Power’s War – Q&A with Historian Dr. Heidi Osselaer


Heidi Osselaer during a 3-day hike into the Power Cabin.

The archivists’ code of ethics dictates that we don’t disclose what our researchers are looking at, so it’s pretty exciting when a patron publishes a book or works on a documentary that we can share! One of our dear patrons, Dr. Heidi Osselaer*, did quite a bit of in-depth research here at the archives in preparation for the beautiful Power’s War documentary that is screening at film festivals and winning awards all over the country. We’re thrilled that she agreed to answer some questions about her process researching for the film.


Heidi with author Thomas Cobb (Crazy Heart and With Blood in their Eyes), and Power’s War producer Cameron Trejo at the film’s premiere at Eastern Arizona College in Thatcher.

The Power’s War is known as the deadliest gunfight in Arizona history, and took place in the Galiuro Mountains early one morning in 1918. The saga involves fatalities, manhunts, and three men sentenced to the Florence prison for murder – but little substantive evidence exists to fill in the details of the story. Heidi discovered that the documentation was often shaky at best, that records went missing over time, and that the series of events have evolved into conspiracy theories and myths over time. Her research is a classic archives tale of the process of trying to create a narrative out conspiracy theories, missing records, and highly suspect documentation. One of the most thrilling and frustrating parts of working in archives is untangling these mysteries!

Q&A with Heidi 

  1. First, can you talk a little about how you got involved in this project?

Filmmaker Cameron Trejo at Power Cabin

Heidi: “Three years ago local film producer Cameron Trejo came to me with a documentary film project, the Power Shootout.  He gave me 2 books to read—Shootout at Dawn written by Tom Power and The Evaders written by Darvil McBride. He had been struggling to figure out what really happened at the mining shack deep in the Galiuro Mountains when four lawmen arrived on Feb. 10, 1918 to arrest Tom and John Power for draft evasion and Jeff Power and hired hand Tom Sisson for perjury in their testimony at the inquest of Ola May Power  After skimming through both books, it quickly became apparent that neither version was accurate. Tom Power and Darvil McBride’s father, Sheriff Robert Frank McBride, were both participants—on opposite sides of Arizona’s deadliest gunfight.  Clearly they were both biased.  Several other books have been written, but there had been no systematic examination of public records. Barbara Wolfe, Passion, Prejudice and Power, had uncovered a handful of trial records and newspaper articles, but most other publications relied heavily on the somewhat dubious claims of old men with fading memories. Oral history is a wonderful resource, but in this case, with so few facts established and so many disparate versions of the shootout floating about, the truth became quite elusive. There was even a dissertation published on the shootout, not in History, but in Folklore—that’s how bad it got.”

  1. Can you tell us a little about the research you did for this project? What was your approach, and where did it take you?

Heidi at the Grant County Recorder’s Office

Heidi: “My plan was to get a fresh view through the extant public records—tax assessments, property deeds, voter registration, criminal & civil court cases, census records. I started at Arizona State Library and Public Records, combing through existing documents for months on end.  I  traced the family lineage back to when the first Power to come to the new world from Germany in the 1780s, and followed these ancestors through their moves to Kentucky, Indiana, Arkansas, Texas, New Mexico, and finally into Arizona. Along the way I have found relatives of the Power family living today in California who knew nothing about the story, and they have provided me with very useful insights.  Ancestry.com is an amazing tool!

My final research trip was to the Power Cabin, located deep in the Galiuro Mountains of southeastern Arizona.  When you are writing about something, it is important to experience it first hand, but I wasn’t too excited about this trip. I’m not the rugged outdoors woman, but my producer, Cameron Trejo, insisted I go on his 9th and final trip to film for the documentary.  It is a beautiful place, but very remote.  We spent three days camping out, and at night black bears scratched at my door for hours.  No documents on this trip, just hundreds of photographs, but I came away with a much better understanding of the life of this family.”

  1. You’ve mentioned that a lot of what you learned from the research was not just what you found in the archives, but also what was missing. Can you talk about your experiences with this? 

Heidi: “Many documents concerning this story are missing.  Criminal and civil cases involving the Power family in New Mexico are noted in the dockets, but the actual case files are missing. And while Greenlee County trial documents are on microfilm at ASLAPR, the transcripts of the testimony have never been found. The U. S. Marshal records, housed at AHS Tucson, are very complete, except for documents related to the Power case. Some of the U. S. Marshal letters still exist in the Greenlee County trial records because they were introduced as evidence in the trial, but their copies and othpower nara docs (13)er correspondence seem to have been lifted from the US Marshall collection.  There are hundreds of prison records at ASLAPR pertaining to the many decades that Tom Sisson and Tom and John Power spent at the Arizona State Prison at Florence, however, the trial transcripts and judge’s sentence and other court records that customarily go to the prison warden are missing from those prison files. There are always many souvenir hunters who take public records, even though it is a felony, and of course record keeping one hundred years ago was often haphazard, but in this case, I feel that there was a systematic effort to purge many records regarding the Power case from the public eye. Others who have researched this case agree. This has created the appearance that there was a conspiracy to cover up the truth. I’m not sure if that is true, but that is the outward appearance.

