The report that Col. Mike Gray was on his feet trying to talk all the time, from the opening till the close of the convention, is inaccu-rate. He sat down several times to whisper to delegates seated near him, and for other reasons.23

On June 19, 1884, the Arizona Weekly Star further reported, “Un-cle Mike Gray is working the rural districts in a systematic and ap-parently successful manner. He hopes to come into the democratic convention to insure the nomination for sheriff.”   
While Mike was not elected sheriff (and a similar later run for U.S. Marshal also failed because of his increased age), he remained in the thick of party politics, and two years later in 1886 “Uncle Mike,” as the Arizona Star referred to him, was successful in secur-ing the unanimous vote of the County Democratic convention to run as its nominee to the Territorial legislature.

That year, Mike Gray was elected to his first of four terms in the Arizona Territorial House of Representatives. During those four terms, he served with distinction on numerous committees, includ-ing those dealing with territorial prisons, appropriations, elections, livestock, public buildings and grounds, mining, militia, and Indian affairs. As can be seen from the types of committees upon which he asked to serve, Mike sought to draw on his own personal prior expe-riences to benefit his Cochise County constituents.

During his four terms, he had a political passion that grew with repeated newspaper commentary. The Tombstone Epitaph reported on March 17, 1887:

The Honorable Mike Gray arrived in Tombstone yesterday from the scene of his legislative labors. There was not a more outspoken man on the floor of the House than Col. Gray, and whilst the Epitaph opposed him to a certain extent in the election, yet we are pleased to state that he was an able, honorable legislator, and labored faithfully for Cochise County. . .he was bold and outspoken. . . .

Mike Gray was also a politician who voted sometimes with controversy. For example, during the 1888 Cochise County Democratic


Cochise Review, October 12, 1900


convention, the Arizona Silver Belt reported on September 29, 1888, that:

Col. Mike Gray, Democratic nominee for assemblyman from Co-chise County and who was a member of the 14th legislature, was asked by delegate Hart, of Bisbee, how he had voted on the whiskey bill. Gray replied: “I voted for a high tax. I have been a saloon man myself; I take my drinks in genteel saloons, and all genteel saloon men are in favor of a high tax.” This assertion fell like a bombshell in the convention, and a pin could have been heard to drop, so great was the silence.
Newspapers outside of Cochise County also commented on his prominence. In the Weekly Miner-Journal of Prescott on January 21, 1891, he was described as follows:

Col. Mike Gray, one of the old timers of the Pacific Coast, ar-rived in Phoenix yesterday, accompanied by his wife, to spend a few weeks during the session of the legislature. Col. Gray is a pros-perous cattleman of Cochise county, and is the owner of one of the finest ranges in Arizona. Fort Rucker was situated on the White Riv-er, in the Chiricahua mountains, one of the most beautiful spots in the territory, and when the government ordered it abandoned, Col. Gray selected it as a home. Few men have had the experience that Mike Gray has had. He was a citizen of Texas before it came into the Union, and helped to make the Lone Star state one of the queenly commonwealths of the country. He also had a similar experience in California. He was a resident of that country before it floated the American flag, and again Col. Gray by his presence helped to re-baptize an American state; and now this brave old pioneer pro-poses to lend his assistance to make Arizona a state. This is a record that has few, if any equals, and we can truthfully say that few men are fitted to go through the hardships and dangers that Col. Gray has endured; a man of great courage and endurance and as generous as the day is long.24

Upon Mike Gray’s election to his second term in 1892 to the Ar-izona Territorial House of Representatives, he was chosen as the temporary Speaker of the House and called that body to order. This selection as temporary Speaker would also occur in the 1898 term in


24 Emphasis in boldface is by the author


the House as well, in part as deference to his age as the oldest leg-islator but also out of respect for his dedication. As he relinquished the gavel to the officially elected Speaker in that term, at the age of 72, on January 17, 1899, the Arizona Republic reported:
Mike Gray then presented the gavel, saying as he did so: “In re-tiring from my brief, but honorable term of office as speaker pro tem, I can only express the hope, gentlemen, that you will all live long enough to inherit it, as I have.”
Mike proved to be quite an activist as a legislator, pushing dif-ferent types of legislation and provoking discussion on a variety of topics. For example, the Tombstone Epitaph on January 22, 1899, stated:

Col. Gray of Cochise is the first member of the twentieth legis-lature to be on the ground at Phoenix. The Col. is a veteran of the Mexican War. He took part in the battle of Monterrey and other leading battles of that war. . . . Col. Mike Gray called the assembly to order. Bills introduced by Mr. Gray:

H.B. #13   An Act to regulate homestead exemption, amended.   Amendment adopted.

H.B. #52   An Act to protect the Treasurer of Arizona.

H.B. #47   A Bill to establish a bureau of archaeology and ethnol-ogy. Passed.

H.B. #48   An Act for the maintenance of the bureau of archaeology and ethnology. Passed.

H.B. #75   An Act regulating appraisal of mines and taxation thereof

H.B. #165 General Appropriations Bill.

The inside of the house reflected the life of a man living alone. The large living room was true Cowboy décor; guns and pistols hung on the walls, bunks ready for the tired cowboy stray and on the ta-bles were pipes, tobacco and burnt matches. Logs filled the fireplace ready for the first chill – spiders took advantage of the Colonel’s age and good nature.26

This passage likely reflects a visit by the Hampes after Mike Gray sent Sarah Ann back to California in 1891, given the reference to “a man living alone.” It also likely reflects the drought-like conditions that began to beset the area in the years prior to Mike Gray’s cessa-tion of cattle operations at the Rucker ranch, in 1894.

Mathilde Hampe would also describe her husband’s fondness for, and similarity to, Mike Gray when she said, “In spite of the fact that each had chosen to live in an isolated area, they, nonetheless, shared the same personality of the extrovert.”27

Mike Gray was diagnosed with cancer in the late 1890s, yet continued his mining pursuits on a 160 acre parcel near Pearce that he purchased in 1896, after gold was discovered in the area. He also continued some cattle operations in the area as he purchased a herd of cattle in that year from Alverson and Warderman in the Chiricahua Mountains. At Pearce, he built several buildings to house his operations, including one frame building that had stood in Tombstone before Mike Gray had it dismantled and moved to Pearce. None of those structures survive today.

In 1904, Mike Gray finally returned to California for good where he underwent surgery for cancer. The Arizona newspapers contin-ued to track his life. In reporting on his surgery, which lead to the amputation of his arm, the May 12, 1905, Arizona Republic noted:

Mr. Gray is 74 years old, a fact that made the operation more hazardous, but he is a man of great constitution and iron nerves, and it is believed he will still win the battle for health. He has been a resident of southern Arizona from the early pioneer days and has an army of friends all over the country.

Mike Gray died on September 8, 1906, in San Francisco. When


26 Ellen Predmore, Chronological Events at Rucker Canyon (Unpublished, 1982), p. 54.
27 Ibid.


About half past four o’clock last evening news reached that Dick Gray, youngest son of M. Gray of our city and well known here, had been killed with four others by Mexicans near the town of Gillespie, New Mexico. The news caused considerable excitement and knots of curious inquirers gath-ered about the streets eager to hear the particulars. About an hour later Andy Aines and Joe Trebble arrived in town from the scene of the murders and confirmed the news. There are several reports as to the causes that led to this lamentable af-fair. A party consisting of Wm. Lang, Dick Gray, Jim Crane, Charles Snow, the senior Clanton, Wm. Byers and Harry Earnshaw camped last Friday night in Guadalupe Canyon about one hundred and ten miles east of Tombstone and very near the Mexican line. Early on Saturday the party was at-tacked by Mexicans and Lang, Gray, Crane, Snow and Clan-ton were killed. Byers escaped with a wound in the abdomen while Earnshaw ran away in amidst a shower of bullets, one of which grazed his nose. It is estimated that the Mexican party numbered from 25-30 men. The condition of the camp indicated that the attack was made just as the murdered men were about getting up; one had evidently been killed while yet laying down.

