Dale Ralston Collection

TITLE: Dale Ralston Collection

DATE RANGE: 1904-1974


PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION:  6 linear ft. (10 boxes)

PROVENANCE:  Possibly donated by his wife, Ludmelia Ralston 1974.

COPYRIGHT: The Yuma County Library District owns the copyright to this collection    

RESTRICTIONS: This collection is unrestricted.   

CREDIT LINE:  Dale Ralston Collection, Y-MS3, Yuma County Library District

PROCESSED BY: Linda Whitaker, April 2013


Dale (Gleason) Ralston was born March 7, 1889 in San Francisco to Zenobia Septima Lansdale, a piano teacher who married several times. He was adopted by his stepfather, Robert Gordon Ralston, a “railroad man.” Both Dale and Zenobia’s early lives from 1903-1920 were characterized by frequent moves within California and Arizona searching for employment and following various mining prospects or real estate investments. His mother eventually moved to Quartzsite, Arizona when she married William C. Lacy.

After graduating from Yuma Union High School in 1906, Dale Ralston attended two years at the University of Arizona College of Agriculture, Mechanical Arts and Mining.   From 1909-1918, he traveled extensively and worked as a miner, a construction worker, and occasionally a fisherman from Canada to Mexico.  

In 1918, Dale was drafted into the Army at age 29 and served as a demolition instructor at Camp

Cody, New Mexico. He became an active member of the American Legion H.H. Do       nkersley Post No. 19 and WWI Veterans.  He was particularly active in the Masons and Yuma Lodge No. 10 where he served in several leadership positions. 

From 1920-1936, he served as an assistant in the Yuma County Engineer’s office. He went on to work in the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation as an Inspector, Chief of Surveys, Civil Engineer and  Construction Engineer until 1957 when he retired after suffering a heart attack.  Dale Ralston married Ludmelia Holstein, 16 years his junior and a school teacher in 1935.   They had two children, Robert Dale and Elisabeth. He was preceded in death by his wife in 1976. On April 20, 1977 Dale Ralston died in Solano, California. 


The correspondence and photographs in this collection are significant for their volume and detail.  The correspondence between Zenobia Lacy (mother) and son Dale Ralston 1904-1918 is voluminous. Their letters document a hard life along the Colorado River whether it was prospecting, building canals, farming, road construction or land speculation. Some of the print material is fragile. There are over 200 photographs, most taken by Dale Ralston from  the 1920s to 1930s, of mining and survey sites, canals and levees, the construction of the Phoenix-Yuma Highway, and his friends, pets, cars, colleagues, and wife, Ludmelia.  Album fragments dating from 1897 to the 1920s also include early family photographs and images of Quartzsite, Arizona.  

Arranged in six series, then alphabetically and chronologically within. Series I: Personal includes the Ralston marriage certificate, pioneer biographical sheet submitted by Ludmelia Ralston for her husband, a chronology of early moves, financial files, and professional certificates.  Series II: Correspondence arranged alphabetically by sender or subject; includes letters between mother and son, family, friends, and potential employers. Series III: Writings include Dale Ralston’s diaries, survey field notes, short stories, and essays - some of which are not authored by him. Series IV: Photographs include over 200 black and white images that capture the men and equipment used for mining, canal and road construction as well as the LacyRalston travels to California and Mexico.  Series V: Memorabilia includes business ledgers collected by Dale, his membership cards from group affiliations, and various ephemera.  Series VI: Oversized includes panoramic military photographs.


