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The Results of the Pleasant Valley War Between The Grahams-Tewksburys

The second change 1882 brought was the arrival of John and Tom Graham into Pleasant Valley. Ed Tewksbury met Tom Graham in Globe and learned that the Grahams wanted to raise cattle. Ed invited the Graham brothers to move to Pleasant Valley where the grass and water were great for ranching. The Grahams sold their mining interests in Globe and moved to Pleasant Valley where the two families became friends. They helped each other build cabins and began building their cattle herds. Lydia and Mary Ann enjoyed these works days, as it gave them a chance to visit and cook for the men. There were no Graham women, so the Graham men must have appreciated the meals.

*photo by Matthew Casey

But this invitation to the Grahams to move to Pleasant Valley turned out to be disastrous for both families. They were pitted against each other and a horrid blood feud ensued.

The problem started between the Tewksburys and James Stinson, a cattle rancher in the area, in January of 1883. Stinson’s foreman, John Gilliland, his cousin Elisha Gilliland, and another Stinson hired man, Epitacio “Potash” Ruiz, rode to the John Tewksbury Ranch and accused the Tewksburys of stealing Stinson cattle. This was not a smart thing to do. It is not known who fired first, but the result was Ed Tewksbury shot John Gilliland, therefore the first shot of the Pleasant Valley War had been fired. Gilliland recovered. In the skirmish, Ed Tewksbury had also shot Elisha Gilliland, who recovered, but John Gilliland reported to James Stinson that Elisha had been killed. The third Stinson man, Potash Ruiz, high-tailed it away from the Tewksbury place, unwounded.

Two Green Valley (Payson) men, Bill McDonald and Constable Bill Burch, believed John Gilliland and brought charges against the Tewksburys for the murder of Elisha Gilliland. Both John and Tom Graham were present at the confrontation and were witnesses for the Tewksburys. Mary Ann was also present.

Ed Tewksbury and John Graham rode to Prescott, about 100 miles west of Pleasant Valley, and filed charges against the Gillilands and Ruiz. The Tewksburys and the Grahams stuck together and made court appearances at Prescott, but all charges were dismissed against both factions for lack of witnesses and evidence. And Elisha Gilliland who was supposedly dead from Ed Tewksbury’s bullet, was very much alive.

A tragedy occurred as a result of these trips to court. Young Frank Tewksbury, 22, contracted measles on the return trip to Pleasant Valley. Then due to sleeping on the cold, damp ground, he developed pneumonia. He died in PleasantValley in February of 1883 and is buried there. Frank’s death caused the Tewksburys sad and bitter feelings. If Gilliland had not come to their ranch, uninvited, and started trouble, Frank would still be alive. J. D. Tewksbury took his son’s death very hard – which affected Lydia. Her heart went out to her husband. They buried Frank in Pleasant Valley.

In March of 1884, the Grahams and Tewksburys became enemies. Apparently both factions had been rustling cattle and had branded about 200 head of cattle with a TE Connected brand (T for Tom and E for Ed). John Graham went to Prescott presumably to register the TE Connected to both the Grahams and the Tewksburys, but for some reason, he registered the brand to himself alone, cutting the Tewksburys out. He also accused the Tewksburys of stealing both Stinson and Graham cattle and warrants were issued for the Tewksburys and some of their friends. After the Tewksburys learned of the charges and the brand deception, they discovered something else. James Stinson and John Graham had signed a contract which stated that Stinson would pay 25 head of cows and 25 head of calves for each conviction of anyone stealing Stinson cattle. Apparently they didn’t trust each other because they had the contract recorded which made it a public document. Author Don Dedera called this contract the Treaty of War and he was right. The Tewksburys were furious. They had been betrayed. The feud was on!

When the jury learned about the contract, they saw the rustling charge against the Tewksburys and their friends as a setup and all charges were dismissed. The Grahams were reprimanded by Judge Summer Howard who also saw the whole thing as a frame-up job.