Jim Crane, it would be remembered, was involved in the murder of “Budd [sic]” Philpot. He joined the fated party, we are informed, at midnight Friday and was only camped with them for the night. He was a fugitive from Justice and an outlaw and the six bullets that struck him were certainly well expended. Wm. Lang was a young man about 22 years of age and had been in that section of the country with his cattle about three months. . . [he] was bringing in some beef cattle for the Tombstone market when killed.

Like Jim Crane, who had apparently joined the Lang cattle drive in order to travel with them towards Tombstone, the 18-year-old Dixie Lee Gray was also a last-minute addition to the same drive.

As he periodically traveled from the Gray Ranch back to the Tomb-stone family residence, Dixie Lee was planning such a trip in Au-gust of 1881. The Lang cattle ranch operations were adjoining south of the Gray Ranch. He had otherwise planned on traveling alone to Tombstone with a possible stopover at the McLaurys, but his broth-er John had suggested that he join the Lang cattle drive as a precautionary step rather than travel alone on the sometimes-dangerous route in Skeleton Canyon.8 That decision cost Dixie Lee his life, and it seems ironic that he died with Jim Crane. While Mike and John Gray clearly understood that Crane was a killer not to be crossed, an acknowledgement of him is reflected in a passage from John’s memoirs where he explains the occasion of burying Jim Crane alongside Dixie Lee:

Reprinted with permission of the

Cochise County Historical Society - Douglas, AZ

Photo courtesy of Sarah Schierenberg

Colonel Mike Gray: A Cochise County

"Mover and Shaker," 1879 - 1904

by Michael C. Eberhardt

grass upon which the cattle grazed. Their mohair crop from the goats also turned a profit for the Grays.13
The Grays also raised hogs at Camp Rucker, apparently mostly for their own consumption, and they were quite reliant on the wild pigeon and deer that also populated the area. An abundance of ber-ries and a variety of fruit trees also readily supplemented their food supplies.

Colonel Mike Gray of Cochise County has arrived and there is now no question but that the organization of the Twenty-first legis-lature next Monday is being seriously considered. Mr. Gray is the oldest member of the House and it will devolve upon him to call that body together for temporary organization, as he did two years ago. Mr. Gray is not only an old-timer in the legislature, but everywhere else west of the Mississippi river. He first formed the habit of being a pioneer about the time of the Mexican war. It gradually gained a hold on him till he has now given up all hope for a cure.

The same article added:

Mr. Gray is enjoying the best of health and looks fully two years younger than he did when the legislature last met.  He has had two attacks of the grip[pe] in the last two years, but a little thing like that does not bother him, aside from the fact that it is a nuisance, and if Cochise County keeps sending him to the legislature he will probably live forever.

Despite his popularity and prior service as “temporary” State Speaker of the House, Mike Gray’s age was the basis for his defeat in his only actual formal run for Speaker which occurred during his last term. According to the Arizona Daily Star on January 29, 1901, Mike Gray, after his defeat, “looked hard at the kid legislators” and whimsically stated, “Just as usual, a man’s children go back on him in his old age. I am sorry that I am father of the House.”

The Final Years

While Mike was at Camp Rucker, the Gray residence had served as a frequent local gathering point for his few neighboring fami-lies and friends. Because the Camp Rucker ranch was designated as the local post office for Rucker Canyon for a period of time, it was a convenient to visit and share news. However, all that changed when, as a result of difficulties in maintaining his cattle operation, in large part due to dwindling water sources in the Chiricahuas, Mike Gray left Camp Rucker in 1894 – subsequently selling his deeded property and his unperfected “squatter’s claim” (totaling over 3000 acres) in September, 1896 to Theodore Hampe. Along with his wife Mathilde, Theodore Hampe lived at Camp Rucker for 24 years, and in 1901 they perfected their title to the Camp Rucker ranch under Arizona law.
The Hampes sold the Camp Rucker ranch to Charles and Mary Rak in 1919. The Hampes left photos and scrapbooks depicting their years at Camp Rucker which are now preserved by the Arizona His-tory Society Museum. Two decades later the Raks sold their Camp Rucker holdings for $22,000 to Mrs. Ella Dana, a widowed New York socialite, who conveyed the property to the Forest Service in 1969. Mary Rak wrote several books relating to their ranching ex-periences at Camp Rucker. It is said that, given the totality of the the accounts of Camp Rucker found in John Gray’s memoirs, the Hampe photos and scrapbooks, and the Mary Rak books, there is provided one of the most unique and comprehensive descriptions of mountain life, over almost six decades, at any one location in Arizona history.25

The Hampes, in one of their scrapbook accounts, would later pro-vide an account of their first visit with Mike Gray at the Rucker ranch:

A few days later, Col. Mike Gray, who had a ranch one mile above Mr. Heyne’s cabin, invited us to stay with him. We gladly accepted, packed our belongings and in a few days Col. Gray called for us in a spring wagon, generally called a “hack” by the cowboys. We drove along a winding road, among grand old sycamores and a variety of scrub oak, also some pine trees at which times threw a little shade across the road. The river was almost dry, but here and there we saw a waterhole. Large boulders in the riverbed crossing, made that part of our journey quite bumpy and difficult. Just before arriving at the ranch we had to drive up a short but steep hill. Coming upon the house suddenly, a pleasant surprise awaited me, for I saw a large adobe house set in a mass of flowers, many kinds of shrubs and trees. There was also a vegetable garden in the corner. This was the product of Mrs. Gray’s love for flowers and trees and showed the care which she bestowed upon them during her life on this ranch.


 Mary Kidder Rak wrote three books during her life in Rucker Canyon: A Cow-man’s Wife (1934), Mountain Cattle (1936), and Border Patrol (1938). Each pro-vides a unique and first-hand perspective of life in southeastern Arizona.


Lt. Leonard Wood

contacts in California, including meeting one of his closest life-long friends, Charles Felton, who served as his deputy sheriff in Yuba County. Felton would then go on to become a United States Senator for California in 1891. They would remain friends for 50 years.
While in California, Mike Gray acquired the title of “Colonel” in a curious way, and it stayed with him until he died. Later in life, he explained to a reporter with the Phoenix Republican in an article dated January 22, 1899:
I got the title of Colonel in a rather strange way. After the Civil War broke out, I was tendered a commission as Colonel of the [Union] Cavalry by the governor of California. My interests were with the South and I was not disposed to accept it. The governor held the commission two weeks, awaiting my decision, but when I again declined it, he tendered it to another man. The newspapers got hold of it and they immediately gave me the title which always stuck with me.

Mike’s brother, John A.W. Gray, left California in 1861 to return to Texas in order to join the Confederate Army, where he served in campaigns against the Union Army in Arkansas. Mike Gray’s own continued Confederate sympathies were reflected in the nicknaming of his youngest son Richard, as “Dixie Lee,” at his birth in 1863, during the Civil War. 

In the 1860s and 1870s, Mike Gray made mining forays into Guaymas and Mazatlán, Mexico. Another mining pursuit led him to Pueblo, Colorado, in 1872, where Mike and other investors were scammed by false claims of diamonds. They lost an investment of $16,000 ($350,000 in today’s dollars).
In Mazatlán in 1861, Mike Gray also operated a hotel which appears to have attracted a number of Confederate sympathizers leaving California because the state pledged its allegiance to the Union. Among such sympathizers was William T. Robinson, the brother of Mike’s wife, Sarah Ann. In 1863, Robinson and his good friend, former California Chief Justice David S. Terry, traveled by steam-er to Mexico, or “Dixieward” as the Sacramento Union referred to the destination of Confederate sympathizers headed out of the state. Justice Terry was a pro-slavery Democrat in California who had recently challenged his friend California U.S. Senator David C. Broderick, an abolitionist Democrat, to a famous duel in which Broderick was killed at the age of 39.  The duel is often credited as part of the process that helped galvanize California as a Union state. While never convicted in connection with Senator Broderick’s death, Justice Terry and other Confederate sympathizers began to take refuge in Mexico. As a friend from California, Mike Gray welcomed Robinson and Terry to his hotel in Mazatlán.

