Updated: Feb 25, 2021
After Mart Blevins disappeared about August 1, 1887, while going to look for his horses, the war picked up steam. The Grahams wanted the Tewksburys dead. Although the Tewksbury faction had been warned by Graham partisan, O. C. Felton, that the Graham-Blevins faction intended to annihilate them, a second and most important warning was sent to the
Tewksburys by Mattie Ketchum of Holbrook.
Samuel A. Haught, a rancher who first settled under the Mogollon Rim in 1885, then moved to Rye to ranch in 1890, then on to Walnut Creek, five miles from Pleasant Valley in 1912, wrote in his memoirs:
“When old man Blevins was missing, Tom Graham hired six Hash Knife men to kill the Tewksbury men. They agreed to give them a thousand dollars apiece. Ola Mat Ketchum, a lady of easy virtue, was part Cherokee therefore sympathized with the Tewksburys and sent a runner to the Tewksburys therefore the Tewksburys were ready for them when they came.”
Jinx Pyle wrote in his book, Pleasant Valley War, page 76, that Hamp Blevins, John Payne, Zech Booth, Thomas Carrington, Bob Glaspie and Tom Tucker met at a saloon in Holbrook in August of 1887 and “were overhead making loud talk about starting a little war of their own. Mattie Ketchum was one of those who overheard the boasting. She was half-Indian like the Tewksbury brothers and considered them friends. Mattie sent a courier to Pleasant Valley to warn the Tewksburys of the impending raid and gave them the name of the Graham-Blevins-Hashknife men she knew were coming.”
In the Clara Woody/Bob Vorris Interview (pg 17) dated 1957, Bob Vorris said, “Here’s how the first fight of the Pleasant Valley War originated. It originated at the Middleton Ranch. Over in Holbrook there was a woman. What her name is, I don’t know, but I understand that she was a Hardick, but she was part Indian. She knew the Tewksburys and since the Tewksburys were part Indian themselves, that was John and Ed and Frank, well, here sympathy was, of course, with the Tewksburys.”
Mattie played a communication role in the Pleasant Valley War. She would be one of only two women who did. Lydia Tewksbury, the letter writer, was the other.
Had Mattie not warned the Tewksburys of the attack on their homes and families, they would not have been waiting at the old Middleton Ranch for the Graham faction to arrive. They would probably have been at one of the Tewksbury ranches and the Pleasant Valley War could have ended quite differently.
The element of surprise being a key factor in a quick victory, the Graham faction must have known they had lost theirs when they saw the Tewksburys at the old Middleton Ranch. As they searched for a quick way to turn the tables, either Tommy Tucker called out and asked for something to eat. “We are not running a boarding house here,” replied Jim Tewksbury. There the Graham faction sat on horses in front of the old Middleton ranch house. They were sitting ducks at that point. The Tewksburys had the drop on them.
Later the Tewksburys claimed that Hamp Blevins had fired the first shot. Jinx Pyle states in his book page 77: “Logic dictates the Hashknife-Blevins-Graham faction would not have fired on the Tewksbury faction forted up in a big log house.” Pyle says the Grahams would have ridden away to some kind of cover before starting to shoot. The Tewksburys probably figured this, too, and chose to open fire while they had the advantage. However it happened, John Payne and Hamp Blevins were killed. Tommy Tucker and Bob Glaspie were wounded. No one in the Tewksbury camp was hit.
Mattie deserves to be remembered. She was a heroine to the Tewksburys. It is too bad we don’t know more about Mattie.
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