Events

April 26, 2012

Out and About in Arizona Tombstone: The town too tough to die

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A stagecoach passes through Tombstone. The city offers stagecoach tours of the historic district.

The most famous event in Tombstone’s history, the famed Gunfight at the OK Corral will be re-enacted this weekend, April 28-29.

On October 26, 1881, Wyatt, Virgil and Morgan Earp with help from Wyatt’s friend Doc Holliday took 24 seconds and 30 shots to mortally wound Billy Clanton, Tom and Frank McLaury known as the Cowboys.

On April 28 and 29, the one and only OK Corral, along side The Old Pueblo Gunfighters from Tucson are sponsoring this year’s “Shootout at the OK Corral.” Hoards of shooters from the Cowboy Fast Draw Association are expected to be showing off their best skills in this head-to-head competition.

Actors re-enactment a gunfight over a card game.

On Sunday, April 29, will be the shoot out between the Magnificent Seven, the best seven shooters from the previous day.

Historical records show that Tombstone was founded in 1877 by a prospector named Ed Schieffelin while he was staying at what was then called Camp Huachuca as part of a scouting expedition against the Chiricahua Apaches.

During his time there Schieffelin would venture out into the wilderness “looking for rocks,” all the while ignoring the warnings he received from the soldiers at the camp. They would tell him, “Ed, the only stone you will find out there will be your tombstone.” When he found silver he remembered the words of warning from the soldiers, naming his first mine The Tombstone.

It wasn’t long before word spread about Schieffelin’s silver strike. Soon prospectors, cowboys, homesteaders, lawyers, speculators, gunmen and business people flocked to the area in droves. In 1879 a town site was laid out on the nearest level spot to the mines, known at that time as Goose Flats, and was appropriately named Tombstone after Ed Schieffelin’s first mining claim.

By the mid 1880s Tombstone’s population had increased to around 7,500. This figure counted only the white male registered voters that were over 21 years of age and who owned property. If you take into account the women, children, Chinese, Mexicans, and the many “ladies of the evening,” the estimates are that the population was between 15,000 and 20,000 people. At its peak, it is said to have been the fastest growing city between St. Louis and San Francisco. There were over one hundred saloons, numerous restaurants, a large red-light district, an even larger Chinese population, schools, churches, newspapers, and one of the first public swimming pools in Arizona, which is still used today.

There were a few theaters in town, the most famous of them being Schieffelin Hall and the Bird Cage Theatre. Schieffelin Hall was where the “respectable” people in town went for entertainment. It opened in June of 1881 and was built for the people of Tombstone by Ed Schieffelin’s brother Al. It is the largest standing adobe structure in the southwest United States and was built to be used as a theater, recital hall and a meeting place for Tombstone Citizens. Wyatt and Morgan Earp attended a performance there the evening that Morgan was killed by an assassin’s bullet. It is still in use today by city government and civic groups.

Actors in Tombstone provide re-enacted gunfights in the old west town.

Tombstone is also the home of Boothill Graveyard, which began in 1879 and was used until 1884. After the opening of the New Tombstone City Cemetery on west Allen Street, Boothill became known as “The Old Cemetery.” Many famous Tombstone folks lie in the Boothill Graveyard including the victims of the 1881 Shootout on Fremont Street between the Earps and the Cowboys.

In 1882 the Cochise County Courthouse was built at a cost of around $45,000. It provided offices for the county sheriff, recorder, treasurer, board of supervisors, and a jail. The Cochise County seat remained in Tombstone until voters in 1929 chose to move it to Bisbee, a bustling copper mining town 29 miles away. The last county office left the courthouse in 1931. Today, the courthouse is a state park visited by countless residents and tourists.




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(U.S. Air Force Photo by Airman 1st Class Chris Massey)

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