On to Tombstone
Ever on the search for more adventure, the allure of silver in 1879 brought Mike Gray to Tombstone, and in the following year came his wife Sarah Ann, sons “Dixie Lee” and John Plesent (a recent graduate of the University of California), as well as daughter Maggie. (Another daughter, Mary, died in 1876 in California.) Living on Freemont Street near 6th Street in Tombstone, Mike and his wife initially drew on their prior experiences of operating hotels and restaurants in Gilroy, California, and Guaymas, Sonora. Therefore, they launched a similar venture in Tombstone. Announcing the opening of their Tombstone hotel and restaurant, the Arizona Weekly Star noted on August 28, 1879, that, “Mike Gray is the genial landlord of the neatest and best of eating, and will soon be ready to offer first-class lodgings to the weary traveler.”  
In similar fashion to his father, Mike Gray was an entrepreneur with many interests, and like Pleasant Gray’s development of the land that would become the city of Huntsville, Texas, Mike envisioned a similar initiative and became associated with an ill-conceived effort to sell town-site lots in Tombstone. This activity brought intense criticism of him and the co-owners of the fledgling Tomb-stone Town-site Company. The Company, through its pursuit of a federal land patent, laid claim to 320 acres constituting the land in and around Tombstone. This patent enabled the Town-site Company to demand payment from existing Tombstone residents, some of whom were already living in houses or tents on lots covered by the land patent. Outrage and bad publicity followed, and the controversy swirled for a short period. In response, the Townsite Company wisely abandoned its patent rights, but not after much ill will had been created. For a while, “Townsite Gray” was Mike’s moniker, and he “was the object of much abuse” publicly and privately. This episode seemed to pass quickly with the abandonment of the Company’s claims, and Mike Gray repaired his reputation by donating some of his own property to at least one local church.4

In July 1879, only a short time after his arrival in Tombstone, Mike Gray impressed the local political powers and began what would turn into years of public service when he was appointed by the County Board of Supervisors as the Tombstone Precinct Justice of the Peace. In that capacity he presided over a number of legal matters, including the arraignment of Curly Bill Brocius for the killing of City Marshal Fred White. Eventually acquitted of White’s killing, which was ruled accidental, Curly Bill would enter Mike Gray’s life again only months later in a much more meaningful way,

Mickey Free

We took our dead back to the ranch and in coffins made of lumber for which we tore up flooring, with the aid of our miner friends we buried the four bodies in a little square plot on the top of a near-by knoll, rendering an equal and honorable reverence to all. Jim Crane, the outlaw, had gone before a higher court and we were no more his judges.9 

Devastated and angered by the murder of his son and the constant cross-border raiding, Mike Gray seized the initiative and made a personal request of the U.S. Army for protection. On December 22, 1881, he wrote to his old friend from California, retired Army General James W. Denver, who had served in the Civil War for the Union. Prior to that, General Denver was the California Secretary of State, where Mike first met him in the 1850s. Mike sought General Denver’s assistance in having the Army establish a new post on the border with Mexico, where Arizona and New Mexico met and near Cloverdale, which was just south of the Gray Ranch and not far from the site of Dixie Lee’s murder. Mike noted that there were 150 miles on the border “for want of protection” by troops. He added that “I will guarantee one of the handsomest places of this country for the Post without cost to the Government.”10 Mike Gray’s generous offer reflected his personal commitment in seeking protection not only for himself but also for all of the citizens along the border.

There were other related actions in early 1882 which, while they did not lead to the requested Army post, demonstrated Mike’s re-solve to obtain Army protection for ranch owners along the border. The Tombstone Epitaph reported on January 18, 1882:

Mr. M. Gray will leave Tombstone Saturday morning to join General Howard and accompany him to Cloverdale Springs, New Mexico, to see about locating a military post at that point. He will probably accompany the general on his further explorations along the border for a like purpose. A better man for this purpose could not have been selected by General Howard.11

Then again on March 30, 1882, the Epitaph reported that the Sec-

Camp Rucker Buildings

Photos are from the author's collection

Sarah Ann Gray

(his wife)

Only a few months after the Hardie murder, Mike Gray renewed his long-standing criticism of the authorities for insufficient pro-tection of Arizona settlers. This criticism is reflected in an August 12,1890 editorial in the Arizona Daily Star where the editor cites a recent conversation with the Colonel. The editorial, entitled “Re-move the Apache,” reads:

There is but one permanent solution of the Indian question, and that is their removal out of the Territory.  

The above paragraph recalls a conversation with Colonel Mike Gray, who is one of those who does his own thinking. The problem was being discussed, when the Colonel remarked that the remov-al of the Apache tribes from their native haunts would not only be an incalculable blessing in the white rise of this Territory and New Mexico, but would in time inure to the benefit of the Indians them-selves. In confirmation of this statement, Colonel Gray recalled the history of the Cherokee, the Creeks, and the other civilized tribes of the Indian Territory. So long as these Indians remained in their native wilds east of the Mississippi River, they were in constant war-fare with our forefathers and made no advance toward civilization. .
With that perspective, and again in the wake of the Hardie mur-der, Mike Gray went into action to support a new “Ranger Bill” that was introduced in the Territorial legislature in February, 1891. A March 1, 1891, account in the Tombstone Epitaph provides a de-scription of the Ranger Bill:

The Ranger Bill is one which all citizens should support. Not only for those living in Cochise, but from all parts of the territory, should go a strong assent to its passage. An Apache who is found off the reservation either in Cochise, Pima, Pinal, Gila, Graham, Maricopa or Apache County would soon find that he has some force to cope with besides dudes and beardless boys and would remain at home. The other tribes in other parts of the territory may feel the necessi-ty of calling upon the ranger service to quiet turbulent redmen, at some time in the future. The service should be established and now is the time to establish it.

The bill which has been introduced in the House known as the Ranger Bill provides for the arming and equipment of twenty men. They are to furnish their outfits and receive $5. per day, every day of the year. Their business will be to scout the line and apprehend every Indian off the reservation, who are declared by the edicts of the act to be outlaws. A tax of six cents on each $100. of valuation of taxable property is to be levied each year to defray the expenses of the ranger service and their pay is to be drawn monthly from the Territorial treasury.

The military is absolutely convinced that Hardie was killed by renegade Apaches from the San Carlos reservation, doubtless over-looked the fact that the depredating Indians are escaped convicts from the Territorial authority, and that neither the agent nor the mil-itary are responsible for their conduct, although they have been most active in their endeavor to check their lawless career. 

As significant as the Hardie murder was as a national story, its aftermath actually provides an interesting insight into Mike Gray’s political passions, his leadership within Cochise County and the Territory – as well as the respect accorded him by his fellow neighbors and the citizens.

18 Ibid, p. 76.
19 By far, the best examination of the Hardie murder is found in the chapter on that subject in Young, Judge William H. Stillwell, pp. 112-130.

Other important historical figures stopped to share a meal or visit with Mike Gray at Camp Rucker. One such visitor was Lt. Leonard Wood who, as a young Army doctor, made periodic visits at the Camp Rucker ranch, tending to some of the Army soldiers temporarily staying in the area. He was described

by John Gray as “a slim, well-appearing and very likable young officer.”16
While on patrol searching for renegade Apaches, Tom Horn and his scouts also stopped on occasion at Camp Rucker. Mike Gray would sell horses to the scouts for $35 each, keeping a small stable of horses just for such scouting needs. John Gray described Horn as “a big athletic fellow who could out-rival the Indians or any of their feats of speed and endurance. . .an ideal frontiersman. . . . Why he fell so far from that standard in later days is a mystery, as well as deep regret to his many friends in Arizona.” These friends included Mike and John Gray.17

caused by the renegade Indians and loss of stock through cattle rustling. He knew the strongest voice to be heard in Washington was that of the elected representative. In June of 1882 he was nominated as a Delegate to the Democratic Convention in Phoenix.

