By Karen Mazzeo
DOWNEY – What if I were to tell you that Downey, Calif. has a direct connection with Tombstone, Ariz.? No, I’m not speaking of the famed gunslinger Wyatt Earp but rather an ordinary gentleman named Alfred, and his daughter Emilie, who once called Downey and Tombstone Ariz., home.
Alfred A. Ashman was born in London, Middlesex, England on Oct. 30, 1842. In 1861 at the age of 18, Alfred served in the Royal Navy; by 1867 he had immigrated to America. By the early 1870’s he was living in Rancho Los Nietos known today as Downey, Calif. He married and on Dec. 6, 1875, became a father to a daughter they named Emilie.
Whom Alfred married is unknown but not long after Emilie’s birth the two divorced. That same year Alfred decided to head to Tombstone, however, he needed someone to take care of his four-year-old daughter so he left Emilie with Louisa Paulsell and her daughters. A widower, Louisa had settled in Downey around 1873. Whether the Paulsell family members were relatives or simply good friends, Alfred felt comfortable enough to leave Emilie in Louisa’s custody.
Louisa cared for Emilie as if she were her own daughter. When she turned 5 she sent Emilie to one of the local schools in Downey where she made many friends including a boy named Daniel R. Hawkins who would one day marry her.
In 1885, Alfred returned home and took his 10-year-old daughter Emilie back home with him to Tombstone. A good student who was placed numerous times on the “perfect list,” she made many new friends who included Lizzie Wittig, Minnie Bauer, Eddie Tarbell, Cora Goodrich, and Herbert Schoenfield just to name a few.
Emilie settled in quite nicely; she studied, played and went to parties but regrettably her stay in Tombstone was short-lived. In 1887, she was up-rooted once again when Alfred took her back to Downey. She returned home to the Paulsells and enrolled in school while Alfred, on the other hand, headed to Los Angeles where he opened an express wagon business.
Soon after in 1888, Alfred considered making Los Angeles his permanent residence so he headed to Tombstone in hope of selling some of his property that included six houses as well as ¼ block of land located at the corner of Third and Bruce Streets for the sum of $1,000..
Alfred remained in Los Angeles until 1889 when he decided to return to Tombstone permanently. He ran for city council and won, opened and managed the Tombstone Gas Company and owned several mines in the area.
Emilie on the other hand remained in Downey with the Paulsell family where she finished school and graduated in June of 1890 along with her school mate Daniel Hawkins. She then worked as a part-time bookkeeper for the Keystone Milling Company while attending the Woodbury Business College majoring in telegraph skills. In June of 1892 she graduated as one of 76 students and was the only one to graduate in telegraph.
Emilie experienced heartache less than a year later when on March 23, 1893 her surrogate mother Louisa Paulsell passed away. For someone who regarded Louisa as a mother it was a very sad and lonely day for her. After her funeral Louisa’s remains were escorted to the Downey District Cemetery where she was buried alongside her husband Newton who had passed away on April 4, 1876.
That fall Emilie enrolled in the Los Angeles Normal School and remained until June of 1894. She decided to move to Tombstone that summer so, grabbing the train in Los Angeles, she rode to the little “town too tough to die.”
Alfred, of course, was pleased to have his only child back home with him but her stay was short-lived. Around the latter part of 1895 Emilie and Alfred headed back to Downey after Emilie had received a proposal of marriage from Daniel. Father and daughter arrived back in Los Angeles and on Jan. 9, 1896, Emilie Ashman became Emilie Hawkins.
The newlyweds moved to Downey where Daniel worked as a salesman and around 1903 or thereabouts they moved to Redlands, Calif. and bought a home located on Fourth Street.
Redlands was most definitely no stranger to Emilie as she had visited the city during the winter of 1893. Redlands in many ways was similar to Tombstone when the summertime temperatures could become quite uncomfortable. Nevertheless, Emilie loved the city. Redlands was a little closer to Tombstone which allowed Alfred the chance to make many more trips to visit his daughter whom he missed very much.
His visit in July of 1906 would be his last. After spending a month with Emilie and Daniel, Alfred returned home to Tombstone in late August. It was back to work for the old timer of Tombstone who, after being away for so long, had quite a bit of work to catch up on.
Soon after his return he caught a cold and feeling poorly, he headed over to the doctor in town who told him he had pneumonia. Alfred lay sick in bed while any hope for recovery diminished with each passing day. He died on Sept. 30, 1906 at the age of 64.
Upon hearing the news of her father’s death, Emilie, the devoted and loving daughter that she was, arranged to have his body sent back to Redlands where she had him buried in Hillside Memorial Park.
A resident of Redlands for approximately 55 years, Emilie lived there until her death at the age of 83 on Dec. 23, 1958. After her death, Daniel moved to Santa Ana where he passed away on June 12, 1962. His body was sent back to Redlands where he was buried next to his beloved Emilie.
It’s nice to know that it does not take a famous person such as Wyatt Earp to make an incredible mark upon history. There have been so many people who have faced incredible odds to help shape the towns and cities that many live and take pride in. It’s their lives and the history they engraved upon this land that should never be forgotten.
So the next time you’re driving through Downey take a moment and remember Alfred, Emilie and Louisa – three people who have directly connected a little town in the Wild West called Tombstone to the City of Downey – the place you call home.
Karen Mazzeo has been a contributing writer to the Tombstone Times in Arizona for the past four years. She currently lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two children.