OLD WEST LEGENDS
Pete Spence - Escaping the Wrath of
also known as Peter
Spencer and Elliot Larkin Ferguson, was a stage robber, suspected murderer,
as well as having the dubious distinction of having been thought to have been
one of the killers of
Morgan Earp. Like
Old West, he also sometimes served as a
He was born in either Louisiana
Texas as Elliot Larkin Ferguson around 1852, but the first mention of him as
an adult is in
Texas, where he joined the Frontier Company of
Texas Rangers on
June 29, 1874. In this capacity, he gained the rank of a second lieutenant.
It is unknown when Ferguson
Texas Rangers but by 1878, he was a wanted criminal, having committed a
robbery in Golliad,
Texas. Afterwards, he fled the
Lone Star State, showing up
Arizona and using the name Peter M. Spencer, aka: Pete Spence.
sometime before 1881.
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He soon became friends with the
Clanton family, and like the rest of the notorious "cowboys,” continued to ride
on the other side of the law. Settling in
Tombstone, Spence ironically lived
directly across the street from the
Earps, in a house which still stands in
In addition to his rowdy
activities with the
cowboys, Spence partnered with
Frank Stillwell in the
Franklin Mine and other mining ventures, and for a time, ran Vogan’s Saloon. He
eventually also owned a ranch and woodcutting camp at South Pass in the Dragoon
In October, 1880, Spence was
charged with grand larceny on a charge of possessing stolen Mexican mules, but
was not convicted. However, this certainly placed him in the "eyes” of the law
as a potential suspect for other crimes that would occur.
On September 8, 1881, the
"Sandy Bob Line” of Bisbee was robbed and both Pete Spence and
became suspects. The pair were "recognized” for their distinctive voices, as
Stillwell's boot prints. Made
by a Bisbee cobbler,
Stillwell's boots were
extraordinary, and the cobbler identified that he had made them for a recent
customer – one
Stillwell. The pair were
arrested in Bisbee by a sheriff’s posse that included
Wyatt Earp. However, lacking sufficient evidence, the pair were
soon let go.
Faction were incensed at their arrest and blamed the
was just one more event leading to the increasing tensions between the two
When another stage robbery near
Contention City occurred on October 8, 1881, the newspapers reported that Spence
Stillwell had been arrested as suspects. In reality, the pair were actually
brought in by authorities in conjunction with a federal charge of interfering
with a mail shipment, having to do with the earlier Bisbee robbery.
Faction was again
angered by the arrest, especially the
McLaurys, who made no bones about
expressing their views. Neither Spence nor
Stillwell would be convicted of the
federal charges and both were released.
Gunfight at the O.K. Corral on October 26, 1881, revenge was sought by the
Morgan Earp was killed on March 18, 1882, both Spence and
Stillwell were formally named
as suspects in the murder. The two were implicated by Spence’s unhappy wife,
Marietta Duarte, at the coroner’s inquest. Though she testified to the suspicious activities of Spence and his friends on the night of
murder, the attempted indictment of Spence was eventually dropped, probably on
the basis of the fact that spouses could not testify against each other. But, this obviously didn’t satisfy the
Earps, as they killed
Frank Stillwell on
March 20, 1882.
The only known photo of Pete Spence is
this 1893 prison mugshot.
Wyatt then went on what became
known as the Earp Vendetta Ride, along with brother
Doc Holliday, and
several other friends. Hearing of the revenge objective of the
soon turned himself in so that he could be protected. However, the
Earp faction was unaware of this. On
March 22nd, the
Earps rode to Pete Spence’s ranch, looking for him. However, with Spence
behind bars, they found instead Florentino "Indian Charlie" Cruz, who,
according to a later account by
Wyatt, confessed to acting as a lookout while the others killed
Wyatt shot him.
Earps continued their
Curly Bill Brocius,
Johnny Ringo, and Johnny Barnes, as
well as driving
Ike Clanton, Pony Deal, Hank Swilling and others. The
Earp "posse” finally left the territory.
Pete Spence moved on and by
June, 1893 was working as a deputy sheriff and constable of Georgetown,
New Mexico. While in office, he pistol-whipped
to death a man named Rodney O’Hara and was
charged with manslaughter. Sentenced to a five-year term in the Yuma,
Territorial Penitentiary, he began his prison term on June 10, 1893. Some 18 months
later; however, he was granted a pardon by the territorial governor.
Later, Spence settled in Globe,
Arizona, where he ran a goat ranch with old friend, Phin Clanton, south of
town in the Galiuro Mountains. He also supervised burro trains that were used to
bring supplies into the Globe area. Phin Clanton died in 1906, but Spence
remained friends with his wife. On April 2, 1910, using his real name of Elliot
Larkin Ferguson, Pete married Phin’s widow.
Pete Spence died in 1914 and is
buried in the Globe,
Arizona cemetery, in the plot next to Phin Clanton.
of America, updated November 2014.
April 3, 1910 - Globe Daily
Arizona Silver Belt.
Lengthy Romance -- After an
acquaintanceship of many years, Mrs. F. Clanton and E. L. Ferguson, better known
to his many friends as Pete Spence, were married at Webster Springs Ranch
yesterday, by Judge Hinton Thomas. Both the bride and groom have lived in this
part of the territory for many years, Ferguson having come to Globe in 1875. For
some time, however, he has lived in Mexico, meeting Mrs. Ferguson on his return
and reviving an old friendship which soon united the couple at the Hymeneal
Earp Vendetta Ride
Complete List of Old West Gunfighters
Tombstone - The Town Too Tough to Die
Wyatt Earp - Frontier Lawman
mining remnants, Kathy Weiser, April, 2007.
This image available for
photographic prints and downloads
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