Monday, April 11, 2011

The Wild West Of Yore

Play time is over and it's back to my normal boring routine.  It was fun getting out and seeing the tourist sights again.  Today I will take you on a tour of Trail Dust Town and Tombstone.  

Trail Dust Town is a tourist trap with a restaurant, Pinnacle Peak,  made famous by cutting off the neckties of any man innocent enough to wear one inside.   The ceiling is covered by hanging severed neckties.  Mercifully, they left the men's necks intact.  It is also a recreation of a Western town with a train that runs around the town.  Fun for the little kiddies.

Tombstone is the real McCoy.  It is known as "the town too tough to die" and is home to the infamous O.K. Corral where Doc Holliday and Sheriff Wyat Earp took on the McLaury boys and Billy Clanton.

Wikipedia has, in part, the following data on the town.  If you want to read more Google 'Tombstone/Wikipedia'.

Ed Shieffelin was a scout for the U. S. Army headquartered at Camp Huachuca. Ed frequently searched the wilderness looking for valuable ore samples. Soldiers from the camp told him the only stone he would find was his tombstone. In the summer of 1877 Ed was working the hills east of the San Pedro River when he struck a vein of silver ore in a high plateau called Goose Flats. Schieffelin filed his claim under the name "The Tombstone."
At the town's founding in March 1879, it took its name from the original mining claim. Comprised mostly of wooden shacks and tents, it had a population of 100. By 1881 there were fancy restaurants, a bowling ally, four churches, an ice house, a school, an opera house, two banks, three newspapers, and an ice cream parlor, alongside 110 saloons, 14 gambling halls and numerous brothels all situated among a number of dirty, hardscrabble mines.  It had running water and telegraph and limited telephone service. Miners were paid $4.00 per day working 6, 10-hour shifts per week. By late 1881 it had more than 7,000 citizens, excluding all Chinese, Mexicans, women and children residents. The approximately 6,000 men working in Tombstone generating more than $168,000 a week (approximately $3,946,800 today) in income.  When Cochise County was formed from the eastern portion of Pima County on February 1, 1881, Tombstone became the new county seat. On December 25, 1881 the Bird Cage Theater opened, and in 1882 the New York Times reported that "the Bird Cage Theatre is the wildest, wickedest night spot between Basin StreetBarbary Coast." 
Capitalists and businessmen moved in from the eastern U.S. Mining was carried out by immigrants from Europe, chiefly Cornwall, Ireland and Germany.  An extensive service industry including laundry, construction, restaurants, hotels, and so forth was mainly provided by Chinese and other immigrants.

Early conflicts

Fire insurance map of tombstone in 1888
The rural area was populated by Cowboys who were largely Confederate sympathizers from southern states, especially Texas, who viewed the city's business owners and lawmen who were largely from northern states as carpetbaggers. There was also the fundamental conflict over resources and land, of Northern-style capitalism contrasted with the traditional "small-government" agrarianism of the rural Cowboys.  In the early 1880s, illegal 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 Cowboys, a loosely organized band of friends and acquaintances who teamed up for various crimes and came to each other' 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." 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. The Cowboys were nonetheless welcome in town because of their free-spending habits but shootings were common.
The city's business owners tried to impose order. They passed an ordinance that made it "unlawful for any person to carry deadly weapons, concealed or otherwise" within the city limits. The ordinance required weapons to be deposited at the first saloon, hotel, or livery stable visited, unless the individual was "immediately leaving or entering the city, who, with good faith, and within reasonable time are proceeding to deposit, or take from the place of deposit such deadly weapon."]

Gunfight at the O.K. Corral

Newspaper coverage of the fight at the O.K. Corral
On the evening of March 15, 1881, three Cowboys attempted to rob a Kinnear & Company stagecoach carrying USD$26,000 in silver bullion (about $589,752 in today's dollars) enroute from Tombstone to Benson, Arizona, the nearest railroad freight terminal.:180 Near Drew's Station, just outside of 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 Sheriff 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 came to be known as the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (when a movie of that name was released in 1957).
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 were not prosecuted. On March 18, 1882, Morgan Earp was killed by a shot that struck his spine while playing billiards at 10:00 p.m. Once again, the assailants were named but escaped arrest. Wyatt Earp, concluding that legal justice was out of reach, led a posse that pursued and killed four of the men they held responsible on what became known as the Earp Vendetta Ride.


Ed Schieffelin monument
Precise figures of the value of the gold and silver mined in Tombstone are not certain. In 1883, writer Patrick Hamilton estimated that the total value of gold and silver taken from Tombstone during the first four years of activity was $25,000,000 (approximately $587,321,429 today). In 1902, W. P. Blake estimated the total value as $3,000,000 (about $70,478,571 in today's dollars), a dollar amount that has come to be accepted as more accurate.