The Move to Camp Rucker in the Chiricahua Mountains

Suffering despair from Dixie Lee’s murder, Mike Gray completed construction of the ranch house in New Mexico and resided on the property for the requisite period in order to perfect title to the “Gray Ranch.” Mike then sold the ranch for $12,000 in late 1882 to interests controlled by George Hearst from San Francisco, who was beginning his own national interests in cattle ranching. Mike Gray already knew the Hearst family from California. George Hearst would later serve as a U.S. Senator from California; he died in office in 1891, and his Senate vacancy was filled by the election of Charles Felton, Mike Gray’s old friend and his former deputy sheriff in Yuba, California.

The $12,000 ($260,000 in today’s dollars) paid to Mike Gray was not an insignificant sum in 1882 but a far cry from the nearly $18 million paid for the “Gray Ranch” by the Nature Conservancy in 1990 for what had grown over the years to 502 square miles of land. At the time of that 1990 purchase, it was touted as the largest sin-gle acquisition in history by the Nature Conservancy. (While the Gray descendants today can bemoan the fact that Mike ever sold the thousands of acres that comprised the Gray Ranch for $12,000, what would Curly Bill think today about the measly $300 that he pocketed in 1880?)

After the sale of the Gray Ranch, Mike Gray’s future still focused  on cattle ranching and Democratic Party politics. On November 22, 1880, an order was issued for the Army to abandon its relatively recently constructed Camp Rucker in the nearby Chiricahua Mountains. Mike was familiar with Rucker Canyon, particularly its sup-ply of natural waters, and recognized an opportunity. Thereafter, he first purchased for $150 the sutler’s store across the creek from the old Army Camp, having known the sutler from a lawsuit over which Mike presided a year earlier in Tombstone as Justice of the Peace.

Mike then claimed “squatter’s rights” to the entire former Army site and some of the surrounding area.

General Oliver O. Howard

Colonel Mike Gray

(his son)

12 While in the San Simon area tending to his herd in 1884, John Gray met Geron-imo as he was being escorted by the Army back to the San Carlos reservation following his surrender. This 1884 surrender is not to be confused with the 1886 surrender to Colonel Nelson Miles. Gray describes riding alongside Geronimo briefly as part of the soldier escort, admiring the mule that Geronimo was riding, and describing some of the card games that the Apaches would play along the way in camp. Gray and Rogers, When All Roads Led to Tombstone, pp. 67-69.

The Ranger bill and mike gray's growing reputation

In managing the Camp Rucker based cattle operations, Mike was also ably assisted by his son John, as well as his wife Sarah Ann, who along with their cook, Moody, ensured that everyone was fed well.

The Mike Gray household also included a freed-slave woman from Texas who served as their “Nannie.” (Her actual name was Nancy and she took the “Gray” name after her emancipation, which appears to have occurred sometime around 1856.) Born in about 1847, Nannie come to California as a small child to live with Mike Gray’s family, and then with them in Arizona as well. Her moth-er, Hannah, was a slave in the Pleasant and Hannah Gray home in Huntsville, Texas. John Gray remembered Nannie:

Nannie became a member of my mother’s family, grew up with us children, and spent her whole life in a faithful, undivided affection for our family. She never married and her ever-loyal devotion to our family remained during all her good life. For, though colored, she was just one of those women that Booker T. Washington tells about, who ever remained loyal to their noble white masters, “Nursing them in sickness, feeding them in want, and burying them in death.” What would the South after the war have done without them?14

After claiming the old Camp Rucker site, Mike continued to main-tain a residence in Tombstone and occasionally visited the county seat for provisions and meetings. These visits were routinely reported in the Tombstone Epitaph.  This periodic


13 Ibid, p. 63.
14 Ibid, pp. 140-141.

This activity underscores the fact that the “Father of the House,” as some called Mike Gray, was truly both a driving and innovative force in the State House. Again, by example only, his vision to pass legislation to create a bureau of archaeology and ethnology as far back as 1899 demonstrates an exemplary commitment to Arizona and its history.
Other Mike Gray legislative initiatives involved bills to reform the mine claiming process; that bill was highly praised for its fair-ness by the Arizona Weekly Citizen in a July 1, 1893, article. The Tombstone Epitaph, in an April 22, 1893, article also lauded Mike Gray for his research on the mining claims process and character-ized his bill, “if passed into law, as an achievement that would have done more to advance the mining industry than any other legislation extant.”
Additional legislative initiatives by Mike Gray included bills governing deputy constable appointments, prison reform, and the use of vagrancy fines to support county treasury operations.
Bent on an anti-corruption measure relating to county tax asses-sors who sometimes lined their own pockets, Mike Gray sought to pass another bill that would ensure county tax assessors, instead of being appointed, would be elected and paid prescribed salaries, thereby “removing all political influences,” as reported by the Ari-zona Silver Belt on January 26, 1899.

In serving on the special committee conducting a reform school investigation during the 1898 legislative term, the Arizona Republic reported on January 31,1899:

Colonel Mike Gray, the veteran legislator from Cochise County spent Friday and Saturday in Prescott on his return from Phoenix from the investigation of the reform school, as a member of the com-mittee sent out for that purpose. Mr. Gray is 71 years old, but time has dealt gently with him. His step has the elasticity of a man in his prime. He was a member of the Thirteenth legislature, which con-vened in Prescott, and has many friends here who were pleased to see him.

Upon his election to his final term in the House of Representatives, the Cochise Review ran an article on the November 2, 1900:

Col. Gray will probably be the only man in the whole Twenty-first legislature who was a member of the Fourteenth, that enacted the present code of laws. The experience that he gained at that time will be of inestimable service to him and to the territory when the next legislature engages on the all-important task that is before it – recodification of our laws. This makes his election especially im-portant at this time, for that matter overshadows all others that the incoming legislature will have to deal with. . . Gray. . . in the assem-bly, will insure intelligent action. . .  .
The opening of the 1900 legislative session was also announced by the Arizona Republic which ran an article on January 18, 1901, entitled "Col. Gray In Town: Legislature's Official Starter, Ready to Pull the String." It went to read:

16 Gray and Rogers, When All Roads Led toTombstone, p. 92.
17 Ibid, pp. 88 and 92.

Cochise, so Howard was very conscious of the seriousness of the lawlessness along the border that still existed ten years later and that was cited as part of Mike Gray’s petition for increased Army protection along the border.

Colonel Mike Gray


I have the honor to acknowledge receipt of your letter, of the 16th instant, enclosing and commending a petition of citizens of New Mexico and Arizona, for the establishment of a military post in the Animas Valley, New Mexico, at Cloverdale Springs, and beg to in-form you, in reply that the department has under advisement the question of the protection of the settles in this vicinity named and I have given instructions to General McDowell to bring the petition to the notice of the general of the army [General Sherman], when next month, he visits the locality where the proposed posts are to be built.                                   

Very respectfully, your obedient servant
Robert T. Lincoln
Secretary of War

Interaction with Tombstone was key to Mike Gray’s ability to remain politically active despite the remote Camp Rucker location, and resulted in his elec-tion to the Territorial House of Representatives in 1886, 1892, 1898, and 1900 (the latter two terms actually occurring after he moved to Pearce in 1894). The occasional Tombstone visits also allowed him to provide reports to the Epitaph on grazing and water conditions in the Chiricahuas, and to even comment on the politics of California. One such report appeared in the Epitaph on October 2, 1892, when Mike Gray, stopping over in Tombstone on his way back from a California trip told the newspaper that “the politics are in a very mixed state in California.” Local newspaper accounts also reported on trips that Mike Gray took to Hot Springs, Arkansas, with his wife in 1890, and another trip in 1895 with Rucker Canyon neighbors to visit the hot springs east of Wilcox. It seems that most anything Mike Gray said or did was deemed newsworthy.

He also used those Tombstone visits to maintain his membership with the Solomon Masonic Lodge in Tombstone. Previously, when in California, Mike Gray was a founding member in 1858 of the Nicolaus Masonic Lodge.

Besides the Tombstone Epitaph, the Southwestern Stockman newspaper out of Willcox also provided a regular stream of reports of happenings in Rucker Canyon. For example, on June 6, 1885, the Stockman reported:

Col. Mike Gray came up from his ranch at Old Camp Rucker last Saturday, but news of the Indian out-break, which he then first heard, hastened his return home before he had time to visit with his many friends [in Wilcox].

