Part 1: Tombstone, Arizona...
May 1, 2007
|Monday April 30th Well, we have arrived in Benson our destination for the next couple of days. Not that it would be our dream destination but it is the closest thing to Tombstone & Bisbee where we want to visit for the next couple of days. We found another Passport America Park & our total rent for the next 2 nights is $20.97. We like that ...We got set up & then headed to town to rent a couple of movies. We were told to rent Robin Williams "RV" so we did. Not even funny! Not for us RV'ers anyway! The second movie was great though. "An Unfinished Life" with Morgan Freeman, Robert Redford & Jennifer Lopez. I highly recommend it. Makes you realize how short life can be sometimes & how fortunate we are to be doing what we are doing at this young age. We are going to try & get an early start in the morning so we can head to Tombstone as it gets a bit warm later in the day.
Tuesday May 1st Today we went to the town of Tombstone, Arizona. The first thing we did was go to possibly the worst gunfight ever! We didn't realize it was a comedy gunfight, guess we should have paid a bit more attention! But it was still fun (sort of!)
Then we did a good thing & took a trolley tour of the area. The driver was very informative & a good guide. He was also a part time fireman for the city & really knew his stuff. This is what we learned.
The Townsite of Tombstone was laid out on March 5, 1879. At that time Tombstone had 40 cabins and 100 people. Allen Streets lots sold for $5. By June 20, 1880 there were 3,000 people in the town and by late 1881 there was over 7,000 people in town and more gambling houses, saloons, and a larger "boothill" and "red light" district than any town in the southwest. Population increased rapidly from that time, and in the 1890's it had reached a maximum of 15,000. It is not generally known, or remembered, that for a short time in the 1880's Tombstone was the largest community from Texas to San Francisco, California.
It sprang up in an Arizona area known as Goose Flats when prospector Edward Schieffelin discovered rich veins of Silver in 1877.
Schieffelin named his first mining claim "The Tombstone," after being told by soldiers that the only thing he would find in those hills was Apache Indians and his own Tombstone.
Ed's rich Silver discovery brought people from all over the globe to seek wealth, adventure, opportunity and few rules.
But everything changed in the late 1880's and early 1890's, when the big profitable mines were flooded with water and the extraction of the Silver became nearly impossible. Huge water pumps were installed in some of the mines, but to no avail. With the high cost of retrieving this precious metal, mixed with its decline in market price, the early 1900's saw the end of the great silver boom and eventually the town of Tombstone. Yes, there are still rich veins of Silver to be mined, but until Silver prices reach around $11.00 an once, reality tells us that it would not be probable or profitable to open the mines back up. Today silver prices are very steady at around $5.00 an ounce, so it might be awhile!
But in Tombstone's short life as a boom town, legends, stories and myths of the old Wild West were born, and with them came the great turning point of our true American history.
The famous Bird Cage Theater opened in December of 1881 and closed it's doors in 1889. During it's short business life, the Bird Cage was the wildest place in the west! The Bird Cage is named after it's thirteen little cribs that hang from the ceiling where ladies of the night plied their trades. Twenty dollars a night, would buy a gentlemen a bottle of whiskey and a lady for the night. Different from the way Hollywood has portrayed it, no respectable lady would have ever entered the Bird Cage. The longest single poker game in history was played in the basement gaming area. Eight years and four months of one continuous poker game!
On October 26, three men were murdered and two seriously wounded in a street gunfight known throughout the world today as, "The Gunfight at the OK Corral."
And, did you know...
The famous OK Corral Gunfight didn't even take place in a corral?
The actual Gunfight Location, was in a vacant lot near the corner of fourth and Fremont Street, behind the OK Corral, officially known as lot #2 in Block 17.
Originally, there was no wall and the buildings were only about 15 feet apart, it was more like an alley way between these two buildings.
This is the site where the Earps and Doc Holliday murdered Billy Clanton and Tom and Frank McLaury on October 26, 1881.
John Henry "Doc" Holliday lived on the second floor of this building with his live in girlfriend known as Big Nose Kate (aka: Kate Elder, born Mary Katharine Harony).
Our last stop of the day was at the "The Tombstone Cemetery." Because of the many violent deaths of the early days, the cemetery became known as Boothill Graveyard. There are over 250 graves, & for just a $2.00 "donation" you get a descriptive list of each & every one! Interesting stories like "he was found at the bottom of a 60-foot shaft, he was well-dressed indicating he was not a miner, no identification of any kind" or "fell from a wagon & his skull was crushed when a wheel of the heavy wagon ran over his head" and finally "he was shot by a woman much older than he, who was jealously in love with him!"
So much of the good & so much of the bad lies buried here, outlaws with their victims, suicides & hangings (legal & otherwise). Interesting...
Today, the town of Tombstone survives solely off of it's historical past and tourism. Less than 1600 people call it home. We're glad they are here, sharing a bit of history with tourists, like us!!