October 26, 1881. Location: Tombstone, Arizona Territory. Thirty gunshots echo across the city at 3:00 p.m. Three men are left motionless on the desert floor as a result of the most famous gunfight in the American West. It is known as The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Maybe you’ve heard of it. It was a skirmish between the lawmen of the town: Wyatt, Virgil, and Morgan Earp as well as Doc Holliday, and the outlaw “Cowboys” made up of Billy Clanton, Ike Clanton, Billy Claiborne, Tom McLaury and Frank McLaury. The gunfight was the result of an ongoing feud between the Earps and the Cowboys. The Earps won the fight, killing Billy Clanton, and both of the McLaury brothers. None of the Earps nor Doc Holliday were killed.
This historic event attracts tourists worldwide to the remote city of Tombstone, Arizona, including Holly and myself. Who doesn’t
want to go see a reenactment of an epic gunfight that puts the “wild” in “Wild West”? This past Sunday, we travelled with a friend to Tombstone and dove into the interesting history surrounding the town. What we found in Tombstone was a unique history almost completely unrelated to the famous gunfight. Instead we learned about the “Town Too Tough To Die.” We learned about this rough and tough town through interaction with locals and their Historama show: a beautiful diorama and film that recounts the town’s history. So here are a few things you didn’t know about Tombstone.
1. Tombstone got its name because of one man’s sense of humor.
Ever wonder why Tombstone is called, well, Tombstone? Ed Schieffelin was looking for valuable minerals and was told by his fellow army scout, “The only rock you will find out there will be your own tombstone.” Schieffelin, being the cocky man he was, ventured out alone and eventually found a vein of silver. At this site he envisioned a blossoming town and mine and found his Tombstone.
2. Tombstone is haunted.
Meet Bunny. He was our server at Helldorado’s Chuck Wagon where we ate lunch. He welcomed us into a haunted town filled with mysterious ghouls and ghosts. Tombstone is known as one of the most haunted cities in America. While we ate our delicious home cooked meals (I had an amazing bowl of chili) Bunny told us stories of frightful nights and close encounters. He showed us disturbing pictures of the very building we were comfortably eating our warm meals in. This picture showed three ghosts in Old West attire staring into your soul from the window of Helldorado’s Chuck Wagon. If you are brave enough to stay the night, there are ghost tours and walks that you can participate in.
3. Tombstone is called “The Town Too Tough To Die” for reasons you may not know.
It has not become known as “The Town Too Tough To Die” because of Doc Holliday and the Earp brothers, or even the alcohol-poisoning amount of whiskey consumed in the town. First of all, it was founded against all odds thanks to pure luck on Ed Schieffelin’s discovery of silver. Second, Tombstone has also suffered from economic loss after the flooding of a local silver mine, (the damn pump just stopped pumping!) which caused many workers to migrate to the nearby town of Bisbee. It has even burned down twice (wow that’s hot).
Amazingly, though, after all this, the townspeople would not leave! If you happen to wander your way into The Rhinestone Cowboy, you will meet a proud resident of Tombstone named Betty. She can fill you in on anything Tombstone and do it with passion. Betty will be happy to tell you that Tombstone was once the largest city between St. Louis, Missouri and San Francisco, California. Tombstone lives on!
4. The Tombstone Epitaph is the oldest newspaper in Arizona.
The newspaper published its first edition on May 1, 1880 and presently publishes issues every month. It became famous for its coverage of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral and other local politics of the Old West. Walk into the Tombstone Epitaph’s Museum and you will learn about its history as a paper as well as the history of printing newspapers. You will also receive a copy of the headline that covered the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.
Tombstone, Arizona is a destination worth traveling to. The food is great, the locals are extremely hospitable, the entertainment is endless, and there is a rich history to learn about!
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