“The only rock you will find out there will be your own tombstone,” was the advice given to Ed Schieffelin when he headed to the mountains of Arizona to hunt for ore samples. When Schieffelin filed his first claim after discovering silver, he suitably named his first mine Tombstone, and organized the Tombstone Mining and Milling Company.
If you want an informative trip through Tombstone, Arizona, hop on the guided horse-drawn stagecoach tour. Here you will hear the basic history of the town with lots of humorous stories thrown in. Don’t be surprised if you see a gunfight or stagecoach robbery along the way. Then you can walk or ride to your favorite places throughout the town for a closer look.
The stagecoach is pictured in front of the Crystal Palace Saloon, which was originally built in 1882 but restored in 1963. Prominent citizens of Tombstone liked to congregate here as the saloon was know for its “Good Whiskey, Tolerable Water, and Best Food in Town” as well as an honest gambling room. Add to that the fact that upstairs were located offices that furnished all the latest news, and you can see why it was such a popular spot. The second floor contained offices of Marshall Virgil Earp – in the front, Dr George Goodfellow, leading surgeon, and Atty George Berry.
Since plants are one of my pleasures, couldn’t help noticing this huge century plant located in a resident’s yard. This plant’s name is derived from the fact that they only bloom once in a long, long time, but not quite a century. Usually they grow for around twenty five years before the plant puts forth its tall wooden seed stalk filled with blooms. This blooming spike grows so fast that it takes all the nutrients out of the plant causing it to die. But the seed lives on! These plants are used for their medicinal properties, fiber, food, and even needles.
As you can imagine this was rough territory with tough, lawless characters calling it home. Being only twenty miles from the Mexican border, a group of bandits called The Cowboys, led by Billy Clanton and the McLaury brothers, began rustling cattle from Sonora, Mexico to the fields near Tombstone. That brought lawmen onto the scene in the form of the Earp brothers. The Cowboys were welcome in town since they spent a lot of money there, but shootings often occured. Here you will also find The Hanging Tree, which was used for executions when the gun just wasn’t enough punishment.
Early in 1881 however, one story reports that The Cowboys attempted to rob a stagecoach of $26,000 worth of silver, and killed two passengers. The events that ensued culminated in the now famous Gunfight at the O K Corral where US Federal Marshall Virgil Earp, his brothers, Wyatt and Morgan, and Doc Holliday shot and killed three of The Cowboys. They are buried today on Boothill, one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions.
Boothill reportedly received its name because so many died violent deaths in that area and were buried with their boots on. Wording on the tombstones tells a lot about the life of those times. Some simply say: MURDERED or HANGED. The tombstone of Lester Moore is one of the most often viewed and remembered on Boothill as it has the epitaph:
HERE LIES LESTER MOORE, 4 SLUGS FROM A 44, NO LES NO MORE
The world’s largest rosebush is also in Tombstone so growing conditions must be exceptional. Planted in 1885, this Lady Banksia Rose covers the roof of an inn as well as this terrace. The trunk of the rose bush is twelve feet wide, which you may be able to spot in the shadows. That rose bush must also have been Too Tough To Die.
Since 1880 until the present day, the local publication, The Tombstone Epitaph…The Old West’s most famous newspaper, has kept locals and visitors informed regarding what’s happening in Tombstone. There are now actually two editions: a monthly historical national and a bi-monthly local. Check out some of their historical issues at The Tombstone Epitaph online.
Even though this two-fisted, trigger-happy boomtown has settled down quite a bit, Tombstone is proud of its Wild West history. This is a real town with real inhabitants today and in the past. That is why they are pleased to call it: The Town Too Tough To Die.
Tombstone is located in the southeastern corner of Arizona, just 70 miles from Tucson. Follow I-10 to exit 303 and head southeast on route 80 for about 23 miles. If time permits, head on down to relaxing Bisbee and tour their Queens Copper Mine, one of the richest copper mines in history.