It was in 1877, that the City of Tombstone was founded by a prospector by the name of Ed Schieffelin. Now if you are a keen person on old mining history, you have probably read about him or heard his name mentioned before. Ed Schieffelin was the prospector who was involved in a mining claim that became the the Contention Mine over in Contention City. That is where two other prospectors, Jack Friday and Ed Williams staked a claim that Ed figured was his and the 3 prospectors then decided to split the claim with Ed getting the northern portion and Jack and his partner getting the southern part.
Anyways, getting back to the story here, Ed Schieffelin ended up working on a scouting voyage with a group of soldiers and because he was a prospector, he would sometimes go off into the desert and poke around looking at rocks. The soldiers had warned him not to go because of the native Indians in the area and the only stone he might find would be his own tombstone. Well one day while out scouting around in area known as Goose Flats, Ed found silver and lots of it. Ed estimated this lode of silver was over 50 feet long and over a foot wide of almost pure silver. Ed and his brother Al, along with another partner, Richard Gird, formed the Tombstone Mining and Milling Company and built a stamp mill near the San Pedro River, about 8 milesaway.
Well it didn't take long for word to get out about this strike and people were moving into the area in droves. During this time an area for a town site was being surveyed out. A town lot cost 5 dollars and the lots were sold almost immediately. Because this new town was being built right close to where Ed's mine was and because the soldiers had told Ed that the only rocks he would find would be his tombstone, they ended naming the town Tombstone. This town grew fast. Within just a few short years, Tombstone had a bowling alley, four churches, a school, a couple of banks, three newspapers, and even an ice cream parlor. Of course there was the other establishment such as 110 saloons, 14 gambling joints, numerous dance halls and several brothels.
This town grew from a few hundred folk to over 14,000 in a matter of a few years and the mines in the area produced close to 85 million dollars in silver bullion making it the largest silver producing area in all of Arizona. By this time Ed and his partners not only had the Tombstone Mine but they also owned the original Goodenough Mine and the nearby Tough Nut Mine. The three miners then sold these mines to a group of big city investors from Philadelphia. A few months later it was reported that miners working the Tough Nut Mine struck a vein of silver ore 90 feet wide. This vein assayed at $170 per ton, with some ore assaying at a much as $22,000 a ton. Remember this is back in the 1880's.
Of course Tombstone is not only known for being a mining town. It's also famous for it's crime and shootouts. Being so close to, 30 mmiles from the Mexican border meant there would be trouble with things like smuggling. Back then the Mexican government had a big tax on items and so a lot of cross border smuggling took place. Cattle rustling was big at the time also. These crimes were carried out by outlaw elements labeled as cowboys. These cowboys consisted of a bunch of friends and acquaintances, who teamed up for various crimes and came to each others aid when needed.
Then one evening in March of 1881, three of these cowboys held up a stagecoach that was on it's way from Tombstone to Benson to where the nearest train station was. On this stage there was an estimated $26,000 in silver bullion. That would be about $730,000 in today's dollars. The stagecoach drilver and a passenger were both shot. Deputy Marshal Virgil Earp, with his temporary deputies and brothers Wyatt Earp and Morgan Earp, pursued the Cowboys suspected of the murders. It was this chain of events that eventually led to the shootout on October 26, 1881, in which the lawmen and Doc Holliday killed Tom McLaury, Frank McLaury, and Billy Clanton. Tom McLaury, Frank McLaury, and Billy Clanton. These three men who were shot were buried in graves up at boot hill. Boot hill got it's name because most of the men buried here died in their boots.
The shootout at the OK corral was part of a family and political feud. A couple of months later, on December 28, 1881, Virgil Earp was ambushed and seriously wounded by some hidden gunmen shooting from the second floor of an unfinished building. Although identified, the suspects provided witnesses who supplied alibis, and the men were not prosecuted. Then in March of 1882 Morgan Earp was killed by a shot that struck his back while in a pool hall.
Of course like most old towns back then, there were fires and Tombstone was no exception. 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. Then on May 25, 1882, another fire started in a Chinese laundryThis fire destroyed the Grand Hotel and the Tivoli Saloon before it jumped across the street, destroying more than 100 other businesses. With the lack of enough water to put out the flames, buildings in the fire's path were dynamited to deny the fire any fuel.
A few years later some of the deeper mines started to experience water seeping into the mines. This proved to become quite costly having to be pumping water out all the time. As time went on the water flowing into the mines were causing extreme flooding and so some of the mines shut down. However around this same time there the price of silver slid down to just 90 cents an ounce and mining became unprofitable so more mines shut down. The mines that remained operational laid off workers. Individuals who had thought about leaving Tombstone when the mine flooding started to pack up and leave town. The price of silver recovered for a while and a few mines began producing again, but never at the level reached in the early 1880s.
There are widely varying estimates of the value of gold and silver mined during Tombstone's history. Thre are estimates that Tombstone mines produced 32 million troy ounces, 1,000 metric tons of silver, more than any other mining district in Arizona. It was estimated that during the first four years of activity the mines produced about US$25,000,000 which is approximately $727 million today. Other estimates include as much as $1.21 billion to $2.56 billion today.
Today Tombstone is a tourist town with about 1300 residents. It's a great place to stop for a visit and walk around for a day or two on the boardwalks, where there are gift shops and eateries. You can even stop in for a cold one and quench your thirst, at one of the old saloons.