would go to a court house and dig through old records in musty old basements looking for our ancestors. So as you can see I have had an interest in Family History for quite some time.View my complete profile

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Aunt Alice

Alice Smith, daughter of William Smith, 1824-1915, of Cheshire, England and Mary Hibbert, 1831-1921, of Lancashire, England was born November 18, 1868 in Kaysville, Davis County, Utah and died April 9, 1936 Douglas, Cochise County, Arizona.  Alice was number seven of the nine children born to William and Mary, her oldest sister Mary Ann wife of John Corlett McNeil, was my husband Roy’s, great-grandmother.

Alice’s parents had come to America from England in 1856 on the ship “Wellfleet” arriving in Boston, Massachusetts.  Shortly after their arrival, they moved on to New York City and lived there for a short time before heading west to St. Louis, Missouri where they lived for about 7 years while earning enough money to travel on to the Salt Lake Valley in present day Utah.  They lived in Kaysville when Alice was born, but by 1880 had moved to Bountiful just a few miles to the south of Kaysville.

Alice was married six times, but we know that at least two of her husbands were apparently physically abusive as that is the cause listed for her divorces from them.   Alice was married first to Heber Taylor Greaves, February 10, 1885 in Utah, second to Michael John Harrington, February 27, 1889 in Utah, third to John Sullivan, fourth to Frank Paul, fifth to Charles William Gatliff, July 31, 1903 in Mexico and sixth to John J. O’Laughlin, June 7, 1914 in Arizona.  I have yet to find the marriage dates or places for John Sullivan or Frank Paul, but I believe they were either in Arizona or Mexico.  Alice was buried by her fifth husband Charles William Gatliff, who was apparently good to her and it is his surname that she used and was using when she died.

The following journal entry of Alice's father's states: Friday, 10 Sep 1902 - Got a letter from our daughter Alice in Arizona with five dollars in it.  She stated that she was married to a mining man, his name is Frank Paul.  Another note received from Cindy Hayostek states: Alice was married to John O'Laughlin in 1914 and was divorced in May of 1917 because she says he was beating her.

The following is a picture of Alice with her second husband Michael John ‘Jack’ Harrington who she was married to for about 12 years, before they were divorced.  On the back of the picture Roy's great-grandmother Mary Ann Smith McNeil, wrote: "my sister Alice and her first husband Jack Harrington."  From records I have found Jack was born in Wales and his parents in Ireland and they had come to America before 1880.  Jack was still living in 1910 and had been married to a woman named Edith for 7 years and they were living in Chicago, Illinois.  Jack and Alice must have gotten a divorce before September 1902, since she is getting married to Frank Paul around August or September of 1902.

It is known, from her father, sister and brothers journals and other sources that many times, Alice sent money, when it was needed, as well as gifts to her parents and other family members in Utah as well as to her sister, Mary Ann Smith McNeil’s family in Showlow, Arizona.   My husband Roy’s grandmother, Annie Frances McNeil Thompson 1890-1989, told that many times while they lived on 4th Street in Douglas, Arizona just a couple of blocks from the Mexican border, that she would take her four young sons and go across the line to check on her Aunt Alice, to make sure she was okay.  The border agents at the line, always thought she was crazy for coming over herself, well off bringing little children with her, especially while bullets would be whizzing by and a revolution was going on.  Grandmother Annie would have had these four little boys with her, Gilbert Elmer 1908-1992, Harry Wilbur 1909-1961, Jess Lee 1911-2000 and Roy’s Dad, Floyd L 1913-1984, who would have been in the stroller she use to take things to Aunt Alice and to bring things back over too.  By 1918, Roy’s grandmother, Annie and her family had moved about 30 miles north of Douglas to the Webb/Whitewater area in Cochise County, now known as Elfrida.   

The following are a couple of pictures of gifts that have remained in the family to this day, a gold necklace in the possession of a Smith family descendant and a silk handkerchief in the possession of a Thompson family descendant.

The following is a picture, left to right, of Charles Gatliff his wife Alice Smith Gatliff a woman named Mrs. Davis and her dog Trouble standing by the Curio Café, which was a saloon while Charles Gatliff was still living.  Roy’s cousin Myrna sent this picture to us just this past week, it had been in her mother Lavine Thompson Fenn’s things.

The next pictures are of Alice standing in front of her Café in about 1911 and an ad from the Bisbee Daily Review from 1922 about her café.

