The Meadows Family Massacre



John Moberly Meadows          Margaret Enlow Meadows


Henry William Meadows          Sarah Jane Hazelton McDonald

In 1877 John and Margaret Meadows with their twelve children arrived in the Tonto Basin Area of Arizona.  They along with the Hazelton Family were some of the orignal families in the Rim Country.  They were a colorful family, their sixth child, "Arizona" Charlie Meadows was a genuine Western Idol and legend and their last child, Mobley Meadows became known as "Kid" Meadows as he became the most adept trick riders ever seen.

On July 7, 1882, two neighbors of the Meadows family, Jim Burchett and John Kerr arrived at their Diamond Valley Ranch after a furious ride from the town of Globe.  They brought terrifying news, a band of White Mountain Apaches had broken out of the San Carlos Agency, a reservation in eastern Arizona, and had formed a raiding jamboree in company with the "red fiend" Nantangotayz.  Upon hearing of the Indian raiders, settlers went scurrying from their homes fearing for their lives.

Three days later, supposedly on reliable authority, a lone rider brought news that it was safe for the settlers to return to their homes.  John Meadows wasted no time in leaving.  At this same time, Henry Meadows was wrangling horses for the Army at Fort Verde.  Rose and Eva Meadows remained in town, presumably, at Grandma Obedience Hazelton's place (my great grandmother, my daughter's great great grandmother) with her daughters Ida and Laura Hazelton.  Sarah Hazelton, another daughter, a pretty 22 year-old school teacher who was a mite sweet on Henry accompanied the Meadows family back to their ranch until Henry and Sarah's brother, Carter returned.

What wasn't known when the families returned to their homes was that the gang of hostile Apaches were already nearby in Pleasant Valley performing their dastardly deeds.  The Indian raiders had joined forces with another group of hostiles led by Nantiatish, who were believed to be some 200 strong.  They set fire on the outskirts of the little town of McMillanville, set fires to the cabins of the Al Rose and Church Ranches, ran off the cattle at the Tewksbury and Stinson ranges and killed Will Sigsby and Lou Houdon on the range and mutilated their bodies; then attacked Bob Sigsby as he was entering his cabin carrying a bucket of water.

On the 14th of July Frank Prothero rode into the Diamond Ranch looking for Charlie Meadows.  Charlie was more than ready to help in the campaign against the deadly marauders, who had committed so many atrociities against his friends and neighbors.

Charlie's first concern was for the safety and wefare of his family but his father, John Meadows a fearless old sermonizer who had many earlier scrapes with Indians, assured him they would be able to care for themselves.  This was a grave mistake when 2:00 a.m. on the morning of July 15th arrived.



The following is the news report and a family account of the Meadows Family Massacre, which took place July 15, 1882 near Payson.

‘Tulare County Times"
Friday, July 28, 1882
The San Carlos Indians Attack the Meadows Family
John M. Meadows Shot and Killed
His Sons, John and Henry, both Severly Wounded
A Miraculous Escape
Sidell(a), Tonto Basin, A.T.
July 17, 1882

Mrs. R. K. McGinness

Dear Sister: -

Probably before this reaches you, you will have heard of the terrible disaster that has befallen our unfortunate family.  The news came on the 7th that the San Carlos Indians had left the Reservation, and were on the warpath.  We packed up and moved the family down to the settlement; in a few days it was contradicted, by what was supposed to be reliable authority.  All the families then left the forts and returned to their homes.  Our family returned to Diamond Valley at the head of East Verde; Eva and Rose stayed at Green Valley. The Indians attacked the family the day before yesterday.

Pa, John and Henry were the only men at the place.  Frank Prethero and I being at Green Valley about 16 miles from the ranch.  The Indians were lying in ambush about 80 yards from the house; the dogs roused the folks by their barking.  Pa was the first to get up, and supposing it was a bear that had been invading the premises for the last few nights previous, went with his gun in the direction of the barking.

A shot was fired, mother saw him running in the direction of the house and heard him moan.  John thought, at first, that his gun had been discharged accidentally, while Henry thought it was Indians, both were in bed at the first report, and did not know of pa being out.  Both hastened to the spot where mother had seen him last, but past where he was lying.  They called several times, and got no answer, only a murderous volley from the Indians, who were lying in the ravine.   John’s arm was shot through at the elbow, and a shot struck directly over the heart; it hit a mahogany pipe in his shirt pocket, which turned the bullet to the left and did but little damage.  Henry was shot through the foot.

