Tuesday – April 14, 2015
Following our visit to Benson, Arizona, we visited Tombstone, Arizona. Tombstone is a historic western city located in Cochise County. It was founded in 1879 by Ed Schieffelin in what was then Pima County, Arizona Territory. It was one of the last wide-open frontier boomtowns in the American Old West. The town prospered from about 1877 to 1890, during which time the town's mines produced $40 to $85 million in silver bullion, the largest productive silver district in Arizona. Its population grew from 100 to around 14,000 in less than seven years. It is best known as the site of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral and draws most of its revenue from tourism.
Ed Schieffelin was briefly a scout for the U. S. Army headquartered at Camp Huachuca. In 1877, while working the hills east of the San Pedro River, he found pieces of silver ore in a dry wash on a high plateau called Goose Flats. It took him several more months to find the source. When he located the vein, he estimated it to be fifty feet long and twelve inches wide. Schieffelin's legal mining claim was sited near a grave site, and on September 21, 1877, Schieffelin filed his first claim and fittingly named his stake Tombstone.
The town was established on a mesa above the Tough Nut Mine. Within two years of its founding, Tombstone boasted a bowling alley, four churches, an ice house, a school, two banks, three newspapers, and an ice cream parlor, alongside 110 saloons, 14 gambling halls, and numerous dancing halls and brothels. All of these were situated among and on top of a large number of dirty, hardscrabble mines. The gentlemen and ladies of Tombstone attended operas presented by visiting acting troupes at the Schieffelin Hall opera house, while the miners and cowboys saw shows at the Bird Cage Theatre, the wildest, wickedest night spot in town.
Under the surface were tensions that grew into deadly conflict. The mining capitalists and townspeople were largely Republicans from the Northern states. Many of the ranchers in the area were Confederate sympathizers and Democrats. The booming city was only 30 miles from the U.S.–Mexico border and was an open market for beef stolen from ranches in Sonora, Mexico, by a loosely organized band of outlaws known as The Cowboys. The Earp brothers—Virgil, Wyatt, Morgan and Warren—arrived in December 1879 and summer 1880. They had ongoing conflicts with Ike and Billy Clanton, Frank and Tom McLaury, and other Cowboys members. The Cowboys repeatedly threatened the Earps over many months until the conflict escalated into a confrontation that turned into the infamous shootout at the O.K. Corral. The actual gunfight was on Fremont Street a block or two away from the O.K. Corral.
In the mid-1880s, the city nearly became a ghost town, only saved from that end because it was the Cochise County seat until 1929. The city's population dwindled to a low of 646 in 1910, but in 2010 the population was 1,380. It has frequently been noted on lists of unusual place names.
Tomorrow another adventure begins.