The town was established on a mesa above the Tough Nut Mine. Within two years of its founding, although far distant from any other metropolitan city, Tombstone boasted 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 dancing halls and brothels. All of these were situated among and on top of a large number of dirty, hardscrabble mines. The gentlemen and ladies of Tombstone attended operas presented by visiting acting troupes at theSchieffelin Hall opera house, while the miners and cowboys saw shows at the Bird Cage Theatre, "the wildest, wickedest night spot between Basin Street and the Barbary Coast".
Under the surface were tensions that grew into deadly conflict. The mining capitalists and townspeople were largely Republicans from the Northern states. Many of the ranchers, some of whom (like the Clantons) were also rustlers and/or other criminal varieties, in the area 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 beef stolen from ranches in Sonora, Mexico, by a loosely organized band of outlaws known as The Cowboys. The Earp brothers—Virgil, Wyatt, Morgan and Warren—arrived in December 1879 and summer 1880. They had ongoing conflicts with Ike and Billy Clanton, Frank and Tom McLaury, and other Cowboys members. The Cowboys repeatedly threatened the Earps over many months until the conflict escalated into a confrontation that turned into a shootout, the now-famous Hollywood-ized Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. The actual gun fight was on Fremont Street a block or two away from the O.K. Corral.
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 pumping plant, and it was unprofitable to rebuild the costly pumps. The city nearly became a ghost town, saved from that end only because it was the Cochise County seat until 1929. The city's population dwindled to a low of 646 in 1910, but in 2010 the population was 1,380. It has frequently been noted on lists of unusual place names.
Gunfight at the O.K. Corral
On the evening of March 15, 1881, three Cowboys attempted to rob a Kinnear & Company stagecoach carrying US$26,000 in silver bullion (about $637,538 in today's dollars) en route 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 culminated on October 26, 1881 in the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, during which the lawmen killed Tom McLaury, Frank McLaury, and Billy Clanton.
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 while playing billiards at 10:00 p.m. Once again, the assailants were named but escaped arrest due to legal technicalities. 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.
After the Earp family left Arizona, 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.
Tombstone - $549 + Tip
Tour Time - 8 Hours (All-Day)
Tombstone is a historic western city in Cochise County, Arizona, United States, founded in 1879 by Ed Schieffelin in what was then Pima County, Arizona Territory. It was one of the last wide-open frontier boomtowns in the American Old West. The town prospered from about 1877 to 1890, during which time the town's mines produced US$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 now draws most of its revenue from tourism.
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, 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 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, near the anniversary date of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, and consists of gunfight reenactment shows, street entertainment, fashion shows and a family-oriented carnival. Tombstone's Main Event: A Tragedy at the O.K. Corral, a stage play by Stephen Keith, was presented inside the O.K. Corral until 2013. It depicted the Cowboys' version of events in which the Earps shot the Cowboys as they attempted to surrender. The new reenactment, titled simply "The Gunfight", began its run in May 2013. The show runs thirty minutes, three times daily. "The Gunfight", written and directed by Wyatt Earp historian Timothy W. Fattig, portrays the infamous shootout as an inevitable consequence of the protagonists' bravado. Performers from all local stage shows can be seen on and around Allen Street every day
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