Tombstone AZ Is The History Of The Southwest
Visiting Tombstone Is An Great Day Trip From Tucson AZ
Gunfights were frequent in the Tombstone during the 1880″s. But the most famous gunfight involved Wyatt Earp and his brothers Morgan and Virgil. And of course Doc Holliday.
Hundreds of western movies have made it famous.
Over 50 different movie and TV projects focus on the mid 1800’s in Tombstone. And the leading character in every show was Wyatt Earp.
Watching television during the 50’s and 60’s brought the old west into many homes. Many shows and movies presented the history of Tombstone AZ and the events that took place there.
And the youth today don’t realize that Tombstone AZ is a real town. And real people still live there.
Tombstone, the town to tough to die is 60 miles southeast of Tucson AZ. Some families are decedents of those who have lived here in the “good old days”.
The generations that have stayed is a key reason Tombstone AZ is called “The Town Too Tough to Die”
To Set The Stage – No Pun Intended
Tombstone AZ got its name from a silver miner named Ed Schieffelin.
Schieffelin was a army guide at nearby Camp Huachuca. He believed the surrounding mountains held the promise of silver and gold.
When the occasion allowed, Ed would go to the mountains and dig for ore. As he was venturing out one day, a soldier cautioned about the Apaches in the area. The soldier Ed he wouldn’t find riches in the mountains. and that “All you’ll find in those hills is your tomb-stone”.
In February 1878, while hiding from Apache Indians, Schieffelin found silver. And with the soldier’s comments in mind he registered the lots as; “the Tombstone” and “the Graveyard”.
Shortly afterwards, Ed found two more areas with silver ore. Ed was right and the soldier wasn’t.
Interestingly, Camp Huachuca is now Fort Huachuca, the headquarters for Army intelligence in Sierra Vista AZ.
Silver and Gold
Between 1880 and 1886, over 40 million dollars in silver came from the area. To put that in perspective, that is around 1.7 billion dollars in the present day economy.
Needless to say, Tombstone Arizona flourished. Its population grew from 100 to around 15,000 in less than seven years. And as it grew and easy money became available. Many outlaws and criminals found their way to Tombstone AZ.
With the bad guys came the law. Some lawmen arrived without notoriety, but became legends. Wyatt Earp was one of those. Wyatt arrived in the summer of 1879. He had been an undistinguished peace officer in the Kansas cow towns of Wichita and Dodge City.
Wyatt was also a part-time gambler or “sporting man”. His arrival in Tombstone coincided with the early beginnings of the silver boom.
In the spring and summer of 1880, Earp did well for himself as a gambler. Seeing opportunity, he invested gambling winnings in various mining and water-rights proposals.
Although becoming rich, Wyatt and his brothers did little to distinguish themselves.
Shoot Out At The OK Coral
On the morning of October 25, 1881 Ike Clanton and Tom McLaury came into Tombstone for supplies. Over the next 24 hours, the two men had several violent run-ins with the Earps and their friend Doc Holliday.
The next day, Ike’s brother Billy rode into town to join them, along with Frank McLaury and Billy Claiborne. The first person they met in the local saloon was Holliday. And he inform them that their brothers had both been pistol-whipped by the Earps. Frank and Billy immediately left the saloon, vowing revenge.
With suspicion raised, the Earps and Holliday patrolled the town. They spotted the members of the Clanton-McLaury gang in a vacant lot behind the OK Corral.
The famous gunfight that ensued. It lasted about 30 seconds with around 30 shots fired.
There is still debated about who fired the first shot. But legend suggests it was Virgil Earp. At the faceoff, he pulled out his revolver and shot Billy Clanton point-blank in the chest.
Doc Holliday then fired a shotgun blast at Tom McLaury’s chest.
Wyatt wounded Frank McLaury with a shot in the stomach. But he Frank managed to get off a few shots before collapsing. Ss did Billy Clanton.
When the dust cleared, Billy Clanton and the McLaury brothers were dead. Virgil, Morgan Earp and Doc Holliday got shot. But the wounds were minor.
And Ike Clanton and Claiborne had run for the hills.
Sheriff John Behan of Cochise County saw the shootout. He charged the Earps and Holliday with murder.
But a month later, a Tombstone judge found the men not guilty. He ruled that they were “justified in committing these homicides.”
The Good, The Bad, The Legend
But in the early 1880’s, Tombstone Arizona was one of the most notorious and violent towns in the west. And at the same time may also have been one of the more civilized. The city boosted 4 churches, a school, two banks, a newspaper (“The Epitaph”) and one opera house.
Although Ed Schieffelin founded Tombstone, it persists because of Wyatt Earp, his brothers and Doc Holliday. Their exploits on the Arizona frontier of the early 1880’s made them and Tombstone a legend.
The gun fight at the OK Corral took place in 1881. Of all the gun fights in the history of Tombstone this 30 seconds stands out. The dramatic confrontation left three men dead and three wounded. In less than a minute, around 30 shots were fired. And it created the legend and history of Wyatt Earp.
The Tombstone Of Ed schieffelin
It marks the grave of Ed Schieffelin. His resting place is the spot were he was hiding from the Apaches and found the silver ore that made him rich.
Many of the buildings have stood for over 100 years and the street scenes will whisk you back to that first Glenn Ford western. Buggy rides will take you for a tour of Tombstone.
Walk through the Boot hill cemetery and read the classic epitaphs from long ago – Here lies Lester Moore, four shots from a 44, No Les, No More.
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Tombstone AZ is about an hour drive from Tucson AZ. It is a great day trip and well worth the time. Visitors are treated to reenactments of the gun fight at the OK coral through out the day. The is ample opportunity to stroll along the boardwalk and imagine what it would have been like to live inn those times.
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