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Pleasant Valley War
Typically, cattlemen and sheep-herders in the
didn't get along and this was no exception in the Pleasant Valley of
during the 1880's. The Pleasant Valley War, also called the Tonto Range War,
first began as early as 1882 between the cattle-herding Grahams and the sheep-herding Tewksburys.
the feud would last for almost a decade, it was most heated between 1886 and
1887. The conflict between the two factions began over property lines and water
and grazing rights. Adding fuel to the fire was the long-standing
disdain for sheep-herders. Even without legitimate conflicts, there would, no
doubt, have been a personal dislike of the Tewksburys on the part of the
Grahams. The Grahams also contended that the sheep grazed the open range clean,
leaving nothing left for the cattle.
Pleasant Valley today, courtesy
Waite's Country Realty.
Ironically, the Tewksburys were actually
cattlemen, but supported the sheep-herders due to a long-standing quarrel with
the Grahams. This first dispute was said to have been over cattle stolen from a
man named James Stinson. In any event, when the Pleasant Valley conflict
erupted, the Tewksbury’s gave protection to a band of sheep actually owned by
the Daggs brothers of
In addition to the Grahams, there were numerous
other settlers in the area who were upset at the appearance of sheep on the open
range that had been previously utilized exclusively by cattle. Those who had not
taken part in the Tewksbury-Graham quarrel before, began to unite in defending
their range against the sheep. Almost every man in the valley was eventually
drawn into the conflict.
The long-standing argument turned deadly when, in
February, 1887, a
employed by the Tewksburys was herding sheep in an area called the Mogollon Rim,
a vicinity that had been accepted as the line across which sheep were not
was shot and killed by Tom Graham, who also drove out or destroyed the sheep.
This event began the bloody battle that would be responsible for 19 known
deaths, and as many as 30. At one point, known hired killer
took part in the "war,” but it has never been established which side employed
17, 1887, William Graham was gunned down at his home but lived long enough to
identify Ed Tewskbury as the shooter. Later, Apache County Deputy Sheriff
James D. Houck would
publicly announce that he had shot and killed William Graham. Some believed this
was in an effort to take the pressure off of Tewsbury. In the end, a jury found Tewksbury guilty in his
absence and Sheriff Mulvenon set out to arrest the man, but, he had fled into the
In September, 1887, the Graham faction surrounded one of the Tewksbury cabins
and shot down John Tewksbury and William Jacobs as they started out for horses.
Though the two were dead, the Grahams continued firing at the cabin for hours,
only stopping when Mrs. Tewksbury finally came out of the cabin with a shovel to
bury the dead men.
days later, a man named
Andy Blevins, a member of the Graham faction, was
bragging that he had killed both of the Tewksbury men.
Commodore Perry Owens, got wind of the confession and having a warrant for
Blevin's arrest for cattle rustling, decided it was a good time to pick up the
went to the Blevins family home on September 4, 1887, the family was in the
midst of Sunday dinner and
Andy refused to come out. Within moments,
brother, John, opened the door and took a shot at the sheriff, who quickly drew
his six-guns, sending bullets into both John and
Sheriff Commodore Perry Owens
image available for photographic prints
gunfight inevitably erupted
and Sam Blevins, just 15 years-old, ran out the door firing at
who returned the shots. A friend of the Blevin family named Mose Roberts
also fired upon the Sheriff. The melee, lasting less than a minute, left
Andy and Sam Blevin, as well as Mose Roberts dead. John Blevins was wounded.
Despite the many shots fired at him,
was uninjured and as word spread about the
made the man a legend. Though the
shooting was ruled as self-defense, Owens was fired by the County over the
that month, Sheriff Mulvernon of Prescott pursued brothers, John and Tom Graham,
and Charles Blevins to Young,
Leading a posse sprinkled with Tewksbury sympathizers, they caught up with the
trio on September 22nd.
As the three men approached Perkins Store, Mulveron
demanded their surrender, but instead, a shoot-out ensued. When the dust cleared
John Graham and Charles Blevins lay dead. Tom Graham was able to escape.
Over the next few years, several lynchings and
unsolved murders of members of both factions took place, often committed by
1892, the feud ended when the last of the Grahams, Tom Graham, was murdered in
Before he died, Tom said that the shooter was Edwin Tewksbury, a fact that was
confirmed by several witnesses.
Ed was arrested for the murder and tried two
times. However, the first trial resulted in a hung jury. The second trial ended
in conviction, but, because of a legal technicality the verdict was deferred and
in 1895 the case was dismissed.
Edwin Tewksbury was the last of the men involved in the Pleasant Valley War. He died
April , 1904.
some of the graves of many of the murdered men can still be seen in the Young,
cemetery and the Perkins Store still stands as a museum.
of America, updated December, 2013.
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