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Arizona’s Deadliest Gunfight: Draft resistance and tragedy 1918

TUCSON- On a cold winter morning, Jeff Power was lighting a fire in his remote Arizona cabin when he heard a noise, grabbed his rifle, and walked out the front door. Someone in the dark shouted, “Throw up your hands!” Shots rang out from inside and outside the cabin, and when it was all over, Jeff’s sons, Tom and John, emerged to find the sheriff and his two deputies dead, and their father mortally wounded.

Arizona’s deadliest shoot-out happened not in 1881, but in 1918 as the United States plunged into World War I, and not in Tombstone, but in a remote canyon in the Galiuro Mountains northeast of Tucson. Whereas previous accounts have portrayed the gun battle as a quintessential western feud, historian Heidi J. Osselaer explodes that myth and demonstrates how the national debate over U.S. entry into the First World War divided society at its farthest edges, creating the political and social climate that lead to this tragedy.

A vivid, thoroughly researched account, Arizona’s Deadliest Gunfight describes an impoverished family that wanted nothing to do with modern civilization. Jeff Power had built his cabin miles from the nearest settlement, yet he could not escape the federal government’s expanding reach. The Power men were far from violent criminals, but Jeff had openly criticized the Great War, and his sons had failed to register for the draft.

To separate fact from dozens of false leads and conspiracy theories, Osselaer traced the Power family’s roots back several generations, interviewed descendants of the shoot-out’s participants, and uncovered previously unknown records. What happened to Tom and John Power afterward is as stirring and tragic a story as the gunfight itself. Weaving together a family-based local history with national themes of wartime social discord, rural poverty, and dissent, Arizona’s Deadliest Gunfight will be the authoritative account of the 1918 incident and the memorable events that unfolded in its wake.

Independent historian Heidi J. Osselaer teaches history at Arizona State University and is the author of Winning Their Place: Arizona Women in Politics, 1883–1950.

KATIE BAKER, PUBLICITY MANAGER UNIVERSITY OF OKLAHOMA PRESS

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