Even “nature” events at the Gray Camp Rucker ranch did not es-cape the fascination of the Stockman which reported on September 26, 1885, that:

During the summer a flock of several hundred parrots made its appearance in the neighborhood of old Camp Rucker, in the Chir-icahuas, and after remaining a few weeks, disappeared as mysteri-ously as it came. They were the first ever seen in these mountains, but the fact that their being there is vouched for by Mike Gray. . . .

While Camp Rucker was fairly isolated, Mike Gray was not without a few neighbors who became his good friends. Within several miles were ranchers who shared their interests in self-protection and in participation in various elections. They were a close-knit society. These neighbors included Frank Moore, Peter Moore, Mark Bannon, and Burt Coggswell. Mike Gray’s closest neighbor was only about one mile away, and his name was Fred Heyne. Fred had moved to Rucker Canyon from New York City in 1881. Mike and Fred, de-spite varied backgrounds and experiences, became kindred spirits. Fred was a widower, and after Mike sent his wife back to California in 1890, when Apache attacks increased, both men intensified their friendship, and Mike drew Fred into active involvement in the pol-itics of the Democratic Party in Cochise County. (A portion of the Heyne house still stands in Rucker Canyon.)

the Grays. During this occasion, the Grays told Crane of a recent threat to them by a man named George Washington Jones (a likely alias), who claimed rights to the Gray Ranch. Crane said he knew who “Jones” was, and because Crane was a friend of Curly Bill, who had sold his squatter’s rights to Mike Gray, Crane agreed to take care of Jones. Shortly thereafter, when Crane saw John Gray again at the Double Adobes outlaw hangout, he said that he had “fixed” Jones “good and plenty.”
A short time later in Old Hachita, New Mexico Territory, following posting of a reward for the Drew’s Station attempted robbery and murders, Billy Leonard and Harry Head were killed by the Hes-let brothers, who in turn were killed by Crane and some other out-laws. (A theory has been floated that Mike Gray had an interest in seeing the Heslets dead because, at the time of their killings, Gray had made an offer to buy their ranch to add to his own bootheel ranch holdings. This seems unlikely and illogical since Mike’s offer to purchase would go unfulfilled with their deaths – which it did.)

Crane appeared at the Gray Ranch again shortly before the Gua-dalupe Canyon Massacre, which occurred on August 13, 1881, where Crane, Newman “Old Man” Clanton, Dixie Lee Gray, Charlie Snow, and Billy Lang were murdered as they camped at the start of a cattle drive from the Lang Ranch. During Crane’s last visit at the Gray Ranch prior to his murder, John Gray states in his memoirs that Crane claimed that the Earps were behind the Drew’s Station robbery and that Crane now feared for his life because of the botched crime. According to John, the Grays encouraged Crane to return to Tombstone and turn himself in to Sheriff Behan. Whether Crane was truthful in his account of who planned the robbery, or whether Crane had in fact planned to turn himself him in to Sheriff Behan as the Grays suggested, it appears that Jim Crane was headed in the direction of Tombstone when he joined up with the Billy Lang cattle drive in August of 1881, as it headed west from Guadalupe Canyon in southwestern New Mexico.7
The August 16, 1881, Tombstone Epitaph account of the Guadalupe Canyon Massacre read, in part:

3 John Plesent Gray and W. Lane Rogers, editor, When All Roads Led to Tomb-stone (Boise: Tamarack Books, 1998), p. 136.

Mexicans on a Raid – Five Men Killed Including the Notorious Jim Crane

The famous Apache scout, Mickey Free, was also a visitor on oc-casion, and Mrs. Gray would make sure Mickey and his scouts had

9 Ibid, p. 57.; Upon discovering the long-lost site of those graves in 2014, the au-thor placed a marker at Dixie Lee’s grave with a notation on the marker that Jim Crane rests a few feet away.
10 Letter of Mike Gray to General James W. Denver (retired), dated December 22, 1881. The original of this letter was recently discovered and a copy made avail-able to the author.
11 General Oliver O. Howard was a prominent officer who served with distinction in the Civil War and during the Indian War period as well. Nicknamed “the Christian General” for his strong religious beliefs, he was serving as the Army commanding general for the Department of the Platte at the time of Mike Gray’s meeting with him in 1882. He previously had negotiated a treaty in 1872 with secretary of War had responded to Mike Gray by letter:

It will be remembered that some two or three months ago, a very large petition was sent from Tombstone asking the secretary of war to have a fort established at Cloverdale Spring in the Animas Valley, New Mexico for the protection of that portion of the frontier. . . . The following letter, received by Judge M. Gray, this morning. . . will explain the present situation: 

An Army post was never estab-lished as requested by Mike Gray, but the failure to meet his request seems to be a motivating factor in his political career, as the Tombstone Epitaph reported on December 23, 1882:
Mike Gray was one of the cen-tral figures in the fight of the set-tlers against the depredations being

During this same period, and just prior to his surrender meeting with Naiche and Geronimo in Skeleton Canyon in March of 1886, General Nelson Miles spent a night with Mike Gray at the Camp Rucker ranch.
Even after the surrender of Geronimo, the Army continued to use Mike Gray’s Rucker ranch through the fall of 1886. Not only were troops stationed there, but Mike Gray also served as an unofficial postal stationmaster as he held and transferred troop mail in and out of the Rucker site. However, this period of Army encampment was not without controversy, and resulted in Mike Gray’s assertion that Army soldiers had damaged his property, resulting in a claim of $2,000 being submitted to the Army. Mike Gray’s claim was taken seriously and an Army board of officers was ordered to convene at Camp Rucker in September 1886 to conduct a “thorough investi-gation and report on the damage alleged to have been done to the property of Mr. M. Gray. . .fixing the amount of such damage and responsibility thereof.” On the same date that the investigation was ordered, the officer oversee-ing that investigation also ordered that the “Corporal of H troop who permitted the destruction of property of Mr. Gray” be placed under arrest." 15

Ranching in the Chiricahua Mountains in the 1880s and 1890s for Mike Gray was at times quite eventful. Even though the Army had previously abandoned Camp Rucker and nearby Camp Price, soldiers would still occasionally stop and use the old Camp Rucker grounds for short periods to camp while troops engaged in search-es for Apaches, or as nightly stay-overs on their way to other destinations.  In addition, in 1886, Mike Gray agreed to let the Army use the old Camp Rucker site as a temporary supply camp for the 4th Cavalry under the command of Colonel Eugene Beaumont.  At this time, the Army re-instituted the use of the heliograph that had been erected several years earlier by the Army just south of the Camp Rucker site.  Heliograms were used to communicate with Fort Howie.  (Remnants of the old heliograph near Camp Rucker still can be found.)

the Geronimo Trail. Mike paid Curly Bill $300, who in turn relinquished his “rights,” and Mike and his two sons began the process of establishing their legal rights to this land by building a ranch house and occupying it for the required two-year period under New Mexico law. This would become the “Gray Ranch,” even as it is still called today.
Quite apart from all the new challenges of building a ranch house and raising cattle, this period of occupation at the Gray Ranch also involved several significant events and distractions for Mike Gray and his family. For example, Jim Crane, and other “outlaws” from the nearby Double Adobes location,6 were frequent lunch and dinner guests at the Gray Ranch, with Crane on one occasion admonishing the other guests (apparently bent on thievery) to always behave themselves when at the Gray Ranch. Crane was also a guest of the Grays for lunch on one occasion when Frank Leslie showed up with an arrest warrant for Crane. After the group dined, the intimidated Leslie left without arresting Crane. Outside the earshot of Crane, Leslie said as he was departing the Gray Ranch, “Tell Jim if they want him, someone else will have to serve the warrant.”

