The Short, Sad Story of AZ Pioneer Jeff Power & His Familyby Jim Gressinger on Nov. 14, 2012, under Scenic Back Roads, Southern Arizona History & Culture, Things To Do In Graham County, Things To Do With The Kidz
Klondyke is a near-ghost town in western Graham County. In the second decade of the 21st century, the only roads out there are still unpaved.
The Klondyke cemetery is just southeast of town. There you will find the graves of the Thomas Jefferson “Jeff” Power and his family. Few know the sad story of these Arizona pioneers.
Searching for land to raise his cattle, “Jeff” Power brought his family to west Graham County from Texas in 1909. Power’s family included his wife, Martha Jane, a daughter, Ola May, and three sons, Charley, the oldest, and John and Tom Jr.
The ranch was still struggling when, in 1915, Martha Jane was killed in a buggy accident.
A year later, Power took his children to live near a mine he was working in Rattlesnake Canyon several miles into the Galiuro Mountains from the present town of Klondyke. Here, in 1917, 23-year-old Ola May was bit by a rattler and died. At least that was what her family told authorities. The coroner wrote that Ola May died from “causes unknown”.
About that same time, Charley was wounded in The Great War. Consequently, the old man decided that his remaining two sons, now in their mid-twenties, would not become cannon fodder defending someone else’s country. He refused to let his two younger boys leave home when they were called to military service. It was a fateful decision that would destroy the remainder of his family.
The young men were declared deserters. Power must have believed that they were so remote that the law wouldn’t bother them. He was wrong. Dead wrong!
On February 10, 1918, four Graham County lawmen came to arrest the brothers. They also carried arrest warrants for “Jeff” Power and his hired hand, Tom Sisson, both of whom were “wanted for questioning” regarding Ola May’s death.
No one today can say for certain who fired the first shot. But what is certain is when the shooting ended, three lawmen were dead and “Jeff” Power lay dying.
Brothers John & Tom Jr. were wounded, but they and Tom Sisson escaped to Mexico. A few weeks later all three were captured, quickly tried, convicted of murder, and sentenced to life in prison. They were sent to prison in Florence, Arizona.
His family members dead or in prison, brother Charley soon left the area.
Many year later, Tom Sisson died in a Florence prison at age 86. Brothers John & Tom Jr. were paroled in 1960 after 42 years in a Florence hellhole. Tom died in 1970 in a little town about 50 miles from Klondyke.
In the mid-1970’s, John Power moved the bones of his father and brother to Klondyke cemetery and placed them beside the graves of his mother and sister. On his father grave he wrote: “T. J. Power Sr. 1918 – Age 54. Shot down with his hands up in his own door.” Ya’ think he was a just a little resentful?
Nine years after they were released from prison, the Arizona Governor pardoned the two younger Power brothers. In 1975, the Power’s cabin was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. It has since been restored by the U.S. Forest Service. Visitors can hike in and reflect.
John Power died in 1976, and is buried beside his family in the Klondyke cemetery.
To read other local histories on SouthernArizonaGuide.com, click HERE.