After this betrayal, both the Tewksburys and Grahams harbored hard feelings and both factions began riding in groups with rifles across their saddles. Each side was afraid of attack. Neighbors took sides and a war was in the works.

This was a wearisome time for the women. Not only did they have husbands and sons to lose in this war, they had small children. Any time John Tewksbury had to leave the ranch for any length of time, he took Mary Ann to her mother’s house.

The Apache County Sheriff showed up with a warrant charging Jim Tewksbury and George Blaine with robbing a store at Woodruff, a Mormon community near Heber, Arizona. The two men had to post bonds of $3,500 each. Lydia Tewksbury was so embarrassed by this. Surely they didn’t do it! Surely this was just a rumor!

George Blaine sold his ranch to raise the bail money. Jim Tewksbury had nothing to sell, so his brother, John, sold his ranch to get Jim out of jail. The willing buyer of both ranches was none other than P. P. Daggs of Daggs Brothers, a large sheep outfit looking for a chance to run their sheep below the Rim of the Mogollon. Now Daggs owned the John Tewksbury Ranch, but he allowed John and Mary Ann to live there as long as they were loyal to him. The Tewksburys were being manipulated.

Days were long and wearisome for Lydia and Mary Ann. The “Pleasant” Valley they had known was quickly changing to a valley of fear. When the men rode off, they worried whether or not they would return home. But life went on. Lydia delivered a second son for J. D., Walter Scott Tewksbury on August 11, 1884. Again, she had only the help of her daughter, Mary Ann, who was herself seven months pregnant. Two months later when Mary Ann gave birth to her first child, Bertha Tewksbury, on October 12, 1884, Lydia assisted her. Even though more work came with them, the little ones brought happiness and brightness into a dim world.

In February of 1886, when the Aztec Land and Cattle Company (Hashknife Outfit) arrived, there was an increase in cattle and horse rustling and the Tewksburys feared for their horse herd. They were running over 80 head of horses. The Hashknife riders, who were seen as rustling opportunists, were on friendly terms with the Graham brothers. This turned public sentiment against the Grahams. The Tewksburys were not the only ones on guard – every rancher under the Mogollon Rim and in the Tonto Basin paid attention. Eyes were wide open and guns were kept loaded at all times.

It was about this time that Lydia started hearing the name, Tom Horn. He was a friend of Ed’s and was there to help him. Old-timers said he was a hired gun, and if so, only P.P. Daggs and a couple other big ranchers would have had the money to hire him and they certainly had an interest in the feud. Several people who bothered the Tewksburys ended up dead, and it is thought this might be the work of Horn. He had been at the Battle of Big Dry Wash in 1882 with Al Sieber. He attended at least one of the first Payson Rodeos (mid-1880s) and posed for a picture with Ed Tewksbury, Jim Tewksbury, John Rhodes, Charlie Meadows, Jim Houck, Carter Hazelton, and George Wilson. Tom Horn was also a guest at the Ellison’s Ranch.

In the summer of 1886, Lydia and Mary Ann heard the men talking about William Jacobs’ cabin being burned and feared theirs might be next, as Jacobs was a friend and a “sheep man.” The women heard more talk as several small sheep owners were burned out.

Then Mary Ann and Lydia learned that the Tewksbury brothers had made a deal with the Daggs Brothers to run sheep on shares – below the demarcation line! If they tried to bring sheep into Pleasant Valley, a shooting war was almost a certainty. More worry.

In September, 1886, the Martin Blevins family arrived from Texas and settled at Canyon Creek. They befriended the Grahams and due to the wholesale horse stealing taking place by a son, Andy Blevins Cooper, and some of the Hashknife cowboys, the Graham name was further tarnished.

