Tombstone Arizona

Tombstone Arizona is a historical point of interest, and the location of the O K Corral Gunfight, located in Cochise County, Arizona. The history and the stories of this small silver mining city are legend and cast a large shadow on the history of the desert southwest.

Tombstone, Arizona in 1881 photographed by C. S. Fly. An ore wagon at the center of the image is pulled by 15 or 16 mules leaving town for one of the mines or on the way to a mill. The town had a population of about 4,000 that year with 600 dwellings and two church buildings. There were 650 men working in the nearby mines. The Tough Nut hoisting works are in the right foreground. The firehouse is behind the ore wagons, with the Russ House hotel just to the left of it. The dark, tall building above the Russ House is the Grand Hotel, and the top of Schieffelin Hall (1881) is visible to the right.
Tombstone, Arizona in 1881 photographed by C. S. Fly. An ore wagon at the center of the image is pulled by 15 or 16 mules leaving town for one of the mines or on the way to a mill. The town had a population of about 4,000 that year with 600 dwellings and two church buildings. There were 650 men working in the nearby mines. The Tough Nut hoisting works are in the right foreground. The firehouse is behind the ore wagons, with the Russ House hotel just to the left of it. The dark, tall building above the Russ House is the Grand Hotel, and the top of Schieffelin Hall (1881) is visible to the right.

Tombstone was founded in 1877 by prospector Ed Schieffelin, who had been told that the only thing he would find in the area was his own tombstone due to the dangerous Apache territory. Ignoring the warning, Schieffelin discovered a rich silver vein in the region, sparking a mining boom. The town quickly grew as prospectors and miners flocked to the area in search of silver.

 Ed Schieffelin
Ed Schieffelin

The name “Tombstone” was chosen in reference to Schieffelin’s earlier remark, and the town became a symbol of the rough and lawless frontier during the late 19th century. It was home to cowboys, miners, gamblers, outlaws, and lawmen, all contributing to the town’s legendary reputation.

In the early 1880s, Tombstone experienced significant growth and development. The population surged to over 10,000 people, making it one of the largest cities in the American Southwest at the time. The town boasted numerous businesses, including saloons, theaters, brothels, and a thriving red-light district. The Bird Cage Theatre, known for its raucous entertainment and gambling, became an iconic landmark of the era. The silver mines paid for everything. Silver ore from the mines is hauled by wagon, 9 miles to the southwest to the town of Millville, Arizona.

"Old South Shaft Ore Quarry, Face of Tough-nut Mine, part of Town of Tombstone, Arizona. Dragoon Mountains, with Cochise Stronghold in background," mammoth plate, by the American photographer Carleton E. Watkins
“Old South Shaft Ore Quarry, Face of Tough-nut Mine, part of Town of Tombstone, Arizona. Dragoon Mountains, with Cochise Stronghold in background,” mammoth plate, by the American photographer Carleton E. Watkins

The Gunfight

One of the most infamous incidents occurred on October 26, 1881, when a confrontation known as the gunfight at the O.K. Corral took place. The shootout involved the Earp brothers (Wyatt, Virgil, and Morgan) and Doc Holliday on one side, and a group of outlaws known as the Cowboys on the other. The gunfight resulted in several deaths and injuries and became one of the most legendary events of the Wild West.

The bodies of Tom & Frank McLaury and Bill Clanton after the shoot-out in Tombstone
The bodies of Tom & Frank McLaury and Bill Clanton after the shoot-out in Tombstone

The Arizona Historical Newspaper, the Tombstone Epitaph announces the gunfight at the O K Coral.
The Arizona Historical Newspaper, the Tombstone Epitaph announces the gunfight at the O K Coral.