Sometime after the failed Drew’s Station robbery, Crane, Billy Leonard, and Harry Head (the latter two being Crane’s accomplices in the Drew’s Station stagecoach attempted robbery and murders) showed up at the Gray Ranch. In tatters and hungry, looking “wild and woolly,” the three outlaws were given fresh clothing and fed by

Vol. 51, No. 1, Spring - Summer 2021

Several Army buildings were used for the new Gray cattle – and goat – opera-tions. Many of those buildings still survive to-day although the original Army structure used as the actual Gray family residence burned long ago. Cattle ranch-ing in the Chir-icahua Moun-tains was a daunting chal-lenge. Unlike the Gray Ranch in the bootheel of New Mexi-co with its open ranges and rich grasses, Camp Rucker was surrounded by rugged terrain. Mike Gray would eventual-ly run a moun-tain-based cattle operation with as many as sev-eral thousand cattle within a few years of its start in 1882. The Gray “cattle mountain range” would soon span a 20,000-acre area. (Indeed, cattle ranching still exists in this same area but on a more limited Photos are from the author’     s collection. basis, and cattle
can still often be seen roaming in the area adjacent to the old Camp Rucker ranch site.)

Mike Gray started with 334 head of cattle which he bought in 1882 in Lincoln County, New Mexico, and drove to the Camp Ruck-er ranch that December. He paid for them in cash at $20 per head. At the peak of his operations, Mike would employ up to ten cowboys who used not only the Camp Rucker ranch site as a base of opera-tions, but also two other outlying camps to the northeast, one close by at a smaller, previously abandoned Army facility called Camp Price and the other further toward San Simon. Sales of his cattle herd required periodic shipments out of the railheads at both Wilcox and San Simon. Driving large numbers of cattle to these railheads over rough terrain was no easy task.12
One of Mike Gray’s challenges in starting the new ranch was to find a way to clear enough area, at least in the immediate area of Camp Rucker, to allow his initial herd of cattle to graze. The immediate area was "thickly covered with oak brush and all kinds of wild vines."  This also suggested a fire hazard to Mike Gray.  His creative solution was to purchase a dozen Angora goats from

a California breeder whom he knew.  The herd performed its job of clearing land and grew to almost 250 head, never eating the

6 Not to be confused with the Double Adobe location in Cochise County, the Double Adobes Ranch in New Mexico in the late 1800s was a renowned outlaw hangout north of the original Gray Ranch house and south of the town of Animas. At any given time, there might have been several dozen men, often involved in cattle rustling activity, who used Double Adobes as their base of operation. Mike and John Gray befriended these men, likely out of necessity, given their proxim-ity to the Gray Ranch cattle operations. On one occasion, John Gray visited the Double Adobes ranch and was “alarmed” when he saw that “[s]addles and guns were lying about and the men were asleep on the grass, as well as on the floor of the house. There must have been fifty men and I knew from their appearance that they were the rustler type.” Later, however, 60 of them showed up to be fed at the Gray’s, and their hospitality to these men did not go unnoticed. Once while in Lordsburg, John Gray overheard a bystander refer to him as “the fellow who feeds all the rustlers.” Gray and Rogers, When All Roads Led to Tombstone, pp. 49 and 84.

1 Lynne R. Bailey and Don Chaput, Cochise County Stalwarts, A Who’s Who of the Territorial Years, Vol. I (Tucson: Westernlore Press, 2000), pp. 154-156.
2 Roy Young, Cochise County War (Apache, Oklahoma: Young & Son Enterpris-es, 1999), p. 55. Karen Holliday Turner, Doc Holliday: A Family Portrait (Nor-man: University of Oklahoma Press, 1998), p. 153.

MICHAEL EBERHARDT is a lawyer in Dallas, Texas. He is a former federal prosecutor, and his great-great uncle was “Colonel” Mike Gray. Over the past several years, he has spent time in and around Rucker Canyon, Chiricahua Mountains. He is compiling a book of previously unpublished materials and accounts relating to the history of Rucker Canyon. He can be reached at

7 Gray and Rogers, When All Roads Led to Tombstone, pp. 36, 49, and 50.

which would lead to a family tragedy in New Mexico with the murder of Dixie Lee.  
Within a year of his arrival, Mike Gray also began to experience first-hand the political workings of Tombstone with his hiring in January 1880 as clerk to the Tombstone Common Council, whose members served the function of modern-day city commissioners. He met the local leadership as well as all the businessmen who interacted with the city. He also oversaw the paperwork involved with city appointments including those involving Tombstone law enforcement personnel like John Behan and Wyatt Earp, the latter of whom Mike Gray swore in as a Tombstone deputy sheriff as part of his duties. While an administrative function, the clerk’s position gave Mike Gray immediate access to important people and the decision-making process in Tombstone. It also gave those same people an early insight into Mike Gray, his interests and his own leadership capabilities.

Not content simply with his new ministerial duties following his appointment in January as clerk for the Council, Mike Gray also jump-started his eventual long-term participation in the Cochise County Democratic Party when it was announced on February 2, 1880, in the Arizona Daily Star that he had been appointed to the County Democratic Party Central Committee.

With his previous mining forays in California and Mexico, it is not surprising that Mike Gray also became an active miner in Tomb-stone in late 1879 through his co-ownership of the Way Up mine. The shuttered entrance of this mine can still be seen behind the cur-rent City of Tombstone buildings on East Allen Street. Gray’s interest in the Way Up mine lead to one of the most controversial and significant pieces of mining litigation in early Tombstone Territory history. The case pitted him against the owners of the Good Enough mine, and that included the legendary Ed Schieffelin. The Way Up was adjacent to the Good Enough, and in his lawsuit Schieffelin claimed that Mike Gray was illegally extracting silver from a vein in the Good Enough, which ran partially below the Way Up mine. Gray’s counter-suit denied the allegation and raised arguments relating to a mine owner’s legal right to follow the natural path of a vein of ore initially discovered within the owner’s mine boundaries. Gray hired the prestigious San Francisco law firm of Garber & Thornton and a nationally recognized mining expert from Pennsylvania, at an expense of over $30,000 ($400,000 in today’s dollars).         
The case went to trial in late 1881. The Gray legal team developed extensively detailed trial exhibits and diagrams depicting the veins and the relative underground locations of the two mines – the exhibits of which are held today on display at the Rose Tree Museum in Tombstone. The case was heard by Judge William Still-well who ruled in favor of Mike Gray. The Stillwell rulings were questioned as “peculiarities” by the editors of The Engineering and Mining Journal but, as Roy Young points out in his chapter on this litigation in his book on Judge Stillwell, the rulings were none-the-less affirmed on appeal.5

By the time of their “victory,” Mike Gray and his partner had unfortunately expended in litigation costs all of the money that they had otherwise previously earned as a result of silver ore extractions from the Way Up, and with the mine being inoperative during the litigation, its value was diminished. The mine was sold, and Mike Gray’s mining days in Tombstone were over. But successfully going toe-to-toe with Ed Schieffelin only added to Mike’s stature in Tombstone and the mining industry, and the precedent set by the Way Up decision survived.


The Gray Ranch in the Bootheel of New Mexico Territory

In 1880, even while relatively still new to Tombstone and involved in his hotel and mining operations in Tombstone, Mike Gray turned his interests again in another direction, to cattle ranching. He now had his eye on the then rich grazing lands in the nearby bootheel of New Mexico, some 100 miles east of Tombstone. As he explored this area, he crossed paths again with Curly Bill Brocius, whom he had arraigned as Justice of the Peace only months before in the Marshal White case. He found that Curly Bill had “squatter’s rights” to a large tract of attractive grazing land in the bootheel with plenty of water. It was located only a few miles east from the Clantons’ New Mexico hideout, near what is now the north end of

15 “Orders from Fort Bowie to Camp Rucker,” pp. 24 and 28, Coronado National Forest Archaeological Office, Tucson.

Cochise County Historical Journal

The Legacy of an Arizona Politician

Copyright 2013. Gray decendants. All rights reserved.

