Tombstone, Arizona

Last updated

Seal of Tombstone, Arizona.jpg
The Town Too Tough To Die
Cochise County Arizona Incorporated and Unincorporated areas Tombstone Highlighted 0474400.svg
Location of Tombstone in Cochise County, Arizona.
Coordinates: 31°42′57″N110°3′53″W / 31.71583°N 110.06472°W / 31.71583; -110.06472 Coordinates: 31°42′57″N110°3′53″W / 31.71583°N 110.06472°W / 31.71583; -110.06472
Country United States
State Arizona
County Cochise
Incorporated 1881
   Mayor Dusty Escapule
  Total4.31 sq mi (11.17 km2)
  Land4.31 sq mi (11.17 km2)
  Water0.00 sq mi (0.00 km2)
4,541 ft (1,384 m)
(2016) [3]
  Density301.34/sq mi (116.35/km2)
Time zone UTC−07:00 (MST (no DST))
ZIP Code
Area code 520
FIPS code 04-74400
GNIS feature ID12590

Tombstone is a historic city in Cochise County, Arizona, United States, founded in 1879 by prospector Ed Schieffelin in what was then Pima County, Arizona Territory. It became one of the last boomtowns in the American frontier. The town grew significantly into the mid-1880s as the local mines produced $40 to $85 million in silver bullion, the largest productive silver district in Arizona. Its population grew from 100 to around 14,000 in less than seven years. It is best known as the site of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral and presently draws most of its revenue from tourism.

Cochise County, Arizona County in the United States

Cochise County is located in the southeastern corner of the U.S. state of Arizona. The population was 131,346 at the 2010 census. The county seat is Bisbee.

Arizona state of the United States of America

Arizona is a state in the southwestern region of the United States. It is also part of the Western and the Mountain states. It is the sixth largest and the 14th most populous of the 50 states. Its capital and largest city is Phoenix. Arizona shares the Four Corners region with Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico; its other neighboring states are Nevada and California to the west and the Mexican states of Sonora and Baja California to the south and southwest.

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country composed of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the largest city by population is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.


The town was established on a mesa above the Goodenough Mine. Within two years of its founding, although far distant from any other metropolitan area, Tombstone had a bowling alley, four churches, an ice house, a school, two banks, three newspapers, and an ice cream parlor, alongside 110 saloons, 14 gambling halls, and numerous dance halls and brothels. All of these businesses were situated among and on top of a large number of 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.

Mesa Elevated area of land with a flat top and sides that are usually steep cliffs

Mesa is the American English term for tableland, an elevated area of land with a flat top and sides that are usually steep cliffs. It takes its name from its characteristic table-top shape. It may also be called a table hill, table-topped hill or table mountain. It is larger than a butte, which it otherwise resembles closely.

Metropolitan area region consisting of a densely populated urban core and its less-populated but economically-linked surroundings

A metropolitan area, sometimes referred to as a metro area or commuter belt, is a region consisting of a densely populated urban core and its less-populated surrounding territories, sharing industry, infrastructure, and housing. A metro area usually comprises multiple jurisdictions and municipalities: neighborhoods, townships, boroughs, cities, towns, exurbs, suburbs, counties, districts, states, and even nations like the eurodistricts. As social, economic and political institutions have changed, metropolitan areas have become key economic and political regions. Metropolitan areas include one or more urban areas, as well as satellite cities, towns and intervening rural areas that are socioeconomically tied to the urban core, typically measured by commuting patterns. In the United States, the concept of the metropolitan statistical area has gained prominence.

Ice house (building) buildings used to store ice throughout the year, commonly used prior to the invention of the refrigerator

Ice houses or icehouses are buildings used to store ice throughout the year, commonly used prior to the invention of the refrigerator. Some were underground chambers, usually man-made, close to natural sources of winter ice such as freshwater lakes, but many were buildings with various types of insulation.

Under the surface were tensions that grew into deadly conflict. The mining capitalists and the townspeople were largely Republicans from the Northern states. Many of the ranchers (some of whom—like the Clantons—were also rustlers or other criminal varieties) were Confederate sympathizers and Democrats. The booming city was only 30 miles (48 km) from the U.S.–Mexico border and was an open market for cattle stolen from ranches in Sonora, Mexico, by a loosely organized band of outlaws known as The Cowboys. The Earp brothers—Wyatt, Virgil and Morgan—as well as Doc Holliday, arrived in December 1879 and 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. The historic gunfight is often portrayed as occurring at the O.K. Corral, though it actually occurred a short distance away in an empty lot on Fremont Street.

Republican Party (United States) Major political party in the United States

The Republican Party, also referred to as the GOP, is one of the two major political parties in the United States; the other is its historic rival, the Democratic Party.

Union (American Civil War) United States national government during the American Civil War

During the American Civil War (1861–1865), the Union, also known as the North, referred to the United States of America and specifically to the national government of President Abraham Lincoln and the 20 free states, as well as 4 border and slave states that supported it. The Union was opposed by 11 southern slave states that formed the Confederate States of America, also known as "the Confederacy" or "the South".

Newman Haynes Clanton American outlaw

Newman Haynes Clanton, also known as "Old Man" Clanton, was a cattle rancher and father of four sons, one of whom was killed during the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Two of his sons were involved in multiple conflicts in Cochise County, Arizona Territory including stagecoach robbery and cattle rustling. His son Ike Clanton was identified by one witness as a participant in the murder of Morgan Earp. Billy Clanton and Ike were both present at the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral in which Billy was killed. "Old Man" Clanton was reportedly involved with stealing cattle from Mexican ranchers and re-selling them in the United States. Records indicate he participated in the Skeleton Canyon Massacre of Mexican smugglers. In retaliation, Mexican Rurales are reported to have ambushed and killed him and a crew of Cowboys in the Guadalupe Canyon Massacre.