I have found numerous newspaper articles about her life on the Mexican border especially during the Mexican Revolution.  As far as we know she never had any children of her own, but she did take care of a number of Mexican children who had been orphaned, mainly during the Mexican Revolution, as well as anyone else down on their luck.   She apparently owned a home and business in Douglas, Arizona but just across the border in Sonora, Mexico in the little border town of Agua Prieta she owned a café, hotel and curio shop, which at one time had been her husband Charles Gatliff’s saloon.  The name of her place in Agua Prieta was ‘The Curio Café’.    At Alice’s curio & café shop in Agua Prieta she also kept a little zoo of exotic animals, like the burro she is holding and the baby javelina she is petting in the following two pictures.

Alice became good friends with General Álvaro Obregón Salido and also with Plutarco Elías Calles, who became the 39th and 40th presidents of Mexico respectively.   Many times they came to her café and would talk and make plans involving the revolution.   In all the old family stories we had always heard it was Pancho Villa she had been good friends with and that she kept a table in the back of the room for him so that if the federales came he could make a quick escape.  However, according to all the newspaper articles I have found it was really Salido and Calles she was friends with.  Pancho Villa does make for a more interesting story though, but I have to report the facts and the facts were it was not Pancho Villa.  J   If indeed she really was friends with Pancho Villa, she must have kept it very, very quiet or she would not have been so very popular with Salido and Calles who always stopped in to visit with her while in Aqua Prieta.  If you would like to read more about Alice and her involvement during the Mexican Revolution you can send for the following 19 page pamphlet to the address listed below.

Not a lot is known about Charles William Gatliff, Alice’s fifth husband, but we do know he married Alice, July 31, 1903 in Fronteras, Sonora, Mexico and that he died December 11, 1907 in Douglas, Cochise County, Arizona.  We also know he owned the saloon and some other property in Aqua Prieta, Mexico that Alice continued to own after his death.  From what research I have done on him he was born in Texas or New Mexico the son of Dr. Charles K. & Mary Gatliff.  He had 2 younger sisters, Anna and Emma and a younger brother named Leslie Gatliff 1873-1947, who also came to Arizona before 1905 and lived in Cochise County, Arizona until 1930, but by 1940 had moved over to Maricopa County, Arizona and died in Tempe in 1947.  The following is a picture of Charles Gatliff which Roy’s cousin Myrna sent to us just this past week.

Roy and I started a fund raiser when we realized Alice and Charles did not have tombstones to mark their last resting place.  Within just a few months we had enough money to have tombstones made for Alice and Charles as well as two other family members we had found who did not have tombstones to mark their place of rest as well.   We are so thankfully to all of the family members who donated and helped to place a fitting tribute to this woman, who helped so many of her family members and to those less fortunate, during her life time.  We had concrete borders placed around both graves and individual markers made.  Here are pictures of their markers after they were placed at the Douglas City Cemetery in Douglas, Cochise County, Arizona in 2014.

Arizona Death Certificate State File #24 = Mrs. Alice Gatliff died 9 April 1936 at the Calumet Hospital in Douglas, Cochise County, Arizona.  She was born in November 1868 and was 67 years and 5 months old.  Her brother William Smith of Morgan, Utah was the informant.  Burial was 11 April 1936 in Douglas.  She was the owner of the Curio Cafe in Aqua Prieta, Sonora, Mexico which was just across the border from Douglas.  The cause of death was from burns over her neck, arms and chest that were caused when she was starting a fire with kerosene and it exploded.  She only lived less then 24 hours after the accident.  The record also said she had lived in Douglas and Agua Prieta for the past 30 to 40 years.  (I have a copy of her death certificate.)

