I’m a third generation Arizonan. My paternal grandmother,
Adelaide Williscraft, came to the Arizona territory some time in
the 1880’s from Smiths Falls, Canada, to join her brothers.
George Williscraft founded the Phoenix Iron Works. William H.
Williscraft was an early Arizona Territory photographer whose
work can be seen online at http:/www.SharlotHall.org/. Together
with their brother, John B. Williscraft, a cattle rancher and
merchant, they owned a ranch which, around 1885, they
rented to a man named Dennis W. Dilda. Of course,
they had no way of knowing that Dilda
would become the first documented serial killer in Arizona
My paternal grandfather, William Henry Johnson, came from
Coahoma, Mississippi as a railroad worker/miner of gold ore. He
married Adelaide in Prescott May 26, 1890. The family relocated
to Lone Pine, California to continue their search for gold in
the late 1890’s. Adelaide passed away in 1901 and the family
moved to Phoenix.
My dad, William Alexander Johnson, was born in Big Bug, Arizona
in 1893. He grew up in Phoenix with his dad, one brother and
three sisters. He witnessed the Adams Hotel fire in 1910. Dad
joined the Company A of the First Arizona Guard. He served under
General “Black Jack” Pershing near Naco, Arizona tracking Pancho
Villa. The entire unit was called for duty in France during
World War I to relieve British soldiers. Dad was eventually
promoted to sergeant. After the war ended, he worked as an
electrician for the City of Phoenix until retiring. He spent
many years working at Sky Harbor Airport.
My mother, Semina Carrie Smith, was born in Koshkonong,
Missouri February 1, 1900. She was one of ten children. The
Smiths came to Phoenix, Arizona, in 1913, where the Monroe
School put her in 6th grade. She attended Lamson Business
College and worked as a secretary for many years. She was a
member of the Queen Esther #22 Order of the Eastern Star and was
named Worthy Matron in 1953.
My parents purchased their two-room country home near the
corner of 10th Street and Monte Vista in 1922. After I was born,
they added a living room and bedroom. My dad lived there until
he died in 1968 and my mom until 1989 when she moved to a care
I was born at the Arizona Deaconess Hospital (later named Good
Samaritan). I am an only child. When I was four years old, my
parents homesteaded 320 acres in the Harquahala Valley 80 miles
west of Phoenix. Four families built houses on it where the
mothers and children stayed for four months every year to “hold
down the claim”. The fathers visited on the weekends. I remember
my dad bringing me taffy kisses and supplies for the week.
I attended Emerson School and graduated from North Phoenix High
School. I attended Phoenix College for one year before joining
the U.S. Navy (WAVES) during World War II. For boot camp, I was
sent to Hunter College in the Bronx, New York. I was then
assigned to Roosevelt Base on San Pedro Island, California,
where I was the Civil Readjustment officer’s private secretary.
We issued discharges to naval personnel as the war ended.
I met my future husband, Robert James Bennett, at North High.
Bob joined the Navy immediately after graduating and served on
several different ships. While stationed in the Pacific, he
weathered a severe, three-day typhoon where the ship sustained a
57˝ degree list. No ship has ever recovered from a 60 degree
Bob and I married after the War and moved into an apartment in
Phoenix. We both enrolled in Phoenix College that September. We
had three children: Robert Hamilton Bennett, Alexandra Leigh
Bennett, and Cynthia Ann Bennett Hughes. All three graduated
from Arizona State University. I taught elementary school in
Scottsdale until 1989 when I retired. Bob was a sales engineer
in high voltage wire until retiring in 1982.
Bob and I joined The First Families of Arizona in 1985. We have been active and involved since that time. Bob was the first male to be elected president, serving from 1996 to 1998. I served as president from 1998 to 2001. As past presidents, we continued our service on the TFFA Board, serving on the membership committee, calling committee, trivia committee and table decorations committee. Bob passed away in 2013 on our 67th wedding anniversary. I plan to continue my support and commitment to The First Families of Arizona as long as I am able.
© Copyright 2014, The First Families of Arizona. Last revised 16 September 2014.