|Unissued Tombstone Consolidated Mines Company Stock Certificate
(Signed by E. B Gage)
12 Inches by 10 Inches
(30.5cm x 28.8cm)
New York City/Prescott Arizona, United States
The Tombstone Consolidated Mines Company was a business venture of mining engineer and long time Tombstone notable Eliphalet Butler Gage - better known as E. B. Gage -
who signed this unissued stock certificate as company president sometime around 1900. The company was an effort by Gage to revive the silver mines around Tombstone which
had mostly closed by the late 1880s due to flooding the falling price of silver.
To Old West historians E. B. Gage is probably best known as a partisan on the side of the Earp faction in Tombstone during the troubles between the Earps and the Clantons.
Gage was born at Pelham, New Hampshire to John and Rebecca (Greeley) Gage on October 2, 1839. His mother seems to have been a distant relation to newspaperman Horace
Greeley of "Go west young man." fame. A graduate of Dartmouth College, Gage first became involved in railroad and grain milling interests in Illinois but eventually followed
his distantly famous inlaw's advice and headed west where in 1878 he settled in the notorious Arizona Territory boomtown of Tombstone. Here Gage pursued a career as a
mining engineer and investor. He also became acquainted with Wyatt Earp and his brothers after the former Kansas lawman arrived in Tombstone in late 1879.
That Gage would side with the Earps in not all that surprising. The conflict between the Earps and the so-called "Cowboys" (which were largely but loosely led by the Clanton
family) was as much a political war as it was about law and order. The towns mining and business interests - Gage included - were by and large all Republicans while the Clantons
and their outlaw Cowboy adherents were for the most part Democrats.
The rivalry between the two factions came to an inevitable climax at what would become known as the Gunfight at the OK Corral on October 26, 1881. Led by Tombstone town
marshal Virgil Earp, brothers Wyatt and Morgan along with John Henry "Doc" Holliday (all had been deputized by Virgil) confronted a group of Cowboys who had gathered
behind the OK Corral next to Fly’s Photographic Studio. The Earps ostensible purpose was to disarm the Cowboys who were in violation of a town ordinance forbidding the
wearing of firearms while in city limits. That things would go badly wrong seems to have been a foregone conclusion. In a thirty-second fusillade Virgil and Morgan Earp would
both be wounded while “Doc’ was grazed by a bullet. The Cowboys fared much worse with Tom and Frank McLaury and Billy Clanton being sent to perdition. Being a
respectable business man, E. B. Gage would naturally had nothing to do with the gunfight but one must assume he was not disappointed with the results.
Cowboy retaliation followed in due course. On December 28, 1881 Virgil Earp was shot and severely wounded – losing the use of his left arm and on March 18, 1882 Morgan was
shot in the back while playing billiards and killed. These two event gave rise to what would become known to history as the Vendetta Ride, during which Wyatt Earp and a group
of adherents would hunt down and kill as many of his brothers suspected assailants. E. B. Gage would for all intents bankroll Wyatt Earp’s ride of vengeance
Wyatt Earp was appointed Deputy U.S. Marshal and gathered together a posse consisting of himself and at various times Warren Earp, Doc Holliday, Sherman McMaster,
"Turkey Creek" Jack Johnson, "Hairlip Charlie" Smith, Daniel "Tip" Tipton, and John "Texas Jack" Vermillion.
First blood was drawn in Tucson, Arizona on March 20, 1882 after Wyatt got wind that Ike Clanton and Frank Stilwell and two other Cowboys were lying in wait for the disabled
Virgil Earp and his wife Allies who were boarding a train for California. As the train left the station gunshots were heard and in the morning the body of Frank Stillwell was found
on the tracks. He had been hit by two loads of buckshot and shot at least five more times after he was down. While there were no witnesses other than those involved, Wyatt
Earp took full responsibility for Stillwell’s killing.
