Tombstone, Arizona

Tombstone is a mining town founded in 1879 by Ed Schieffelin when he struck a rich body of silver ore close by. While talking to a soldier about his exploits as a rock-picker, Schieffelin was told that the only rock he'd find in that Apache country would be his own tombstone, hence the name. The silver mine he started was so rich that Tombstone reached a population around 1,000 within 2 years and between 5,000 and 15,000 within 3 years. By 1883 Tombstone had its own ice cream parlor, and later an ice skating rink. The town had running water, telegraph and even a limited telephone system in use by 1884. But Tombstone never had railroad access and silver mines are known for having short lifetimes...

Probably the one event that put Tombstone on the map was the October 26, 1881 Gunfight at the O.K. Corral between the Earp brothers with Doc Holiday and the Clanton brothers. As most western mining towns went, Tombstone was a bit deadlier. The Bird Cage Theater in Tombstone was rated as the "wildest, wickedest night spot between Basin Street and the Barbary Coast."

Major fires burned in the heart of the town in June, 1881, and again in May, 1882. The second fire pretty much wiped out the business district and, as the silver mines were flooding with water, that began the death of Tombstone. By 1900, the population was below 700.

The primary business in Tombstone these days is tourism. The old courthouse and the adjacent gallows yard is now a state historic site. The famous Boot Hill cemetery has been prserved and is open to all. The O.K. Corral is private property with entrance admission charged but the gunfight itself took place in the public street. A large part of the original townsite is now a National Historic Landmark District. In 2004, the National Park Service intervened in Tombstone and is taking steps to ensure the authenticity of the structures built and restored in the historic district.

On the third weekend of every October, the Helldorado Festival happens in Tombstone with street entertainment, fashion shows, a family-oriented carnival and daily gunfight reenactments.

Tombstone, Arizona
Modern day saloon ladies on Allen Street