Forget the Hatfields and McCoys. Arizona has the Grahams and Tewksburys

Courtesy photo

Payson author Jayne Peace Pyle, a fifth-generation descendant of Gila County pioneer families, will present a lecture on the Pleasant Valley War at 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 19, at Sharlot Hall Museum.

The Pleasant Valley War - also known as the Tonto Basin Feud, Tonto Basin War and Tewksbury-Graham Feud - has been called one of the bloodiest range wars in American history. Estimates of the dead run as high as 50 men.

Pyle comes from a cattle-ranching family and grew up hearing stories of the people and places associated with the Pleasant Valley War.

The exact number of those murdered and ambushed during the years-long dispute is unknown. Its impact, however, was far-reaching – especially on the women, who suffered from fear, isolation, displacement, depression and anxiety from 1887-92.

At the center was a classic 19th century feud between two families who simply didn’t like each other very much: the Grahams and the Tewksburys. The war started innocently enough – cattle rustling charges, a spontaneous gunfight, and the murder of a sheepherder.

With each such event, coupled with each death of a participant, the feud ultimately escalated and became a war that would not end until only one man remained standing. Historians differ on a specific cause of the conflict, but it’s clear the resultant bloodshed was a product of mixed motives amid hatred, retaliation, self-preservation and greed.

Almost every family on the Tonto Range and in Pleasant Valley was drawn into the conflict amid polarized views of cattle-grazing versus sheep-herding, property lines and range boundaries, cattle rustling, sheep shooting, and water rights.

Pyle, author of “Women of the Pleasant Valley War” (2014), provides a woman’s perspective of the notorious conflict and its impact on those who suffered from the losses.

She and her husband, Jinx, have published more than 50 and authored six historical books, including “Women of the Pleasant Valley War” (2014), “Calf Fries and Cow Pies” and “Rodeo 101 – History of Payson, Arizona, Rodeo” (2004).

Pyle was selected as an Arizona “CultureKeeper” in 2005, and was presented the prestigious 2012 Sharlot Hall Award for her work in preserving Arizona history.

Admission to the Nov. 19 lecture is free. It begins promptly at 2 p.m. in the museum’s West Gallery of the Lawler Exhibit Center. Sharlot Hall Museum is located at 415 W. Gurley St., two blocks west of the Courthouse Plaza in downtown Prescott. For more information, call the museum at 928-445-3122, ext. 10.