Will the real Pete Spence please stand up?

For years... I believe history books, posters, television shows and more... have been showing us the wrong photo (at left) of a Tombstone man known as Pete Spence!

And thats not all we've dug up about one of Tombstone's most mysterious men...

For starters, his real name was NOTPete Spence, or Peter Spencer (as some historians call him) his real birth given name was Elliot Larkin Ferguson!

He was born in Louisiana as Elliot Larkin Ferguson in 1850, but little is known about his early life.

On June 29, 1874 Ferguson joined the Frontier Company of Texas Rangers commanded by Captain Warren Wallace. He was given a commission as a second lieutenant. He was known to have shot a man in the line of duty, but the wound was not serious and the man recovered.

Sometime after leaving the Texas Rangers, is when he showed up in southern Arizona using the name Peter M. Spencer (Pete Spence). He became friends with the Clantons as well as other members of the so-called cowboy element.

When Morgan Earp was killed in 1882, many believed that Spence was the killer. After the Earps had left Arizona, Spence served as a lawman on several occasions. He was known to have killed at least four men. For one of the killings he was sentenced to five years in Yuma Prison, with the sentence to begin June 10, 1893. When he entered Yuma Prison, the "scary looking" photo to the left was taken and he gave his occupation as "teamster" listing his nearest relative, Mollie E. Spencer of Los Angeles, California.

(Note: the U.S. Census, taken in June 1885, lists his wife as Josefina Spencer, age 24)

On November 29, 1894, Spence was given a full pardon by L.C. Hughes, governor of Arizona.

The photo that history books have been showing us for years, is most likely NOT Pete Spence! Now I'm not a forensic scientist, but after carefully viewing the two pictures that have both been identified as Pete Spence, I have come to the conclusion that the most popular picture of him to date (at the top of this page) is most probably NOT him!

Why do I say this?...Simply because one of the men in the photo has a clef chin and the other man doesn't! Clef chins are not something that just suddenly appear or grow on peoples faces! Also Look at the ear lobes of the two photos and you'll clearly see that one man has ear lobes that are attached, and the other man has non-attached ear lobes.

Compare the two photos yourself!

Simple conclusion: If one of these photos is really Pete Spence, then the other one isn't!

OK... easy enough! now which one is the real Pete Spence of Tombstone fame?

Most likely, the photo (on the right) that was taken and documented by the Yuma State Prison on or around June 10, 1893, when Spence entered Yuma Prison, is probably the true photo of Pete Spence.

Now this brings up another interesting question. If the photo (above left) isn't Pete Spence then who is it? Could this be the long lost and only photo of my cousin Phin Clanton? I doubt it, but it does kind of bring up a weird thought!

Pete Spence later showed up in Globe, Arizona, area and had a goat ranch in the Galiuro Mountains south of Globe, with his partner and good friend Phin Clanton. At or around this time, Pete Spence was also the superintendent of a system of burro trains used to bring supplies to the Globe area.

Now for another strange fact... Phin Clanton and Pete Spence were both step dads for the same young boy!

Phin Clanton died in 1906, and some four years later, on Saturday April 2, 1910, Pete Spence (using his real name, Elliot Larkin Ferguson) married Mrs. Phin Clanton, Phin's widow, who had a son named Bill Bohme from a previous relationship. Note: this is one of the only times that Pete Spence was known to use his real name.

The following paragraph is re-printed from the Globe Daily Arizona Silver Belt.

Sunday April 3, 1910

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 altar.

On a sad note, Pete Spence's grave is going to be lost forever unless something is done to restore his grave marker in the Globe Cemetery.

Ike Clanton and Pete Spence's step son, Bill Bohme left us with this reminder before his death December 26, 1994, at age 94. "About the only thing I can remember about Pete Spence's funeral, is the fact that he was buried right next to Phin Clanton's grave in the Globe Cemetery" As told to the author of "Violence was no stranger" James A. Browning in an interview before Mr. Bohme's death in 1994.

It's very sad and really a shame, that today the inscribed wooden marker that once marked Pete Spences grave in the Globe Cemetery has been destroyed, leaving nothing but an empty looking plot next to Phin Clantons grave.

This article is an excerpt from the manuscript of Terry Ike Clanton's forthcoming book, yet to be named. Additional information in this article is excerpted from the manuscript of James A. Browning's forthcoming book, Volume II of Violence Was No Stranger, to be published soon by Barbed Wire Press of Stillwater, Oklahoma.



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