In 1887, all hell broke loose. The Daggs Brothers of Flagstaff sent a band of sheep off the Mogollon Rim into the wonderful grazing valleys. They made a deal with the Tewksburys: protect our sheep and we will provide you with all of the guns and ammunition you need and, you can keep your ranch! The Tewksburys were not “sheep people,” but they wanted to keep their ranch and the sheep would certainly irritate the Grahams who had a cattle herd. It should be understood that cattlemen did not like sheep grazing on their range, as sheep will pull up the roots of the grass and ruin good grazing country. Now sheep were in Pleasant Valley and not only were the Grahams livid, but the other cattlemen were incensed.

On February 18, 1887, the Daggs brothers’ sheepherder was killed. The blame was placed on the Grahams, as the war heated up. A short time later, two Tewksbury horse herders were killed. Again, blame was placed on the Graham faction.

Mary Ann and Lydia lived in fear. They kept close eyes on their little ones as they played outside and the hours the men were gone were long. After the men were gone for a week, the women wondered if they would ever return.

In July of 1887, Mart Blevins disappeared while hunting lost horses from his ranch and the Tewksburys were suspected of foul play. Mart’s son, Hamp Blevins, enlisted help from the Grahams and some former Hasknife cowboys to help him find his father. These men were also suspected by the Tewksbury faction of being the same bunch of night-raiders that were burning the ranches of their friends. The Tewksburys were warned that a search party was coming and were aware of the threat made by some Hashknife cowboys to “start a little war of our own.”

The Tewksburys did not want their women and children in harm’s way, so they planned a surprise meeting for the Graham partisans at the old Middleton Ranch. The ranch then belonged to George Newton, a Tewksbury supporter, so on August 10, 1887, the Tewksburys were there with friends when the Graham faction arrived.

No one knows who fired the first shots, but the Tewksburys killed Graham-faction cowboys Hamp Blevins and John Payne. Warrants were issued for the Tewksburys and their friends, so the Tewksbury men began to campout in the surrounding mountains, hoping the women would be safe with their father, J. D. Tewksbury, who played no fighting part in the war. The women had no part in this war, either. Surely, no one would bother them. Still, fear for the women and children nagged at the men.

Then on August 19, 1887, Billy Graham was shot and killed and the Tewksburys were blamed. Lydia and Mary Ann figured they would be attacked sooner or later. Mary Ann, now eight months pregnant with her second child, did only necessary work, otherwise stayed close to the house. Mary Ann and little Bertha were living with Lydia and J. D. Tewksbury on J. D.’s Lower Tewksbury Ranch. John feared for his wife, and he figured the best place for her was with her mother.

Then came September 1, 1887 – the day the Tewksburys had dreaded would arrive. The J. D. Tewksbury home was attacked by the Graham faction. When war moves to one’s home, where women and children are in the line of fire, it takes on a new perspective. Stronger survival instincts emerge. Self-defense is dealt with more easily than murder. Family survival mandates a warrant to kill, if necessary.

Where were the members of the Tewksbury family when the house was attacked? The father, J. D. Tewksbury, and his 12-year-old step-son, Gus Shultes, were in Prescott. Step-son Thomas Shultes, age 13, was at corrals near the house, probably tending horses that came in the night before. Lydia and both of her little boys, Parker Tewksbury, 6, and Walter Tewksbury, 3, were in the house when the attack came. It has been much debated as to whether or not Mary Ann was there. She was eight months pregnant at the time and had three-year-old Bertha. Reason rules that Mary Ann and little Bertha were at the house during this attack. If not, where were they? No one can answer this question.

A story has also circulated that a school teacher named Miss/Mrs. Crouch was at the Tewksbury cabin during the attack. There was a Crouch family who lived five miles away and they were friends with the Tewksburys, but no one has established the fact that there was a school teacher named Crouch, and even if there was, why would she be at the J.D. Tewksbury cabin overnight when an attack was expected at any time?

Ed Tewksbury, John Rhodes, John Tewksbury, and William Jacobs had ridden to the J. D. Tewksbury Ranch the night before so John Tewksbury could check on his pregnant wife who was due in about a month. So the J.D. Tewksbury Cabin was full the night before the attack, although some of the men probably slept outside. The Graham faction had also ridden in during the night and secreted themselves near the house, hiding and waiting to attack.

