Tombstone, Arizona

2023 Full-Time, Arizona, Road Trip, States

Like so many of us of a certain age, we grew up with strains of the Wild West playing in the background. The streets of Tombstone, Wyatt Earp, Doc Holiday, the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral and other legends played on the television screens in our living rooms. Thus when we realized that it was just a short drive from our campsite at the Benson KOA Journey to the historic town of Tombstone, Arizona we just had to go. We started our visit at Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Site to get a good overview of the history of this area before moving on the to walk the streets and to purchase tickets at the O.K. Corral for admission to the Historama, a copy of a Tombstone Epitaph newspaper, and a reenactment of the legendary gunfight. Over the course of the day we learned that the town was founded as a result of Ed Schieffelin’s 1879 discovery of silver and his staking a claim that he named the Tombstone Mine. Just three years later Tombstone was named the Cochise County seat and that status gave the community staying power through 1929 but by the 1930’s the town was nearly a ghost town. We enjoyed watching the gunfight, cheering for the good guys and booing the bad guys but we understand that the reality is much more complicated. Wyatt Earp spent much of the final years of his long life in Hollywood serving as a consultant for director John Ford (click here for video) and others thus influencing the emerging genre of western adventure films and ultimately the plethora of television shows of the 1950’s and 60’s. This sparking of the interest of generations of Americans gave this community the opportunity to embrace tourism, which saved Tombstone from final decline and obscurity and gave us the opportunity to participate in the legend and learn more of the rich history that surrounds this place.

Despite warnings of the dangers, prospector Ed Schieffelin persisted in searching for precious metals in the San Pedro River Valley.
When he located what proved to be a rich silver vein, Schieffelin in good humor named his claim the Tombstone Mine.
Just three years after Schieffelin discovered silver, the Cochise County seat was established in the now booming town.
And records survive from the era.
With so many mouths to feed in town, the cattle industry boomed nearby.
An economy based on mining tended to boom and bust in the late 19th Century and Tombstone was no exception.
The main portion of Cochise County Courthouse was built in 1882 with an addition built in 1904. It is just one of dozens of original buildings in town.
The museum inside the courthouse details the history of the area beginning with the culture of its native peoples.
At the courthouse museum we learned a lot about everyday life in Tombstone including entertainment.
The removal of the Cochise County seat to Bisbee in 1929 dealt a severe economic blow to Tombstone.
Along streets of Tombstone we saw a mixture of serious historical preservation and tourist kitsch.
Tickets to see the O.K. Corral Gunfight reenactment includes the opportunity to see the Historama show narrated by Vincent Price which depicts an overview of the history of Tombstone.
The Tombstone Epitaph has published the news of Tombstone since May 1880 and continues to do so. The museum displays reprints of reports on major events in the community’s history.
Although he lived in Tombstone less than three years, Wyatt Earp had a profound influence on way the community is remembered today.
Even with a degree of skepticism of the accuracy of the portrayal, it is indeed fun to cheer for the “Good Guys” and boo at the “Bad Guys” during the reenactment of the gunfight that took place  in a lot near the Old Kindersley Corral.



1 Comment

  1. Susan O'Gara

    What unexpected fun!!!


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