In the mid-1880s, the silver mines penetrated the water table and 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 unprofitable to rebuild the costly pumps. The city nearly became a ghost town, saved only because it was the Cochise County seat until 1929. The city's population dwindled to a low of 646 in 1910, but grew to 1,380 by 2010. [4] Tombstone has frequently been noted on lists of unusual place names. [5] [6]

Hoist (device) device used for lifting or lowering a load

A hoist is a device used for lifting or lowering a load by means of a drum or lift-wheel around which rope or chain wraps. It may be manually operated, electrically or pneumatically driven and may use chain, fiber or wire rope as its lifting medium. The most familiar form is an elevator, the car of which is raised and lowered by a hoist mechanism. Most hoists couple to their loads using a lifting hook.

Pumping station facilities including pumps and equipment for pumping fluids from one place to another

Pumping stations are facilities including pumps and equipment for pumping fluids from one place to another. They are used for a variety of infrastructure systems, such as the supply of water to canals, the drainage of low-lying land, and the removal of sewage to processing sites. A pumping station is, by definition, an integral part of a pumped-storage hydroelectricity installation.

Ghost town city depopulated of inhabitants and that stays practically intact

A ghost town is an abandoned village, town, or city, usually one that contains substantial visible remains. A town often becomes a ghost town because the economic activity that supported it has failed, or due to natural or human-caused disasters such as floods, prolonged droughts, government actions, uncontrolled lawlessness, war, pollution, or nuclear disasters. The term can sometimes refer to cities, towns, and neighbourhoods that are still populated, but significantly less so than in past years; for example, those affected by high levels of unemployment and dereliction.


Tombstone in 1881 by C. S. Fly. Tombstone (probably in 1881).jpg
Tombstone in 1881 by C. S. Fly.
Ed Schieffelin in Tombstone in 1880 Ed Schieffelin in Tombstone year 1880.jpg
Ed Schieffelin in Tombstone in 1880


Ed Schieffelin was briefly a scout for the U. S. Army headquartered at Camp Huachuca. Schieffelin frequently searched the wilderness looking for valuable ore samples. At the Santa Rita mines in nearby Santa Cruz Valley, three superintendents had been killed by Indians. When friend and fellow Army Scout Al Sieber learned what Schieffelin was up to, he is quoted as telling him, "The only rock you will find out there will be your own tombstone", [7] or, according to another version of the story, "Better take your coffin with you, Ed; you will only find your tombstone there, and nothing else." [8] [9]

Fort Huachuca US Army base

Fort Huachuca is a United States Army installation, established 3 March 1877 as Camp Huachuca. The garrison is now under the command of the United States Army Installation Management Command. It is located in Cochise County, in southeast Arizona, about 15 miles (24 km) north of the border with Mexico and at the northern end of the Huachuca Mountains, next to the town of Sierra Vista. From 1913 to 1933 the fort was the base for the "Buffalo Soldiers" of the 10th Cavalry Regiment. During the buildup of World War II, the fort had quarters for more than 25,000 male soldiers and hundreds of WACs. In the 2010 census, Fort Huachuca had a population of about 6,500 active duty soldiers, 7,400 military family members and 5,000 civilian employees. Fort Huachuca has over 18,000 people on post during the peak working hours of 0700 and 1600 on week days, making it one of the busiest Army installations.

Al Sieber Chief of Scouts during the Apache Wars

Al Sieber was a German-American who fought in the U.S Civil War and in the American Old West against Indians. He became a prospector and later served as a Chief of Scouts during the Apache Wars.

Headstone sepulchral monument

A headstone, tombstone, or gravestone is a stele or marker, usually stone, that is placed over a grave. They are traditional for burials in the Christian, Jewish and Muslim religions, among others. In most cases they have the deceased's name, date of birth, and date of death inscribed on them, along with a personal message, or prayer, but they may contain pieces of funerary art, especially details in stone relief. In many parts of Europe insetting a photograph of the deceased in a frame is very common.

In 1877, Schieffelin used Brunckow's Cabin as a base of operations to survey the country. After many months, while working the hills east of the San Pedro River, he found pieces of silver ore in a dry wash [10] on a high plateau called Goose Flats. [11] It took him several more months to find the source. When he located the vein, he estimated it to be fifty feet long and twelve inches wide. [12] Schieffelin's legal mining claim was sited near Lenox's grave site, and on September 21, 1877, Schieffelin filed his first claim and fittingly named his stake Tombstone. [10] [13]

Brunckow's Cabin is a historic cabin southwest of Tombstone in Cochise County, Arizona. It is purported to be the "bloodiest cabin in Arizona history;" between 1860 and 1890, at least twenty-one people were killed there, many of whom are buried on site. Presently, little of the cabin remains except for some foundations and small portions of the walls. A few unmarked graves have been identified, but because of theft, vandalism, and erosion, the site has been heavily damaged.

San Pedro River (Arizona) river in the United States of America

The San Pedro River is a northward-flowing stream originating about 10 miles (16 km) south of the international border south of Sierra Vista, Arizona, in Cananea Municipality, Sonora, Mexico. The river starts at the confluence of other streams just east of Sauceda, Cananea. Within Arizona, the river flows 140 miles (230 km) north through Cochise County, Pima County, Graham County, and Pinal County to its confluence with the Gila River, at Winkelman, Arizona. It is the last major, free-flowing undammed river in the American Southwest, it is of major ecological importance as it hosts two-thirds of the avian diversity in the United States, including 100 species of breeding birds and 300 species of migrating birds.

Ore rock with valuable metals, minerals and elements

An ore is an occurrence of rock or sediment that contains sufficient minerals with economically important elements, typically metals, that can be economically extracted from the deposit. The ores are extracted from the earth through mining; they are then refined to extract the valuable element, or elements.

