Cherry Creek Lodge sits on the original homestead of J.D. Tewksbury, the patriarch of the Tewksbury family. This land played a key role in the infamous Pleasant Valley War that started in the early 1880s as a feud between the Tewksbury and Graham families and escalated into what was reputedly one of the bloodiest range wars of the old West.
Horse and cattle rustling, cattlemen versus sheepherders, big corporate ranches bringing in gunfighters to run off smaller ranchers, ambushes, outnumbered lawmen taking on the odds, lynchings, and vigilantes all played a part in the Pleasant Valley War—and became the subject of several nonfiction books, novels (including one by Zane Grey), documentaries, and movie & TV plots.
The sensationalized newspaper accounts of the range war at the time made the Arizona Territory synonymous with violence and lawlessness in the minds of the Eastern establishment, resulting in the delay of Arizona’s statehood for about a decade.
An in-depth chronology of events from the Pleasant Valley War is below, parts of which occurred right here on the ranch. Many of the off-ranch historical sites are celebrated and open every July during Pleasant Valley Days.
James D. Tewksbury moves to Pleasant Valley and establishes a ranch on Cherry Creek with his new wife, toddler son, Walter. (This would ultimately be the site of the Cherry Creek Lodge) JD’s three grown sons from an earlier marriage, Edwin, John, and James follow and homestead a ranch (the upper Tewksbury Ranch) nearby. J.D.’s first wife, mother of John, Edwin, Frank, and James was reportedly either a Hupa or Wiyot Indian or Shoshone. They raised horses, cattle, and half-wild hogs.
James Stinson moves his cattle into Pleasant Valley.
The Graham brothers, Tom, John, and Billy arrive in Pleasant Valley in response to an invitation by Ed Tewksbury to one of the Graham brothers John.[2 p.17][3 p.38]
Confrontation between John Gilliland and Ed Tewksbury. A party from the Stinson ranch, including John Gilliland (ranch foreman), Epitasio “Potash” Ruiz (Mexican ranch hand) and Elisha Gilliland (foreman Gilliland’s cousin) ride to the upper Tewksbury Ranch on Cherry Creek (the Tewksbury son’s ranch) to discuss alleged misbranding of Stinson cattle by the Tewksburys. Ed, James, John, Frank and Mary Ann Tewksbury (John’s wife) were at the ranch together with Tom and John Graham (then friendly). A gunfight ensued between Ed Tewksbury on the one side and Stinson’s foreman Gilliland and ranch hand Ruiz on the other. John Gilliland was shot in the shoulder and Elisha Gilliland in the back while attempting to get away.[2 p.17]
A complaint was filed in Strawberry against the Tewksbury and Graham brothers on behalf of the Stinson outfit with respect to the shooting. A posse was dispatched, arrested John, James and Frank Tewksbury and John Graham and escorted them to Pine Valley. In the meantime, Ed Tewksbury and John Graham rode to Prescott and filed a complaint against Gilliland and the Stinson group for the shooting, and warrants were issued against the Stinson men. Stinson Foreman, John Gilliland, and ranch hand Ruiz were arrested and taken into custody.[2 p.19]
Gilliland and Ruiz are indicted in Prescott for the shooting. A hearing is held in Pine Valley with respect to charges against the Tewksburys and Grahams.[2 p.20] All charges against the Tewksburys and Grahams are dropped.
May 1883 – Gilliland and Ruiz are tried in Prescott for the shooting incident and found not guilty.[2 p20] Mary Ann Tewksbury, Tom Graham and John Graham both testified that Gilliland was first to draw his pistol.[3 p43]
Frank Tewksbury, after being subpoenaed as a witness for the Prescott hearing, dies of measles complicated by exposure during the trip to and from the hearing in Prescott.[2 p19][3 p49] We believe Frank Tewksbury is buried on what was the J.D. Tewksbury Ranch (grounds near Cherry Creek Lodge).
The Grahams enter into a contract with Stinson under which the Grahams would receive 25 cows and 25 calves for each instance where they provide evidence leading to the conviction of someone rustling Stinson cattle.[2 p20]
John Graham records the TE Connected brand (commonly known to be the brand used on cattle jointly owned by Tom Graham & Ed Tewksbury) in his own name.
