The Town Too Tough To Die

Allen Street

Tombstone’s Main Street is Allen Street, a short six blocks of the original townsite.

Tombstone, AZ

In the 1870’s, a prospector working as a scout out of Camp Huachuca (Wa-chu-ka), spent his free time seeking his fortune. Ed Schieffelin found his fortune in the form of silver, and as with all mining operations, a town grew up around the mining activity. Ed Schieffelin and the Tombstone Mine begat the town of Tombstone, which was born in 1877.

Tombstone Courthouse

In 1882, the Tombstone Courthouse was built. Tombstone was the Cochise County Seat until 1929 when county offices were moved to Bisbee.

Located in Southeast Arizona, Tombstone, like nearby Bisbee, grew into a small metropolis until the mine played out. Tombstone is not known, however, for its mining heritage. Arguably the event that kept Tombstone from turning into a ghost town was the “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.” Today, visitors who come to Tombstone may view a recreation of the October 26, 1881 shootout pitting the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday against a small group of cowboys. In 30 seconds, the fight was over and Billy Clanton, and brothers, Tom and Frank McLaury lay dead on the street. You can see the recreation twice daily at 2 and 4 PM.

OK Corral

The shootout wasn’t really at the Corral, but actually in a vacant lot on Fremont Street.

My wife, Lynn, and I arrived late in the afternoon and we planned to leave fairly early the next morning, Tombstone being a stopover on our way to Bisbee. We decided to forego the late afternoon gunfight, instead opting to walk the streets of Tombstone after all the shops were closed and the streets were emptied of tourists.

Tombstone Hotel and Merchantile

Typical of the businesses along Allen Street, at the Hotel and Mercantile you can buy souvenirs, gifts, eat in the ice cream parlor, and even spend a night in the hotel.

We chose to stay at the recently constructed Holiday Inn Express at the edge of town. My idea of “roughing it” is when there is no refrigerator in the hotel room.

Attorney Offices

Apparently it was easy to find an attorney in Tombstone.

I don’t know why they needed attorneys in town. It appears that they settled most of their differences with guns.


Politicians have always had a bad reputation.


This theater, like other businesses on Allen Street after 6 PM was “shut.”

An interesting convention seen on many of the shops and businesses was the sign indicating the business is closed. The typical flip sign, instead of saying “Open” on one side and “Closed” on the other, had the word “Shut” opposite the side that read “Open”.

Tombstone Epitaph

The original town newspaper building is now a museum.

After a decent dinner but relatively slow service at the Longhorn Restaurant, it was getting late so we called it a night. Our major goal for the next day would be to visit Boothill Cemetery before heading off to visit Bisbee.

The old cemetery was replaced by a new cemetery on the other side of town after only five years. With a few notable exceptions, Boothill was the town burial ground only from 1879 to 1884. Over the years, the cemetery fell into disrepair and markers were damaged or stolen. In the 1920’s, a community restoration project began to preserve the town’s early history by documenting the deaths of the graveyard’s pioneer residents. The burial ground would also generate some tourist revenue.


Markers in the cemetery have been restored as accurately as could be determined. Many graves were marked “Unknown”.

Tourists enter the grounds through a gift shop. There is no charge for admission to the cemetery, but a $3 donation gets you a 16-page computer-printed pamphlet that describes the events that led to the demise of some of the residents.

Clanton and McLaury Brothers

The McLaury brothers and Billy Clanton are probably the most well known residents.

George Johnson

From the Boothill history guide, “Johnson innocently bought a stolen horse and suffered the consequences.”

The 16-page guide is organized row by row and provides a one or two-sentence elaboration on the passing of many of the residents of the cemetery. The entry in the caption above is typical.

Lester was a Wells Fargo agent at Naco. He died in a dispute with a man over a package.

Lester Moore was a Wells Fargo agent at Naco. He died in a dispute with a man over a package.

Very few of the redone grave markers were as elaborately descriptive of the person’s demise as George Johnson’s and Lester Moore’s markers. If known, the cause of death is usually described on the marker in short terms, e.g. “Drowned”; “Hanged”; “Killed by Apaches”.

Chinese sector

Chinese citizens were buried in a grouping in the northwest corner of the cemetery.

A handful of residents were buried here after the cemetery officially closed in 1884. A couple of examples, Mrs. Ah Lum, known also as China Mary, was buried in the Chinese section in 1906. Emmett Nunnelley was responsible for helping to restore the old cemetery, and at his request, he was buried here in 1946.

Tombstone presents an interesting snapshot of life in the wild, wild west. Unfortunately, like most historical snapshots taken today, this one has been highly Photoshopped. Still and all, Tombstone is worth a stopover on the trip to Bisbee.

Tombstone Sunset

Take a moment and imagine that you can see the hero riding off into the sunset.

John Steiner

2 thoughts on “The Town Too Tough To Die

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