By Al Bates

Ed Peck’s experiences in Territorial Arizona typify the local pioneer experience in that, no matter what their regular jobs, all spare time saw the men out searching for the next bonanza.  Ed’s was a classic example.

Ed was born in Canada in 1835, and by 1863 he was hunting and trapping in northern New Mexico Territory when he learned of the Walker and Weaver gold finds in Central Arizona.  He joined a small party of gold-seekers that traveled to this area in the wake of the Fort Whipple founding party, but ahead of the Governor’s Party, which qualified him to be a charter member of the exclusive Arizona Pioneer Society formed in 1865.

His initial employment in Arizona was at the original Fort Whipple in Chino Valley where he won the first contract to provide hay for the Army’s animals, delivering 300 tons at $30 a ton.  Ed’s name first appears in the Arizona Miner newspaper in the list of men who joined the King S. Woolsey second anti-Apache expedition in the spring of 1864.

He later came to the Miner’s attention in 1869 when he arranged for Judge and Mrs. Hezekiah Brooks to adopt a tiny orphan Indian girl who had been captured during an Army raid.  At the time, Peck was two years into a four-year employment with the US Army as a civilian scout.

In 1871 he decided against further employment with the government—the same year he became a naturalized American citizen—and began prospecting in earnest.  Gold fever had subsided somewhat and attention was turning the lesser metals such as silver and copper.

Ed held a number of jobs to support his prospecting habit, including becoming Prescott’s only paid employee, its Town Marshall, in 1873.  Ed married Serena Ellen Alexander in 1874; sadly his wife died quite young and their three children all died early of what was diagnosed as “quick consumption.”

In 1875, Ed’s persistent prospecting paid off with a discovery of a valuable silver lode near Crown King.  He then partnered with Curtis Coe (C. C.) Bean, William Cole and T. M. Alexander—Ed’s father-in-law—as owners of the mine (Lucian B. Jewell, Prescott’s first mayor, seems to have been a silent partner).  Unfortunately, discovery was the relatively easy part of mine ownership; keeping control over those assets would be the hard part.

In order to raise capital to begin development of the mine Ed and his partners transported 10 tons of ore by wagon over roughed out roads into Prescott and sold it on the street for $13,000—an amount far less than the ore’s full value.  However, it was enough for them to pay some bills and for partner Cole to go on an extended “toot” that led to the first of many lawsuits.

While on his two-week spree, Cole engaged himself in giving his stake in the mine to “lewd women of the town.”  When he sobered up his attempts to make amends backfired, leading to a lawsuit against Cal Bean and his wife Mary.

When the Peck Mining Company was incorporated, Cole was not included as an officer.  The incorporators included Peck plus Leonora A. Jewell, Mary M. Bean and Catherine Alexander—wives of his partners.  The officers were Bean, Alexander, Peck and F. W. Blake.

The mine proved to be of great value, and a community called Alexandra grew up near the mine and mill.  All went well for a time and Ed even was elected to the ninth territorial legislature.  But then Ed became dissatisfied with his partners and things began to unravel.  His attempts to gain greater control and the resulting lengthy litigation resulted in loss of control of the mine and mill with ownership passing into the hands of California investors.

Ed Peck lived out the rest of his life as a prospector.  He never found another bonanza and died destitute in Nogales, AZ, in 1910.

Cal Bean apparently made out the best of the partners, selling his share in the Peck Mine for a reported $50,000.  Bean established a career in Territorial politics and was being considered for the appointive post of territorial governor but withdrew his name—allegedly at the urging of his wife who wanted to return to the states and the comforts of civilization.

“Days Past” is a collaborative project of the Sharlot Hall Museum and the Prescott Corral of Westerners International (www.prescottcorral.org). This and other Days Past articles are also available at www.sharlot.org/library-archives/days-past. The public is encouraged to submit ideas for articles to dayspastprescott@gmail.com. Please contact SHM Library & Archives reference desk at 928-445-3122 Ext. 14, or via email at dayspastprescott@gmail.com for information.