Tombstone

Tombstone is known as the “Town Too Tough to Die.”  In 1877, Ed Schieffelin defied the warnings of his friends against prospecting in Apache territory (all he would find would be his tombstone) and discovered silver near here.  When the word got out, miners poured in and a shantytown was built on the nearest level ground; it became known as Tombstone.  By 1881, the town had 10,000 inhabitants, who successfully lobbied for the creation of Cochise County and the establishment of Tombstone as the county seat.  But, as the mines went deeper, they were plagued by water, so that by 1886, the boom was over.  During the eight years of production, more than $37 million worth of silver was extracted here.

Built in 1882, the original Cochise County Courthouse is now the Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park.  Designed during the heyday of Tombstone, it is an elegant building that originally cost almost $50,000 (in 1882 dollars).  In 1929, Bisbee became the county seat and the last county office moved out in 1931.  The building essentially remained vacant until 1955 when the Tombstone Restoration Commission acquired it and began restoration.  In addition to an exhibit about the shootout between the Earps (and Doc Holiday) and the Clanton gang, life in early Tombstone and its mining origins are discussed. 

The Tombstone Epitaph building housed an exhibit about the life of John Clum.  Clum was an Indian agent for the Apaches on the San Carlos Reservation for several years.  But, he resigned in 1877 over lack of support for his enlightened policies and moved on to a career in journalism, first in Tucson and then in Tombstone.  Clum, and his Daily Epitaph, became ardent supporters of the Earps as compared to the anti-Earp Daily Nugget.  Clum was also the mayor of Tombstone during the Earp years.  He, like so many others, moved on as the town began to die, eventually landing in Los Angeles.

Today, Tombstone is a tourist town with wooden sidewalks and flat-front buildings that house retail shops aimed at the passing tourist.  Performances of various shootouts occur around town.  Without the legend of Wyatt Earp and the controversy over the gunfight, Tombstone probably would have died like so many other played-out mining towns.

For a good, balanced discussion of the events and times leading up to and following the gunfight through the alley at the back of the O.K. Corral read Paula Mitchell Marks And Die in the West: The Story of the O.K. Corral Gunfight.

 

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