The Real Arizona Charlie

Arizona Charlie

These days, the name is on a Las Vegas casino and a Dawson City theater, but folks in Yuma, Arizona, knew the real man behind the name. He was born Abraham Henson Meadows in the early 1860s, but branded himself “Arizona Charley,” and touted himself as “King of the Cowboys.” He appeared first with the Buffalo Bill Wild West Show and later started his own Arizona Charlie Wild West Show. In the late 1890s, he was found in Dawson City, Canada, hoping to get rich off the Klondike Gold Rush—but not by prospecting, but building the Palace Grand Theatre and printing the Klondike News. He ended up a cantankerous rancher in Yuma, where public records note numerous trials for everything from tax evasion to slander to armed assault. And when he got really ticked off, he started printing The Valley Hornet to slam anyone who angered him.Yet, he’s the subject of a delightful children’s book written by Julie Lawson. But for all his accomplishments and sins, he was probably best at prediction. His most unlikely was that it would snow the day he died—even though Yuma’s southwest desert setting means it almost never gets snow. Yet when Arizona Charlie died on December 9, 1932, Yuma had its first snow storm in 50 years.

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Jana Bommersbach

Arizona’s Journalist of the Year, Jana Bommersbach has won an Emmy and two Lifetime Achievement Awards. She also cowrote and appeared on the Emmy-winning Outrageous Arizona and has written two true crime books, a children’s book and the historical novel Cattle Kate.