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Day 165 - Tombstone, Arizona (Photo's Added)

We visited Tombstone, road in a Stagecoach, and enjoyed Buffalo Burgers (Mom anyway).

sunny 75 °F

Since our campground was only 22 miles from Tombstone, we decided to go ahead and visit it today. I had also thought about visiting Bisbee, another 16 miles to the south - but we had so much fun in Tombstone, we decided to just spend the time there and not continue on.

So much for taking a day off to get some chores done. I'll have a little more downtime this weekend, so may get caught up a bit then. We have an appointment to get the brakes fixed tomorrow morning, so I'll also play around with my chores while that's being done. Sightseeing is just too much fun to stop for those pesky chores?

Anyway, Tombstone was founded in 1879 after a local prospector, Ed Schieffelin, found silver ore in the local hills. He named the town Tombstone since when he set out, a soldier told him the only thing he'd find in this dangerous area was his own Tombstone.

As we approached the town, the first thing we saw was the Boothill Store. The old cemetery was laid out in 1878, even before the town. It was the burial place for the town's first pioneers and was used until 1884 - during some of the roughest years in the community. The city now owns the cemetery and runs the store, which is also the entrance to the cemetery. The cemetary earned the nickname "Boothill" because of the many violent deaths in the early days ('They died with their boots on').


The cemetery is actually on the side of a low hill overlooking a valley. It sat neglected for many years until interested townsfolk spent years to research it and perserve & restore the main part of the cemetery as it is today. They checked information with all available sources to compile the information on the headstones. This is also in a very informative booklet, "Boothill Grave Yard: A Descriptive List" that is available from the store. These are just a sample of what the cemetery looks like and a view across the valley.


The 250 graves are organized in 11 rows. As an example, here are the descriptions for the people in Row 1 as described on on Page 1 in the guidebook:

- Rodriguez Petron, Stabbed
- Unknown, found in an abandoned mine, 1882. He was found at the bottom of a 60 foot shaft of the Minute Mine. He was well-dressed, indicating he was not a miner. No identification of any kind.
- Pat Byrne, 1882, Pneumonia
- Eva Waters, Age 3 Months, Scarlet Fever.
- Florentino, Murdered, 1882. Florentino was found dead with several bullet wounds in his body. Sometimes called Indian Charlie.
- Van Houten, Murdered, 1879. He was beaten in the face with a stone until he died. Trouble was over his mining claim, which he had not recorded.
- Tom Waters, Shot 1880. He was the father of Eva Waters and likely the same "T.J. Waters" that was shot over the color of his shirt.
- Chas. Helm, Shot 1882. Shot by Wm. McCauley. Two hot-tempered ranchers, who disagreed over the best way to drive cattle, fast or slow.
- Johathon Barton, 1881
- Louis Davis, 1882
- Halderman Bros. Hanged Nov. 16, 1900
- Thos. Gregory, 1882
- Gregory, 1882. Small son of Thos. Gregory, who died of meningitis.
- Holo Lucero, 1882. Killed by Indians.

Looks like a pretty good arguement for gun control to me (or stone control in some cases).

Anyway, after we left Boothill Cemetery, we continued driving south on Hwy 80 right into the town. We parked right across from this building, which turned out to be Schieffelin Hall, the largest Adobe building in the U.S.


Hwy 80 is on an old street that used to be called "Fremont". It is one block over from Allen, the historic downtown area. In fact, the National Park Service designated the downtown area a National Historic Landmark District in 1961 as "one of the best preserved specimens of the rugged frontier town of the 1870s and '80s." They recently started working with the town to undo some changes that weren't historically correct and as far as I could tell, the effort is worth it. The surface of Allen Street is dirt, it is no longer paved. There are wooden sidewalks, and I didn't notice any blinking neon signs. It really looks like a frontier town.


We very soon noticed horse-drawn stagecoaches driving around town.


I figured you don't get to ride in a real stagecoach very often, and this would be one way we could see more of the town and learn about it fairly quickly, so we signed up for a ride. Mom got quite friendly with the driver Darren, I liked the two Belgian horses, Ben and Dave.


One of the hands was even kind enough to take our picture!


