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Route 66 &
Tombstone - 2008

Page 1 - Calgary to Mexican Border


If we were to describe this year's trip, it would be "Fill in the Gaps".

We tossed around several routes. The day before we left, we still hadn't decided. East was experiencing the worst floods of the century - scrap that idea. Karen had driven down the west coast through Los Angeles and she really didn't want to do it again - or at least not with her as the passenger and me driving. Regardless, the west coast was experiencing torrential downpours and wildfires so scrap that idea too. We were having the worst spring in years in Calgary and "wet" wasn't what we were looking for. The only place not snowing, flooding or pouring cats and dogs was "South".

OK, so South it was. But where? We decided to get to Salt Lake City as fast as possible and then make some more plans.


My First Attempt at a Homemade Movie
Humor me and have a look.
It's not bad for a first attempt and the ending is quite neat!!


For many years Karen and I have wanted to go to Tombstone. We've wanted to work Route 66 into our itinerary. We have been forever saying "this is an area we should come back to" especially the ghost towns of Utah and Nevada. We always said we would go back to Ely and explore and stay again in Torrey at the Chuckwagon Motel. Karen, being Karen, searched the maps to find wiggly roads to scare the hell out of us (which seems to be the one steadfast criteria of a great trip).

This was the year we filled all those gaps. And, of course, we found some new wiggly roads to add to the excitement and the tales to tell. This was also the year that we adopted "Willie".


Calgary to Ely

Friday the 13th

It would seem rather strange that I would be hitting the road on the 13th - let alone a Friday. It's hard to say whether 13 is a good number for me or a bad one. I guess it just depends on what happens on that particular day. Regardless, the 13th was the day to head out.

We had some delays getting out of Calgary. Karen picked me up and we loaded the car in the pouring rain. So much for curly hair and dry clothes. Then after two trips back and forth between our houses, we finally hit the road - at least for 3 blocks. Then the windshield wiper flew off. We found a Nissan dealer, fixed the wiper, and finally we were rolling down the road happily singing "On the Road Again".

Despite our late start, we managed to make it to Butte just at dark.

Montana

The bad weather didn't disappear. It was raining in Calgary but it was snowing in Montana. There was frost on the road when we headed out the next morning - not typical middle of June weather. We didn't leave the snow capped mountains behind until we were well into Utah.

And then it was "hot".

Tooele, Utah

Our intention was to make tracks to Salt Lake City and we did. We left I-15 on the north side of Salt Lake City mid-afternoon and took a side trip to Tooele to visit Shirley. We didn't tell her we were coming - wanting to surprise her. It just about backfired on us as she wasn't home until about two minutes before we arrived. We had a quick but nice visit. checked out the new pond they just finished building, and continued on our way.

Ely, Nevada

Somewhere along the way, we firmed up our plans to go to Tombstone and travel Hwy 191 north from there. We decided to swing west a bit and stay again in Ely.

We left Tooele travelled south down Hwy 36 to Hwy 6 and connected to Hwy 50 west to Ely. From frost on the road in in the morning to 107° F in Ely in the evening, it seemed like an impossibility but we weren't complaining. We got ourselves settled into the motel and headed over to the Hotel Nevada for supper.

After supper we met a couple just arriving on their motorcycle - hot and tired. Pete and Bonnie were from Vancouver and had just travelled down the west coast through all the rain. They were happy to get into the warm weather too.

Coincidentally, it turned out they were heading to Tombstone too, although via a different route. They were heading up to Sault Lake City first.



Ely to Laughlin

Connors Pass

Connors Pass (elevation 7,722 feet) is a pass through the Schell Creek Range southeast of Ely. It is one of only two fractions of Hwy 93 in Nevada that climb above the tree line. Karen keeps trying to get pictures of the golden rocks but either we've been unable to stop or the sun isn't right. Oh well, a good excuse to return to the area.

Karen spotted an "old road" and wanted to investigate. The chopped up, rutty, bumpy, twisty short trail was to say the least a jolting experience. There were areas that we wondered if the road would simply end leaving us no where to turn around. We managed to get through it and exited just behind Majors Station and Hwy 93 junction.

Bristol Wells Ghost Town

Bristol Wells is about 15 miles north of Pioche six miles off of Hwy 93. In 1880 the population was about 400. It had a post office from 1878 - 1887. All that remains are two buildings, a windmill, and the three charcoal ovens.

The charcoal ovens were used to convert local wood into charcoal for use by the mining industry. After the silver veins ran out and the smelters shut down, they served as shelters for prospectors and stockmen. Rumor has it that local stagecoach bandits also hid in the ovens. At the time, we really didn't know what they were but we were fascinated with them just the same.

Pioche

We found our way back to the highway and down the road turned into Pioche to view town. Most of Pioche's mines have been left to ruin. Pioche is a strange mixture between old and new.