"Printed in www.mycochise.com/obitsg.pdf GATLIFF = April 9, 1936 = Mrs. Alice Gatliff Critically Burned By Kerosene Explosion in Curio Café In Agua Prieta As She Starts Fire. Mrs. Alice Gatliff, owner of the Curio café, one of the historic places of the Mexican border, was critically and probably fatally burned early yesterday morning from flames resulting from a kerosene explosion. The victim is a patient at the Calumet hospital where last night it was said by attending physicians her case is critical and, because of her age—Mrs. Gatliff is 66 years old—the chances were against her recovery. According to the best obtainable reports of the accident, Mrs. Gatliff had taken a can of kerosene, intending to add some of it to the fire in her cook stove in order to hasten the heat for her cooking. She lifted the can just above the fire and the unexpected happened—the flames ignited the oil and caused an explosion. The kerosene was thrown practically all over Mrs. Gatliff and the flames quickly ignited it so that she was all aflame instantly.  An employee of Mrs. Gatliff, Ed Juquy, was near at hand and did what he could to extinguish the flames. She did not become unduly excited but assisted in efforts to extinguish the flame.  She hurried to the bathtub, near at hand, and got into it and aids spread a blanket over her at the same time turning water into the bathtub.  Thus it was possible quickly to extinguish the blaze.  A runner was sent for Dr. Calderon and he hastened to the café and gave first aid.  But he suggested hospitalization of the patient and arrangements were made to bring her to the Calumet hospital.  Porter and Ames ambulance was called and brought the victim to the hospital.  The victim of the accident is possibly the best known business woman along the Mexican border because of her long residence here and her activity in affairs during the time of the revolution which brought General Plutarco Elias Calles into the political control of the republic of Mexico.  She has lived in Sonora or in Douglas for the last 40 odd years, some of the time at Fronteras but most of the time in Agua Prieta.  She has conducted the famous old Curio café ever since Douglas was founded and it has gained a place in the history of the republic of Mexico because of the fact it was the headquarters of General Calles when the revolution was brought to success, carrying Calles and Obregon into power and changing the political history of the southern republic.  Mrs. Gatliff has been personally acquainted with all the presidents of Mexico since Diaz and most of them have headquarters and dined in her café.  General Calles directed the revolutionary activities of Sonora from the famous Room 5, at the right of the entrance, from his bed and his meals both in that room during the period when he was winning for the revolutionists.  It was from there the electric connections with the fortifications and also the telephone system was tied in and personally operated by General Calles.  The high regard which General Calles held for Mrs. Gatliff has been manifested many times and in ways that left no doubt about the genuine respect he holds for her. He never comes to this part of the border that he does not call upon her.  In 1929 when the Topete revolution flared up, Mrs. Gatliff was served with peremptory notice to leave the republic. The notice was patently because of her friendship with the federal government which was controlled by General Calles.  She obeyed the order promptly and came to Douglas but within a short time her entry to Agua Prieta had been made easy and she was back at her Curio café.  When General Almazan marched into Agua Prieta in 1929 with his triumphant army of 12,000 federal troops that he had led through Fulpito pass, one of his earliest calls was at the Curio café and later, before he went away, he was the guest of local Mexican leaders at a dinner in the café attended by General Calles, who had come here for that purpose, the affair being personally arranged by Mrs. Gatliff. Mrs. Gatliff’s Curio café has been visited by every important person who has stopped in Douglas in the last 25 years.  The building in which the café is situated bears physical proof of the fact it has been a target to enemy bullets and Mrs. Gatliff always proved an entertaining person in relating the incidents connected with the various bullet marks in her home.  The ill luck of the owner of the café spread rapidly over the city yesterday and there was much interest in the development of her case. There were many inquiries at the hospital as well as at the Dispatch about her condition and all accompanied with expressions of sympathetic interest. It was said at the hospital last night that while the chances were largely against her, she was meeting the situation courageously.  So far as is known by her friends, Mrs. Gatliff has only one brother living, William Smith, of Morgan City, Utah.  He was advised by telegram yesterday and wired back immediately that he would start for Douglas at once and be here just as soon as he could travel the distance.  A report from the hospital last midnight carried a rather hopeful note, but the one giving it cautioned that it must be remembered it is a critical case and the age of the patient is a serious factor to be reckoned with. It was, however, said the patient was in fair condition at the moment the report was issued. The Douglas Dispatch."

We all need an Aunt Alice, someone who will help us when our luck is down, give us a place to sleep and a hot meal in our stomachs, a family character who everyone remembers, that was our Aunt Alice.


  1. Thanks so much for this fascinating article. We noticed Alice when we were researching about my grandfather's cousins, one of whom was Charles Gatliff who was married to Alice. (My mother's name is also Alice Gatliff.)

    1. Thanks so much for for your kind comments and thanks for making contact as well, it is appreciated.

  2. Hi, I am a Mexican citisen and I born in Agua Prieta, I am interesting in know all about my town an the life of Mrs. Alice Gatliff in part of that story. Tank you very much for all this history that great woman who take care for my people on the genesis of my town. Tank you Vickie Thompson My name is Oscar Careaga

  3. Replies
    1. Oscar it is nice to meet you and thanks for your comments and your English isn't bad at all.

  4. This is so cool, my name is Morgan Gatliff!

    1. Thanks, do you know if you are related to this Gatliff family.