Then they started to retreat, but were followed closely by the Indians.  As soon as they left their ambush, the boys turned and charged.  The Indians fired another volley and ran to the ravine in this volley.  John’s left arm was broken at the wrist, and Henry was hit in the left groin and the lower part of the abdomen, by a musket ball and three shot.  His cartridge belt was shot off and the ball passed through the stock of his gun.  The boys then returned to the house as fast as possible.

John was bleeding freely from both arms and from the breast.   Henry would not own he was wounded, until the family were safe in the fortification, and the Indians had quit firing.   He took a position at a port hole in one end of the house, while Maggie guarded the other with a shot gun.  In this position, Henry, John, mother, the three small boys, Maggie and Miss Sarah Jane Hazelton (who was there visiting) remained from dawn until 3 o’clock, when Mr. Massey and John Grey arrived.

Grey was immediately dispatched to Green Valley, and arrived at 4:30 o’clock.  Frank Prethero, Mr. Derrick, a U. S. soldier, and myself, started through the mountains keeping clear of the road; we reached the place at sundown.  Found everything quiet; the boys were suffering from their wounds, but complained but little.  We found pa shot through the breast, and lying on his back dead.  Three of us carried him to the house that joined the fort and a close watch was kept.   (The portion of this sentence following "house" is written between the lines and the following scratched out "and all traces of the grave were obliterated." As this is repeated in the next paragraph, copyist must have inadvertently skipped a few lines.)

At ten o’clock, Sam Houston, Bill Richards, William Houston and three other men came.   The soldier (who had been dispatched for medical assistance) was ambushed about one mile from the house, but escaped uninjured.  A picket guard was put out, and the boys wounds were dressed; no medicine could be had.  Next morning at 8 o’clock, Rose arrived with an escort of four men.  Pa was buried in the house and all traces of the grave were obliterated.

Feather beds were placed in the wagon, and the wounded made as comfortable as possible.  At 11 o’clock the family started for this place, under a guard of 14 well armed men.  The road was rough and the last two miles Henry had to be carried on a litter.  At 12 o'clock John’s arm was swelling considerably.  Henry is resting easy.  No surgeon has arrived yet.  We will meet one at Green Valley, ten miles from here.  We will start on as soon as it is cool.

Since I commenced to write, eight more men have come.  About 40 of our horses are gone.  The exact number of cattle cannot be ascertained, but more than 60 (sixty).  There have been at least (40) forty people murdered within thirty miles of here.  A part of three company’s soldiers are after them, but as soon as they found out where they were, they took care to go a different route, so as to avoid meeting them.  The Indians do not care for the soldiers in the least.

We have heard, several shots fired since we have been here and supposed them to be fired by the Indians, killing cattle.

Further investigation has proved that pa shot once at the Indians.  There were about (12) twelve of them all of whom fired two or three shots each. Pa was within a few feet of the one that killed him.  The boys were about fifteen yards from the ambuscade.  It was the most miraculous escape I ever hard of.  I will write again soon.

Chas. Meadows

P.S. - A Courier has arrived who says a physician is just behind.




Charlie Meadows along with his friends Frank Prothero and L. J. Horton removed John Meadows mortal remains and moved them to a grassy knoll below Fort McDonald, where he had the distinguished honor of being the first person buried in what is now the Payson Pioneer Cemetery.

On September 17, 1882, two months to the day after the Battle of the Big Dry Wash and the demise of the murderous fiend Nantiatish, Henry Meadows lost his desperate fight for life and was buried next to his father.

On September 24, 1883, Sarah Jane Hazelton (my grand aunt, my daughter's great aunt) became the bride of William McDonald.  Her courageous efforts on behalf of the Meadows family on that hellish day and her grief over Henry's death just one year before, were never forgotten, and the Meadows family wished her happiness.  Her brother, Carter, who helped move the Meadows family to Green Valley after the brutal attack, established a ranch with George Felton on Rye Creek.

"California" Charlie Mobley Meadows
Great Grandson Of John and Margaret Meadows
Grandson of Mobley and Rosalie Meadows
Son of Carlos and Mary Meadows

Mobley and Rosalie Meadows
with son Carlos

Thank you Charlie for graciously giving us your permission to use this story of your family on our web site.


Art Work ©Denton Lund
All rights reserved to the artist

"Distant Drums"
Provided By
Margi Harrell
Elan Michaels

Return To Main Page

Clarence A. Olin
[email protected]
Lois Olin Nader
[email protected]