The Grahams record the contract with Stinson at the neighboring county seat and immediately file a series of complaints to the effect that the Tewksbury brothers were rustling cattle from Stinson and from the Grahams.[2 p20]
The Tewksbury brothers are indicted for cattle rustling based on a complaint filed by the Grahams.[2 p21] At trial, the contract between the Grahams and Stinson is put in evidence and George Newton testifies that Ed Tewksbury was in Globe at the time of the rustling, providing an alibi. The charges against the Tewksburys are ultimately dropped. The Grahams are charged with perjury by the judge. The perjury charges against the Grahams are also ultimately dismissed.[2 p21]
Warrants are issued against James Tewksbury and George Blaine for robbery of a store in Apache County. Tewksbury and Blaine are released on $3500 bond, paid by William A. Daggs (Daggs Brothers sheep), secured by mortgages on John Tewksbury’s crops and ranch. James Tewksbury was never tried due to the lack of witnesses. The Tewksbury sons ultimately lose their ranch.
Gunfight on Stinson ranch. George Blaine, John Tewksbury, William Richards and Ed Rose (Al Rose’s brother) go to Stinson ranch to discuss planning for an upcoming round up. An argument breaks out between Blaine and Marian McCann (Stinson’s new foreman). A gunfight ensues, during which Blaine is severely wounded. John Tewksbury is also reportedly wounded.[2 p26]
Range Detective for Apache County Cattlemen’s Association, Carr Blasingame, brings charges against the Grahams for cattle rustling. The Grahams are indicted and released on $1000 bail. Bail is ultimately forfeited, but charges are ultimately not pursued.[2 p26]
Stinson leaves Pleasant Valley, selling out to the New York-based corporation Aztec Land and Cattle Company, the Hashknife brand outfit. The Hashknife outfit also acquire 500,000 acres of land from the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad between Holbrook and the Mogollon rim.[2 p38]
Former Texas Ranger, “Colonel” Jesse W. Ellison, establishes the Apple Ranch between Pleasant Valley and Payson.
Andy Cooper (Blevins) and Charlie Blevins come to Pleasant Valley, driving the Adams brothers (original Mormon settlers) from the Canyon Creek Ranch. Andy Cooper and Charlie Blevins are joined by brother Hampton Blevins, father “Old Man” Mart Blevins and mother.[2 p38] Andy Cooper and his brothers are aligned with, and reputedly in the employ of, the Hashknife outfit.[2 p38][3 p82]
The Hashknife outfit begins implementing an aggressive plan to control not only its own range, but also the government-owned open range, intimidating or forcing out any smaller outfits attempting to share the use of the open range.[2 p43] Hashknife enforcers John Payne, Andy Cooper Blevins, Zack Booth, Tom Tucker, Bob Glaspie and Thomas Covington pistol whip sheepherders, terrorize Mormon settlers and small ranchers to drive them from the range.[3 p110 et seq]
The Tewksburys enter into agreement with the Daggs Brothers (largest wool shippers – sheep men – in Arizona) of Flagstaff to guard two herds of sheep through Pleasant Valley on shares.
William Jacob’s cabin is burned.[3 p110]
Confrontation between cowboy “Gladden” and Ed Tewksbury in Payson bar.[3 p110]
A herd of sheep driven over a cliff and herders sent to carry word to the Tewksburys.
A sheepherder hired by the Daggs Brothers to help drive sheep through Pleasant Valley is killed. The Grahams are suspected of committing the killing; Indian trackers hired by Daggs Brothers reportedly followed the killers to the Graham cabin, ultimately it was determined that the killing was done by Andy Blevins. The Tewksbury’s reportedly either had an interest in the sheep herd or had been hired by the Daggs brothers to protect the herd.[2 p38][3 p111]
Andy Cooper is sent out by the Grahams to coerce signatures on a “Tewksbury scalp” contract: “We, the stock men of Pleasant Valley, who signed our names below, agreed to pay Cooper Blevins fifty dollars for each and every one of the Tewksburys scalps.”[3 p115, 6, Chapter 13]
“Old Man” Mart Blevins, father of gunfighter Andy Cooper (Blevins), Hamp Blevins and Charlie Blevins, leaves his ranch to search for horses and disappears. His sons believe he was ambushed.[2 p53] Though known as “Old Man” Blevins, Mart was less than 50 years old.[3 p115] By one account, Old Man Blevins was caught stealing horses by the Tewksbury’s, hung, and fed to half-wild hogs.