Finally, I was disappointed that the Graham County Historical Society has closed, and its excellent collection is no longer available to the public.  The records of Judge Chambers, who was lead prosecutor in the trial, are held in this collection, and they are essential to understanding this pivotal character in the Power story. I hope that state historians and archivists work together to keep valuable local collections safe and available to the public.  We cannot write the history of Arizona without them.”


heidi-osselaer*Heidi J. Osselaer received her undergraduate degree in history at the University of California, Berkeley, and earned both a master’s degree and doctorate in U.S. history at Arizona State University. Her research field is women in Arizona History.  She has taught at Arizona State University, Tempe, Scottsdale Community College, and Phoenix College and has served on the Executive Board and the Scholars’ Committee of the Arizona Women’s Heritage Trail as well as the Editorial Board of the Journal of Arizona History and is a speaker for the Arizona Humanities Council. In April of 2009, the University of Arizona Press published her first book, Winning Their Place: Arizona Women in Politics, 1883-1950. She served as development producer and lead historian, and was interviewed as a historical expert for the 2015 documentary film, “Power’s War,” about Arizona’s deadliest shootout.  She was also a historical expert interviewed for “Blood Feuds: Johnson County War,” forthcoming from Lion TV and American History Channel.

Happy 35th Birthday, Groundwater Management Act!


Stop by the display case at the State Archives to see some of the original documents from the passage of the Groundwater Management Act!

Water in the American West is always a hot topic, but it’s made the news a lot more in recent years as California has struggled with drought, and western states continue to discuss how to allocate water resources. Determining how to parse out scarce water resources in our own arid region, and how to plan for tough times, has been a part of Arizona’s history. 2015 marks 35 years since one of the most important pieces of water management legislation was signed by Governor Bruce Babbitt, the Groundwater Management Act of 1980.


Governor Bruce Babbitt

The Groundwater Management Act was written by a 25-member groundwater commission (we have those records, too!), who took a year and a half to learn the complexities of water laws. Tough questions they asked included who should have the right to pump groundwater and how much?; what methods should be used to reduce the groundwater overdraft?; and should groundwater be managed primarily at the state or local level?

The Act was signed into law on June 11, 1980. The law restricted new agricultural use of groundwater, required permits for new industrial uses, restricted the drilling of large wells, and implemented the rule that new development subdivisions be able to guarantee 100 years of water supply. The Act also divided the state into four Active Management Areas, with a series of water management plans adopted for each area.


Active Management Areas designated by the Groundwater Management Act

Prior to the passage of the Groundwater Management Act, Secretary of the Interior Cecil Andrus warned Governor Babbitt that funding for the Central Arizona Project could be threatened, but the reforms ensured that funding for CAP was secured. In the 35 years since its passage, the Groundwater Management Act has been lauded as a landmark piece of legislation that has left the state’s water supply in a more assured position from that of neighboring states.

We have lots of resources related to the Groundwater Management Act, including the Governor Bruce Babbitt records (RG 1, SG 23), the Arizona Groundwater Management Study Commission (RG 48), and the Department of Water Resources (RG 142). Stop by to see the materials on display, or come by to do some research!


Governor Babbitt’s speech following the passage of the Groundwater Management Act.

Dr. Melanie Sturgeon Receives High Honor!

A few months ago, a colleague from Northern Arizona University Special Collections contacted archives staff to see if we could put together a bio for our beloved director, Dr. Melanie Sturgeon, so he could nominate her for the Conference of Inter-Mountain Archivists (CIMA) Lifetime Achievement Award. It took us awhile to condense all of her amazing work into just a short paragraph! Melanie is such an amazing champion of Arizona history and archives, has fostered archivists new to the profession, and has been instrumental in building a close-knit archival community here in Arizona! We can’t think of a more deserving recipient. Read more about her award here! DSC_1243

Preserving Arizona’s Web, One Crawl at a Time

Did you know that part of the State Archive’s responsibilities include archiving the websites of the Arizona State Government? Electronic media is the primary way that people communicate in the present, therefore preserving digital-born material is vital for future generations of researchers. Since we began web archiving in 2007, we’ve crawled 68.1 million internet-based documents and collected 4.5 terabytes of data!

Using Archive-It software, we “crawl” the State of Arizona’s websites and harvest digital-born content, including documents, videos and images. These crawls are essentially snapshots of a page that once captured, future researchers may revisit and interact with as though those sites were still running. The public has online access to these collections 24/7, and our entire corpus is easily searched with a click of a button. If only paper-based research was so easy!

Like traditional archiving, we create collections of related sites for researchers. Our primary goal is to preserve the websites of Arizona’s state agencies and departments. Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites of our elected officials are also essential sources of information.  We also preserve special interest sites that may be thematic or based around a specific event, such as Arizona’s centennial celebration in 2012. Websites are constantly changing, therefore it is important that we crawl our collections regularly.

The web archiving project is made possible by a grant provided by the Library Services and Technology Act. To access the Arizona Web Archive, follow this link to our partner page at Archive-It. Content on the page will be updated frequently over the coming months so check it often! You may contact us with questions or comments about the project at archives@azlibrary.gov.