When the first claims were filed, the initial settlement of tents and wooden shacks was located at Watervale, near the Lucky Cuss mine, with a population of about 100. [14] The Goodenough Mine strike occurred shortly after. Former Territorial Governor Anson P. K. Safford offered financial backing for a share of the mining claims, and Schieffelin, his brother Al, and their partner Richard Gird formed the Tombstone Mining and Milling Company and built a stamp mill near the San Pedro River, about 8 miles away. As the mill was being built, U.S. Deputy Mineral Surveyor Solon M. Allis finished surveying the new town's site, which was revealed on March 5, 1879, to an eager public. [15] The tents and shacks near the Lucky Cuss were moved to the new town site on Goose Flats, a mesa above the Goodenough Mine at 4,539 feet (1,383 m) above sea level and large enough to hold a growing town. Lots were immediately sold on Allen Street for $5.00 each. The town soon had some 40 cabins and about 100 residents. At the town's founding in March 1879, it took its name from Schieffelin's initial mining claim. By fall 1879, a few thousand hardy souls were living in a canvas and matchstick camp perched amidst the richest silver strike in the Arizona Territory. [14]

When Cochise County was formed from the eastern portion of Pima County on February 1, 1881, Tombstone became the new county seat. Telegraph service to the town was established that same month. In early March 1880, the Schieffelins' Tombstone Mining and Milling Company which owned the original Goodenough Mine and the nearby Tough Nut Mine (among others), was sold to investors from Philadelphia. [16] Two months later, it was reported that the Tough Nut Mine was working a vein of silver ore 90 feet (27 m) across that assayed at $170 per ton, with some ore assaying at $22,000 a ton. [16]

On September 9, 1880, the richly appointed Grand Hotel was opened, adorned with fine oil paintings, thick Brussels carpets, toilet stands, elegant chandeliers, silk-covered furniture, walnut furniture, and a kitchen with hot and cold running water. [17] At the height of the silver mining boom, when the population was about 10,000, the city was host to Kelly's Wine House, featuring 26 varieties of wine imported from Europe, a beer imported from Colorado named "Coors", cigars, a bowling alley, and many other amenities common to large cities.

Tombstone Arizona panorama 1909.jpg
Panorama of Tombstone in 1909 from the upper floor of the Cochise County courthouse on 3rd and Tough Nut St. At the center, Third St. is to the left and Tough Nut St. is to the right.

Early conflicts

Tombstone sheriff and constituents, an illustration from the March 1884 edition of Harper's New Monthly Magazine A Tombstone Sheriff And Constituents - Pg-494.jpg
Tombstone sheriff and constituents, an illustration from the March 1884 edition of Harper's New Monthly Magazine
Map of southeastern Cochise County, including Tucson and Tombstone, in 1880. Southeast Cochise County 1880.png
Map of southeastern Cochise County, including Tucson and Tombstone, in 1880.

Under the surface were other tensions aggravating the simmering distrust. Most of the Cowboys were Confederate sympathizers and Democrats from Southern states, especially Texas. The mine and business owners, miners, townspeople and city lawmen including the Earps were largely Republicans from the Northern states. There was also the fundamental conflict over resources and land, of traditional, Southern-style, "small government" agrarianism of the rural Cowboys contrasted to Northern-style industrial capitalism. [18]

In the early 1880s, smuggling and theft of cattle, alcohol, and tobacco across the U.S./Mexico border about 30 miles (48 km) from Tombstone were common. The Mexican government taxed these items heavily and smugglers earned a handsome profit by sneaking these products across the border. The illegal cross-border smuggling contributed to the lawlessness of the region. Many of these crimes were carried out by outlaw elements labeled "Cow-boys", a loosely organized band of friends and acquaintances who teamed up for various crimes and came to each other's aid. The San Francisco Examiner wrote in an editorial, "Cowboys [are] the most reckless class of outlaws in that wild country...infinitely worse than the ordinary robber." [19] At that time during the 1880s in Cochise County it was an insult to call a legitimate cattleman a "Cowboy". Legitimate cowmen were referred to as cattle herders or ranchers. [20] The Cowboys were nonetheless welcome in town because of their free-spending habits, but shootings were common.

Gunfight at the O.K. Corral

On the evening of March 15, 1881, three Cowboys attempted to rob a Kinnear & Company stagecoach carrying $26,000 in silver bullion (about $675,000 in today's dollars) en route from Tombstone to Benson, Arizona, the nearest railroad freight terminal. [21] :180 Near Drew's Station, just outside Contention City, the popular and well-known driver Eli "Budd" Philpot and a passenger named Peter Roerig riding in the rear dickey seat were both shot and killed. Deputy U.S. Marshal Virgil Earp and his temporary deputies and brothers Wyatt Earp and Morgan Earp pursued the Cowboys suspected of the murders. This set off a chain of events that culminated on October 26, 1881, in a gunfight in a vacant lot owned by famous photographer C. S. Fly near, not in or at the O. K. Corral, during which the lawmen and Doc Holliday killed Tom McLaury, Frank McLaury, and Billy Clanton.

Newspaper coverage of the fight at the O.K. Corral Ownwspok.jpg
Newspaper coverage of the fight at the O.K. Corral

The gunfight was the result of a personal, family, and political feud. Three months later on the evening of December 28, 1881, Virgil Earp was ambushed and seriously wounded on the streets of Tombstone by hidden assailants shooting from the second story of an unfinished building. Although identified, the suspects provided witnesses who supplied alibis, and the men were not prosecuted. On March 18, 1882, Morgan Earp was killed by a shot that struck his spine as Wyatt looked on late at night while Morgan was playing billiards at 10:00 p.m. at Campbell & Hatch on Tombstone's main drag — Allen Street — in the heart of its still current downtown. Once again, the assailants were named but escaped arrest due to legal technicalities. Wyatt Earp, concluding that legal justice was out of reach, but with warrants obtained via the U. S. Marshal's Office, led a posse that pursued and killed four of the men they held responsible on what became known as the Earp Vendetta Ride. [22]

After the Earp family left Arizona in early 1882, shortly after the attempted murder of Tombstone Marshal Virgil Earp on 28 December 1881, following the infamous gunfight of 26 October 1881, and murder of Deputy Marshal Morgan Earp on 18 March 1882, much of the Cowboy related crime subsided. John Slaughter was elected Cochise County Sheriff in 1886 and served two terms. He hired Burt Alford, who as a 15-year-old boy had witnessed the shootout between the Earps and cowboys. Alford served very effectively for three years until he began to drink heavily and began to associate with outlaws, as had Earp era County Sheriff Johnny Behan, a close friend and constant protector of the law-breaking Clanton family and their friends. [23]

