Story Of Bloody Feud Still Told In Young


Marie and Jim Petroff, members of the Pleasant Valley Historical Society gave a tour to Gila County Cooperative Extension agents that included a visit to Boot Hill, the old Tewksbury cabin in Young and the historic home of Ola Young, the town's first postmaster.

These places are generally only open to the public on Pleasant Valley Day, the second Saturday in July.

The first two sites are important because they are the part of Arizona's history known as The Pleasant Valley War.

"Twenty-eight people died and another 50 associated people died or disappeared in the war," Jim Petroff told the extension agents. "The story starts in 1879 when James Tewksbury and his four sons moved to Pleasant Valley with the idea of starting a horse breeding ranch."

But they actually made more money from selling pigs and cattle rustling than breeding horses.

In 1882, the Tewksburys met Tom Graham and his three brothers and convinced them that Pleasant Valley was a good place to start a cattle ranch.

The Grahams were not prepared for winter and the Tewksburys cared enough to see them through it.

Also located in Pleasant Valley was the large Stinson Ranch.

When summer came, the Grahams contracted with Stinson, the absentee owner, to stop area cattle rustlers.

"Of course, the Grahams were some of the major rustlers," Jim said. "They brought charges against their competitors the Tewksburys."

Traveling from Pleasant Valley to Prescott in the winter to answer charges was treacherous and the youngest Tewksbury brother, William, died of pneumonia.

Tensions escalated further when the Tewksburys tried to import sheep across the "deadline," an unofficial agreement between the ranchers that there would be no sheep in Pleasant Valley.

"As the Navajo sheep herder came over the ridge with the herd, he was stopped by the Grahams," Jim said. "They beheaded him and used his head as a soccer ball."

In retaliation, William Graham was shot in the gut and rode home dragging his entrails behind him.

"He died three days later, claiming that he had been shot by Ed Tewksbury," Jim said.


Rifles are just a few of the historic items Frank Chapman has collected to help preserve the history of Pleasant Valley. From right to left, 1870s Springfield carbine, a double-barreled shotgun, an 1861 Marlin that belonged to Zachareas of Pleasant Valley, an 1873 Winchester, an 1892 Winchester saddle ring carbine, and an 1895 Winchester with the Tewksbury brand on the stock. The brand looks like a backward D. Contact the Chapman Ranch Museum at (928) 462-3259.

In retaliation, the Grahams held their one-time friends' ranch under siege for a week, killing the patriarch of the family and Phil Jacobs.

"While the bodies lay in the yard they were mostly devoured by the Tewksbury pig herd until Maryanne Tewksbury, who was expecting a child, marched out and covered the bodies with fencing from the barn to keep the animals away," Jim said.

The killing escalated when the Tewksburys, in expectation of another attack, camped outside the house in their bedrolls. When the Grahams came riding down on them, they killed one of their attackers and wounded six.

The Sheriff from Holbrook rode down with his posse and set up an ambush behind the walls of the half-built, chest-high, Perkins Store.

When Graham and his men rode up, the Sheriff commanded them to surrender or else.

They turned their horses around. The posse stood up from behind the wall and shot them.

At this point, with most of his family dead, Graham gave up, moved to Tempe, and, for him, the war was over.

But it wasn't over for everyone.

About this time, a vigilante group called the Committee of 50 formed.

"There were probably never more than 20 members, but they would ride around, stopping every stranger they met and cause trouble," Jim said.

At a ranch in Spring Creek, they shot and hung Albert Rose, a hand on the Graham Ranch.

Graham hired Ola Young's father, Silas, to caretake his ranch.

When the Committee of Fifty came upon him in a field he managed to convince them he was just the caretaker and not on any side and they left him alone.

But the Ed Tewksbury still was not satisfied. He rode to Tempe and reportedly gunned down Tom Graham five years later.

Like most stories of the old West there is always more. Some of that history can be found at The Chapman Ranch Museum and Frank Chapman is another man willing to share what he knows of the Young of more than a century ago.

Books about the Pleasant Valley War Petroff recommends are, "Arizona's Dark and Bloody Ground," "A Little War of Their Own," "Arizona's Grand Tewksbury Feud" and Zane Grey's novel "To the Last Man."

Ola Young, with 50 years of service, is the longest serving postmaster in U.S. History.

Before moving West, her father was a postmaster in Missouri. He petitioned the government for a post office in Pleasant Valley, he was told the name was taken and so it was named Young.

She was also the first teacher in the Valley. She began taking pupils under an oak tree.

Her New Home treadle sewing machine, the first postal desk and phone and other household artifacts reside in the white board home that sits just south of the cemetery.

Young bequeathed the land her home sits on and the cemetery to the Pleasant Valley Historical Society with the caveat that no Tewksbury ever be buried in the cemetery.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.