Annie Box Neal (1870–1950)

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Annie Box Neal was the proprietor and manager of the Mountain View Hotel in Oracle, Arizona, a western mining town in the Catalina Mountains. Her secluded grand resort was recognized as the “epitome of western opulence” in its day and received distinguished guests from Russia, Australia, China and other places around the world. Neal had a flair for entertainment and was renowned for her gracious hostess skills, which brought her unprecedented success.

Anna Magdalena Box, of African American and Native American descent, was born in the Cherokee Nation, Indian Territory, in 1870. Her grandmother had come to the Territory on the Trail of Tears.  In 1876, Neal accompanied her parents and other Cherokee Freedpeople to Tucson, Arizona Territory. Annie was enrolled in St. Joseph’s Academy next to San Augustine’s Mission for Indians while her parents supported themselves through gambling and mining investments.

Annie grew up into a six-foot tall beautiful confident woman. In 1892 when she was twenty-two years old she married teamster William “Curly” Neal, who shared her African-Indian heritage. An excellent sharp-shooter, Annie “ran shotgun” with her husband as they delivered gold bullion from the mines to a local bank. Annie and William Neal never had children, but they raised her younger sister after her mother’s death.

Following her mother’s death, William Neal proposed an ingenious project to help her overcome her grief: they would establish a year-round hotel/health resort on their 160- acre ranch. Though seemingly isolated, the ranch, nearly 5,000 feet above sea level, had a mild climate that allowed escape from the Arizona desert.  It also had spectacular views.

The resort, supported by the Neals’ property holdings in Tucson and Oracle as well as a thriving stagecoach business and other business interests was built without outside financial assistance.  Annie Neal designed and decorated the two-story $90,000 Mountain View Hotel, which doubled as a health sanatorium and a recreational playground for the very wealthy.  She anticipated every need and desire of her clientele who made their way to her truly opulent mountain get-away to enjoy exquisite dining, fine music, and entertainment in the form of competitions and rodeos. Annie proudly boasted that Wild Buffalo Bill Cody, a friend and frequent guest, was the only person to whom she lost a shooting match.

Annie Box Neal, a charming, soft-spoken refined gentlewoman, was an exceptional host and entertainment diva who pampered her guests. She expertly managed the premier Mountain View Hotel resort, which enjoyed a successful run until the post-World War I era.

Source:

Tricia Martineau Wagner, African American Women of the Old West (Guilford, CT: TwoDot, an imprint of The Globe Pequot Press, 2007); Barbara Marriott, Annie’s Guests – Tales from a Frontier Hotel (Tucson, Arizona: Catymatt Productions, 2002).