Boothill Graveyard

Tom McLaury, Frank McLaury, and Billy Clanton, killed in the O.K. Corral shootout, are among those buried in the town's Boothill Graveyard. Of the number of pioneer Boot Hill cemeteries in the Old West, so named because most of those buried in them had "died with their boots on", Boothill in Tombstone is one of the best-known. [24]

Silver mining

Ed Schieffelin monument Ed Schieffelin monument1.jpg
Ed Schieffelin monument
Entrance to the Tough Nut Mine Tough Nut Mine Tombstone Arizona by Carleton E Watkins.jpg
Entrance to the Tough Nut Mine

Tombstone boomed, but founder Ed Schieffelin was more interested in prospecting than owning a mine. Ed was one-third partners with his brother Al Schieffelin and Richard Gird. There were several hundred mining claims near Tombstone, although the most productive were immediately south of town. These included the Goodenough, Toughnut, Contention, Grand Central, Lucky Cuss, Emerald, and Silver Thread. Due to the lack of readily available water near town, mills were built along the San Pedro River about 9 miles (14 km) away, leading to the establishment of several small mill towns, including Charleston, Contention City, and Fairbank. [25]

Schieffelin left Tombstone to find more ore and when he returned four months later, [26] Gird had lined up buyers for their interest in the Contention claim, which they sold for $10,000. It would later yield millions in silver. They sold a half-interest in the Lucky Cuss, and the other half turned into a steady stream of money. Al and Ed Schieffelin later sold their two-thirds interest in the Tough Nut for $1 million, and sometime later Gird sold his one-third interest for the same amount. [27] :20

There are widely varying estimates of the value of gold and silver mined during the course of Tombstone's history. The Tombstone mines produced 32 million troy ounces (1,000 metric tons) of silver, more than any other mining district in Arizona. [28] In 1883, writer Patrick Hamilton estimated that during the first four years of activity the mines produced about USD $25,000,000 (approximately $672 million today). Other estimates include USD $40 [11] to USD $85 million [29] (about $1.12 billion to $2.37 billion today). Renewed mining is planned for the area. [30]

One of the byproducts of the vast riches being produced, lawsuits became very prevalent. Between 1880 and 1885 the courts were clogged with a large number of cases, many of them about land claims and properties. As a result, lawyers began to settle in Tombstone and became even wealthier than the miners and those who financed the mining. In addition, because many of the lawsuits required expert analysis of the underground, many geologists and engineers found employment in Tombstone and settled there. In the end, a thorough mapping of the area was completed by experts which resulted in maps documenting Tombstone's mining claims better than any other mining district of the West. [31]

Mining was an easy task at Tombstone in the early days, ore being rich and close to the surface. One man could pull out ore equal to what three men produced elsewhere. [32] Some residents of Tombstone became quite wealthy and spent considerable money during its boom years. Tombstone's first newspaper, the Nugget, was established in the fall of 1879. The Tombstone Epitaph was founded on May 1, 1880. As the fastest growing boomtown in the American Southwest, the silver industry and attendant wealth attracted many professionals and merchants who brought their wives and families. With them came churches and ministers. They brought a Victorian sensibility and became the town's elite. Many citizens of Tombstone dressed well, and up-to-date fashion could be seen in this growing mining town. [33] Visitors expressed their amazement at the quality and diversity of products that were readily available in the area. The men who worked the mines were largely European immigrants. The Chinese did the town's laundry and provided other services. The Cowboys ran the countryside and stole cattle from haciendas across the international border in Sonora, Mexico.

When the railroad was not built into Tombstone as had been planned, the increasingly sophisticated city of Tombstone remained relatively isolated, deep in a Federal territory that was largely an unpopulated desert and wilderness. Tombstone and its surrounding countryside also became known as one of the deadliest regions in the West. Water was hauled in until the Huachuca Water Company, funded in part by investors like Dr. George E. Goodfellow, built a 23-mile-long (37 km) pipeline from the Huachuca Mountains in 1881. No sooner was a pipeline completed than Tombstone's silver mines struck water. [14]

City growth and decline

By mid-1881 there were fancy restaurants, Vogan's Bowling Alley, [34] four churches—Catholic, Episcopal, Presbyterian, and Methodist [14] —an ice house, a school, the Schieffelin Hall opera house, two banks, three newspapers, and an ice cream parlor, alongside 110 saloons, 14 gambling halls, [35] [36] several Chinese restaurants, French, two Italian, numerous Mexican, several upscale "Continental" establishments, and many "home cooking" hot spots including Nellie Cashman's famous Rush House and numerous brothels all situated among and on top of a number of dirty, hardscrabble mines. [37] The Arizona Telephone Company began installing poles and lines for the city's first telephone service on March 15, 1881. [38]

Capitalists from the northeastern United States bought many of the leading mining operations. The mining itself was carried out by immigrants from Europe, chiefly Cornwall, Ireland and Germany. [39] Chinese and Mexican labor provided services including laundry, construction, restaurants, hotels, and more.

The mines and stamping mills ran three shifts. [14] Miners were paid union wages of $4.00 per day working six 10-hour shifts per week. The approximately 6,000 men working in Tombstone generated more than $168,000 a week (approximately $4,517,400 today) in income. [40] The mostly young, single, male population spent their hard-earned cash on Allen Street, the major commercial center, open 24 hours a day.

The respectable folks saw traveling theater shows at Schieffelin Hall, opened on June 8, 1881. On December 25, 1881, the Bird Cage Theatre opened on Allen Street, offering the miners and Cowboys their kind of bawdy entertainment.

