Mary Ford Platten
Arizona’s First Female Game Warden
Mary Ford Platten was a trailblazer. Born June 11, 1869 on Kodiak Island, she was the first white child born in Alaska under the American Flag. Her father, a Civil War veteran, was stationed there by former U.S. Secretary of State, William Seward, to help secure the purchase of the Alaska territory.
The Ford family left the Last Frontier, journeying to numerous military stations throughout the “wild” west, eventually settling in Arizona when Mary was 12 years old. She inherited her father’s pioneer spirit and resilient constitution. At the turn of the 20th century, Mary Ford, entering her thirties, headed east to Washington D.C. to help take care of her orphaned niece, Celia. Mary’s sister, Margaret, was brutally murdered by her husband, Charles (Mary’s brother in-law), only seven months after giving birth. He slit her throat over the infant’s crib, then fled to a local grocery store where he proceeded to replicate the violent act upon himself. An article dated March 11, 1901 (the day after the murder-suicide) in The Times, a D.C. newspaper, revealed Charles’ longtime battle with what we commonly refer to nowadays as PTSD.
Mary spent the next decade helping raise Celia while simultaneously becoming involved in civic affairs around the capital. She was a speaker and entertainer at various patriotic functions, notably the Women’s Temperance League. She personally witnessed a number of historic events, including the Wright Brothers experimenting with airplanes in North Carolina and President Theodore Roosevelt’s inauguration.
City life looked good on Mary, but deep down she longed for adventure. After her father passed away in 1911, she seized an opportunity to return to her roots – a life in the Arizona countryside.
Childhood acquaintance, Fred Platten, proposed to 42 year old Mary, and she headed west to be wed. Fred was known for his irreproachable character and bravery. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for extraordinary heroism after capturing a band of renegade Cheyanne warriors at the Battle of Sappa Creek, Kansas in the spring of 1875. In 1901, Fred joined the U.S. Forestry Service and served as a Ranger in Arizona.
International Game Warden Magazine would like to recognize Raymond L. Kohls (AZGFD Retired 1966-2004) & David E. Brown for their top-notch research and writing, inspiring our Spring 2021 piece “Mary Ford Platten: Arizona’s First Female Game Warden”.