Web archivists comb through thousands of URLs to make sure only necessary webpages are archived. They use a programming language called regular expressions to expand or narrow the scope of each web crawl.


Some websites may block certain crawlers from capturing their pages or lead them into traps of endless URLs. Archivists must test and retest each website to make sure Archive-It captures a complete and efficient snapshot of the page.


Once captured, web data forms a complete picture of the website at the time it was crawled. Using Archive-It’s Wayback Machine, researchers may experience the Arizona Historical Society’s page as it appeared when it was crawled on September 16, 2014.



The Jane Karl collection

Scanned ImageWe are so delighted to bring you the newly-digitized Jane Karl Mid-century Modern Architectural Rendering collection, now available on the Arizona Memory Project! This collection has been so much fun to work with, not only because it is so visually stunning, but because it has given us a chance to collaborate with lots of great colleagues, historic preservationists, and the artist’s son, Phil Karl.

Scanned Image

Last year, some historic preservation friends put us in touch with the City of Phoenix Historic Preservation Office. Because they work so much with the architectural and historic preservation community in Phoenix, they were alerted to a wonderful collection that needed a home – the Jane Karl collection. Jane Karl and her husband Walter owned an architectural renderings studio, and did work for noted architects such as Del Webb and John F. Long. Unable to house the collection there, they were delighted to connect us with Phil Karl, the artist’s son, who donated the collection to thScanned Imagee archives in May.

This collection is preserved and accessible thanks to the work of so many friends and collaborators! The City of Phoenix Historic Preservation Office was great to put us in touch with the artist’s son. Phil Karl was so generous in not only donating the collection, but working with Alison King of modernphoenix.net to provide robust descriptive information on the collection. Richard Prouty helped us with getting the collection online, and you can see a great cross-section of the collection here: http://azmemory.azlibrary.gov/cdm/landingpage/collection/archkarl. Scanned Image


Arizona’s Veterans through the Eyes of History

When: Friday, November 14, 2014, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Where: The Polly Rosenbaum State Archives Building, 1901 W. Madison 

Join us for a celebration of Arizona’s Veterans through the eyes of history.  America’s servicemen and women have long been an important part of Arizona history.  Starting in the territorial days when soldiers were stationed here to ensure the safety of Arizonans, followed by Frank Luke Jr.’s heroic military efforts during World War I, and the state’s significance as a training base for World War II soldiers and aviators.

On Friday, November 14, the State Archives will host an exhibit of unique and interesting military records that are part of the State Archives’ collections.  Archivists will be on hand to talk about these collections and discuss research interests you might have.

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On display will be an 1864 Map of the Military Department of New Mexico (which includes Arizona), the U.S. War Department – Military Map #1, a collection of letters written by Private Austin Seavey while he was stationed in Arizona from 1876 to 1881.  Photographs of military encampments during the territorial era will also be on display.  Selected examples of letters written by soldiers returning to Arizona after World War II to Governor Sydney Osborn describing the hardships they faced trying to reintegrate into civilian life will be available for the public to read.

Indian Scouts

These items are just a fraction of the material relating to veterans in the State Archives.  Collections include Veteran’s Association periodicals, lists and maps of military posts, General Orders, naturalization papers of World War I veterans, and photographs and documents from the Frank Luke Jr. collection.

To learn more about the official archives for Arizona’s state and local government permanent records, visit http://www.azlibrary.gov/arm. Archives and Records Management, a branch of the Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records, collects, preserves and makes available public records, historical manuscripts, photographs, newspapers and other materials that contribute to Arizona’s history.

Happy Election Day!

Happy election day! We hope you have a chance to get out and vote today, if you haven’t already! Election day is not just an important day to practice your civic duty, it’s also an opportunity to recognize historic events that got us here. Today marks 100 years since women were first able to vote in a statewide election. We hope you’ll stop by today or in the next few days to check out some of the wonderful resources we have here at the State Archives related to the struggle for women’s suffrage.

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Arizona became a state in February 1912.  Prior to statehood, while writing the state’s new constitution, the issue of women’s suffrage came up.  Influential politician, George Hunt, who was president of the constitutional convention, decided not to support women’s right to vote, in part because he was concerned that the President of the United States would deny our request for statehood if we included suffrage in our constitution.  Also, at the time, a lot of men were concerned about the strong support many women had towards temperance.  These men feared that if women could vote they would back candidates that supported prohibition.

However, the state constitution gave voters the right to amend the constitution through the initiative process.  The Arizona Equal Suffrage Campaign Committee was organized and collected the 3,342 male signatures required by law to get a women’s suffrage initiative on the November 1912 ballot.  This initiative passed and became part of Arizona’s constitution nearly 8 years before women were granted the right to vote in national elections.

urns out the saloon supporters were right. Temperance supporters circulated a petition to institute prohibition in Arizona and the majority of the signers were women.  In the 1914 election the Arizona prohibition initiative passed and we became a dry state in 1915.


This wagon was used to dampen the dusty streets of Phoenix with alcohol the day that prohibition went into effect.