Revised December 18, 2017
Review by Bruce Dinges, Arizona Historical Society:
Leland Hanchett, Jr. staked his claim as a serious historian of Arizona's turbulent Pleasant Valley with the "Crocked Trail to Holbrook," his highly regarded 1993 book on cattle ranching in the region. He followed it up with "Arizona's Graham - Tewksbury Feud," a detailed history of the 1880s legendary feud. Now, in "Black Mesa: the Hanging of Jamie Stott," he opens yet another window on the Pleasant Valley troubles. Starting from a clue in the files of the Arizona Historical Society, Hanchett discovered in family hands in North Billerica, Massachusetts, nearly four dozen letters between the young cowboy, who was hanged with two companions for horse stealing in 1888, and his parents and sisters. Stott was barely 19 years old when he left home for Texas in February of 1883 with visions of establishing himself as an independent rancher.
Experience came hard, however, and eventually he moved on to Arizona where he hoped he might "stand some show and not have to have a fortune to start with." Readers may wish that Jamie's letters were more informative and less chatty. Like any youngster separated from his loved ones, Jamie tried to mask his disappointments while he pumped his relatives for news of their lives. To provide background and continuity, Hanchett intersperses imagined commentary by Jamie's older sister, Hannah, as she struggles to make sense of the family tragedy 50 years after her brother's death. Persnickety scholars may grouse but Hanchett succeeds in personalizing the Stott's grief over the violent and unexpected death of a beloved son and brother.
"A gripping story of a fine young man who came west to make his own way and encountering bad guys once he arrived in Arizona. I live within 20 miles of where this all happened so it's part of our history here. The book was written by Jamie Stott's sister, [sic] full of letters between he and his family back east. Excellent reading!"