Feuds, fools, fancy women enlivened the Old West

COURTESY/ SHARLOT HALL MUSEUM --- 
Dakes Opera House, circa 1901. Amateur theater in Prescott is the subject of Thomas Collins’ presentation at the Western History Symposium at the Sharlot Hall Museum.

COURTESY/ SHARLOT HALL MUSEUM --- Dakes Opera House, circa 1901. Amateur theater in Prescott is the subject of Thomas Collins’ presentation at the Western History Symposium at the Sharlot Hall Museum.

"How can the truth be told about the pioneering of the West if the struggle, the fight, the blood be left out?" rhetorically asked Zane Grey, famous author of countless books about the Old West. It's darn near impossible.

So this Saturday, pull on yer cowboy boots, snug yer cowboy hat down low over yer eyes and head out for a daylong Western History Symposium at the Sharlot Hall Museum that's filled with action-packed stories of feuds, fools and fancy women of the past.

The free admission gives you a choice of seven talks by experts on Arizona's and Prescott's early - and often violent - history.

From the Pleasant Valley War between the Tewksbury and Graham families to the lives and sorrows - and plain old good business sense - of Territorial Arizona's ladies of the evening to the making of classic Zane Grey Westerns based on the author's many books, the day will be filled with interesting tidbits on life in the 19th century. For one thing, it wasn't for sissies.

One of the ugliest chapters in the long-running Tewksbury/Graham feud was when the Grahams surrounded a Tewksbury cabin and shot John Tewksbury and William Jacobs as they went for their horses. The Grahams continued to rain down fire on the cabin - with those inside the cabin returning fire - for hours. Suddenly a drove of hogs descended on the yard and started devouring the bodies of Jacobs and Tewksbury. It was too much for one of the men's wives, who came out, drove the hogs off and scooped out a shallow grave for the two men. The shooting stopped just long enough to accomplish the gruesome task.

As for prostitution, in Prescott it was regulated right up until 1949, says Ann Hibner Koblitz, professor of Women and Gender Studies at Arizona State University.

"In a town like Prescott, (prostitutes) weren't really looked down on," she added. Some women amassed enough money from their chosen trade that they were able to make loans to the businessmen of their towns.

Other topics to be covered Saturday include "Arizona in the Civil War," "Exploring Grand Canyon Country Before Powell," "Lewis and Clark" and "Amateur Theater in Prescott."

The event is sponsored by the museum and by the Prescott Corral of the Westerners, with the participation of the Skull Valley Historical Society, the Arizona Rough Riders Historical Association and the Prescott Valley Historical Society.

For more information contact Fed Veil at 443-5580 or Barbara Cook at 445-3122.