This ends Mr. Coleman’s story which in the most essential particulars has been confirmed by others. Marshal Earp says that he and his party met the Clantons and the McLowrys in the alleyway by the McDonald place; he called to them to throw up their hands, that he had come to disarm them. Instantaneously Bill Clanton and one of the McLowrys fired, and then it became general. Mr. Earp says it was the first shot from Frank McLowry that hit him. In other particulars his statement does not materially differ from the statement above given. Ike Clanton was not armed and ran across to Allen street and took refuge in the dance hall there. The two McLowrys and Bill Clanton all died within a few minutes after being shot. The Marshal was shot through the calf of the right leg, the ball going clear through. His brother, Morgan, was shot through the shoulders, the ball entering the point of the right shoulder blade, following across the back, shattering off a piece of one vertebrae and passing out the left shoulder in about the same position that it entered the right. The wound is dangerous but not necessarily fatal, and Virgil’s is far more painful than dangerous. Doc Holliday was hit upon the scabbard of his pistol, the leather breaking the force of the ball so that no material damage was done other than to make him limp a little in his walk.

Tombstone Daily Epitaph – October 27, 1881

C. S. Fly's Photography Gallery, Tombstone, Arizona on fire 1912, Photograph by Mary "Mollie" Fly
C. S. Fly’s Photography Gallery, Tombstone, Arizona on fire 1912, Photograph by Mary “Mollie” Fly

Tombstone settled down to respectable prosperity. Two fires (June 22, 1881, and May 25, 1882) had wiped out most of the business district. It was promptly rebuilt, and the good times lasted through 1883. By 1884 the price of silver led the mine owners to attempt to reduce wages from $4.00 a day to $3.50. The union struck, and violence at the mines brought what outlawry had never brought troops from Fort Huachuca.

In 1886 water filled the mines, and despite attempts to pump, the mines were closed. Two-thirds of the population left the town. Two brief flurries of prosperity occurred, one in 1890 and one in 1902, but they did not last. In 1929 (the same year Wyatt Earp died in Los Angeles), the county seat was moved to Bisbee, and Tombstone lost its last reason for being, but the town proved
“too tough to die.”

“almost as hell-roaring a place as Leadville. The boys were all decorated with six-guns and believe me, they knew how to use them. The handiest on the draw stayed in town, but those that were too slow made a one-way trip to Boot-Hill

Frank Shorty Harris – On Tombstone in 1885

In the decades that followed, Tombstone gradually reemerged as a tourist attraction and historical landmark. Efforts were made to preserve the town’s historical buildings and artifacts. The Tombstone Historic District was established in 1962, ensuring the preservation of the town’s rich heritage.

Today, Tombstone attracts visitors from around the world who come to experience its Old West charm. The town has been meticulously restored, and many of the original buildings, including the O.K. Corral and the Bird Cage Theatre, have been preserved as museums and tourist attractions. Visitors can explore the streets, watch reenactments of the gunfight, and learn about the fascinating history of the American frontier.

Tombstone City Map

Tombstone Arizona is located in the South East Corner of Arizona along State Route 80.

Tombstone Summary

NameTombstone, Arizona
LocationCochise County, Arizona
Latitude, Longitude31.7233, -110.0797
Elevation4,406 ft (1,343 m)
GNIS2412081
National Register of Historic Places_66000171
NewspaperTombstone Epitaph
National Historic Landmark66000171

References

People of Tombstone

C. S. Fly's Photography Gallery, Tombstone, Arizona

Camillus Sydney Fly – Tombstone Photographer

Camillus Sydney Fly was a photographer and eyewitness to one of the most notorious gunfights in western history. Camillus Sidney Fly was born in Andrew…
Ed Schieffelin

Edward Lawrence Schieffelin

Edward Lawrence Schieffelin, a rugged and determined prospector, carved his name in the annals of American history as the man who discovered silver and founded…
Frank "Shorty" Harris

Frank “Shorty” Harris

Frank Harris was a prospector, desert rat and perhaps the best known character in western mining history. He looked the part, often travelling the desert…
John Peters "Johnny" Ringo ( May 3, 1850 – July 13, 1882 )