At the same time Cochise County Sheriff Johnny Behan had formed a posse of deputized Cowboys to hunt down the Earps. It became the strange situation of county lawmen
hunting down federal lawmen.
Earp and his men next caught up with and killed “Indian Charlie” Cruz at a wood cutting camp in the Dragoon Mountains. Wyatt later claimed that Cruz confessed to his part in
Morgan Earp’s murder before he died. With no idea how long they might be in the saddle Wyatt knew that his posse would need additional funds – and soon.
On March 23 Wyatt dispatched Charlie Smith and Dan Tipton back to Tombstone to seek out Wyatt’s friend E. B. Gage and secure a thousand dollar cash loan which would
enable them continue their pursuit of the Cowboys. Both ended up getting arrested and thrown in jail by Johnny Behan but made bond and Smith was able to get the required
cash from Gage. I have not found any reference regarding Wyatt Earp ever paying the loan back to Gage but perhaps this was looked on by Gage as the price of doing business
in a largely lawless frontier boomtown.
|Now seemingly well-funded by E. B. Gage, Earp and vendetta riders Warren Earp, Doc Holliday,
Sherman McMaster, Texas Jack Vermillion, and Turkey Creek Jack Johnson encountered a large
group of Cowboys encamped at a spring, possibly in the Whetstone Mountains (the exact location is
not known). For both sides it was a surprise encounter and in the ensuing fight the outnumbered
Earp got the better of things. Cowboy Curly Bill Brocius was cut in half by a double barreled blast
from Wyatt Earp’s shotgun and moments later Wyatt killed Cowboy Johnny Barnes with a pistol
shot to the chest. Wyatt also wounded Cowboy Milt Hicks. The only casualties suffered by Earp’s
posse was Texas Jack’s horse which was shot and killed and Wyatt Earp’s long riding coat which
was holed several times by Cowboy bullets.
Around this same time E. B. Gage had received news that his mother had died and left Tombstone
for the east coast. On March 25 Gage’s fellow mining executive and president in the Tombstone
Milling and Mining Company, Martin R. Peel was shot and killed by two masked men who remained
unidentified though it seems likely that his murderers were in fact Cowboys.
Earp’s posse, now worn out and still outnumbered by Behan’s pursuing posse took refuge at the
ranch of noted cattleman Henry Hooker. Hooker, a onetime employer of William “Billy the Kid”
Bonney and no friend of the cattle rustling Cowboys, resupplied Wyatt’s group with food and fresh
horses. Earp and his men would soon leave Arizona Territory for other adventures never to return.
E. B. Gage returned to a much quieter Tombstone a married man and continued to expand his
mining interests as well as into banking and local railroads. While in the east he married Miss
Rebecca Fisher on June 14, 1882. In 1884 he helped to break the area miner’s union.
In 1901, newly re-elected President William McKinley was making a trip around the country he
decided to tour of the Congress Gold Mine – one of E. B. Gage’s many holdings in Arizona. During
the visit Gage served at the President’s personal tour guide. The President was quite impressed and
the First Lady was presented a small ribbon-bound gold bar by Gage and other company
Eliphalet Butler Gage died in San Francisco on March 12, 1913. He had traveled there seeking
medical care sometime before and was buried at the Cypress Lawn Memorial Park in Colma,
California. Interestingly, Wyatt Earp would also find his final resting place in Colma, California when
he died in 1929.
In Gage’s biography which appeared in Biographical Sketches of the Class of 1858 – Dartmouth
College and obituary which was published in the June, 1913 edition of The Dartmouth Alumni
Magazine, no mention what so ever is made of his involvement with Wyatt Earp or the troubles in
Tombstone. Perhaps the events were not thought of as that important or could they have been
considered a bit on the tawdry side of side of things for an Ivy League graduate to have been
tangled up in? Interestingly, Gage's biography which appears in the March 1903 edition of
Successful American specifically states that Gage was "...never active in politics...".
|Above: Eliphalet Butler Gage in later life as depicted in the March
1903 edition of Successful American.