In 1882, The New York Times reported that "the Bird Cage Theatre is the wildest, wickedest night spot between Basin Street and the Barbary Coast." [41] The Bird Cage remained open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year until it closed its doors in 1889. [42] Respectable women stayed on the north side of Allen Street. The prostitutes worked the saloons on the south side and in the southeast quarter of the town, as far as possible from the proper residential section north of Fremont Street. [14]

By late 1881 Tombstone had more than 7,000 citizens, excluding all Chinese, Mexicans, women and children residents. At the height of the town's boom, the official population reached about 10,000, with several thousand more uncounted. [14] In 1882, the Cochise County Courthouse was built at a cost of around $45,000. [42]


Fire insurance map of Tombstone in 1888 Tombstone fire insurance map 1888.jpg
Fire insurance map of Tombstone in 1888
After the May 25, 1882 fire, the only remnant of the O.K. Corral was its sign. The blaze destroyed most of the western half of the business district. Tombstone fire 1882.jpg
After the May 25, 1882 fire, the only remnant of the O.K. Corral was its sign. The blaze destroyed most of the western half of the business district.

Due to poor building practices and poor fire protection common to boomtown construction, Tombstone was hit by two major fires. On June 22, 1881, the first fire destroyed 66 businesses making up the eastern half of the business district. The fire began when a lit cigar ignited a barrel of whiskey in the Arcade Saloon. [43] [44]

On May 25, 1882, another, more destructive fire started in a Chinese laundry on Fifth Street between Toughnut and Allen streets. It destroyed the Grand Hotel and the Tivoli Saloon before it jumped Fremont Street, destroying more than 100 businesses and most of the business district. Lacking enough water to put out the flames, buildings in the fire's path were dynamited to deny the fire fuel. Total damages were estimated to be $700,000, far more than the estimated $250,000 insurance coverage. But rebuilding started right away nonetheless. [44] [45]

In March 1883, along one short stretch of Allen Street, there were drinking establishments in two principal hotels, the Eagle Brewery, Cancan Chop-House, French Rotisserie, Alhambra, Maison Dore, City of Paris, Brown's Saloon, Fashion Saloon, Miners' Home, Kelly's Wine-House, the Grotto, the Tivoli, and two more unnamed saloons. [46]

Mines strike water

The Tough Nut Mine first experienced seepage in 1880. In March 1881, the Sulphuret Mine struck water at 520 feet (160 m). A year later, in March 1882, miners in a new shaft of the Grand Central Mine hit water at 620 feet (190 m). The flow wasn't at first large enough to stop work, but experienced miners thought the water flow would increase, and it did. Soon constant pumping with a 4 inches (100 mm) pump was insufficient. The silver ore deposits they sought were soon underwater. [45]

Several mine managers traveled to San Francisco and met with the principal owners of the Contention Mine. They talked about options for draining the mines, and found the only system available for pumping water out of mines below 400 feet (120 m) was the Cornish engine which had been used at the Comstock Lode in the 1870s. [45] They bought and installed the huge Cornish engines in the Contention and Grand Central mines. By mid-February 1884, the engines were removing 576,000 US gallons (2,180,000 l; 480,000 imp gal) of water every twenty-four hours. The city merchants celebrated the continued success of mining and the transfer of funds to their businesses. [45] The Contention and the Grand Central found that their pumps were draining the mining district, benefiting other mines as well, but the other companies refused to pay a proportion of the expense. [47]

On May 26, 1886, the Grand Central hoist and pumping plant burned. The fire was so intense that the metal components of the Cornish engine melted and warped. The headworks of the main mine shaft were also destroyed. Shortly afterward, the price of silver slid to 90 cents an ounce. The mines that remained operational laid off workers. Individuals who had thought about leaving Tombstone when the mine flooding started now took action. The price of silver briefly recovered for a while and a few mines began producing again, but never at the level reached in the early 1880s. [45]


The U.S. census recorded fewer than 1,900 residents in 1890 and fewer than 700 residents in 1900. Tombstone was saved from becoming a ghost town partly because it remained the Cochise County seat until 1929, when county residents voted to move county offices to nearby Bisbee. The classic Cochise County Courthouse and adjacent gallows yard in Tombstone are preserved as a museum.

Saloon ladies on Allen Street in 2006 Saloon girls on Allen Street.jpg
Saloon ladies on Allen Street in 2006

Currently, tourism and western memorabilia are the main commercial enterprises; a July 2005 CNN article notes that Tombstone receives approximately 450,000 tourist visitors each year. This is about 300 tourists/year for each permanent resident. In contrast to its heyday, when it featured saloons open 24 hours and numerous houses of prostitution, Tombstone is now a staid community with few businesses open late. Tombstone and surrounding areas have a variety of lodging options, restaurants, and attractions. The town is located near other historic sites of interest, including Bisbee and the San Pedro Riparian area.[ citation needed ] Tombstone is a short drive away from Sierra Vista, which is considered the shopping hub of Cochise County. [48]

East Allen Street is the center of Tombstone's tourist attractions, featuring three blocks of shaded boardwalks lined with gift shops, saloons, and eateries. Allen Street's historic district is closed to motor traffic from 3rd Street, the location of the city park and OK Corral, to 6th Street, where the Bird Cage Theatre is located. Additional sites of interest can be found throughout the city, even out on Highway 80, where Boot Hill Cemetery is found.

Performance events

The historic O.K. Corral has been preserved but is now surrounded by a wall. Mannequins are used to depict the location of the participants as recorded by Wyatt Earp. Visitors may pay to see a reenactment of the gunfight. Until April 2013, the reenactment was performed at 2:00 p.m. each day, [49] but a new version is now performed three times daily at 12:00, 2:00, and 3:30 PM. Fremont Street (modern Arizona Highway 80), where portions of the gunfight took place, is open to the public.

Performance events help preserve the town's Wild West image and expose it to new visitors. Helldorado Days is Tombstone's oldest festival [50] and celebrates the community's wild days of the 1880s.