War Department Washington,

March 24, 1882

5 Ray Young, Judge William Stillwell (Apache, Oklahoma: Young & Sons Enter-prises, 2011), pp. 64-67.

their “fill of doughnuts, cookies, and jerky.”18
Another significant and terrifying figure of the period was the Apache Kid, who was responsible for an exceptionally well-docu-mented incident near Gray’s Rucker ranch involving the murder of Robert Hardie, an invalid attorney from Canada seeking dry moun-tain air to help with his recovery from lung problems. Hardie and his brother-in-law, Dr. Francis Haynes, were guests of Mike Gray at the Rucker ranch at the time of the murder, which occurred during a period of heightened Apache raiding activity in and around the Chiricahuas. During their two-week stay with Mike Gray, Hardie and Haynes ventured out for a horse ride on May 25, 1890. As the two men were riding about two miles from the Rucker ranch, Hardie was shot through the heart and his body robbed. Haynes observed the Indian attackers but escaped injury. Hardie’s body was taken back to the Gray ranch before being sent back to Tombstone for an autopsy, and then to California for burial. The prominence of the two men however triggered not only an inquest jury made up of well known Tombstone figures (including Tombstone photographer C.S. Fly), but also immediate notification to the Army which sent troops to the Rucker Canyon area. The Associated Press picked up the sto-ry, and newspaper accounts abounded for weeks from New York to San Francisco. Notifications relating to the Hardie murder reached General Miles, the Secretary of War and the Adjutant General of the Army. While an investigation was still ongoing into Hardie’s murder, his sister directed a letter on August 5, 1890, to President Benjamin Harrison questioning the published accounts of an Indian attack on Hardie, and suggested that his companion Dr. Haynes was responsible for the murder. Later in August, 1890, the Tombstone Epitaph reported that the two Apache accomplices of the Apache Kid had been captured and one had confessed to the murder and implicated the Kid, who remained at large. A final piece of evidence confirmed the Apache responsibility for Hardie’s murder when his stolen watch was recovered during the capture of two Apaches.19

In putting to rest the responsibility for the Hardie murder, General Nelson Miles was quoted in the Tombstone Prospector on August 21, 1890, as stating:

This photo and all images not sourced are public domain.

Such a piece of legislation was not novel, and Mike Gray had been at the center of an earlier similar legislative initiative which resulted in the Arizona Ranger Act of 1882. That law, however, ulti-mately proved inconsequential in capturing renegade Apaches.
The 1882 Ranger Act was, in part, the outgrowth of a short-lived vigilante action promoted by Mike Gray and others in 1882 – with Mike’s motivation stemming from the constant Apache and Mexi-can raiding across the border south of the Gray Ranch and the re-lated killing in August, 1881, of his son Dixie Lee. That vigilan-te group, although never actually in operation, envisioned having funds to pay for Indian scalps. As the Tombstone Epitaph on May 6, 1882, reported:

We are requested to announce to all those having horses and field equipment, who are desirous of enlisting in the forces of scouts now being raised against the Indians, that Captain Mike Gray will be at the Grand Hotel all this day to perfect the necessary arrange-ments. Those who are ready to enlist in the service for the people and against the devilish Apaches are requested to call upon Captain Gray without delay.

That enlistment action in 1882 was terminated after governmental intervention, but the same sentiments that drove the passage of the 1882 Ranger Act were still well-rooted with Mike Gray when, nine years later, the idea of using “Rangers” once again took form in the 1891 legislation.

Various newspaper accounts, starting in early 1891, reflected Mike’s concerns and support for the 1891 Ranger Bill. The Prescott Weekly Journal-Miner noted on March 21, 1891:

Col. Mike Gray. . .is much alarmed at the threatened Indian raids in Southeastern Arizona. He has a large cattle ranch. . . . Ex-Sherriff Slaughter and the Chiricahua Company have interests in the same vicinity. They are on the Old and New Mexico borders, right in the pathway of the marauding Apaches as they take their bloody trail from San Carlos to the Sierra Madre mountains. Col. Gray states that. . .a dozen or more families settled in his vicinity have been driven out of the country through fear of these marauding red dev-ils. No one dares live there now save the bravest and most reckless cowboys. Unless the pending ranger bill becomes law, Col. Gray apprehends that the really fertile and delightful section of southeast-ern Arizona must soon be given up to savages and utter desolation.

At this same time in early 1891, Mike decided it was time to send his wife Sarah Ann to the safety of California on account of the con-tinued Apache raiding activity in the Chiricahua mountains and the surrounding areas. The Tombstone Epitaph on February 14, 1891, reported:

The ladies of Rucker Canyon have decided to go to California and elsewhere to reside, on account of the numerous Indian depredations committed in that vicinity. It is deplored that such conditions exist. 

Sarah Ann would die three years later in California; the Epitaph noted at her passing, “It is doubtful if a more popular woman ever lived in Arizona than Mrs. Gray.”20    
The Ranger Bill of 1891 passed on March 22, 1891, but Acting Governor Murphy withheld its full implementation due to jurisdic-tional concerns with the U.S. Army, as well as some apprehensions about its annual $150,000 estimated cost. On February 14, 1892, the Tombstone Epitaph ran an article reporting that the Acting Gov-ernor had addressed a letter specifically to Mike Gray. The article was entitled “Governor Murphy Writes to Col. Gray and Says No Rangers Need Apply.” While Murphy’s letter questioned whether “an armed posse” could attain the “object desired,” he noted in his letter to Mike:

I wish to say, however, as these renegades and outlaws are un-doubtedly guilty of murder and other crimes, if it is possible for you to locate them within the borders of Arizona, or present reasonable evidence that they can be captured or destroyed within our territory, I will at any time proclaim a reward of $300 each for them, dead or alive, to be paid upon proper identification.

There appears to be no record of Mike Gray or anyone else ever col-lecting on the Acting Governor’s “dead or alive” bounty. However, the Arizona Daily Star reported on February 5, 1892, that Mike Gray was not pleased with Acting Governor Murphy’s letter to him and referred it to Governor Irwin who was “in the east.” According to the article, Gray “intimates that success will be made of the latest movement to redeem our section from the odium of being infested with Apaches.” However, Governor Irwin did not countermand Murphy’s decision.

A November 15, 1892, account in the Tombstone Epitaph ac-knowledged that implementation of the Ranger Bill had failed:

Col. Gray, the nominee for the assembly, is a man too well known to need extended mention. . . . It was through the instrumentality of Col. Gray, as much as anyone, that the Ranger Bill became law... and it is not his fault that it never became operative. He spent his time and his money to bring bloodhounds from Texas to work with the Rangers but never had the opportunity to use them. He is for Cochise County all the time.21

20 Tombstone Epitaph, February 18, 1894.
21 Emphasis is added in boldface by the author.

the relationships that were necessary to do so. However, Mike Gray’s life in Tombstone and Cochise County from 1879 to 1904 reveals a man of great fortitude and leadership, with many contributions to early Arizona. Fortunately, much of what is known of Mike Gray is recorded in the memoirs of his son, John Plesent Gray.
Those memoirs were characterized by author John Duncklee: “The discovery of the manuscript, When All Roads Led to Tomb-stone, is to Tombstone and Southern Arizona history, what finding the Dead Sea Scrolls was to theology.” While clearly hyperbole, the memoirs – quite apart from chronicling a good part of Mike Gray’s life – offer an expansive and very personal set of insights ranging from daily life in Tombstone to detailed characterizations of ranching operations in New Mexico and Arizona. The memoirs include specific accounts of the Grays’ interactions with outlaws, lawmen, Apaches, politicians, and soldiers. Encounters with old timers and hermits of the likes of Doc Monroe, Rocky Mountain Beasley, and Old Tex Whaley are intermingled in John’s memoirs with descriptions of Mexican and Indian raids and Army engagements in Arizona and New Mexico. Episodes with the Earps, Doc Holiday, the Clantons, the McLaurys, Frank Stillwell, Curly Bill Brocius, John Ringo, Frank Leslie, Nellie Cashman, and even Geronimo, are part of the recounted experiences, along with tales of bear wrestling and personalities like the gambler Napa Nick. John wrote the memoirs in the late 1930s in response to the request of the Arizona Pioneers Historical Society, but they remained largely unnoticed in the Society’s archives for almost 60 years.

This article draws upon John’s memoirs but also quite heavily on the substantial number of public newspaper accounts of the time which describe many of the activities of Mike Gray. On a regular basis, his popularity, accomplishments, and pronouncements caught the attention of newspapers throughout all of Arizona.

