The town of Tombstone lies in Southern Arizona, about 30 miles from the Arizona-Mexico border. The motto of Tombstone is “the town too tough to die,” and it hasn’t yet since its founding in 1879. Tombstone is a popular tourist destination, and through its Wild West ways have calmed down over the decades, the town still preserves its old-timey feel. So shake the dust off your boots and see Tombstone, the place where the famous O.K. Corral shootout took place and where many stories got their beginnings.
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Why is its name “Tombstone?”
Many wonder why this once wild town has such a bleak name, and where it came from. Ed Scheiffelin was a scout for the U.S. Army in 1877. He liked to roam the wildness looking for mineral samples. Lately, several people had been killed by Native Americans, and his friend Al warned him stating “the only rock you’ll find out there will be your tombstone.” Ed’s searched lead him to find silver ore in a wash, and after months of searching, he located the origin, a silver vein approximately one-foot-wide and 50 feet long, and Ed staked his legal claim. The claim was located near a grave site, and Ed declared the area “Tombstone” and the town was born.
Wild West History
Tombstone produced millions in silver bullion. In its beginnings, the town went from 100 people to over 14,000 people in just seven years, making it a “boomtown.” It had four churches and 110 saloons, and a rowdy crowd to call its citizens. The silver boom dwindled in 1910, and the so did the population to less than 1,000. The town still survives today, rich in history and stories.
The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral
The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral has been called the most famous gunfight in American history. On October 26, 1881, at 3 pm, the shootout occurred. Longtime tensions between the outlaws known as the “Cowboys” and the lawmen consisting of Doc Holiday and the Earp brothers had finally run its course. Meeting head to head, the Cowboys and the lawmen finally met, and the fight lasted 30 seconds and left several dead. This represented a time when outlaws were many, and the lawmen were few and scattered in vast territories, unable to wrangle the crime and those that committed them.
The famous Boothill Graveyard is also in Tombstone, Arizona, and is a popular tourist draw as well. The graveyard gets its name because of all the men that “died with their boots on.” Dating back to 1878, the graveyard stopped taking burials as a new cemetery was established. It was left in a bad condition until the city began restoring and providing upkeep in the 1940’s. Three of the outlaws in the “Cowboys” band, Billy Clanton, Tom McLaury and Frank McLaury, all killed in the O.K. Corral shootout are buried here. Lester Moore is also buried here, a man who argued with another over a mangled package he had come to claim. Shots were fired, and Lester was killed by the man’s .44 caliber gun, and engraved on his tombstone is “HERE LIES LESTER MOORE, FOUR SLUGS FROM A 44, NO LES NO MORE.” This tombstone draws a large gathering as it is the most popular to see in the graveyard.
Tombstone today draws its keepsake from tourism. The population is little over 1,000 people, a far cry from the 14,000 in the silver mining days, yet the town still carries on, small but strong. The town has a designated historic district, along with specific buildings and other attractions that fall under the historic category. Tourism is the town’s biggest draw, and saloon ladies, gunfight reenactments, and of course, the O.K. Corral and Boothill graveyard are must-see attractions.
Where to Stay
Since Tombstone is a tourist attraction, it offers a good variety of lodging places. Modern hotels, bed and breakfasts, R.V. hookups and parking, and vacation rentals are available in Tombstone. T. Miller’s Tombstone Mercantile and Hotel is the only lodging place located in the historic district and right in the middle of all the action on Allen Street. There are only four rooms available, but you are within walking distance to everything, in you want to be in the middle of all the action.
Hungry and Thirsty
Walking around a historic town in the desert can make you hungry and thirsty. Ice cream treats are available to help you cool off as well as snacks, restaurants, or places to grab a quick bite. Quench your adult thirst at Doc Holiday’s Saloon, and have a nice dinner at the Longhorn restaurant. There are many choices available and are suitable for everyone.
You will never get bored in Tombstone. Gun reenactments and shows are available at specific times throughout the day. Historical tours and ghost tours are offered to step into Tombstones’ past and see what ghosts have decided to linger in the town. Grab a stagecoach for a quick horse-drawn tour and learn more about the town and way of life. Jeep tours, trolley tours, museums, and mine tours are also available. Don’t forget the O.K. Corral and historama to see the place of the most famous western gunfight in history.
Tough Towns Never Die
Tombstone is a Wild West town, and has managed to survive the harshest conditions and has stood the test of time. The silver boom drew thousands of people who called Tombstone home even for a short while. Gunfights, whiskey, brothels, silver, sweat, and blood, are the very foundation of the town. The historic district is still a favorite among Tombstone visitors, and buildings such as the Bird Cage Theater are a must-see, as it was the rowdiest place in town to be. Respectable women were said not even to walk on the side of the street the Bird Cage was located on, and even though things are different today, and respectable people do walk on that side of the street, the tough town is worth seeing and experiencing its wild west history.