Hashknife outfit (Aztec Land And Cattle Company) sues the Daggs brothers, claiming the rights to part of the Daggs (sheep) Ranch. The Daggs Brothers counterclaim for damages.[2 p43]
Gunfight at Middleton ranch. John and Ed Tewksbury, along with Jim Roberts, George Wilson and WB Edmundson, were visiting George Newton at the Middleton Ranch when Hamp Blevins and Hashknife cowboys John Payne, Thomas Carrington, Robert Glaspie and Tom Tucker arrive at the Middleton ranch (then owned by George Newton). In some reports, they were “seeking information” about Mart Blevins’ disappearance. In other reports, the Hashknife cowboys had, “Come to run everybody off, after giving ranchers a certain time to leave the country,” rather than investigating Mart Blevins’ disappearance.[3 p122] A gunfight erupts. Hamp Blevins and John Payne are killed, Tucker and Glaspie wounded.[2 p54][3 p120]
After the gunfight, apparently concerned about attack by a larger party or the potential for arrest, the Tewksbury faction abandons the Middleton ranch and flees to the forest. The next day, a group including Charlie Blevins, Thomas Carrington, Al and Ed Rose, Bill Voris, Miguel Apodaca and Lewis Parker burn down the Middleton ranch.
Billy Graham, the youngest Graham son, is killed in a gunfight with Apache County Deputy Sheriff James Houck. According to Deputy Sheriff Houck, while attempting to serve a warrant on John Graham, he encountered Billy Graham on the trail.[3 p134] A gunfight ensues, during which Billy is shot and ultimately dies. Billy is shot through the abdomen and eviscerated.[3 p174] However, Graham partisans (G. O. Sixby, Louis Gruwell and Al Rose) testify that at a coroner’s inquest before he died, Billy Graham claimed he had been shot by Ed Tewksbury.[2 p59]
Sheriff Mulvenon and posse come to Pleasant Valley to investigate Middleton ranch gunfight.[6,Chapter 14]
Ambush at the James D. Tewksbury Ranch (presently the site of the Cherry Creek Lodge) The Grahams, Andy Cooper, and others ambush and kill John Tewksbury and William Jacobs at the J.D. Tewksbury Ranch.[1, 2 p73, 3 p135] According to one account, there were around 20 Graham partisans in the ambush party.[6, chapter 16] In the dead of night, one group of ambushers took positions on a hill (now known as Ambush Hill) overlooking the Tewksbury cabin. A shell casing of the type used in the 1880s (now displayed at Cherry Creek Lodge) was later found at the ambush site on the hill. The remainder of the group concealed themselves across Cherry Creek from the cabin, knowing that the Tewksburys would have to pass that position in order to retrieve their pastured horses. In the morning, John Tewksbury and William Jacobs left the J.D. Tewksbury cabin to wrangle horses. When crossing Cherry Creek, John Tewksbury and Jacobs were ambushed and killed.[6, chapter 16] Mary Ann Tewksbury (John’s wife) and a guest, school teacher Mrs. Crouch, went to investigate and were driven back to the cabin by gunfire. Gun men kept the Tewksbury women pinned down in the cabin for at least three days. The rocky streambed where the bodies lay made it difficult to dig a grave, the best that could be done was to cover the corpses with sheets held down with rocks during nighttime forays. Half wild hogs half devoured the bodies[3 p135, 5 p98] According to one account, the Graham partisans refused to let the Tewksburys tend to their dead, leaving them to depredation of the hogs, in retribution for Old Man Blevins.[6, chapter 16]
It is unclear as to precisely who was present in the cabin. Father J. D. Tewksbury, his wife Lydia, and young children were, according to some accounts, in Salt River Valley, and Ed and Jim and Jim Roberts were hiding (from the Mulvenon posse) in the mountains. Others contend that J. D., Lydia, and Marianne Tewksbury, Bertha Acton, Mrs. Crouch and John Rhodes were in the cabin.[3 p135] By yet other accounts, Edwin, James, and father James D. held off the attackers.
Gunfight in Holbrook between Apache County Sheriff Commodore Perry Owens and Graham partisans Andy Cooper (Blevins), Sam Houston Blevins, John Blevins and Mose Roberts. Cooper, Sam Blevins and Mose Roberts are killed and John Blevins seriously wounded.[3 p139] [6, Chap. 17] Sheriff Owens was serving an arrest warrant on Andy Cooper, and the gunfight ensued.