Tom Horn

4 An exceptionally well written and detailed account of this episode in Mike Gray’s life is found in the article by Henry Walker, “Arizona Land Fraud:1880, The Tombstone Townsite Company,” Arizona of the West, Vol. 21, No.1 (1970), pp. 5-36.

Apache Kid

While Mike Gray’s activism as a member of the Arizona Demo-cratic Party began early in 1880 when he was named to the Coch-ise County Democratic Central Committee, the following years saw his political fervor increase. He would ultimately preside over the County Democratic convention and his style as a convention leader was amusingly described in the Cochise Review:

General Nelson Miles

The subject of the bloodhounds coming from Texas to track ren-egade Apaches was quite the story of the time. The Tombstone Epi-taph on January 31, 1892, described the event:

Mr. Gray selected his hounds from a bunch that are used at the Texas Penitentiary at Huntsville for trailing convicts.22 They have performed some marvelous feats, and were tried by Mr. Gray before purchase. The dogs are crossed with fox hounds and are superior to full blooded hounds. They are warranted to take a trail of an individual and keep it till he is caught and if necessary pick him out of a crowd of one hundred. Mr. Gray went to Texas for the express purpose. The S.P. Co. [Southern Pacific Railroad] furnished him with free transportation both ways when he stated the object of his visit. He is earnest in his desire to rid the country of this band of marauders and should receive the encouragement of every man in the county, who unite in asking other sections of the territory to aid us in securing the practical operations of a law which, had it been enforced earlier, would have preserved the lives of more than one of our pioneers.

While those highly-prized bloodhounds from Texas were nev-er used with the proposed new Ranger unit or to chase the elusive Apache Kid, Mike Gray did eventually send two of them to South-ern California, via Wells Fargo in Tombstone, to help lawmen there track down two notorious train robber fugitives.

And it appears that, even after the Apache Kid’s murder of Hardie near Camp Rucker on May 25, 1890, Mike Gray was not rid of him. The Arizona Weekly on August 5, 1893, reported that there had been a “recent raid by the Kid and four followers,” and that Mike Gray had lost two horses from one of his outlying ranching posts at the old Camp Price site.

When Lynn Bailey and Don Chaput characterized “Colonel” Mike Gray as a “mover and shaker” in their epic work Cochise County Stalwarts, their description more than aptly captured the spirit and character of this Tombstone-era politician, rancher, miner, hotel owner, and land promoter. He was also described as “one of the most fearless in the Territory” and a “democratic war-horse.”1 But others would add a bit more of a critical assessment of Mike Gray, citing his relationships with men like “Curly Bill” Brocius, the Clantons, and the McLaurys, as well as Jim Crane. Crane was involved in the attempted robbery of the stagecoach near Drew’s Station in March of 1881, during which driver Bud Philpot and a passenger were killed. One account (incorrectly in this author’s opinion) describes Mike Gray as “the silent leader of the Cowboys,” while another suggests that he had “strong connections with the lawless cowboy faction.”2 There is no question that Mike Gray respected the need to survive, and even to prosper, in the midst of lawless men, and he cultivated

Photo by the author

22 The Texas Penitentiary in Huntsville was built, and still stands, on land once belonging to Mike Gray’s family.

The Early Days in Texas, California, and Mexico
Born on April 1, 1827, in Tennessee to Pleasant and Hannah Gray, Mike moved with his family from Tennessee to Huntsville, Alabama, and then to Texas in 1830, where his father secured a seven-square-mile land grant from the Mexican government and laid out a “new” Texas town, aptly named “Huntsville.” In Huntsville, Pleasant Gray soon became good friends with Sam Houston, and when General Houston needed volunteers for the war with Mexico, Pleasant mustered in as a Captain in Company G on June 6, 1846. Not to be left behind, the teenaged Mike Gray also volunteered with Houston’s forces during the Mexican War, which included his service during the Battle of Monterrey in September of 1846, as well as the Battle of Buena Vista in February, 1847. John Gray later remembered his father’s Mexican War experience:
At the age of fourteen, he enlisted in the army being organized by General Sam Houston for the defense of that new country. He always remembered that date as it was when he donned his first pair of pants – a necessary covering required by a soldier. Previously, like all boys of that time and country, he had only worn a long-tail hickory shirt, and always went barefoot. . . . Father reached the rank of first lieutenant.3

In an Arizona Republic article on January 12, 1899, when he was then 72 years old, Mike also reflected on his early life, “I began my career as an Indian fighter. . . and when I was but 14 years of age, I acquired a love for adventure which is still strong, although I am old.”

After moving to California in 1849, along with other family members including his brother, John A.W. Gray (who was this author’s great-great grandfather), Mike Gray married Sarah Ann Robinson. He met Sarah Ann during the 1849 wagon train ride from St. Joseph, Missouri to California, during which his father Pleasant suddenly died of cholera and was buried on the banks of the Platte River. In California, Mike became a gold miner, hotel owner, and four-term sheriff of Yuba County, where he once killed a man during his official sheriff duties in a somewhat controversial circumstance – but was exonerated. He was politically active within the California Democratic Party, particularly in debates over whether California should enter the Civil War on the side of the Union. He was also elected Sergeant of Arms for the California Assembly. The seeds of Mike Gray’s desire to be a prominent Arizona politician later in life were clearly planted in California. He made many influential

he died, the Bisbee Daily Review reported his death in an article on October 3, 1906:

The news comes as surprise to the many friends of the colonel in this section who will be pained by his demise. Numbered among the early pioneers of Arizona, Col. Gray was beloved by all who knew him. He had an eventful life, full of the fortunes and vicissitudes of pioneer existence and he contributed in no small measure to make history for Arizona, the home he loved so well. . . and was one of the best-known men in southern Arizona. He had served the territory in various ways, most remarkably perhaps as a member of various sessions of the legislature

Mike Gray is buried in Greenlawn Cemetery in San Mateo, Cal-ifornia. His son John also returned to California and lived in Los Angeles until his death on January 11, 1943. John was married to Lannie Marianne Charles, and they had five children.


While Mike Gray and his family were clearly concerned about the hostilities of renegade Apaches throughout their time in Rucker Canyon, one account from the life of the Gray family while at Camp Rucker is reflective of the character of Mike and his family when it came to Apaches not exhibiting those hostilities and in real need of help.  It is described by John:

Early one morning at the old Rucker Ranch we caught sight of a white rag “flag” moving back and forth on the end of a long pole, maybe a half-mile away. Wondering what it might mean, we hurriedly waved a similar white signal in answer. Soon we could see a string of horsemen coming toward us. It proved to be a couple Apache squaws, several children, and an old, gray-haired Indian man on their ponies. They all held up their hands and the squaws called out “Biskit, biskit.” Evidently, they were hungry and mother brought out a good supply of cooked meat and bread. The Indians got off their ponies and sat on the ground. All we managed to make out was that they were Apache and wanted to go to San Carlos. Keeping up with Geronimo was evidently too much for them. . . hunger bringing them to our place. They seemed much pleased and we did not intend to detain them, but on the other hand, loaded them upwith cooked bread and meat for the balance of the trip. . . .28

The kindness of the Grays on this one occasion, as well as at other numerous times when hungry Apaches were fed at the Camp Ruck-er ranch, had prompted army scout and interpreter Mickey Free to once tell Mike Gray that the Apaches would never raid their Rucker ranch site because of the family’s generosity. Indeed, while threats occurred nearby in the case of the Hardie murder and the stolen horses at Camp Price several miles away, the actual ranch site at old Camp Rucker never fell victim to the Apaches over the 14 years that it was owned by Mike Gray. Other family homesteads in the Chir-icahua mountains and surrounds did not fare as well.

Of his mother and father, John once said, “Mother was a typical pioneer woman, following wherever the wanderlust of [F]ather seemed ever leading him. And he was one of those restless pioneers who could not stay in one place for long.”29

Mike Gray was a pioneer indeed truly a mover and a shaker and he stayed long enough in Cochise County, Arizona, to make a real difference.


28 Gray and Rogers, When All Roads Led to Tombstone, p. 77. 29 Ibid, p. 140.