On September 2nd, 1887, Jim Roberts, along with several members of the Tewksbury family, were at the Lower Tewksbury Ranch on Cherry Creek (both the Tewksburys and Grahams had three ranches in the valley), when some twenty Graham partisans, led by Andy Cooper Blevins attacked the ranch. Among them were Tom and John Graham, Mote Roberts (not related to Jim) and Charlie and John Blevins. Some accounts claim future governor George W.P. Hunt was among the gang.
Historians disagree on who was inside the solid-walled cabin that day. One version has it Ed Tewksbury and John Rhodes, were there while J.D. was in Prescott. Another says J.D. and Lydia were in Phoenix. Still another has Ed and Jim with Jim Roberts at their “mountain hideaway,” eluding warrants for their arrests, while John Rhodes was at the Tewksbury headquarters.
Others inside the cabin included John Tewksbury’s pregnant wife, Mary Ann; J.D.’s wife, Lydia; her twelve-year-old son; and their two youngsters, ages three and six.
The Graham partisans positioned themselves on the opposite side of Cherry Creek in the brush and waited. After breakfast John Tewksbury and Bill Jacobs headed out to wrangle the horses. Several shots rang out, and the two men fell to the ground, shot from behind.
One of the shooters walked up to Tewksbury and fired three more shots into him and then picked up a huge rock and smashed his head. The attackers kept firing into the cabin throughout the day. They paused long enough to announce that John Tewksbury and Jacobs were dead, but they wouldn’t allow the Tewksbury men to see them. Apparently they did allow Lydia, her young son and possibly Mary Ann to look at the bodies. Mary Ann Tewksbury would later claim she begged Tom Graham to let her bury her husband and Jacobs, but he refused.
Apparently the Graham partisans believed the Tewksburys had gunned down Old Man Blevins and then allowed the wild hogs to eat him for Tom Graham replied, “No, the hogs have got to eat them.” It was claimed Andy Cooper Blevins wanted to scalp Tewksbury, but
Tom Graham forbade it. Graham knew if one side started taking scalps, the other would respond in kind. Cooper also wanted to burn the cabin but, because of the women
and children inside, was again forbidden by the others.
During the fight, John Rhodes slipped away, evading the snipers, and headed to the mountain hideaway to alert Jim Roberts, Joe Boyer and Jim Tewksbury. Roberts then rode hard to Payson to summon justice John Meadows and a posse.
Rhodes, Tewksbury and Boyer rushed back to the siege but were driven back by withering rifle fire from the Graham partisans. They managed to gain a position atop a nearby hill, where they could return fire and support Ed who was firing from inside the cabin.
Help didn’t arrive for eleven days. Snipers hung around for several days, firing at anyone who tried to leave the cabin. The men foraged for wood and brought in water at night.
Some versions say Mary Ann defied the snipers, who peppered her feet with rifle shots during the day, crept out at night and, since the ground was too rocky to dig graves, covered the bodies with bed sheets anchored with rocks to keep the hogs from devouring the bodies.
By the time the posse arrived, the snipers had left and what was left of the bodies of the two slain men was placed in an Arbuckle Coffee crate and buried in a single grave.
Mary Ann gave birth to her baby boy ten days after the fight and named him John after her late husband. She later married John Rhodes, and the boy, who took his stepfather’s last name, became a rodeo cowboy, winning a World Championship in 1936.
The Tewksburys were understandably bitter. Later, Jim Tewksbury would say contemptuously, “No damned man can kill a brother of mine and stand guard over him for the hogs to eat him and live within a mile and a half of me.”