The Pleasant Valley War was the longest and bloodiest range war in American History. Also known as the Graham-Tewskbury Feud, it was one of the most gruesome. Yet even now, more than 100 years later, the truth behind the events — and even some of the events themselves — remain shrouded in secrecy.
The nation at large was so shocked and revolted by what went on — lynchings, bodies disemboweled, corpses left for wild pigs to feed on, and more — that it delayed the granting of statehood to the Arizona territory for more than two decades.
There are those who say the war was about sheep versus cattle, but it was also about horse rustling and about cattle rustling and about empire building. In the town of Young, in the heart of Pleasant Valley, there are still descendants of some of the participants, and there are plenty of folks who take clear sides.
The feud is remembered and celebrated each year, on the third weekend of July, during Pleasant Valley Days. The town's historical society offers an informal lecture and chat about the feud, followed by a tour of sites that played a part in the events; there's a parade, barbecues, quilting and crafts displays, a rodeo and lots more. The Perkins Store, site of a famous and bloody ambush, and now a museum, is open to the public for the day. Except for food, just about everything is free.
During Pleasant Valley Days, guests at Q Ranch are welcome to participate in all the events, and they get a special bonus not offered to the other attendees of Pleasant Valley Days: a chance to visit the sheepherder's grave and the Middleton cabin. The latter is the site where the first white blood was spilled, when five members of the Graham faction opened fire on the Tewksbury faction, who was visiting the Middleton ranch, killing two of them. Within days, the ranch house was burned to the ground, leaving only the chimney, which still stands, along with the remains of the stable. A memorial marker was erected several years ago on the site.
Click here to view a 49-minute documentary about the feud. Below is a list of books that present different views. Of them, To the Last Man is a novel in which Zane Grey gives the war a romanticized Romeo & Juliet slant.
To the Last Man
Zane Grey, 1921
Arizona's Dark and Bloody Ground
Earle R. Forrest, 1936
Some Reminiscences of the Pleasant Valley War and Causes That Led up to It
Oz Flake, 1939
Pleasant Valley War
George Walter Shute, 1956
A Little War of Our Own: The Pleasant Valley Feud Revisited
Don Dedera, 1988
Arizona's Graham-Tewksbury Feud
Leland J. Hanchett, 1994
Pleasant Valley Days: A History of the People of Pleasant Valley
Barbara Zachariae, 1998
They Shot Billy Today: The Families of Arizona's Pleasant Valley War
Leland J. Hanchett Jr., 2006
Pleasant Valley War
Jinx Pyle and Michael Ottero, 2009