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"All You'll Find There is Your Own Tombstone"


Ed Schieffelin
Ed Schieffelin, Tombstone's founder

The name alone is enough to make Tombstone a tourist draw, and it shouldn't come as a surprise that Boothill Graveyard is the town's most popular attraction. Tombstone, however, wasn't named for the markers in its famous cemetery. The name was derived from a warning Ed Schieffelin received before he struck it rich with the "Lucky Cuss" silver lode in 1878. "All you'll ever find is your own tombstone," warned the naysayers, and naming the town after their gloomy prediction was Schieffelin's way of thumbing his nose at his detractors after his mine turned out to be a bonanza. The town was founded in 1879, and a year later Schieffelin sold his claims for the tidy sum of $300,000.

The most famous names associated with Tombstone are undeniably those connected with the shootout at the OK Corral. Exactly why this particular gunfight has achieved worldwide recognition remains unclear to me, but the fact that Virgil, Wyatt, and Morgan Earp, accompanied by Doc Holliday, killed Tom & Frank McLaury and Billy Clanton in 1881 remains Tombstone's most notorious event. The displays inside the Courthouse museum include detailed reconstructions of the fight, and the OK Corral itself has animated dummies that happily shoot each other for any visitor willing to pay the price of admission.

"Kaloma," or Mrs. Earp?

Personally, I was more enthralled with an old photograph in the Courthouse museum. Labeled "Kaloma," the scantily clad woman in the picture is rumored to be Josephine Sarah Marcus, Wyatt Earp's third wife. The risqué picture was supposedly captured while she was too drunk to protest. No hard evidence supports the claim, and the woman in the photo appears to be a willing subject. A novelty company in New York City published the picture as a postcard, and "Kaloma" became wildly popular as a pinup during World War I.

The rest of the cavernous, two-story courthouse is furnished with a wide variety of fascinating displays of artifacts from Tombstone's colorful history, and in the old courtroom, visitors can watch a reenactment of a murder trial.

Cochise County Courthouse
Historic Cochise County Courthouse, now a museum
Reconstructed gallows

Before leaving the courthouse, we stepped out into the walled yard behind the Courthouse, where a pristine gallows still awaits its first victims. A reconstruction of the gallows that ended the lives of a number of Tombstone's rowdier residents, the structure sports two neatly-tied nooses and a sign forbidding anyone from climbing up to try them on.

For those who prefer gentler sights, Tombstone offers the world's largest rosebush, but after seeing the gallows, we were ready to follow the well-worn path to Boothill. Named because in the good old days of legal hangings, shootouts and lynch mobs, so many people died "with their boots on," the cemetery boasts more than 250 graves, including those of the McLaury brothers and Billy Clanton. The tourist shop at the entrance of the cemetery sells a guide to the inhabitants of Boothill, and it's well worth the money if you want to learn how Mrs. Stump died in childbirth from an overdose of chloroform in 1884, or that John Hicks was shot in a saloon brawl, or that Joseph Wetsell was stoned to death by Apaches. By the time you work your way through Row 11, you start believing the old saying; "Death never took a holiday in Tombstone."

Here Lies Lester Moore...
Here lies Lester Moore...

"Legally hanged..."
"Legally hanged..."

But maybe now it has. The newest grave in Boothill is dated 1946, and it belongs to Emmett Nunnelley, who spearheaded the restoration and preservation of the cemetery. There must be a new final resting place for latter day Tombstoners somewhere, but I have a feeling it doesn't contain any boots.

For more information about Tombstone and its colorful history, visit these sites:

View a video of downtown Tombstone

American West
History of Ed Scheiffelin and the town, with photos

Clanton Gang
All you ever want to know about the Shootout at the OK Corral, including a virtual reenactment with sound effects!

Arizona State Parks
Information about visiting Tombstone and the historic Coshise County Courthouse


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