Arizona Governor C. Meyer Zulick sends Yavapai County Sheriff William Mulvenon and 20 man posse to arrest all feud participants.[3 p155]
Gunfight At Rock Springs. The Grahams raid a Tewksbury encampment in Canyon Creek. One of the Graham faction is killed and another wounded. Both factions elude the Mulvenon posse.[3 p161] The Tewksburys (Ed and Jim Tewksbury, Jim Roberts, George Newton) are camped not far from the Cherry Creek Ranch. The Graham partisans attack the Tewksbury camp from horseback at dawn. Graham partisan Harry Middleton (reportedly a Hashknife cowboy) is killed, and Joe Ellenwood wounded. In some accounts, Tom Graham is also wounded.[3 p162]
Gunfight at Perkins Store. The Mulvenon posse catches John Graham and Charlie Blevins at Perkins Store in Pleasant Valley (now Young). John Graham and Charlie Blevins are killed in the ensuing gunfight. The posse included (apparently among others) Sheriff William Mulvenon, Deputy Jim Houck, Deputy Francis, Deputy Joe T. McKinney, Const. E. F. Odell, Osmer Flake, William Birch. By some accounts, Jim Roberts and perhaps other Tewksbury partisans were also part of the posse. There are approximately 14 men in the posse arrayed around the outside of Perkins Store. John Graham and Charlie Blevins approach on horseback. Sheriff Mulvenon steps out from behind the building and tells them they are under arrest. They pull their pistols and attempt to flee. Sheriff Mulvenon shoots them down.[3 p164]
After hearing about the gunfight at Perkins store, Jim and Ed Tewksbury, Jim Roberts, George Newton and Jake Laufer (and perhaps others) surrender to Mulvenon.[3 p168]
Tom Graham moves to Tempe and marries Anne Melton. Tom Graham’s Ranch is taken over by S. W. Young, father of Ola Young.
Committee of 50 local ranchers form a vigilante group to clean up Pleasant Valley. Graham partisans and others are lynched. Colonel J. W. Ellison is “chairman” of the vigilante group.[3 p184]
A grand jury in Prescott indicts the Grahams and Tewksburys on various charges. A Prescott grand jury indicts Ed and Jim Tewksbury, Jim Roberts, Joe Boyer, George Newton, Jacob Lauffer and George Wagner for the Middleton (Newton) ranch shooting of Hamp Blevins. Tom Graham, Louis Parker “and others” (Miguel Apodaca) are indicted, presumably for the ambush at the Cherry Creek Ranch.[3 p182]
Al Rose is killed. By one account Rose is shot by Ed Tewksbury. By other accounts, Al Rose is lynched by the Committee of 50.[3 p185]
James Stott and Tom Tucker are charged with stealing horses from Jake Lauffer, but acquitted.[3 p188]
Cases against the Grahams and Tewksburys are dismissed when witnesses refuse to testify. The trial is postponed and ultimately dismissed.[3 p182]
Jake Lauffer, at his ranch on lower Cherry Creek, is shot in the arm from an ambush.
Jim Stott, Billy Wilson and Jim Scott are lynched.[3 p192]
John Blevins is sentenced to five years in Yuma territorial prison for participation in Holbrook gunfight with Sheriff Owens.
George Newton, Tewksbury partisan, disappears while returning to his ranch (the Flying V) from Globe.[3 p211] Tom Graham and his bodyguard, Charlie Duchet, are suspected.
Tom Graham, the last of the Grahams involved in the war, is shot and killed in Tempe. Edwin Tewksbury and John Rhodes are charged.
Charges against John Rhodes dismissed at preliminary hearing.
Edwin Tewksbury’s convicted of Tom Graham’s murder after seven day trial in Tucson. A retrial is granted for procedural error.
Edwin Tewksbury retried for Tom Graham’s murder, resulting in a hung jury, and freed on bail.
Charges against Edwin Tewksbury dropped.
Ed Tewksbury dies in Globe.
Tewksbury partisan Jim Roberts, “the best gunfighter of them all” dies in Clarksville Arizona.
Walter Tewksbury dies in Prescott Arizona.
References: (1) Phoenix Gazette, (2) Hanchett, Jr., Leland J., Arizona’s Graham/Tewksbury Feud Pine Rim Publishing, Phoenix, Arizona, 1993, (3) Dedera, Don, A Little War of Our Own: The Pleasant Valley Feud Revisited. Northland Press, Copyright © 1988(4), Forrest , Earle R., Arizona’s Dark and Bloody Ground The University of Arizona Press, Tucson, Arizona, (5) Pyle, Jinks, Pleasant Valley War, Git A Rope Publishing Inc. 2009