World's largest rose bush

According to Guinness, the world's largest rosebush was planted in Tombstone in 1885 and still flourishes in the city's sunny climate. The Lady Banksia rose originated in Scotland. Mary Gee was the wife of mining engineer Henry Gee, who worked for the Vizina Mining Co. Mary's family sent the homesick bride a box of rooted cuttings from her home country. She planted one of the roses by the patio of the Vizina Mining Company's boarding house, the first adobe building in town, located at 4th and Toughnut Street across from the later site of the railroad depot. She and Henry lived in the boarding house when they first arrived in Tombstone. [51] [52]

The building was later renamed the Cochise House Hotel, and from 1909 to 1936 it was known as the Arcade Hotel. By the 1930s, the rose bush had grown to shade the entire patio and became a popular site for tourists. The hotel was later renamed the Rose Tree Inn and then the Rose Tree Inn Museum. The museum curator tells visitors that all Banks roses growing in the U.S. today are descendants of the Tombstone rose. [51]

In 1940, the Lady Banksia rose covered about 4,000 sq ft (370 m2). [53] As of 2014, the rose bush covered more than 8,000 sq ft (740 m2) of the roof and garden trellis of the inn, and has a 12 ft (3.7 m) circumference trunk. The rose bush is walled off, and the inn charges admission to view it. [52]

Historic district

Allen Street Allen Street Tombstone.jpg
Allen Street

The Tombstone Historic District is a National Historic Landmark District. The town's focus on tourism has threatened the town's designation as a National Historic Landmark District, a designation it earned in 1961 as "one of the best preserved specimens of the rugged frontier town of the 1870s and '80s". In 2004, the National Park Service declared that the Tomb's historic designation was threatened, and asked the community to develop an appropriate stewardship program.[ citation needed ]

Cochise County Courthouse in Tombstone, Arizona, before it was restored. It remained vacant from 1931 through 1955, when it was redeveloped as a museum. Cochise County Courthouse 1940 FSA.jpg
Cochise County Courthouse in Tombstone, Arizona, before it was restored. It remained vacant from 1931 through 1955, when it was redeveloped as a museum.

The National Park Service noted inappropriate alterations to the district included:

Historical buildings include Schieffelin Hall, the opera house built by Al Schieffelin in 1881, and the Cochise County Courthouse. The courthouse was largely unused and then vacant after the county seat was moved to Bisbee. An attempt was made to turn it into hotel in the 1940s, and when that failed it stood empty until 1955. The Tombstone Restoration Commission acquired the courthouse and developed it as a historical museum that opened in 1959. It features exhibits and thousands of artifacts documenting Tombstone's past. [54]

The Crystal Palace Saloon, including its 45 feet (14 m) long mahogany bar, was rebuilt based on photographs of the original saloon was restored in May 1964 to its 1881 condition. This included large Victorian ceiling lamps and the inlaid‐patterned wood floor. [55]

Geography and geology

The Tombstone District located at 31°42′57″N110°3′53″W / 31.71583°N 110.06472°W / 31.71583; -110.06472 (31.715940, −110.064827) [56] sits atop a mesa (elevation 4,539 feet (1,383 m)) in the San Pedro River valley between the Huachuca Mountains and Whetstone Mountains to the west, and the Mules and the Dragoon Mountains to the east. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 4.3 square miles (11.2 km2), all land. [4]

The silver-bearing Tombstone Hills around the city are caused by a local upheaval of porphyry through a limestone capping. [14]

When actively mined, the silver vein of argentiferous galena (silver-bearing lead) was large and well defined. The silver and lead was easily milled and smelted. The lead content sometimes was as much as 50 per cent of the ore, and assays proved the silver content ran as high as $105.00 per ton in 1881 dollars. [57]

The underlying basement rocks are fine-grained Pinal Schist which is intruded by gneissic granite. The outcrop is in a small area south of the principal mines. The overlying Paleozoic quartzite and limestones rock lies on an unconformity with a total thickness ranging from 4,000 to 5,000 feet (1,200 to 1,500 m), and contains 2,500 to 3,500 feet (760 to 1,070 m) of Mississippian Escabrosa Limestone and the Naco Formation limestone of Pennsylvanian age in the upper formations. [58]

Overlying the Naco Limestone is an unconformable Mesozoic series of conglomerate, thick-bedded quartzites, and shales, with two or three lenses of soft, bluish-gray limestone. Into these formations intrude intruded great bodies of quartz monzonite and by dikes of quartz monzonite-porphyry and diorite-porphyry. Structural faulting occurs throughout the district especially immediately south of Tombstone, where the strata are closely folded. [59]

Tombstone District ores have been produced geologically in three or more ways.

They may have been formed in argentiferous (silver bearing) lead sulfide containing spotty amounts of copper and zinc. These deposits are usually deeply oxidized and enriched by irregular replacement bodies along mineralized fissure zones and anticlinal rolls cut by Paleozoic and Mesozoic sedimentary formations. Ore bodies are often closely associated with newer cross-cutting intrusive dikes of Laramide.

Ore deposits were formed by base metal mineralization occurs with oxidation found in fault and fracture zones in Laramide volcanics and quartz latite porphyry intrusive.

Silver ore was also formed in manganese oxides with some argentiferous deposits in lenticular or pipe-like replacement bodies along fracture and fault zones, usually in Pennsylvanian-Permian era Naco Group limestones. [58] [59]


Tombstone has a typical Arizona semi-arid climate (Köppen BSk/BSh) with three basic seasons. Winter, from October to March, features mild to warm days and chilly nights, with minima falling to under 32 °F or 0 °C on 28.4 nights, although snowfall is almost unknown, with the median being zero and the heaviest monthly fall 14.0 inches or 0.36 metres in January 1916, of which 12.0 inches (0.30 m) fell on January 16. The coldest temperature record in Tombstone has been 3 °F or −16.1 °C on December 8, 1978.[ citation needed ]

The summer season from April to June is extremely dry and gradually heats up – the hottest temperature on record being 112 °F or 44.4 °C on July 4 of 1989 – before the monsoon season from July to September brings the heaviest rainfall, averaging 6.39 inches (162.3 mm) out of an annual total of 14.10 inches (358.1 mm). The wettest month has been July 2008 when 11.53 inches or 292.9 millimetres fell [60] and fifteen days saw at least 0.04 inches (1.0 mm) of rainfall – though the most such days in a month is eighteen in July 1930. Since 1893 the wettest calendar year has been 1905 with 27.84 inches or 707.1 millimetres and the driest 1924 with 7.36 inches or 186.9 millimetres. [60]

