The Wild West In The Rim Country

Chapter 5: Murder In Diamond Valley

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It was the spring of 1877 when John and Margaret Meadows left Visalia, Calif. with their family and headed for Arizona. They came at the urging of their older son, John Valentine Meadows, who had preceded them and established a ranch in the White Mountains. The children included Henry, age 25; Charlie, age 18[1]; Eva, age 15; Rose, age 12; Margaret (nicknamed Maggie), age 8; James, age 7; Jacob, age 5; and Moberly, age 3. The daughters — Mary, Rhoda and Sarah — remained in California. Also traveling to Arizona with them was Charlie’s lifelong friend, Frank Prothero.

John Valentine met them at the Colorado River crossing, and escorted them to a timber-lined valley under the Mogollon Rim. The East Verde River meandered through the lush, grassy meadows, and the family discovered the valley on which they placed a squatter’s claim extended six miles from the edge of the Rim south to where it broke out of the foothills. Although very isolated, it was ideal for cattle and horse ranching and the family named it Diamond Valley after its approximate shape. This valley would later be known as Whispering Pines.

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Courtesy of Northern Gila County Historical Society

Charlie Meadows

They cleared a section between the trail’s third and fourth river crossings, and built a “dog-trot” cabin — two cabins connected with a common roof forming a breezeway between them. Soon, their cattle and horse herds were increasing, they had much wild game to eat, and the oil from the many bears they shot was sold. Occasionally they traveled to Marysville or Green Valley for supplies and socializing. These were happy years for the Meadows family — and then terror struck in July of 1882.

On July 7, Jim Burchett and John Kerr arrived at the ranch winded after riding all the way from Globe to warn local ranchers that a band of renegade Apaches had broken from the reservation and were attacking ranches as they came west. John Meadows reluctantly took his family to Green Valley in the spring wagon, and “forted up” at Fort McDonald. This was a red stone structure the residents had built on McDonald Hill. Other settlers hid out at August Pieper’s dance hall. After three days, a lone rider came through with the news that it was safe to return home. John lost no time in taking his family back to the tranquil Diamond Valley.

Of the Meadows family, Henry, now 30 years old, had gone to Fort Verde where he wrangled horses for the army. Rose, 17, and Eva, 20, remained in town with friends Ida and Laura Hazelton. Another Hazelton sister, Sarah, a school teacher, accompanied the family back to the ranch where she planned to wait until Henry Meadows and Sarah’s brother, Carter Hazelton, could return from Fort Verde. Sarah was known to be “sweet on Henry.”

John Valentine, learning of the raids, had also come to the ranch to be with his family.

Meanwhile, the Apaches were on a killing spree at Rim Country ranches, pursued by a militia of volunteer rangers from Globe hoping to harass the Apaches until the cavalry troops could catch up.  Charlie Meadows’ good friend Frank Prothero was among those chasing the renegades, and he raced to the Meadows’ ranch to recruit Charlie for the rangers. This was the first the family knew that the Indian scare was real. Father John Meadows urged Charlie to go, assuring his family that they were secure in their fortified cabin, and adding, “Thar ain’t no bullet cast that kin kill me.”

Charlie and Frank left for Pine Creek where they were to meet up with the 6th Division of U. S. Cavalry under the command of Major Adna Chaffee and chief of Indian Scouts Al Sieber. This was the night of Friday, July 14. Later that night, Henry arrived at the Meadows’ ranch and, not wanting to waken the family, he retired. It was about 2 a.m. Saturday morning when the loud barking of their dogs wakened them. Thinking it was probably the presence of a bear, they waited until the first signs of dawn and the dogs continued to bark. John took his “long-tom” rifle and headed out toward the dense stand of willow trees that lined the creek to see what it was all about. Jacob, age 10, got up with his mother and watched from the doorway. When John reached the brushy area there was a shot, Margaret and Jacob saw him throw up his hands, cry “My God!” and fall out of sight. Henry wakened John Valentine, and the two brothers ran out with their guns toward where their father had fallen. Without finding him, they found themselves surrounded by the Indian band, and a shootout ensued. Both men were badly wounded, and returned to the house as quickly as they could, their clothing soaked in blood. Henry fell on the doorstep and was dragged by his mother and Jacob into the house.

In traditional Apache fashion, the Indians had waited until dawn to attack, and now they continued occasional shots at the house, while they gathered the cattle and horses and began driving them up the river. Sometime later, Johnny Grey and Doc Massey from the Cold Springs Ranch arrived, and while Doc tended the wounded, Grey raced to Green Valley. He encountered Chaffee’s troops along with Charlie Meadows and Frank Prothero, informing them, only partially true, that Charlie’s father and brothers had been killed, the livestock had been driven off and the women and children were putting up a desperate fight of resistance.

Charlie, Frank and another Indian fighter named Marion Darrick left the army detachment and raced out to Diamond Valley, where they found Henry paralyzed from the waist down and John Valentine bleeding badly, his arms dangling helplessly. They went out into the brush and located the body of John Meadows, and brought him back into the house. That night a group of men arrived to set a guard around the house. They were Sam and William Houston, Bill Burch, Bill McDonald and several others. The next morning, July 16, they wrapped John’s body in blankets and buried him on the breezeway between the cabins, then dusting over the site to prevent it from being discovered by the Indians. They then placed feather beds in the wagons to carry Henry and John Valentine to town for medical help. Guarded by 14 men, the procession followed the river to Green Valley. Charlie and Frank returned to the ranch and rounded up what livestock they could find up and down the valley. Several Cavalry detachments had already encountered the renegades at Big Dry Wash and were engaged in what would be the last siege with Indians in Arizona.

Frank and Charlie then exhumed John’s body, and took it to Green Valley where they buried him on a grassy knoll below Ft. McDonald, the first person to be buried in what would become Payson’s Pioneer Cemetery.

On September 17, Henry died and was buried next to his father. John Valentine mended slowly as he and Charlie tended the ranch. Margaret and the younger children did not return, but moved to Phoenix where two years later Margaret died of broken heart and health. She was buried beside her husband and son. In 1888, the ranch was sold to the Haught family, and they in turn sold it to the Hendershot family. Young Maggie took over a new home and care of the small children. The older girls married, John Valentine ended up in California where he became sheriff of Imperial County and was murdered in 1918. There is a statue of him in the courtyard at El Centro. Charlie became a famous rodeo and Wild West show attraction, and died in 1932. He is buried in Yuma, Ariz.

Sources: “Arizona Charlie” by Jean Beach King, Heritage Publishers, 1989; Century House Museum in Yuma, letters and documents regarding the Meadows family; “The Encyclopedia of Frontier Biography,” page 964; “Prescott Courier” Centennial Edition, May 15, 1964; “Rim Country History,” letter from Charlie Meadows in 1932; Sharlot Hall Museum archive, Prescott, unpublished manuscript by L. J. Horton, “The Pleasant Valley War.”

[1] Charlie Meadows was originally named Abrah Henson Meadows, but soon insisted on being called Charlie.

Comments

Pat Randall 2 years, 5 months ago

Stan, Please get some maps of Arizona. One old one if possible. Some of the horse rides you describe would be impossible in the time frame you write.

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