John Peters “Johnny” Ringo

Johnny Ringo was an American gunfighter and outlaw most commonly associated with the infamous happenings in Tombstone, Arizona. He was often portrayed as the hired…

Tombstone Articles

Charleston, circa 1885 - Photograph by C. S Fly

Charleston Arizona

Charleston, Arizona is a ghost town located in Cochise County, Arizona. the town operated from the late 1870's through the 1880's. The town is founded…
Millville, sister town to Charleston located just across the San Pedro River, circa 1880

Millville Arizona

Millville Arizona is a ghost town and sister city to Charleston, Arizona located along the San Pedro River, in Cochise County, Arizona. Charleston served as…
Tombstone, Arizona in 1881 photographed by C. S. Fly. An ore wagon at the center of the image is pulled by 15 or 16 mules leaving town for one of the mines or on the way to a mill. The town had a population of about 4,000 that year with 600 dwellings and two church buildings. There were 650 men working in the nearby mines. The Tough Nut hoisting works are in the right foreground. The firehouse is behind the ore wagons, with the Russ House hotel just to the left of it. The dark, tall building above the Russ House is the Grand Hotel, and the top of Schieffelin Hall (1881) is visible to the right.

National Register of Historic Places – Tombstone

The National Register of Historic Places Nomination Application of the history of Tombstone, Cochise County, Arizona The bodies of Tom & Frank McLaury and Bill…

Statement of E F Boyle

A Brief History The gunfight at the O.K. Corral summary refers to an infamous shootout in the American West in the streets of Tombstone Arizona…
Virgil Earp 1843 -1905

Statement of Virgil Earp

The transcribed testimony and statement of Virgil Earp regarding the gunfight on Fremont Street in Tombstone, Arizona Territory. The gunfight on Fremont street, infamously known…
Wyatt Berry Stapp Earp - Aged 39

Statement of Wyatt Earp

The transcribed testimony and statement of Wyatt S. Earp regarding the gunfight on Fremont Street in Tombstone, Arizona Territory. The gunfight on Fremont street, infamously…
John H. Behan - Sheriff of Cochise County in the Arizona Territory

Testimony of J H Behan

The transcribed testimony of J H Behan regarding the gunfight on Fremont Street in Tombstone, Arizona Territory. A Brief History The gunfight at the O.K.…
William "Billy" Claiborne was one of five outlaw Cowboys at the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. He was unarmed and fled

Testimony of W.C. Claiborn

The transcribed testimony of W.C. Claiborn regarding the gunfight on Fremont Street in Tombstone, Arizona Territory. William "Billy" Claiborne was one of five outlaw Cowboys…
The Tombstone Epitaph, March 20, 1882

The Tombstone Epitaph, March 20, 1882

The Tombstone Epitaph, March 20, 1882 reports of the murder of Tombstone Resident Morgan Earp while playing pool in Tombstone, Arizona. This event followed the…
The Arizona Historical Newspaper, the Tombstone Epitaph announces the gunfight at the O K Coral.

The Tombstone Epitaph, October 27, 1881

The following is the original transcript of The Tombstone Epitaph published on October 27, 1881 on the infamous gun fight at the O K Corral…

Tombstone Daily Nugget, October 27, 1881

The Tombstone Daily Nugget, October 27, 1881 described the the infamous gun fight at the O K Corral between the Earps and the Clanton faction…

Further Reading

Southeastern Arizona Mining Towns - Images of America - Author William Ascarza

Southeastern Arizona Mining Towns

Southeastern Arizona Mining Towns - Images of America - Author William Ascarza Southeastern Arizona has one of the most diverse mining localities in the state.…
Tombstone (Images of America) - Author: Jane Eppinga

Tombstone (Images of America)

Tombstone (Images of America) - Author: Jane Eppinga Tombstone sits less than 100 miles from the Mexico border in the middle of the picturesque Arizona…

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