Darren took us on a tour through the town, explaining what many of the houses and businesses were used for in the 1880's. I took pictures, but the Stagecoach ride wasn't quite smooth enough to get very many decent ones. I asked about that, and because the town streets are quite smooth (even though they're dirt), the ride is much smoother then it probably would have been in the 1880's. The Stagecoaches were built by a man in NY who worked very hard to make them as authentic as possible (although they are made out of steel, instead of wood). He did make the wheelbase wider and added more modern brakes to comply with safety codes. So shakey or not, these are from the stagecoach:


On of the more interesting buildings in town is the Bird Cage Theater (top row, right). If you have time, click on previous link and read up on it!

After the Stagecoach ride, we did a little shopping. Of course, Mom & I usually like different sorts of things, but there's so much to choose from that we didn't have any trouble finding a few things to buy.


There are several live shows in Tombstone, usually about shootouts or such things. When the actor's aren't doing their shows, they just hang out downtown. Also, some of the shop owners/operators dress in period costume as well as stagecoach drivers and a few other characters. There are quite a few people dressed in 1880's outfits around town at any given time, which also adds to the atmosphere. We decided to go to the Historama instead of one of the live shows, which also got us entrance to the O.K. Corral and it's exhibits. The Historama wasn't exactly great, but it did give a fairly concise history of the town. The bottom line is that the only thing that made it such a big deal in the 1880's was the silver mines. As the smaller silver veins started to fade, the remaining mines also suffered pump failures and flooded. The only major business left was the County Courthouse, which moved to Bisbee in 1929. The town quietly started to fade away also until being revived by tourism.

One of the main tourist draws is the O.K. Corral where the gunfight took place between the Earp's and Clantons. While there were other gunfights in the old west, even several in Tombstone, this one is perhaps the most famous. The Corral today is set up with a museum of sorts leading into it, showing several different types of carriages and buggies. A couple are set up for people to sit in, which of course we did.


The rest of the buggies are just for viewing, as several are antiques (1880's). BTW - they were called "Buggies" because they were much faster then the older, heavier wagons and carts, so tended to collect dead bugs on the front boards! These are thumbnails, if you want to know more about any, just click.


It's probably appropriate to have buggy's in the corral today, since renting buggies was one of the services provided by the O.K. Corral in the 1880's. These lead back to the small section where the gunfight actually took place. I won't repeat the story, if you follow the above link you can get a better summary than anything I could write up. Once you see the actual location however, you realize that the fight took place in a fairly small area (18' long). Wyatt Earp also drew a map showing where each man was standing when the shooting started - and they were quite close together. This is probably what accounts for how much damage was done. You should note that the Earps were Republican's and part of the business establishment in Tombstone, the Clantons were Democrats and the leader of the 'Cow-boy' faction. Hmm.


Possibly one of the reasons this gunfight became so famous is that Tombstone had an active newspaper at the time, the Epitaph, which is still in print. John Clum, the founder, said 'Every Tombstone should have an Epitaph', and so named his paper.


John Clum, a Republican, was a supporter of the Earps, so the initial news reports made them out to be hero's. A few days after the gunfight, he sold the newspaper to a Democrat who supported the 'Cow-boys', so future stories were highly slanted against the Earps. The strong biases in reporting and by many of the witnesses has made it harder for historians to get an accurate picture of what happened. I asked this fellow, encouraging Mom for her spunk, which of the movies he felt was most accurate. He recommended "The Hour of the Gun" starring James Garner (in case you're curious as I was).


So this concludes our little visit to Tombstone, Arizona. It was fun visiting the 1880's for awhile but I'm glad things are a little more civilized nowdays.

We're still at Benson, AZ tonight (hot tub & pool closed so they could trim the palm trees, ugh)

Should be in Phoenix tomorrow night.


Miles Driven - 47 (RT)
Camped at Valley Vista RV CG in Benson, AZ

Mailed packages home, did laundry

Posted by jl98584 19:28 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel

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Looks like you had some downtime with a fast internet connection! Nice to catch up on your trip. Looks like you won't be able to give me a firsthand report on Canyon de Chelly. Ah...the choices we must make! Hope you keep enjoying yourselves as you make your way into California.

by TexasRTJ

Yes and no, mostly the internet has been a royal pain, but working with it. Yes, choices can be tough - but no matter what we miss, we see so many other things it kind of makes up for it. Really enjoyed Galveston (and missed most of it too!)

by jl98584

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