Box Folder Title Dates
1 1 Personal: Biographical Documents  (marriage certificate, commendations, news clippings, chronology of moves) 1901-1974
  2 Personal: Home Budget 1942-1948
  3 Personal: Lacy, Zenobia S. (mother’s tax records and other documents) 1915-1938
  4 Personal: Lacy, Zenobia S. (mother’s piano teacher notebook and related materials) 1920
  5 Personal: Ralston, Ludmelia Holstein

(application for teaching position, love letter to Dale)

1957, n.d.
  6 Correspondence:  Baumgardner, J.W. 1914-1915
  7 Correspondence:  Cannon, Frank M. 1908-1931
  8 Correspondence:  Condolences (mother’s death) 1935
  9 Correspondence:  Engineering (various projects) 1915-1934
  10 Correspondence:  Genung, C.B. 1904, 1913, 1921
  10a Correspondence:  Invitations 1963-1975, n.d.
  11 Correspondence:  Leavitt, Bessie L. (aunt) 1898-1931
  12 Correspondence:  Lacy (Gleason), Zenobia S. (mother to son) 1897-1903
  13 Correspondence:  Lacy (Gleason), Zenobia S. 1904-1905


    (mother to son)  
  14 Correspondence:  Lacy (Gleason), Zenobia S. (mother to son)

1909, 1919, 1931-


  15 Correspondence:  Lacy, William (stepfather) 1915
  16 Correspondence:   “Lois”  1933
  17 Correspondence:  Lansdale, H.L (grandfather) 1897-1904
  18 Correspondence:  Love, Everett G. (boyhood friend) 1904-1905
  19 Correspondence:  Military (includes letters to mother) 1918-1919
2 1 Correspondence:  Ralston, Dale (to his mother; fragile) 1903
  2 Correspondence:  Ralston, Dale (to his mother; fragile) January-June, 1914
  3 Correspondence:  Ralston, Dale (to his mother; fragile) July-December, 1914
  4 Correspondence:  Ralston, Dale (to his mother; fragile) January-March, 1915
  5 Correspondence:  Ralston, Dale (to his mother; fragile) April-October, 1915
  6 Correspondence:  Ralston, Dale (to his mother; fragile) 


December, 1915

  7 Correspondence:  Ralston, Dale (to his mother; fragile) 1916-1928
  8 Correspondence:  Ralston Ranch 1912-1953
  9 Correspondence:  Sinclair (Huskey), Mary Louise 1941-1956
3 1 Correspondence:  State Board of Registration (Engineering) 1927-1930
  2 Correspondence:  Various (to Dale Ralston) 1904-1940
  3 Correspondence:  WWI Veterans 1957-1958
  4 Correspondence:  WWI Veterans 1959
  5 Correspondence:  WWI Veterans 1960
  6 Correspondence:  WWI Veterans 1961
  7 Correspondence:  WWI Veterans 1962
  8 Correspondence:  WWI Veterans 1963-1964
  9 Correspondence:  YMCA, San Francisco


  10 Writings: Baseball Game (between Mesa High School and Phoenix High School; includes correspondence to Ralston as team manager) 1907-1908
  11 Writings:  Diary 1904
  12 Writings:  Diary 1904-1907
4 1 Writings:  Diary  1919
  2 Writings:  Diary (typed, two-page entry) 1931


  3 Writings: Essays, Short Stories, Speech (some by Dale Ralston) 1948, n.d.
  4 Writings:  Field Notes 1915-1916
  5 Writings:  Field Notes (Camp Cody, New Mexico) 1918
  6 Writings:  Field Notes 1921-1923
  7 Writings:  Field Notes 1929-1934
  8 Writings:  Field Notes 1933-1934
  9 Writings:  Field Notes (crystals, mineralogy, gemology, model of La Jolla Farm, essay on saloon dance halls and gambling palaces) n.d.
5 1 Photographs:  Album (given to Ludmelia Holstein in 1921 by her uncle Edward Bier documenting his job in the State of Washington; fragile) 1914-1918
  2 Photographs:  Album Pages (Dale Ralston, mother, friends, mining, irrigation, Yuma earthquake; various locales in Arizona, California, and Mexico) 1900-1928
  3 Photographs:  Album (first year of marriage, children’s birth, family gatherings, news clippings) 1935-1940
  3 Photographs:  17 Club Picnic  1932
  4 Photographs:  California Coast (Sciots and