Lydia and Mary Ann cooked breakfast for the men on the morning of September 1, 1887. After eating, John Tewksbury and William Jacobs went across the creek and out into J. D. Tewksbury’s pasture to catch fresh horses. After they turned to walk back toward the corrals with their horses, the two men were ambushed and killed by the Graham faction. Thomas heard the shots and ran to the house to give everyone the news. He was not hit, but bullets barely missed him as he raced for the safety of the house.

Shots were fired at the Tewksbury house for most of the day, holding the people inside prisoners. The Tewksburys were in shock knowing that John and William were probably dead because they did not return, but hoping maybe they would sneak in after it was dark. Maybe they had fled in the other direction. Not knowing was part of the pain.

A couple nights later, John Rhodes sneaked out of the Tewksbury house and rode to the mountain camp to tell the men hiding there – Jim Tewksbury, Jim Roberts, and Joe Boyer what had happened. Jim Roberts rode for Green Valley (Payson) to find Justice of the Peace John Meadows. Roberts’ ranch was under the Mogollon Rim, he knew the Green Valley country and would be able to locate Meadows easier that the others. John Rhodes returned to the J. D. Tewksbury Ranch with Joe Boyer and Jim Tewksbury. The three men took positions on a hill near the house and with Ed Tewksbury in the house, were able to hold off the Graham faction until Jim Roberts returned with the law about a week later.

The Tewksburys owned a small herd of cattle, a large herd of horses, and they raised hogs that ran on the open range. Their worst fears were confirmed when someone in the house could see a herd of hogs lingering in the horse pasture. They figured the hogs had smelled the blood of John Tewksbury and William Jacobs, who were probably dead. One of the women yelled out and asked if the ambushers would stop shooting so she could cover the bodies or bury them so the hogs wouldn’t eat them. To the horror of the Tewksburys, the Grahams denied this request. It should be stated that the Tewksbury family living today (2008) does not believe the hogs bothered the bodies of John Tewksbury and William Jacobs. This author respects this opinion, but believes differently. There is too much evidence pointing the other way.

The siege continued. The Graham faction fired shots at the house throughout the following days so no one could leave. On the third day, Lydia and Thomas bravely went out looking for the two men. They found them dead and mutilated. Lydia said she placed a blanket over them. That was all that could be done at the time. There are stories stating that Mary Ann walked out and dug graves and run off hogs with a shovel – while she was eight months pregnant. Ed Tewksbury and John Rhodes would never have allowed Mary Ann to go out alone to try to find her dead husband. They could imagine what she would find. Mary Ann was kept in the cabin. The woman who went out and covered the bodies was Lydia.

Lydia and Thomas returned to the house and reported to all what they had found. Heart sickness and tears followed. They also feared their house would be burned. They recalled the burning of William Jacobs’ house and others.

According to the Prescott Miner, days later (on September 9), J. D. Tewksbury still did not know his son, John, was dead; no one had ridden to Prescott, as is often reported. Jim Roberts had ridden to Payson. J. D. and Gus started back to PleasantValley as soon as J. D. heard that John had been murdered. J. D. was too late to be of any help, but Lydia needed his comfort and he needed hers. J. D. was never involved in the fighting part of the war. His self-appointed job was to keep the newspapers informed as to what was happening. He felt that protected his sons to a degree.

John V. Meadows, coroner and Justice of the Peace from Green Valley (Payson) and his posse, arrived at the J.D. Tewksbury Ranch on the tenth day of the siege. When the Graham faction saw Meadows arrive, they pulled out. They did not want to be identified by the law.

Meadows arrived with Charles Perkins to bury what was left of Jacobs and John Tewksbury. According to the Arizona Silver Belt, the two men lay where they fell for eleven days. Charles Perkins later said it was not possible to move the two bodies, so they were buried where they were found. He said they “were badly torn by the hogs, and decomposition had gone so far that burying them was a most disagreeable task. All we did was dig two very shallow graves and roll the swollen, mutilated bodies into them with our shovels.”

