The best researched books about Arizona territorial history

Who am I?

There is nothing I detest more than what I have dubbed the “John Wayne Mythos” – the idea the West was populated with righteous gunslingers going about “taming” the West by killing anyone who was not abiding by or submitting to white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant standards and morality. The West, of which Arizona was an integral part, was much more complex than this, and the heroes of legend were oft-times the real-life villains. I consider myself to be a historian of the “New Western History” school, which recast the study of American frontier history by focusing on race, class, gender, and environment in the trans-Mississippi West.


I wrote...

The Bisbee Massacre: Robbery, Murder and Retribution in the Arizona Territory, 1883-1884

By David Grassé,

Book cover of The Bisbee Massacre: Robbery, Murder and Retribution in the Arizona Territory, 1883-1884

What is my book about?

In December 1883, five outlaws attempted to rob the A.A. Castaneda Mercantile establishment in the fledgling mining town of Bisbee in the Arizona Territory. The robbery was a disaster: four citizens shot dead, one a pregnant woman. The failed heist was national news, with the subsequent manhunt, trial, and execution of the alleged perpetrators followed by newspapers from New York to San Francisco. The Bisbee Massacre was as momentous as the infamous blood feud between the Earp brothers and the cowboys two years earlier and led to the only recorded lynching in the town of Tombstone--John Heath, a sporting man, who was thought to be the mastermind. New research indicates he may have been innocent.

This comprehensive history takes a fresh look at the event that marked the end of the Wild West period in the Arizona Territory.

The books I picked & why

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

By Paula Mitchel Marks,

Book cover of 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.

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

By Paula Mitchel Marks,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked And Die in the West as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The gunfight at the OK Corral has excited the imaginations of Western enthusiasts ever since that chilly October afternoon in 1881 when Doc Holliday and the three fighting Earps strode along a Tombstone, Arizona, street to confront the Clanton and McLaury brothers. When they met, Billy Clanton and the two McLaurys were shot to death; the popular image of the Wild West was reinforced; and fuel was provided for countless arguments over the characters, motives and actions of those involved. "And Die in the West" presents an objective narrative of the celebrated gunfight, of the tensions leading up to it,…


Arizona Territorial Officials I

By John S. Goff,

Book cover of 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.

Arizona Territorial Officials I

By John S. Goff,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Arizona Territorial Officials I as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


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

By Don Dedera,

Book cover of 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.

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

By Don Dedera,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Little War of Our Own as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The history of the American West is punctuated by range wars, and the Pleasant Valley feud was among the most famous. Waged largely in northeastern Arizona, it had all of the classic elements: cattle and horse rustling, massacres, and dramatic courtroom confrontations. A LITTLE WAR OF OUR OWN incorporates more than thirty years of research by the author, including material from recently opened archival sources, and his journalistic vision, which penetrates to the heart of the story.


John Ringo: The Gunfighter Who Never Was

By Jack Burrows,

Book cover of 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.

John Ringo: The Gunfighter Who Never Was

By Jack Burrows,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked John Ringo as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


He was the deadliest gun in the West. Or was he? Ringo: the very name has come to represent the archetypal Western gunfighter and has spawned any number of fictitious characters laying claim to authenticity. John Ringo's place in western lore is not without basis: he rode with outlaw gangs for thirteen of his thirty-two years, participated in Texas's Hoodoo War, and was part of the faction that opposed the Earp brothers in Tombstone, Arizona. Yet his life remains as mysterious as his grave, a bouldered cairn under a five-stemmed blackjack oak. Western historian Jack Burrows now challenges popular views…


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

By Karl Jacoby,

Book cover of 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.

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

By Karl Jacoby,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Shadows at Dawn as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A masterful reconstruction of one of the worst Indian massacres in American history

In April 1871, a group of Americans, Mexicans, and Tohono O?odham Indians surrounded an Apache village at dawn and murdered nearly 150 men, women, and children in their sleep. In the past century the attack, which came to be known as the Camp Grant Massacre, has largely faded from memory. Now, drawing on oral histories, contemporary newspaper reports, and the participants? own accounts, prize-winning author Karl Jacoby brings this perplexing incident and tumultuous era to life to paint a sweeping panorama of the American Southwest?a world far…


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