The best researched books about Arizona territorial history

The Books I Picked & Why

And Die in the West: The Story of the O.K. Corral Gunfight

By Paula Mitchel Marks

And Die in the West: The Story of the O.K. Corral Gunfight

Why this book?

The true story of the misdemeanor arrest in Tombstone gone terribly wrong that has resounded for almost a century and a half. There are literally dozens of books on this subject, but this is by far the best. Ms. Marks accurately, and without hyperbole, researched the motivations of the men involved in the Earp-Cowboy feud and precisely documents the conflicts which arose between them. As one reads her book, one realizes that the Earp mythos which has been and continues to be touted by other authors and the film industry is erroneous. There were really no good guys or bad guys, just regular men whose political and social ambitions led to bloodshed.


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Arizona Territorial Officials I

By John S. Goff

Arizona Territorial Officials I

Why this book?

An indispensable resource for serious students of Arizona history. Includes biographical information on anyone and everyone who served during this era from the governors to the school superintendents. Goof was meticulous in his research of the lives of these people and condensed them down into concise character sketches. Though the stories of these people’s lives are interesting, this is probably not a collection one would sit down and read through for entertainment. However, if one is in the business of writing Arizona territorial history it is a “must-have” series. I keep it on my shelf near my desk for easy access.


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A Little War of Our Own: The Pleasant Valley Feud Revisited

By Don Dedera

A Little War of Our Own: The Pleasant Valley Feud Revisited

Why this book?

Most meticulously researched book on the worst blood feud in U. S. History, but, being Mr. Dedera was a news journalist and columnist with The Arizona Republican, it is very readable. Prior to the publication of this manuscript, books about the feud between the Tewksbury and Graham families tended to be biased, sympathizing with the latter while condemning the former (in part because the Tewksburys were half Native American). Dedera was one who discovered the document which proved it conclusively was the Graham who had turned on the Tewksburys. Still, Dedera does not take sides, and he does not pull his punches. He lays out the facts before the reader, and when he does draw conclusions, they are based on the evidence presented. Highly recommended.


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John Ringo: The Gunfighter Who Never Was

By Jack Burrows

John Ringo: The Gunfighter Who Never Was

Why this book?

A biography that summarily destroys the myth of one of the great outlaws of western cinema. As it turns out, Johnny Ringo was a very minor outlaw and not a particularly good one at that. He was a depressive, an alcoholic, a poor shot, shunned by his friends, rejected by his family, and pretty much a ne’er-do-well. Finally, after an extended binge, he found a comfortable spot beside Turkey Creek in Cochise County and put a bullet through his head (there are a number of authors who have invented elaborate conspiracy theories on how Ringo really came to his death which are only worth reading for their absurd entertainment value). After considering all the facts, Burrows concludes the only reason John Ringo is remembered today is because he had a wonderfully mellifluous name).

This was the book that inspired me to look at Arizona histories with a more critical eye, and question all that I read.


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Shadows at Dawn: An Apache Massacre and the Violence of History

By Karl Jacoby

Shadows at Dawn: An Apache Massacre and the Violence of History

Why this book?

The Arizona territory was an intersection for people from many different cultures, and they sometimes did horrible things to one another. This is the story of the brutal Camp Grant Massacre of 1871, one of the pivotal events in the war on the aboriginal tribes in the Arizona Territory. This is a difficult book to read as it lays bare the inherent racism of the so-called settlers of the territory, and uncompromisingly addresses their genocidal inclinations. Worse, it shows how the policies of the U.S. Government encouraged such acts of mass murder. Though one hundred of the participants, including a number of upstanding citizens from Pima County, were indicted for 108 counts of murders, and tried, not one was found guilty. A shameful, but important history.


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