Climate data for Tombstone, Arizona (1971-2000; extremes 1893-2001)
Record high °F (°C)88
Average high °F (°C)59.5
Average low °F (°C)36.1
Record low °F (°C)6
Average rainfall inches (mm)1.03
Average rainy days (≥ 0.01 inch)
Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [61]


Historical population
1880 3,423
1890 1,875−45.2%
1900 646−65.5%
1910 1,582144.9%
1920 1,178−25.5%
1930 849−27.9%
1940 822−3.2%
1950 91010.7%
1960 1,28341.0%
1970 1,241−3.3%
1980 1,63231.5%
1990 1,220−25.2%
2000 1,50423.3%
2010 1,380−8.2%
Est. 20161,300 [3] −5.8%
U.S. Decennial Census [62]

As of the census [63] of 2000, there were 1,504 people, 694 households, and 419 families residing in the city. The population density was 349.8 per square mile (135.0/km²). There were 839 housing units at an average density of 195.1 per square mile (75.3/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 87.37% White, 0.60% Black or African American, 1.00% Native American, 0.33% Asian, 8.18% from other races, and 2.53% from two or more races. 24.14% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 694 households out of which 20.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 47.6% were married couples living together, 7.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 39.5% were non-families. 32.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 15.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.17 and the average family size was 2.73.

In the city, the age distribution of the population shows 19.3% under the age of 18, 4.9% from 18 to 24, 19.9% from 25 to 44, 32.5% from 45 to 64, and 23.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 49 years. For every 100 females, there were 94.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.0 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $26,571, and the median income for a family was $33,750. Males had a median income of $26,923 versus $18,846 for females. The per capita income for the city was $15,447. About 13.0% of families and 17.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 22.6% of those under age 18 and 13.1% of those age 65 or over. [64] In 2010, the total population was 1,380.


Tombstone Unified School District serves Tombstone. The district schools in Tombstone are Walter J. Meyer Elementary School and Tombstone High School. [65] [65] [66] Residents of the Tombstone school district are within the Cochise Technology District. [67]

Historic properties

Several properties in Tombstone have been included in the National Register of Historic Places. [68] The following are images of some of these properties:

Daily reenactment of the famous fight Gunfight at the OK Corral.jpg
Daily reenactment of the famous fight

Tombstone's western heritage has made the town popular in film, music, and television.


Tombstone has appeared in many Western films including Frontier Marshal (1939), My Darling Clementine (1946), Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957), Hour of the Gun (1967), Doc (1971), Tombstone (1993), and Wyatt Earp (1994).[ citation needed ]


Bob Dylan wrote a song named "Tombstone Blues" that appears on the album Highway 61 Revisited . Singer/songwriter Carl Perkins wrote a song titled "The Ballad Of Boot Hill" about Billy Clanton's role in the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.[ citation needed ]


Related Research Articles

Gunfight at the O.K. Corral shootout

The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral was a 30-second shootout between lawmen and members of a loosely organized group of outlaws called the Cowboys that took place at about 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday, October 26, 1881, in Tombstone, Arizona Territory. It is generally regarded as the most famous shootout in the history of the American Wild West. The gunfight was the result of a long-simmering feud, with Cowboys Billy Claiborne, Ike and Billy Clanton, and Tom and Frank McLaury on one side and town Marshal Virgil Earp, Special Policeman Morgan Earp, Special Policeman Wyatt Earp, and temporary policeman Doc Holliday on the other side. Billy Clanton and both McLaury brothers were killed. Ike Clanton, Billy Claiborne, and Wes Fuller ran from the fight. Virgil, Morgan, and Doc Holliday were wounded, but Wyatt Earp was unharmed. Wyatt is often erroneously regarded as the central figure in the shootout, although his brother Virgil was Tombstone city marshal and deputy U.S. marshal that day and had far more experience as a sheriff, constable, marshal, and soldier in combat.

Wyatt Earp American gambler and frontier marshal

Wyatt Berry Stapp Earp was an American Old West lawman and gambler in Cochise County, Arizona Territory, and a deputy marshal in Tombstone. He worked in a wide variety of trades throughout his life and took part in the famous Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, during which lawmen killed three outlaw Cochise County Cowboys. He is often erroneously regarded as the central figure in the shootout, although his brother Virgil was Tombstone city marshal and deputy U.S. marshal that day and had far more experience as a sheriff, constable, marshal, and soldier in combat.

Billy Claiborne American outlaw

Billy Claiborne, was an American outlaw Cowboy, drover, miner, and gunfighter in the American Old West. He killed James Hickey in a confrontation in a saloon, but it was ruled self-defense. He was present at the beginning of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, but was unarmed and ran from the shootout. Only a year later, while drunk, he confronted gunfighter "Buckskin" Frank Leslie and was killed.

Ike Clanton rancher and member of the Cochise County Cowboys in Arizona Territory, US

Joseph Isaac Clanton was a member of a loose association of outlaws known as The Cowboys who clashed with lawmen Wyatt, Virgil and Morgan Earp as well as Doc Holliday. On October 26, 1881, Clanton was present at the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral in the boomtown of Tombstone, Arizona Territory but was unarmed and ran from the gunfight, in which his 19-year-old brother, Billy, was killed.

Johnny Behan American sheriff

John Harris Behan was Sheriff of Cochise County in the Arizona Territory, during the gunfight at the O.K. Corral and was known for his opposition to the Earps. Behan was sheriff of Yavapai County from 1871 to 1873. He was married and had two children, but his wife divorced him, accusing him of consorting with prostitutes. He was elected to the Seventh Arizona Legislative Assembly, representing Yavapai County. In 1881, Wyatt Earp served for about five months as undersheriff of the eastern half of Pima County. When Wyatt resigned, Behan was appointed to fill his place, which included the mining boomtown Tombstone. When Cochise County was formed in February 1881, Behan was appointed as its first sheriff. Tombstone became the new county seat and Behan's headquarters. Sadie Marcus was his mistress, possibly as early as 1875 in Tip Top, Arizona, and certainly from 1880 until she found him in bed with another woman and kicked him out in mid-1881.

