Tombstone, Arizona remains number one destination to Old West

Dakota Livesay

The Old West was full of wild towns. But none was like the one that started as a mining claim Sept. 3, 1877. And it continues to this day as a monument to the wild days of the boomtowns.

As the story goes, Ed Schieffelin, while prospecting in southeast Arizona, was told that all he would be able to find would be his tombstone. What Schieffelin found was an area that ended up producing $30 million in silver. On Sept. 3, 1877, he recorded his claim, jokingly naming it the Tombstone Mine.

Buildings started springing up over night. But Tombstone was different. By the end of 1877, the heyday of the cattle towns was all but over. Texas Rangers were chasing all the bad guys out of Texas. And Pat Garrett was wrapping up things in New Mexico. So, Tombstone became the last hurrah for many a desperado. With a town of miners, claim jumpers, con artists, soiled doves, gunmen and gamblers, it wasn’t surprising that there seemed to be at least one killing a day. The Tombstone Epitaph reported these killings in a special column called “Death’s Doings.”

Wells Spicer in an early letter said that Tombstone had two dance halls, a dozen gambling places and more than 20 saloons. But, he wrote, “Still there is hope, for I know of two Bibles in town.”

Three years after Schieffelin filed his claim; Tombstone had about five hundred buildings, with more than a hundred selling hard liquor, and about half of those houses of ill repute.

Tombstone’s reputation even became a concern of President Chester Arthur. Tombstone survived disastrous fires in 1881 and 1882. But in 1886, when water flooded the mines, the population began to shrink. But, in the spirit of a town to tough to die, Tombstone, Arizona remains today the number one place that Old West enthusiasts want to go.

Dakota Livesay is the editor of the Chronicle of the Old West. For more information about the Old West, visit www.ChronicleoftheOldWest.com You can hear Dakota 10 a.m. each day on KZUZ 93.5 in Show Low and KZUA 92.1 in Holbrook.

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