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Pete Spence

Pete Spence

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Pete Spence suspected of robbery in 1878 in Goliad County, Texas, changed his name from Elliot Larkin Ferguson. He was later a suspect in a stagecoach robbery outside Bisbee, Arizona and was known for his association with outlaw Cowboys
The Cowboys (Cochise County)
The Cowboys were a loosely associated group of outlaw cowboys in Pima and Cochise County, Arizona Territory in the late 19th century. They were cattle rustlers and robbers who rode across the border into Mexico and rounded up cattle that they then sold in the United States...

 Frank and Tom McLaury and Ike
Ike Clanton
Joseph Isaac Clanton was born in Callaway County, Missouri. He is best known for being a member of group of outlaw Cowboys that had ongoing conflicts with lawmen Wyatt, Virgil, Morgan Earp and Wyatt's friend Doc Holliday. The Clantons repeatedly threatened the Earps because they interfered with...

 and Billy Clanton of Tombstone
Tombstone, Arizona
Tombstone is a city in Cochise County, Arizona, United States, founded in 1879 by Ed Schieffelin in what was then Pima County, Arizona Territory. It was one of the last wide-open frontier boomtowns in the American Old West. From about 1877 to 1890, the town's mines produced USD $40 to $85 million...

, Arizona Territory
Arizona Territory
The Territory of Arizona was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from February 24, 1863 until February 14, 1912, when it was admitted to the Union as the 48th state....

. Spence was also a suspect in the assassination of Morgan Earp
Morgan Earp
Morgan Seth Earp was the younger brother of Deputy U.S. Marshals Virgil and Wyatt Earp. Morgan was a deputy of Virgil's and all three men were the target of repeated death threats made by outlaw Cowboys who were upset by the Earps' interference in their illegal activities. This conflict eventually...

.

Origins


In the 1880 Tombstone census he gave his age as age 28, born in Texas, and listed his occupation as stock raiser. He was also reported as having been born in Louisiana in 1850. Little is known his youth, but he enlisted in the Texas Rangers
Texas Ranger Division
The Texas Ranger Division, commonly called the Texas Rangers, is a law enforcement agency with statewide jurisdiction in Texas, and is based in Austin, Texas...

 under Captain Wallace in 1874.

Ferguson was wanted for robbery in Goliad Co., Texas in 1878 and left the area for the Arizona Territory
Arizona Territory
The Territory of Arizona was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from February 24, 1863 until February 14, 1912, when it was admitted to the Union as the 48th state....

 near Bisbee
Bisbee, Arizona
Bisbee is a city in Cochise County, Arizona, United States, 82 miles southeast of Tucson. According to 2005 Census Bureau estimates, the population of the city was 6,177...

 and Tombstone
Tombstone, Arizona
Tombstone is a city in Cochise County, Arizona, United States, founded in 1879 by Ed Schieffelin in what was then Pima County, Arizona Territory. It was one of the last wide-open frontier boomtowns in the American Old West. From about 1877 to 1890, the town's mines produced USD $40 to $85 million...

 where he began using the name of Peter M. Spencer. He was one of a number of outlaws from Texas who sought sanctuary on the American frontier and the wild west. Locally known as Cowboys
The Cowboys (Cochise County)
The Cowboys were a loosely associated group of outlaw cowboys in Pima and Cochise County, Arizona Territory in the late 19th century. They were cattle rustlers and robbers who rode across the border into Mexico and rounded up cattle that they then sold in the United States...

, Tombstone resident George Parson wrote in his diary, "A Cowboy is a rustler at times, and a rustler is a synonym for desperado—bandit, outlaw, and horse thief.".

Tombstone and Bisbee



In Tombstone
Tombstone, Arizona
Tombstone is a city in Cochise County, Arizona, United States, founded in 1879 by Ed Schieffelin in what was then Pima County, Arizona Territory. It was one of the last wide-open frontier boomtowns in the American Old West. From about 1877 to 1890, the town's mines produced USD $40 to $85 million...

, Arizona Territory, Spence lived immediately across the street from the Earps in a house which still stands in Tombstone. For a time he ran Vogan's Saloon. In October, 1880 Spence was charged with grand larceny on a charge of possessing stolen Mexican mules, but was not convicted. Spence was a business partner of Frank Stilwell
Frank Stilwell
Frank C. Stilwell was an outlaw Cowboy who murdered at least two men in Cochise County during 1877-1882. For four months he was a deputy sheriff in Tombstone, Arizona Territory for Cochise County Sheriff Johnny Behan...

 in the Franklin Mine and other mining ventures, and also in a Bisbee saloon. On August 12, 1881, he married Marietta Duarte.

The Sandy Bob Bisbee line stage robbery


On September 8, 1881, a passenger stage on the Sandy Bob line in the Tombstone, Arizon area bound for Bisbee was held up by two masked men. They robbed all of the passengers of their valuables since the stage was not carrying a strongbox. During their robbery the driver heard one of the robbers describe the money as "sugar", a phrase known to be used by Frank Stilwell
Frank Stilwell
Frank C. Stilwell was an outlaw Cowboy who murdered at least two men in Cochise County during 1877-1882. For four months he was a deputy sheriff in Tombstone, Arizona Territory for Cochise County Sheriff Johnny Behan...

