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 James Warren Stott

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James Warren Stott

  • Birth 13 Sep 1863 North Billerica, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, USA
  • Death 4 Aug 1888 Navajo County, Arizona, USA
  • Burial Heber, Navajo County, Arizona, USA
  • Memorial ID 19490468

Cowboy, Rancher, Pleasant Valley War Murder Victim. Of all people starting out life, the one least likely to be unjustly lynched in a remote glen in an Arizona forest was James Warren Scott. In his home town of North Billerica, Massachusetts, he grew up in a house across the street from Thomas Talbot, twice the Governor of Massachusetts. He was "all boy" and his father, superintendent of the Talbot woolen mills, lived vicariously through James. The father was severely handicapped when he lost a hand and an arm rescuing one of his workers caught in the mill machinery. James graduated from the prestigious Wilmot Academy in New Hampshire and entered Harvard. A "youthful indiscretion" caused him to leave Harvard in his third year. He had a desire to go west and buy a ranch and his parents gave their blessings and a grubstake. In February 1883 he was in Texas working as a cowboy on a Castorville ranch. In November he moved to a ranch in Bartlett owned by a brother of Governor Talbot. Over the next two years he worked for several ranches in Texas always taking horses for pay. In the autumn of 1885 he and a pal drove the horses across New Mexico arriving in Holbrook, Arizona in October. With his horses and his grubstake he purchased the homestead rights of a settler in Bear Springs, about 40 miles south of Holbrook. Unfortunately, it was also in the area known as Pleasant Valley which was to become the scene of Arizona's only major feud. The Pleasant Valley War lasted 10 years or more and was big enough and bloody enough to gain national notoriety. The ranch was definitely a family affair. He frequently sent detailed reports of expenditures and transactions. The parents sent money regularly. In the summer of 1887 his mother and one sister spent a week on the ranch. He earned a reputation for hard work and honest dealings, with one exception. He came into possession of a horse with a botched brand. The horse was claimed by Jake Lauffer and James was arrested. The case was to be tried in Globe, the capital of Tewksbury country. The judge threw it out because of lack of evidence. James kept track of the Pleasant Valley War and on October 2, 1887 he told his sister in a letter that between 15 and 25 men had died and the last one was a good friend (probably Harry Middleton). Probably no event in the Pleasant Valley War underwent more revision of fact than the lynching. Certainly there were good men on both sides doing what they thought was right After all, who were the good guys strictly depended on whose side you were on. What is known for sure is that Houck, a consummate sheep man and part time Deputy Sheriff was openly credited with the arrest and responsibility for the safety of James and his companions, James Scott and Billy "Jeff' Wilson. The reason for the arrest of the three as reported in the August 18, 1888 edition of the Flagstaff Champion was that Jake Lauffer was shot and his arm broken by ambushed assassins at his ranch. Two other men on the way to Lauffer's ranch were fired upon. Houck says the firing was done by these three and with sworn warrants executed the arrest. The Prescott Journal-Miner reported on August 23, 1888 that Houck and five other men arrested the three men on August 11 under alleged fictitious charges. En route to Pleasant Valley the posse was met by masked men who ordered Houck and his men to move on. The next morning the prisoners were found hanging near the Verde Road. Houck reached Holbrook on Monday the thirteenth and reports from the scene said the bodies were still hanging on Tuesday morning. From the best information today the county authorities are taking no action in the matter. A fourth man, by the name of Motte Clymer, also spent the night at Stott's ranch. Clymer suffered from tuberculosis and James invited him to stay at the ranch and recover his health. In exchange he performed chores and watched after the stock. According to Clymer, ten or twelve men arrived at the ranch about daybreak. James called some of them by name and invited them to stay for breakfast. They let him prepare the meal, partook of it and directed the three victims to saddle up. James explained that Clymer was a "lunger" and a "tenderfoot" and could do no harm. AS the party rode away from the ranch, one member returned and told Clymer his friend Stott would not return for a while, if ever. He was told they left a gentle horse in the corral and he was encouraged to catch a stage in Snowflake or Holbrook and head east. After that, no one knows for sure what happened. But with the number of men involved there was some talk. It was leaked out that Scott and Wilson begged for mercy when they found themselves sitting on their horses under a pine tree, faces uncovered, a noose around their neck and the other end tied hard and fast to the limb above them. On a signal, a man behind each horse struck the horse with a rope, leaving the bodies twisting and turning in the sunlight. The vigilantes then turned to James, who unafraid and undaunted dared the4m to do their worst. Turn him loose and he would fight all of them single-handed and alone. Addressing each man by name he called down on their heads every curse and malediction his trembling lips could voice. As he was talking his horse jumped from under him and he too was swinging with his companions. "Dancing a dead man's jig" it was called in those days. An examination of the hanging tree noted some chilling evidence. W. J. Flake discovered that the limb fro which James hung had several groves as if he had been raised and lowered several times in an attempt to gain a confession. One leaked report was that on the last raising he was held too long and accidentally died. No one has ever been able to develop a completely accurate list of all those that took part in this vile act. But it was obvious that it was all a well devised plan from the beginning and that Houck's task was to deliver the men to the mob. Most notable among the vigilantes taking delivery of the three were Glenn Reynolds, Sheriff of Gila County and noted for being killed by Apaches when he was delivering the Apache Kid to Yuma prison; Tom Horn, noted Indian Scout, Railroad detective, and being hung in Wyoming for killing a 14 year old boy in Wyoming while serving as a range detective; James Tewksbury one of the brothers who was soon to be the second brother to die of tuberculosis; and Col. Jesse W. Ellison whose daughter, Helen Duette was to become the first First Lady of Arizona. William McFadden in his later years and in his cups once whined that after the hanging he was never able to lay down his head but that James Stott, at the end of a rope clawed and gasped and kicked McFadden's dreams into maddening nightmares. McFadden and J. W. Boyle were two of the very few who were to appear in court. They were called to St. Johns on an open murder charge, the names of the victims were not stipulated and without witnesses the District Attorney failed to make a case. A semi-serious attempt to charge some of the Tewsburys also resulted in nothing happening. The estimates of death in the war are upwards of 30 and the only jail time served was by a very few who were accused, but not one conviction for any offense was ever handed down. Don Dedera, in his book A Little War of our Own, The pleasant Valley War Revisited says, "I asked old Man Ellison, I said, "Well now it is said that Stott, whatever his name was and these two fellows that was hung up there near the-between the OWs [ranch] and Heber were innocent. They said it was two men and a boy." He said, "It was no boy. We didn't hang no innocent men."

Please see his Cenotaph placed in his home town cemetery by his parents.

Family Members


  • Created by: Tom Todd
  • Added: 22 May 2007
  • Find A Grave Memorial 19490468
  • Tom Todd
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for James Warren Stott (13 Sep 1863–4 Aug 1888), Find A Grave Memorial no. 19490468, citing Hangman Trail Burial Ground, Heber, Navajo County, Arizona, USA ; Maintained by Tom Todd (contributor 46900975) .