On September 10, 1887, John Meadows held an inquest into the deaths of William Jacobs and John Tewksbury. The following men served on the jury: John Rhodes, J. W. (Joe) Boyer, Charles Perkins, Chas. B Gilbert, Alfred O. Elliot, J. R. Haigler, and H. B. Crouch. It should be noted that John Rhodes and Joe Boyer were with the Tewksburys during the siege, yet they served on the jury. There simple were no others to serve.

Lydia Tewsbury and her son, Thomas Shultes, were the only ones who testified at the coroner’s inquest. It has been said that Ed Tewksbury, Jim Roberts, and Mary Ann were not at the Tewksbury home when Meadows arrived. Not true. Meadows allowed Ed Tewksbury, Jim Tewksbury and Jim Roberts to take Mary Ann and little Bertha to the John Tewksbury Ranch – away from the horror that had just taken place. Meadows was a decent man. He knew Mary Ann, then eight-months along in her pregnancy, was in no condition to testify; she had been through enough. He knew Ed Tewksbury had been present, but didn’t attempt to interfere when the men took Mary Ann and Bertha from the scene of the battle. Meadows knew the men would protect Mary Ann and Bertha.

Too, there were warrants for out for Ed Tewksbury, Jim Tewksbury, Jim Roberts, and Joe Boyer for the deaths of Hamp Blevins and John Payne. They didn’t want to put Meadows in a compromising situation, so the Tewksburys and Roberts left the J. D. Tewksbury Ranch. Boyer was going to leave with them, but Meadows asked him to stay and serve on the inquest jury, as there was no one else available. If Meadows hadn’t let John Rhodes and Joe Boyer serve on the jury, he would have had to go back to Green Valley (Payson) without holding an inquest. So the only people questioned were Lydia and Thomas.

Following are their statements:

Lydia Tewksbury, age 40, residence PleasantValley.

Q. Make statement regarding supposed killing of said persons.

A. Saw them September 1st at 8 AM at breakfast table. Heard firing at about 8:30 AM in direction bodies were found, heard about 100 shots, saw no one.

Found bodies three days afterwards. Thought saw bullet wound in back of John Tewksbury. Covered bodies with blanket and sent for assistance.

Deceased had guns, pistols and cartridges when last seen, had no other valuables. Left house to hunt for horses.

Shots all day near house at intervals from 8 AM to 4 PM.

Deceased had no guns or ammunition on bodies when found.

Thought heard two shots strike roof of house.

Ed Tewksbury was in house when firing commenced.

Thomas Shultes, age 12, residence PleasantValley.

Testimony: Was at corral back of house when firing commenced. Shots struck near me. While running to house about four bullets struck near me some as near as two feet. Saw smoke from bushes about 1/4 mile distant. Saw bodies of deceased and helped cover them. Saw no bullet wounds. Shots were all from one direction.

Deceased had no guns near them when found, but had 45/90 Winchester rifles also revolver and two belts of cartridges apiece when last seen alive.

Left house afoot to get saddle horses to go to house of John Tewksbury.

Wm. Jacobs deceased looked as though he had been hit with a rock at top of head.

Did not look for gunshots. John Tewksbury had no bruises upon head.


Deceased came to death by gunshot wounds fired by parties unknown.

After the verdict, the several jurymen and undersigned buried the bodies. Dated this the 10th day of Sept. 1887.

J. V. Meadows

Justice of the Peace

Since the inquest jury came to the conclusion that John Tewksbury and William Jacobs were killed by “parties unknown,” no charges were filed.

The Arizona Weekly Journal-Miner carried an article in its September 14, 1887, issue entitled "More Blood."