The 1900 census was a low point. Tombstone was saved from becoming a ghost town partly by its status as the Cochise County seat until 1929, when the county voted to move county offices to nearby Bisbee. The classic Cochise County Courthouse and adjacent gallows yard in Tombstone are preserved as a museum.
Tombstone is home to perhaps the most famous graveyard of the Old West, Boot Hill. Buried at the site are various victims of violence and disease in Tombstone's early years, including the three Cowboys killed by the Earps and Doc Holliday in the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral: Billy Clanton, Tom McLaury, and Frank McLaury.

Saloon ladies on Allen Street in 2006
The open lot or alleyway where the historic Gunfight at the O.K. Corral started has been preserved, but has been 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 at 2:00 p.m. each day.  Fremont Street (modern Arizona Highway 80), where portions of the gunfight took place, is open to the public.
According to Guinness, the world's largest rosebush was planted in Tombstone in 1885 and still flourishes today in the city's sunny climate. This Lady Banksia rose now covers 8,000 sq ft (740 m2) of the roof on an inn, and has a 12 ft (3.7 m) circumference trunk. The rose bush is also walled off, and admission is charged.
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.
Performance events help preserve the town's wild-west image and expose it to new visitors. Helldorado Days is Tombstone's oldest festival, and celebrates the community's wild days of the 1880s. Started in 1929 (coincidentally the year Wyatt Earp died), the festival is held on the third weekend of every October (loosely corresponding to the date of the O.K. Corral gunfight) and consists of gunfight reenactment shows, street entertainment, fashion shows and a family-oriented carnival. Tombstone's Main Event: A Tragedy At The OK Corral, a stage play by Stephen Keith, is presented inside the O.K. Corral. It depicts the Cowboys' version of events in which the Earps shot the Cowboys as they attempted to surrender.

Historic district

Allen Street

Daily reenactment of the famous fight
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.

Climate data for Tombstone
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °F (°C) 60
Average low °F (°C) 34
Precipitation inches (mm) 0.8
[citation needed]

I have included a slide show of some of the photos I took while we shivered in the cold wind the day we visited.   Click on the photo to see the show.  Once you are directed to the Web Album page you can click on the 'slide show' above the photo and see it in full screen.  I hope you enjoy your digital tour.


Looking to the Stars said...

Wow, I found this fascinating. What a great post. Sounds like you had a great time with your daughter :)

Darlene said...

*Looking to the Stars - Well, we covered a lot of territory for this old gal.

Rummuser said...

We grew up with novels called Westerns and comics with similar themes, as well as movies called Westerns. Many of the names that you mention were familiar to all young boys studying in English medium schools. My father watches TV every evening and his favourites are inevitably old MGM pictures on Western themes. It was nice reading through your post. Thank you.

tnlib said...

Thanks for the grand tour and what a blast from the past as they say. You put a lot of work in this. Will steal your photo of the "wipe shit" for FB and credit back to you of course. Delightful - and a pleasant change from all the crap, so to speak.

tnlib said...

I couldn't steal it. Oh well. Great photo though.

joared said...

Recall our visit to Tombstone many years ago. First encountered Pinnacle Peak in Scottsdale, AZ area. Was surprised to find one here in our area east of Los Angeles years ago when we moved here. In addition to the tie clipping they brought my husband an old shoe when he ordered a well-done steak. Scottsdale had a new western town creation there called Rawhide. They re-created periodic shootouts with stunt cowboys falling from rooftops, offered stagecoach rides, had panning for gold and a smithy shoeing horses and I can't remember what all else.

Sounds like you had a great family time. Glad you could get out and about to enjoy your time together.

Nancy said...


What a great post! I loved reading all about Tombstone. Such an interesting history that place has.

Thanks for doing all that research and putting in all the pictures.

@ Joared. I have a DIL who always orders her steaks well done. Some day I will take an old shoe with me and put it on her plate for fun.

Thanks for the great idea....

Darlene said...

*Rummuser - Little boys always played cowboys and Indians when I was a child. Now I realize how unfair that was to the real Americans, the Indians. They were, of course, the villains in the make believe play.

*tnlib - I guess you can't copy and past it from web albums. You are welcome to it and when I have time I will send it another way.

*Joared - Tombstone does the shoot outs, etc. every weekend and they go all out during Helldorado Days with gun fights all day long. It is one wild town then.

*Nancy - I'm glad you enjoyed my virtual tour and history lesson.

Lydia said...

This is a post worthy of being shared in school classrooms! So interesting. The slideshow is great, too, and of course I love that political statement sign!

Darlene said...

*Lydia - I guess the same feeling about politicians has always been there.

Thank you for your kind words.