. Stilwell had until the prior month been a deputy for Sheriff Johnny Behan
Johnny Behan
John Harris Behan was from April, 1881 to November, 1882 sheriff of Cochise County, Arizona Territory. Behan was appointed the first sheriff of the newly-created county in February, 1881. The mining boomtown of Tombstone was the new county seat and Behan's headquarters...

 but had been fired for "accounting irregularities".

Deputy U.S. Marshal Virgil Earp
Virgil Earp
Virgil Walter Earp fought in the Civil War. He was U.S. Deputy Marshal for south-eastern Arizona and Tombstone City Marshal at the time of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral in the Arizona Territory. Two months after the shootout in Tombstone, outlaw Cowboys ambushed Virgil on the streets of...

 assisted by his brother Wyatt
Wyatt Earp
Wyatt Berry Stapp Earp was an American gambler, investor, and law enforcement officer who served in several Western frontier towns. He was also at different times a farmer, teamster, bouncer, saloon-keeper, miner and boxing referee. However, he was never a drover or cowboy. He is most well known...

 and Sheriff's posse led by Behan attempted to track the Bisbee stage robbers. At the scene of the holdup, Wyatt discovered an unusual boot print left by someone wearing a custom-repaired boot heel. The Earps checked a shoe repair shop in Bisbee known to provide widened boot heels, and were able to link the boot print to Frank Stilwell. Stilwell had just arrived in Bisbee with Spence, his livery stable partner, and Virgil and Wyatt arrested both of them at the stable, for the stage robbery, on September 10. Cowboy
The Cowboys (Cochise County)
The Cowboys were a loosely associated group of outlaw cowboys in Pima and Cochise County, Arizona Territory in the late 19th century. They were cattle rustlers and robbers who rode across the border into Mexico and rounded up cattle that they then sold in the United States...

 friends provided Stilwell and Spence with an alibi
Alibi
Alibi is a 1929 American crime film directed by Roland West. The screenplay was written by West and C. Gardner Sullivan, who adapted the 1927 Broadway stage play, Nightstick, written by Elaine Sterne Carrington, J.C...

, saying they were elsewhere during the robbery, and the state robbery charges were dropped.

Spence and Stilwell were re-arrested on October 13 by Virgil Earp for the Bisbee robbery on a new federal charge of interfering with a mail carrier. The Cowboys saw the Earp's filing of federal charges as further evidence they were being unfairly harassed and targeted by the Earps. They let the Earps know that they could expect retaliation. Local newspapers erroneously reported that Spence and Stilwell had been arrested for a different stage robbery that occurred on October 8 near Contention City
Contention City, Arizona
Contention City or Contention is a ghost mining town in Cochise County in the southeastern part of the U.S. state of Arizona. It was occupied from the early-1880s through the late-1880s in what was then known as the Arizona Territory...

. Stilwell was in jail in Tucson on these federal charges on the day of the gunfight
Gunfight at the O.K. Corral
The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral was a roughly 30-second gunfight that took place at about 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday, October 26, 1881, in Tombstone, Cochise County, Arizona Territory, of the United States. Outlaw Cowboys Ike Clanton and Billy Claiborne ran from the fight, unharmed, but Ike's brother...

 on October 26, 1881, but Spence had been released several days before.

Suspect in Morgan Earp assassination


At 10:50 p.m. on Saturday, March 18, 1882, Morgan Earp
Morgan Earp
Morgan Seth Earp was the younger brother of Deputy U.S. Marshals Virgil and Wyatt Earp. Morgan was a deputy of Virgil's and all three men were the target of repeated death threats made by outlaw Cowboys who were upset by the Earps' interference in their illegal activities. This conflict eventually...

 was shot by assailants who fired through a glass-windowed, locked door at the Campbell & Hatch Billiard Parlor in Tombstone. At the time, Morgan was playing a late round of billiards against owner Bob Hatch. The shooters narrowly missed Wyatt Earp, who was watching the game. Spence's wife, Marietta Duarte, testified at the coroner’s inquest that her husband, Frank Stilwell
Frank Stilwell
Frank C. Stilwell was an outlaw Cowboy who murdered at least two men in Cochise County during 1877-1882. For four months he was a deputy sheriff in Tombstone, Arizona Territory for Cochise County Sheriff Johnny Behan...

, Frederick Bode, "Indian Charlie" Cruz, and a half-breed named Fries bragged about shooting Morgan. Her husband had threatened her with violence if she told what she knew.

The coroner
Coroner
A coroner is a government official who* Investigates human deaths* Determines cause of death* Issues death certificates* Maintains death records* Responds to deaths in mass disasters* Identifies unknown dead* Other functions depending on local laws...

