By Mick Woodcock

What do a cast iron flatiron, a brass bucket and a gold watch all have in common?  In this case they were all owned by Catharine Scott Alexander, Yavapai County pioneer, ranch woman, wife, mother and mine owner.  These are the tokens of a life lived on the frontier in the days when Arizona was a territory and Prescott was founded.  They tell of life on the ranch and of a different life in town.

Catharine was born in Illinois in 1828, moved to Prescott in 1864 and died there in 1898.  In between she married Thomas Matthew Alexander in Brown County, Illinois in 1849.  They were living in Kansas when they joined Joseph and Margaret Ehle who were heading up a wagon train west.  They arrived in Prescott in July 1864.  With them were their five children Minnie, Mary, Serena Ellen, Elizabeth James Ralph, and Henry, who ranged in age from 14 to one year.  The flatiron and brass bucket came with them.

The Alexanders had driven a herd of cows with them and established a ranch on the east side of the county in Sycamore Canyon.  They had great difficulty keeping this herd as it was vulnerable to Indian depredations.  T. M., as Thomas was called, also did work for other settlers and was known as an upright and honest individual.  Catharine was commended by the Reverend G. A. Reeder of the Methodist-Episcopal church for her good works which included bearing another child, Henry, and then adopting Bessie Murphey in 1877.

Catharine would have lived out her life as a ranch woman had it not been for their daughter Serena Ellen marrying a Canadian by the name of Edmund Peck.  Ed had come to the area early on, purchased land out in what is today’s Chino Valley, had scouted for the army, and had prospected much of the ground on the east side of the Bradshaw Mountains.

One day in 1875 Ed was in the office of L. B. Jewell, local watchmaker, jeweler and assayer, who showed him a sample of silver ore that he considered very rich.  Ed indicated that he had seen ore like that on one of his scouts and thought that he could find it again. Soon an expedition was put together including Peck, William Cole, Curtis Coe Bean, and Peck’s father-in-law T. M. Alexander.  None of these men apparently had much money and they needed a grubstake.

Whether Catharine provided part or all of the grubstake will never be known, but for some reason she received 24,900 shares of Peck Mine stock.  It would figure that if she had provided part of the start up money, she would receive stock for this as T. M. was already a shareholder and money was no longer an issue for this ranch family.  Stock in a rich mine would make them even more prosperous.

Ed was able to find the outcropping of silver and the men dug out ten tons of ore which they sold in Prescott for $13,000 cash.  They returned to their claims and opened the Peck Mine, one of the richest silver lodes ever discovered.

In the course of time, a California company acquired controlling interest in the mine. Apparently they ignored Catharine’s shares of stock as she took them to court in 1879 to recover the money for it. Although a jury awarded her $60,000 for her shares, the California company denied it.  It went to Judge French for arbitration.  She settled out of court in 1882 for an undisclosed sum.

At one point T. M. was the postmaster of Prescott.  In 1890 Catherine purchased her Lady Waltham model gold watch with chain.  This was passed down, after her death in 1898, to her daughter Mary Clough and in turn was passed down to her daughter Nora Hartzell.  Nora donated the watch to the Sharlot Hall Museum in 1953.

T. M. lived to the ripe old age of eighty-eight, passing away at his home in Sycamore Canyon from “…general debility, incidental to old age…” according to his obituary.  He is buried next to his wife of forty-nine years in the Masonic Cemetery in Prescott.

“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.