|I'm running a few days behind in posting and will try to catch up soon. We've actually been in Casa Grande for the past few days visiting with Larry's childhood friend Gary and his wife Lynne. But more on that later.
Today's post continues with our day trip to Tombstone which 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.
Tombstone sprang up in an 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 reality tells us that it would not be probable or profitable to open the mines back up.
During 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!!