Master Masons Meeting; San Diego, Oceanside, Los Angeles area))

1929, n.d.
  5 Photographs:  Camps (various) 1928-1934
  6 Photographs:  Dale Ralston 1898, 1920s-1930s, n.d.
  7 Photographs:  Dale and Ludmelia Ralston (with family and friends) 1920s-1970s, n.d.
 5A 1 Photographs:  Family and Friends (includes early photos of Quartzite, Arizona) 1904-1970
  2 Photographs:  Ludmelia Holstein Ralston 1922-1929, 1950s, n.d.
  3 Photographs:  Military (Camp Cody, New Mexico) 1918
  4 Photographs:  Phoenix-Yuma Highway

Construction    1 of 3

  5 Photographs:  Phoenix-Yuma Highway

Construction    2 of 3

  6 Photographs:  Phoenix-Yuma Highway

Construction    3 of 3 

6 1   Photographs:  Prospectors, Mines, Mining Towns   1 of 2  Circa 1914-1915
  2 Photographs:  Prospectors, Mines, Mining Towns  Circa 1914-1919


    2 of 2    
  3 Photographs:  Railroads n.d.b
  4 Photographs:  San Diego Bay 1921
  5 Photographs:  Smarr Ranch (Fallbrook,

California)    1 of 2 

  6 Photographs:  Smarr Ranch (Fallbrook,

California)    2 of 2  

  7 Photographs:  Unidentified (possibly Ludmelia

Holstein’s family visiting Arizona)

  8 Photographs: Unidentified n.d.
  9 Photographs:  Yuma and Gila Irrigation Projects    (1 of 3) 1936-1939
  10 Photographs:  Yuma and Gila Irrigation Projects    (2 of 3) 1936-1939
  11 Photographs:  Yuma and Gila Irrigation Projects    (3 of 3) n.d.
  12 Photographs:  Zenobia and William Lacy (mother and stepfather) 1916-1930s, n.d. 
7 1 Memorabilia:  Engineering Memberships (various) 1920s-1950s
  2 Memorabilia:  Membership Cards (American Legion H.H. Donkersley Post #19) 1920s-1960s
  3 Memorabilia:  Membership Cards (B.P.O. Elks Lodge 476) 1920s-1930s
  4 Memorabilia:  Membership Cards (Grand Commandery Knights Templar of Arizona) 1960s-1970s
  5 Memorabilia:  Membership Cards (La Société des 40 Homes and 8 Chevaux) 1920s-1970s
  6 Memorabilia:  Membership Cards  (Masons) 1920s-1970s
  7 Memorabilia:  Membership Cards and Painters Union Dues 1903-1914
  8 Memorabilia:  News Clippings and Advertisements 1913-1915
  9 Memorabilia:  Salome, Arizona n.d.
  10 Memorabilia:  University of Arizona College of

Agriculture, Mechanical Arts and Mining

(brochure, cartoon, Spanish exercise, dance card, grades)

  11 Memorabilia:  Voter Registration and Identity Cards (various) 1930s-1940s
  12 Memorabilia:  Wanted Dead or Alive Notice, Maps, signed Lost Dutchman Mine book 1920s, 1964
  13 Memorabilia:  WWI Savings, WWII Ration 

Books for Dale, Ludmelia, Robert, and Elizabeth Ralston 

1920s, 1940s
8 1 Memorabilia:  Ledger (La Fortuna Mining 1898
    Company)    1 of 2     
  2 Memorabilia:  Ledger (La Fortuna Mining Company)    2 of 2 1898-1899
  3 Memorabilia:  Ledger (Stage Day Book)   1896-1897
  4 Memorabilia:  Ledger (State Board of Public Welfare Notary Record) 1933-1937
9   Oversized: Family Album (captioned) 1940-1950
10   Oversized:  Family Album (captioned) 1940s


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