Tombstone was, founded in 1879 by Ed Schieffelin who briefly was a scout for the US Army out of Camp Huachuca. He searched the area and the mountains for valuable ore and finally found silver working the hills east of the San Pedro River in a dry wash. Schieffelin had been told by friends and fellow scouts all he was ever going to find in the area was going to be his own Tombstone as many had been killed by Indians in the area. After he found the silver vein and filed his claim, naming it Tombstone.
After the filing of his claim of course everyone wanted a piece of the pie and the area grew. Tents and shacks started popping up and soon the town was formed. Lots were soon being sold at $5.00 each on what is now known as Allen Street and this silver find was soon the richest silver strike in the Arizona Territory.
Tombstone was one of the last boomtowns of the Old West and grew due to the silver mine. Mining was all Tombstone was about during the early years and with claims being filed there was just as many lawsuits filed regarding claim jumpers. Lawyers came and set up practice in Tombstone and the courts were clogged with lawsuits. As a result mappers were brought in and Tombstone became one the most expertly mapped mining communities in the West.
In the early 1880s, smuggling cattle theft, alcohol, and tobacco across the U.S./Mexico border were common. The Mexican government taxed these items heavily and smugglers earned a handsome profit by sneaking these products across the border. Prostitution “tents” were established up and down Toughnut Street and many of prostitutes got their start and finish in these tents.
The Tombstone Epitaph started May 1, 1880 and was a co-owned by John Clum who was an Indian agent at the San Carlos Reservation. He was the first person that captured Geronimo, placed him in leg irons and took him to the San Carlos Reservation. Geronimo was released and Clum turned resigned as the Indian Agent, (government inability to act timely – no different from today lol) move to Tombstone and was the first mayor of Tombstone. Later years he lead a posse that chased after Geronimo once when he came close to Tombstone. In this posse was the famous Earp brothers, Wyatt, Virgil and Morgan.
Tombstone had a lot of wealth and money was spent freely during its boom years. The town had become a leading town in the West in fashion and society, but still had their wild “cowboys” side. The miners were largely European immigrants and the Chinese did the town’s laundry and provided other services.
In 1881 the Tombstone silver mine struck water and flooded the mines bringing a end to mining. Also in June 1881 the town was hit by it first of two major fires. This fire destroyed most of the eastern half of the business district on Allen Street and was started with a lit cigar that ignited a barrel of whiskey.
This did not slow the town down as they started to rebuild and came back strong. The miners installed the huge Cornish engines in the mines to pump the water out and by mid-February 1884, the engines were removing 576,000 US gallons of water every twenty-four hours.
The rich had traveling theaters brought in to the Schieffelin Hall which they built after the fire for their entertainment purposes. then the miners and Cowboys had the Bird Cage Theatre open on Allen Street for their entertainment.
The Bird Cage was noted to be the wildest, wickedest night spot in the West and was open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week until it closed in 1889. The Bird Cage was the only original building that is left standing and survived both fires that occurred in Tombstone. There is so much history in this theatre and you can still see bullet holes in the walls from all the shoot outs and fights that occurred through the years. This is also one the major locations in which Doc Holiday gambled.
Now we all know the story about the fight at the OK Corral between the Wyatt Brothers and the Clanton and McLaury so of course when you are there you have to go visit that area and see the gunfight. The OK Corral was not a corral as Hollywood would like for you to believe but rather it was a blacksmith shop and the shoot out occurred in lot behind the OK Corral that was next to the CS Fly’s Boarding House and Photo Studio. History has now revealed more about the shootout and the location of where the parties of the fight took places. Hollywood sure made some money on created what Tombstone and the shootout was but not based on facts, but what else is new for Hollywood.
These pictures are recreation of the actual fight with mannequins and the drawing is an actual drawing made by Wyatt for the court case that followed the shooting. The fight took all of 30 seconds and over 30 rounds were fired. Tom McLaury was shot by a blast of Doc Holliday shotgun; Frank McLaury fell on Fremont Street and was shot in the head; Billy Clanton was shot by Morgan Earp; Virgil and Morgan Earp were badly wounded; Doc Holliday suffered a superficial hip wound and Wyatt was the only one that walked away unscathed.
In the Fly’s boarding house next to alley where the shootout occurred was Doc’s “girlfriend” Fat Nose Kate. It is said that she stood at the window and watched the entire thing. The entire transcript of the trial that pursued the shootout can be obtained from The Tombstone Epitaph. They have it on display at the Epitaph office now and makes for some interesting reading.
After the shootout we headed over to Big Nose Kate’s Saloon for lunch. What a fun place as there was a large group of locals that were there and they were fun to watch. The food was good and we had a great time. It is said that Big Nose Kate got her name not from a big nose but because she was always sticking her nose into everyone’s business and was involved in everything she had no business being involved in. She was Doc Holliday’s girlfriend and owned one of the local saloons and brothel
There is so much to see in and around Tombstone and if you really like history and want to take everything you really need two days. We only did one day and really did not get to get to everything. Our afternoon events and I will cover in the next chapter as this one is getting long – off we go to the stagecoach now . . .