Grim Grahams and Truculent Tewksburysby John Scott on Sep. 06, 2012, under Uncategorized
Earlier this year Kevin Costner starred in the TV movie Hatfields & McCoys, based on the famous feud that took place in the mountains of Kentucky and West Virginia. You may have heard that we had our own feud out here in Arizona. It was commonly called the Pleasant Valley War, the Tonto Basin War, or the Graham-Tewksbury Feud. I think producers haven’t made a TV movie about it because nobody can decide which name should be the title.
The family squabble started around 1882 up in the vicinity of Young, Arizona. Originally this was thought to be a war about sheep being brought in to cattle country, but that was just some fuel for the fire that was already burning. It came down to some racial prejudice (The Tewksburys were half Indian) and accusations of cattle rustling by both parties. Eventually there was a gunfight, and the feud was officially on.
In the interest of keeping this entry a quick read, I’ve decided to leave out the many events that took place. I will summarize the conflict by saying that by 1892 pretty much all the players perished from lead poisoning. In 1904, the last Tewksbury died of natural causes, only because there wasn’t anyone else left alive to shoot him. Thus endeth the war with three names.
Some notable western folks participated in this 10-year feud. Tom Horn, Commodore Perry Owens, and Frederick Russell Burnham were all involved and escaped unscathed. However, records indicate as many as 34 others didn’t. Although it didn’t get the national recognition that the great Hatfield-McCoy feud did, the results were sadly the same.
Every July, the town of Young celebrates Pleasant Valley Days with a parade, reenactments, and tours of the battle sites. One gunfight took place at the Perkins Store, now a museum. Although I haven’t been up in that neck of the woods, I am told this small town is a throwback to the 1880’s. The photographs and research I’ve seen indicate a community dedicated to its history, but not cashing in on it. Even the Perkins Store museum is only open for the July event. The next time you head up that way, swing by Young and grab a bite to eat. Jaw with the locals about the history of the bloody feud. Maybe even stop by the old cemetery and pay tribute to the victims. Oh, and don’t fight with your neighbors.