's jury concluded that Spence and his accomplices were the suspects in Morgan's assassination. Spence immediately turned himself in so that he would be protected in Behan
Johnny Behan
John Harris Behan was from April, 1881 to November, 1882 sheriff of Cochise County, Arizona Territory. Behan was appointed the first sheriff of the newly-created county in February, 1881. The mining boomtown of Tombstone was the new county seat and Behan's headquarters...

's jail. When the prosecution called her to testify at Spence's preliminary hearing, the defense objected because her testimony was hearsay
Hearsay
Hearsay is information gathered by one person from another person concerning some event, condition, or thing of which the first person had no direct experience. When submitted as evidence, such statements are called hearsay evidence. As a legal term, "hearsay" can also have the narrower meaning of...

 and because a spouse could not testify against her husband. The judge agreed and dismissed the charges.

However, the Earps learned of the coroner's jury findings and took action on their own, setting out to find and kill
Earp vendetta ride
The Earp Vendetta Ride, lasting from March 20 to April 15, 1882, was a manhunt for outlaw Cowboys led by newly appointed Deputy U.S. Marshal Wyatt Earp. He was searching for men he held responsible for maiming his brother Virgil, the Tombstone Marshal and Deputy U.S. Marshal, and assassinating his...

 the Cowboys they felt responsible. Spence owned a ranch and woodcutting camp at South Pass in the Dragoon Mountains, where he employed Indian Charlie Cruz. Cruz was the lookout during Morgan Earp shooting. He was killed by the Earp posse on March 20, 1882, two days after Morgan's murder. Spence turned himself into Cochise County Sheriff Johnny Behan
Johnny Behan
John Harris Behan was from April, 1881 to November, 1882 sheriff of Cochise County, Arizona Territory. Behan was appointed the first sheriff of the newly-created county in February, 1881. The mining boomtown of Tombstone was the new county seat and Behan's headquarters...

, to be safely held in jail while the Earps were riding on the trail of Morgan's murderers. The Earps later concluded that Spence was an accomplice, but that Stilwell had shot Morgan Earp
Morgan Earp
Morgan Seth Earp was the younger brother of Deputy U.S. Marshals Virgil and Wyatt Earp. Morgan was a deputy of Virgil's and all three men were the target of repeated death threats made by outlaw Cowboys who were upset by the Earps' interference in their illegal activities. This conflict eventually...

, and "Curly Bill" Brocius
William Brocius
William "Curly Bill" Brocius was a gunman, rustler and an outlaw Cowboy in the Cochise County area of Arizona Territory during the early 1880s. He had a number of conflicts with the lawmen of the Earp family, and he was named as one of the individuals who participated Morgan Earp's assassination....

 had fired the shot that narrowly missed Wyatt Earp.

Manslaughter conviction and later life


In June 1883, Spence was working as a deputy sheriff in Georgetown, New Mexico, when he buffaloed
Pistol-whipping
Pistol-whipping is the act of using a handgun as a blunt weapon, wielding it as if it were a club or blackjack. "Pistol-whipping" and "to pistol-whip" were reported as "new words" of American speech in 1955, with cited usages from 1940s...

 Rodney O’Hara, killing him. He was convicted of manslaughter
Manslaughter
Manslaughter is a legal term for the killing of a human being, in a manner considered by law as less culpable than murder. The distinction between murder and manslaughter is said to have first been made by the Ancient Athenian lawmaker Dracon in the 7th century BC.The law generally differentiates...

 and sentenced to a 5-year term in the Yuma
Yuma
-Places:* Yuma Desert, desert in southwest U.S. and northwest MexicoUnited States* Yuma County, Arizona** Yuma, Arizona** Marine Corps Air Station Yuma** United States Army Yuma Proving Ground** Yuma Territorial Prison* Yuma County, Colorado** Yuma, Colorado...

 Arizona Territorial Penitentiary
Yuma Territorial Prison
The Yuma Territorial Prison was a prison in the Arizona Territory of the United States and now in present day Yuma, Arizona. The Territorial Prison is one of the Yuma Crossing and Associated Sites on the National Register of Historic Places in the Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area.The site is...

 for the death (see photograph above, taken of him as a prisoner). Less than 18 months later he was granted a full pardon by the territorial governor. He operated a goat ranch south of Globe
Globe, Arizona
Globe has an arid climate, characterized by hot summers and moderate to warm winters. Globe's arid climate is somewhat tempered by its elevation, however, leading to slightly cooler temperatures and slightly more precipitation than Phoenix or Yuma....

, Arizona near the Galiuro Mountains with his old friend, Phin Clanton, and ran mule teams that were used to bring supplies into the Globe area. Phin Clanton died in 1906, and Spence married Phin's widow four years later on April 2, 1910, using his real name of Elliot Larkin Ferguson. He died in 1914 and is buried in the Globe, Arizona cemetery, in an unmarked plot next to Phin Clanton.

Additional reading


A self-published but useful compendium of bio information on minor Tombstone characters.

External links

  • Tombstone History - Pete Spence at clantongang.com Photo of Spence look-like often seen in histories, and also further bio information provided by Terry Clanton.