TOMBSTONE EPITOMIZED THE WILD WEST

The west was full of characters and many of them called Tombstone, Arizona home.  Town was full of grifters, drifters, drunks, gamblers, cowboys, ranchers, ladies of the night, gunfighters, miners, entrepreneurs, card sharks, Mexicans, Indians, Chinks,  money, horses, cattle, feuds, soldiers and Democrats.  A natural hotbed for hostilities and life was cheap. Men killed each other at the slightest perception of being wronged.

There are still gunfighters wandering around town, of a commercial type. There are enactments of the battle at the OK corral every day. Another gunfight at Helldorado’s 5th St. encampment, perhaps others.  Having visited here sometime in the 1960’s, the differences were noticeable. The whole town is now like a movie set. Instead of being surprised by a gunfight at the end of a dusty street, everything is fenced and regulated, you buy tickets to see the gunfights.

The gunfighters look like they belong on this street as part of the regular population.

The bars were full by afternoon and still might be a little wild.

Our bartender at the American Legion  in town, told us the population is aging, not increasing, and town couldn’t survive without tourists. And, it is a fascinating place to visit despite the commercialism. Do go. There is much to see and do and great history here to enjoy,

Many people in this cemetery died violently. Seymour Dye was only 35 years old, taking in a load of hay with his friend Harry Curry, when they were ambushed by Indians, shot, then tied and dragged 150 feet by the Indian’s horse.

Yes, five men legally hanged. The gang leader,  who didn’t participate in the robbery but was suspected of planning it,  was dragged out of  jail by an incensed mob of citizens from Bizbee, blindfolded and strung up on a telephone pole.

Violent, frontier justice. Four Bizbee citizens were killed during the robbery. This picture is from the museum. The coroner’s report said:  “I find  the victim died of emphysima (sic) caused by strangulation, self-inflicted or otherwise.”

Mrs. Stump died in childbirth when given an overdose of chloroform by her doctor.  This cemetery has more violent and awful deaths among its 250 known dead than any cemetery but a military cemetery. At my last visit, the graves had rickety wooden markers in the bare ground. It has been improved immensely with stone mounds, and verifications of most of those buried here. Popular and fascinating, especially when you visit the museum at the old County Courthouse and get the facts behind some of these quarrels.

This is Frank Leslie who killed at least three of those in the cemetery. He got his violent death in the end.

The gallows now sits behind the courthouse in the exercise yard.  It was built for the  five men from Heith’s gang and a set bleachers was built on the street to watch the hangings as entertainment. Nellie Cashman,  known as  the Angel of the Camp for her many good works, gave solace to the condemned men in jail. One confided he knew he would die, but he objected to the indignity of being a spectacle.  She quietly manged to get help and turned the bleachers into a pile of kindling the night before the hanging.

William Greene, a farmer who used water from a ditch quarreled with his neighbor Burton over the water. His little girls went swimming in the shallow waters during the hot summers.  Burton let water out of the dam to increase the flow and the water made a deep hole in the ditch. When the girls went swimming, two of them drowned. Greene killed Burton, but was exonerated for his vengeance by the courts.

Deaths on the streets are now visible on the spot where they happened by plaques around town.

There are a number of horse-drawn wagons and stages of different types around town offering one of a kind rides.

We were particularly pleased to see an authentic Butterfield Stage, one of the most uncomfortable rides in the world. A humorous description from a more “comfortable” stage ride (in the museum), the rider claims he wouldn’t have lived through it if the stage hadn’t come to places where the passengers had to get out and walk. It was their only salvation, getting off the hard seats and moving about.

It isn’t often that you have a chance to get  close and friendly with  great percherons.

And, never before have I encountered  a waiter packin’  a gun. We had good food at the Helldorado Chuck Wagon.

We didn’t get to see it all. We could have spent more time, so be prepared to stay a whole day when you visit or return for a second look. Fun town.

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4 thoughts on “TOMBSTONE EPITOMIZED THE WILD WEST

  1. Howard

    The town was full of “Chinks”….seriously? Asian immigrants may have been referred to by that term, but only racists would use that term today. I doubt you found that word on any sign in Tombstone. I have been there many times and haven’t seen it used, so you can’t claim you forgot to use quotation marks You also capitalized it as if it a proper noun.

    What had been an enjoyable daily read has become personally offensive. I have to stop reading your story. Asians contributed much to the development of the USA all the while being vilified by the people who needed them. I hope even if you don’t change your personal view, you will at least keep it to yourself.

    • 2gadabout

      Hi Howard,
      I am absolutely not racist. It was vernacular of the day. People mistreated and did not respect Chinese, or Mexicans or Indians. They consorted, but did not respect. Much of my information came from the Museum. In any case, I’m sorry if it offended you. If you read back far enough in my blog you will absolutely know I am not a racist.
      Mary

  2. Hi May –

    I have been reading your posts recently and really enjoy them. Your style is a better “fit” for me than Jim’s (sorry Jim :D), and I really appreciate the pictures you both take – especially when you frame a distant subject with a doorway or something just as interesting 😀

    Anyway, having lived in Sierra Vista, we often drove to Tombstone for a steak dinner and just to take a nice drive. One weekend, we took our RV and stayed in Wells Fargo RV Park, right across from the OK Corral recreation. We learned so much walking for 2 days and really learned to appreciate the sacrifice the current residents make to keep Tombstone alive.

    While I can appreciate your opinion – comparing your previous visit to your 2012 visit – I also think you can appreciate what it takes to maintain, replace and improve some of the old buildings in Tombstone, If everything were “free” there wouldn’t be much for tourists to come experience.

    The authentic homes & buildings we enjoy walking thru and seeing have long needed refurbishing, if not replacing. That takes money. Tombstone in the late spring, summer & early fall is so hot, many don’t visit, which reduces income for residents. Tombstone is “out there”, so most residents can’t simply commute daily to Tucson for a “REAL job” to keep the coffers full.

    What we found is those who call Tombstone (and Bisbee too) “home” prefer the rural lifestyle that harkens back to a simpler time and will put up with the inconveniences (like a 40 mile drive to a REAL grocery store!). They have a COMMITMENT to keep, as much as possible, The Old West alive and interesting enough to keep tourists coming, and coming back again, and referring others to visit.

    Terry & I have travelled across all 48 states and there are VERY few authenthic Old West towns left anymore for us to experience. The only other one I can think of of hand is Winthrop, Washington. They too have to charge for many of their hosted events, otherwise the town would die off like thousands others across the country we pass through every day.

    No, I’m not a member of the Tombstone Chamber, but boy, do I support them 100% and I REALLY, REALLY appreciate each citizens commitment to keep Tombstone alive for those of us who appreciate the flavor of Old West. I for one, am willing to pay for that little taste of dust and character Tombstone still offers.

    I posted a review of our Tombstone visit on my blog, if you’d like to see it here > http://wp.me/pGEJ1-6d

    • 2gadabout

      Hi Candace,

      I come from a small gold mining town that depends on tourism as well. I know that whole scene. I’m glad you commented and I agree that it takes money to keep these wonderful places alive. In my case, I had a small grocery store. You couldn’t give up your day job to make a living there, or else your husband had a day hob. So true! Now, that has changed, just like Tombstone. I encourage everybody to visit this wonderful historic town. Jim, by the way, has been to Winthrop in the 1980’s. We’ll have to go see the changes our next time in that part of the country. Thanks for stopping by.
      Mary

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