The Graham Party Kill John Tewksbury and William Jacobs in Tonto Basin

No sooner had the Sheriff and posse left Pleasant Valley, it now seems, than the vendetta there was renewed. They left on Thursday and on Saturday, John Tewksbury and Wm. Jacobs were ambushed and killed by the Graham party. Letters were received here last evening, by various parties, telling of the tragedy, but little particulars were given. Sheriff Mulvenon thinks that Tewksbury had come home to see his wife, who was expected to become a mother any day; and that he was accompanied by Jacobs, and the other party, who were evidently on the lookout for them, had laid in wait. James Tewksbury was also near the ranch and concealed himself among some rocks and fired a number of shots at the enemy, but without effect. A boy belonging to, or in the employ of Tewksbury, was also fired at, but was not hurt. During the day a number of shots were fired at the house, but fortunately none of them hit her.

John Meadows, Justice of the Peace for the Payson precinct, rushed to PleasantValley having been informed of the killing by someone present in the house on the day it happened. As soon as he arrived at the Lower Tewksbury Ranch, Meadows conducted a Coroner's Inquest.

About ten days later, the Grahams attacked again. Jim Tewksbury, Ed Tewksbury and Jim Roberts were camped near a spring about a mile east of the John Tewksbury Ranch. In the early morning hours, members of the Graham faction were seen slipping up on the camp by Jim Roberts who alerted the Tewksbury brothers. A gun battle ensued in which Joe Ellingwood and a Hashknife cowboy named George Middleton were shot by the Tewksburys. Middleton died and once more Justice John V. Meadows of Green Valley (Payson) was summoned to hold a coroner’s inquest. Ellingwood did not appear at the inquest to give his account and no one else knew anything, so Meadows’ jury decided Middleton was killed by “parties unknown.” Ellingwood stayed briefly at the Graham Ranch, recovered, and left the country. The Pleasant Valley old-timers changed the name Ellingwood to Ellenwood, because it was easier to say.

At the direction of Arizona Territorial Governor Conrad M. Zulick, Yavapai County Sheriff William Muvenon led a large posse into PleasantValley to arrest all the participants in the feud. Part of the posse hid themselves at Perkin’s Store, located in the heart of PleasantValley not far from the Graham Ranch. Charlie Blevins and John Graham saw activity there and went to investigate. When they arrived at Perkin’s Store, Sheriff Mulvenon stepped from behind the rock wall where the posse was hidden and tried to arrest them. Blevins and Graham pulled their guns. Mulvenon and the posse shot them. Blevins died almost immediately and Graham died that day. Tom Graham and Louis Parker (nephew of Tom Graham) escaped the posse. Tom went to the Salt River Valley and Louis went to New Mexico.

Then the Mulvenon posse arrested all the participants of the feud that they could find, including Ed Tewksbury, Jim Tewksbury and Jim Roberts. The men were all taken to Prescott and tried, but there were no convictions.

People thought the war was over, but there continued to be sniping and ambushes on the trail. This was the work of the Hashknife Gang and other rustlers. Lydia never knew when Ed or Jim might be killed – or J. D.

In 1888, Jim Tewksbury died of “slow consumption” (TB) in Tempe, Arizona, at the home of Jake Starar. His sister, Elvira Tewksbury Slosser, died of the same illness in 1899.

Lydia and J. D. continued to live on their ranch in Pleasant Valley. He died there March 10, 1891 (age 67) and is buried there.

Lydia was not left with much. Her husband’s estate was left to her two young sons, Parker Tewksbury, 9, and Walter Tewksbury, 6, but it included only the possessory rights to his ranch (he did not homestead it), 150 head of cattle, 25 head of horses and a $3,815 claim against the U. S. Government for property destroyed by the Apaches in 1882. Jesse Ellison, future owner of the Q Ranch and the Newton/Middleton Ranch, bought the cattle and horses. Nothing was left to J. D.’s older children, Ed Tewksbury or Elvira Tewksbury Slosser.

*story written and told by Jayne Pyle

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