<i>The Tombstone Epitaph</i> monthly journal in Tombstone, Arizona

The Tombstone Epitaph is a Tombstone, Arizona-based monthly publication that serves as a window in the history and culture of the Old West. Founded in January 1880, The Epitaph is the oldest continually published newspaper in Arizona.

The Guadalupe Canyon Massacre was an incident that occurred on August 13, 1881 in the Guadalupe Canyon area of the southern Peloncillo Mountains – Guadalupe Mountains. Five American men were killed in an ambush, including "Old Man" Clanton, the alleged leader. They were believed to belong to the Cowboys, an outlaw group based in Pima and Cochise counties in Arizona. Two men survived the attack. The canyon straddles the modern Arizona and New Mexico state line and connects the Animas Valley of New Mexico with the San Bernardino Valley of Arizona. During the American Old West, the canyon was a key route for smugglers into and out of Mexico.

Contention City, Arizona Ghost town in Arizona, United States

Contention City or Contention is a ghost mining town in Cochise County in the southeastern part of the U.S. state of Arizona. It was occupied from the early-1880s through the late-1880s in what was then known as the Arizona Territory. Only a few foundations now remain of this boomtown which was settled and abandoned with the rise and fall of silver mining in and around the area of Tombstone.

Frank McLaury American gunman

Frank McLaury and his brother Tom owned a ranch outside Tombstone, Arizona, Arizona Territory during the 1880s, and had ongoing conflicts with lawmen Wyatt, Virgil, and Morgan Earp. The McLaury brothers repeatedly threatened the Earps because they interfered with the Cowboys' illegal activities. On October 26, 1881, Tom, Frank, and Billy Clanton were killed in the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.

Tom McLaury American pioneer, Old West gunman

Tom McLaury and his brother Frank owned a ranch outside Tombstone, Arizona, Arizona Territory during the 1880s. He was a member of group of outlaw Cowboys and cattle rustlers that had ongoing conflicts with lawmen Wyatt, Virgil, and Morgan Earp. The McLaury brothers repeatedly threatened the Earps because they interfered with the Cowboys' illegal activities. On October 26, 1881, Tom and Frank were both killed in the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona Territory. The Tombstone shootout was his only gunfight.

Billy Clanton cowboy killed in the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral

William Harrison Clanton was an outlaw Cowboy in Cochise County, Arizona Territory. He, along with his father Newman Clanton and brother Ike Clanton, worked a ranch near the boomtown of Tombstone, Arizona Territory and stole livestock from Mexico and later U.S. ranchers.

C. S. Fly American photographer

Camillus "Buck" Sydney Fly was an Old West photographer who is regarded by some as an early photojournalist and who captured the only known images of Native Americans while still at war with the United States. He took many other pictures of life in the mining boom town of Tombstone, Arizona and the surrounding region. He recognized the value of his photographs to illustrate periodicals of the day and took his camera to the scenes of important events where he deliberately recorded them and resold pictures to editors nationwide.

O.K. Corral (building)

The O.K. Corral was a livery and horse corral from 1879 to about 1888 in the mining boomtown of Tombstone, Arizona Territory, in the southwestern United States near the border with Mexico.

Cochise County Cowboys confederation of rustlers and robbers in Cochise County, Arizona

The Cochise County Cowboys were a loosely associated group of outlaw cowboys in Pima and Cochise County, Arizona Territory in the late 19th century. The term cowboy had only begun to come into wider usage during the 1870s, and in the place and time, Cowboy was synonymous with rustler. Cattle thieves frequently rode across the border into Mexico and stole cattle from Mexican ranches, which they drove back across the border and sold in the United States. Some modern writers consider them to be one of the first and earliest forms of organized crime syndicates in American history.

Cochise County in the Old West

Cochise County in southeastern Arizona was the scene of a number of violent conflicts in the 19th-century American Old West, including between white settlers and Apache Indians, between opposing political and economic factions, and between outlaw gangs and local law enforcement. Cochise County was carved off in 1881 from the easternmost portion of Pima County during a formative period in the American Southwest. The era was characterized by rapidly growing boomtowns, the emergence of large-scale farming and ranching interests, lucrative mining operations, and the development of new technologies in railroading and telecommunications. Complicating the situation was staunch resistance to white settlement from local Native American groups, most notably during the Apache Wars, as well as Cochise County's location on the border with Mexico, which not only threatened international conflict but also presented opportunities for criminal smugglers and cattle rustlers.

Phineas Fay Clanton was the son of Newman Haynes Clanton and the brother of Billy and Ike Clanton. He was witness to and possibly played a part in a number of illegal activities during his life. He moved frequently in his early life from Missouri to California and to Arizona.

Schieffelin Hall

Schieffelin Hall is a building from the American Old West in Tombstone, Arizona Territory, the largest standing adobe structure still existent in the United States southwest. It was built in 1881 by Albert Schieffelin, brother of Tombstone founder Ed Schieffelin, and William Harwood as a first class opera house, theater, recital hall, and a meeting place for Tombstone citizens.

O.K. Corral hearing and aftermath results following the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona

The O.K. Corral hearing and aftermath was the direct result of the 30-second Gunfight at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona Territory on October 26, 1881. During that confrontation, Deputy U.S. Marshal and Tombstone Town Marshal Virgil Earp, Assistant Town Marshal Morgan Earp, and temporary deputy marshals Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday shot and killed Billy Clanton, and Tom and Frank McLaury. Billy's brother Ike, who had repeatedly threatened to kill the Earps for some time, had been present at the gunfight but was unarmed and fled. He filed murder charges against the Earps and Doc Holliday on October 30.


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Further reading