This past weekend we took the 2.5 hour drive over to Tombstone. We normally don’t travel that far to see the sights when we stop somewhere, but our future travels won’t allow us to be any closer and we didn’t want to leave Arizona without seeing what the town was all about.
Tombstone was founded in 1877 by a prospector named Ed Schieffelin. During his time in Apache country at Camp Huachuca, he would venture out on his own looking for rocks, which he found near Goose Flats and it was silver, and after being told by the soldiers at the camp that the only stones he would find would be the one used for his tombstone, he named his first mine The Tombstone.
By 1881 Tombstone’s population had increased to around 9,000. There were over one hundred saloons, numerous restaurants, and a large red-light district.
We took a twenty minute stagecoach ride and learn the history of the town, and see the different buildings.
One of those buildings was the Bird Cage Theatre, a saloon, theater, gambling hall and brothel. Legend has it that no self-respecting woman in town would even walk on the same side of the street as the Bird Cage Theatre. It opened its doors on Christmas Day 1881 and ran 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year until closing its doors eight years later in 1889.
The most famous event in Tombstone’s history was the famed “Gunfight at the OK Corral”, that occurred on October 26, 1881, when a group of cowboys had a run-in with the Earp brothers, Wyatt, Virgil and Morgan, and their friend Doc Holiday. The gunfight lasted less than a minute, and 30 shots later, the cowboys, Billy Clanton, Tom and Frank McLaury were killed. We watched a live re-enactment of the gunfight, which lasted about 30 minutes longer that the actual fight and was more of a comedy than a historical re-enactment. All in all, is was a good show and we did learn that the gunfight didn’t actually happen at the corral, but in a vacant lot on Fremont Street.
Tombstone is also the home of Boothill Graveyard. Boothill began in 1879 and was used until 1884 when the New Tombstone City Cemetery was opened on west Allen Street. Legend has it that Boothill was named for the fact that many residents there died violent or unexpected deaths and were buried with their boots on, just like the cowboys who died at the OK Corral. However, it was actually named Boothill after Dodge City’s pioneer cemetery in the hopes of attracting tourists in the late 1920’s.
We had a good time in Tombstone and glad we made the trip. Many would say that today’s Tombstone is just a tourist trap with the comedy re-enactment, and the numerous souvenir shops on Allen Street. Which is ok, if that’s what they need to do to keep their history alive, besides, how many people can say they took a ride on a stagecoach?