After getting its start as a silver mining claim in the late-1870s, the settlement grew along with its Tough Nut Mine, becoming a bustling boomtown of the Wild West. From opera and theater to dance halls and brothels, Tombstone offered much-needed entertainment to the miners after a long shift underground. In 1886, the mines flooded and hit rock bottom, and the miners moved on to the next claim.
- Tombstone is in Cochise County, Arizona
- Founded in 1877 by prospector Ed Schieffelin in what was then Pima County, Arizona Territory.
- It became one of the last boomtowns in the American frontier.
- The local mines produced silver bullion, the largest productive silver district in Arizona.
- Its population grew from 100 to around 14,000 in less than seven years.
- The town was established on Goose Flats, a mesa above the Goodenough Mine.
- Tombstone was a far distance from any other metropolitan area
- Within two years of its founding Tombstone had:
- A bowling alley
- Four churches
- An ice house
- A school
- Two banks
- Three newspapers
- An ice cream parlor
- 110 saloons
- 14 gambling halls
- Numerous dance halls and brothels
All of these businesses were situated among and atop many silver mines.
The gentlemen and ladies of Tombstone attended operas presented by visiting acting troupes at the Schieffelin Hall opera house, while the miners and cowboys saw shows at the Bird Cage Theatre and brothel.
Under the surface were tensions that grew into the deadly conflict:
- The mining capitalists and the townspeople were largely from the Northern states. Many of the ranchers were Confederates (some, like the Clantons, were also rustlers or other criminals).
- The booming city of Tombstone was only 30 miles from the U.S. - Mexico border. It was an open market for cattle stolen from ranches in Sonora, Mexico.
- The Earp brothers (Wyatt, Virgil and Morgan) arrived in December 1879. Doc Holliday mid-1880.
- The Earps had ongoing conflicts with Cowboys Ike and Billy Clanton, Frank and Tom McLaury, and Billy Claiborne.
- The Cowboys repeatedly threatened the Earps over many months until the conflict escalated into a shootout on October 26, 1881.
Tombstone is best known as the site of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral
- In the mid-1880s, the silver mines penetrated the water table
- The mining companies made significant investments in specialized pumps.
- A fire in 1886 destroyed the Grand Central hoist and the pumping plant, and it was deemed unprofitable to rebuild the costly pumps.
- Tombstone nearly became a ghost town, saved only because it was the Cochise County seat until 1929.
- Tombstone's population dwindled to a low of 646 in 1910, but grew to 1,380 by 2010.
- Presently draws most of its revenue from tourism.
Gunfight at the O.K. Corral:
- The gunfight at the O.K. Corral was between lawmen led by Virgil Earp and The Cowboys led by Ike Clanton.
- Some members of the two opposing parties were initially only about 6 feet apart.
- It was a 30-second shootout. About 30 shots were fired. About 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday, October 26, 1881.It is generally regarded as the most famous shootout in the history of the American Wild West.
- Billy Clanton and both McLaury brothers were killed.
- Ike Clanton, Billy Claiborne, and Wes Fuller ran from the fight.
- Virgil, Morgan, and Holliday were wounded, but Wyatt was unharmed.
The gunfight was the result of a long-simmering feud, with outlaw Cowboys Billy Claiborne, Ike and Billy Clanton, and Tom and Frank McLaury on one side; and Town Marshal Virgil Earp, Special Policemen Morgan and Wyatt Earp, and temporary policeman Doc Holliday on the other side.
Despite its name, the gunfight did not take place within or next to the O.K. Corral, which fronted Allen Street and had a rear entrance lined with horse stalls on Fremont Street.
The shootout actually took place in a narrow lot on the side of C. S. Fly's Photographic Studio on Fremont Street, six doors west of the O.K. Corral's rear entrance.
Ike Clanton subsequently filed murder charges against the Earps and Holliday. After a 30-day preliminary hearing and a brief stint in jail, the lawmen were shown to have acted within the law.
Wyatt is often erroneously regarded as the central figure in the shootout, although his brother Virgil was Tombstone town marshal and Deputy U.S. Marshal that day and had far more experience as a sheriff, constable, marshal, and soldier in combat.
The gunfight was not the end of the conflict:
On December 28, 1881, Virgil Earp was ambushed and maimed in a murder attempt by the Cowboys. On March 18, 1882, a Cowboy fired from a dark alley through the glass door of Campbell & Hatch's saloon and billiard parlor, killing Morgan Earp. Wyatt Earp, newly appointed as Deputy U.S. Marshal in Cochise County, then took matters into his own hands in a personal vendetta.
Campbell and Hatch Saloon:
Campbell and Hatch Saloon & Billiards:
Bob Hatch and John Campbell opened a billiard parlor in 1880. Bob Hatch was a colorful character and an amateur thespian. It was said that he kept a jar of frogs on the counter as their croaking helped him predict the weather. He followed the Earps to the famous gunfight, assisted in removing the gun from dying Billy Clanton's hand, and testified at the hearing.
A few months later, he was playing a game of billiards with Morgan Earp when the back window was shattered by a gunshot and Morgan fell, mortally wounded, and died within the hour. Hatch ran for sheriff in 1885, but was defeated by John Slaughter. Campbell ran several saloons in Tombstone and served as a city councilman for a number of years.
The saloon and billiard parlor burned in the 1882 fire and was one of the first to rebuild. Prohibition closed all the saloons in 1914. This area deteriorated badly in the following years. In 1945 this old building was remodeled for a new business. This is one of Tombstone's historic buildings.
613 East Allen Street
Tombstone, AZ 85638