1881: Michael Gray to James W. Denver

This letter was written by Michael Gray (1827-1906) of Tombstone, Arizona. Michael came with his family to Texas in 1831 and “allegedly joined the Texas Rangers while in his teens, and followed Colonel Jack Hays throughout the Mexican War, attaining the rank of First Lieutenant.” In 1849, the Gray family moved to Marysville, California, where they took up gold mining and claim speculation. During this time, Michael Gray served as sheriff of Yuba county. In 1879, Michael Gray relocated to Tombstone in search of mineral wealth. While in Tombstone, Gray pursued community, county, and territorial politics. No history of Tombstone or Cochise county would be complete without a biographical sketch of this “mover and shaker.”

Gray wrote the letter to his friend, James W. Denver (1817-1892)—a lawyer in Washington D. C. During the Mexican War, Denver served as the captain of a company for the 12th US Volunteer Infantry under General Winfield Scott. He served as a member of Congress representing California in the mid 1850’s and was President Buchanan’s Commissioner of Indian Affairs. He also served briefly as Territorial Governor of Kansas before serving as a Brigadier General in the Civil War.

Michael Gray holding the reins of his buggy

Addressed to Gen’l J. W. Denver, Washington City, D. C.
Postmarked Tombstone, Arizona

Tombstone, Arizona
December 22, 1881

Gen’l J. W. Denver
Dear Old Friend,

You may be surprised to receive a letter from me after so many long years accompanied with so many changes &c. &c. I am yet among the living and have not forgotten your willingness to do favors for your many friends. Hence this request. To be brief, Gen’l, will you mention to the proper authorities the importance of establishing a Military Post near the Mexican line at a point in New Mexico near the dividing line of Arizona and New Mexico. The necessity for such a post is very great. There is a distance of one hundred and fifty miles along the border without any protection at all—the very best of this country that would support one million of stock, with mountains intervening full of minerals, that today is almost abandoned for want of protection by the troops.

I will guarantee one of the handsomest places of this country for the Post without cost to Government. After you consult with the proper one, you will communicate the facts to me and my part shall be attended to in haste. Nothing more at present. I remain yours as of old. — Mike Gray

P. S. My regards to all Mexican [War] Veterans.


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