In 1864, Native American Paiute led a missionary, William Hamblin, to silver deposits in the vicinity of Pioche. San Francisco financier Francois L.A. Pioche purchased claims in 1868 and formed the Meadow Valley Mining Company. The mining camp, called "Pioche's City" later became simply Pioche.

In the early 1870's Pioche was one of the largest mining towns in southeastern Nevada with a population of 10,000 people by 1871. Guns were the only law. Nearly 60 percent of the homicides reported in Nevada during 1871-72 took place around Pioche making Bodie, Tombstone, and other better known towns pale in comparison. It has been reported that seventy-five men were buried in the cemetery before anyone in Pioche had time to die a natural death.

One of the worst fires in the West took place in Pioche in 1871. It began in a restaurant during a celebration commemorating Mexican independence and quickly spread. When it reached a stone fireproof structure where 300 barrels of blasting powder were stored, the subsequent explosion shot nearly 400 feet into the air, blowing a 1,000-pound door clear out of town. The explosion, debris and fire killed thirteen people, injured forty-seven, and left the entire population homeless.

The fortunes of Pioche diminished in the 1880's due to the shutdown of the mines. An economic boom occurred during World War II when Pioche was the second largest lead and zinc producer in the nation. Present day Pioche has little mining activity. It is the county seat and the main focus is now government.

Valley of Fire

Valley of Fire is located six miles from Lake Mead and 55 miles northeast of Las Vegas. It is Nevada's oldest and largest state park, dedicated 1935.

The valley derives its name from the red sandstone formations and the stark beauty of the Mojave Desert. Ancient trees and early man are represented throughout the park by areas of petrified wood and 3,000 year-old Indian petroglyphs.

Lake Meade

Construction of Boulder Dam, later named Hoover Dam, began in 1931.The reservoir created by the damming of the Colorado River became Lake Mead, named after Elwood Mead, the Bureau of Reclamation commissioner at the time. Lake Mead is one of the most important water resources in the West. It ensures a steady water supply for Arizona, Nevada, California, and northern Mexico by holding back the flow of the Colorado River behind Hoover Dam.

It is one of the largest water reservoirs in the world. When full, the lake contains roughly the same amount of water as would have otherwise flowed through the Colorado River over a two-year period: roughly 9.3 trillion gallons.

Boulder City

Boulder City was designed to be a model city. It was built by the six companies and U.S. Government to provide homes for the men building Boulder (now Hoover) Dam. The Federal Government owned the entire town until January, 1960 when the it was turned over to the State of Nevada.

Boulder City is still very much a Government town, with many of its residents working for the National Park Service, and various federal and state departments.

Laughlin, Nevada

Laughlin's current location was established in the 1940's called South Pointe due to its proximity to Nevada's southern tip. The settlement consisted of a motel and bar that catered to gold and silver miners, and to the many construction workers who built Davis Dam.

Davis Dam was designed to help regulate the mighty Colorado and to provide electricity to the Southwest. Once the dam was completed, construction workers left and the motel fell into disrepair.

Laughlin's name comes from Don Laughlin who bought the southern tip of Nevada in 1964. Laughlin, who operated the 101 Club in Las Vegas, opened what would become the Riverside Resort which offered all-you-can-eat chicken dinners for 98 cents, 12 slot machines, 2 gaming tables, and 8 motel rooms.

On a previous visit to Laughlin, Karen and I stopped briefly at the Colorado Belle Hotel and travelled on a boat trip up the river. We decided we would stay there this trip - an old hotel to mark our starting point to Route 66. The Colorado Belle is a fixed building made to look like a six-deck replica of a 19th century Mississippi paddlewheel riverboat. Although the Colorado Belle wasn't constructed until near the end of Route 66, it is one of the older hotels in Laughlin and seemed appropriate for the mood.


Lake Havasu and London Bridge

Karen's hubby, Steve, had visited Lake Havasu area and wanted Karen to see it. Before striking out on Route 66, we took a side trip down there to see the sites and find out what all the hype was.

Lake Havasu City, grew around an old mining town established in the early 20th century. In 1964 the property was developed as a planned community. It was incorporated in 1978, A popular tourist attraction in Lake Havasu City is the London Bridge crossing a man-made canal that leads from Lake Havasu, on the Colorado River, to Thompson Bay. It was purchased from the City of London in 1968. The bridge was disassembled, and the marked stones were shipped to Lake Havasu City. It officially opened in October 1971.

Lake Havasu was formed in 1938 by Parker Dam on the Colorado River. One cannot reach the Grand Canyon from Lake Havasu, however, due to the dams - Davis Dam (Lake Mohave), Hoover Dam (Lake Mead) and Parker Dam.


Route 66 - Needles to Williams

Route 66, also known as the Will Rogers Highway, the "Main Street of America" or the "Mother Road", was established on November 11, 1926. However, road signs did not go up until the following year.

The famous highway, encompassing a total of 2448 miles, originally ran from Chicago, Illinois, through Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California, before ending at Los Angeles. It was recognized in popular culture by both a hit songs and a television shows in the 1950s and 1960s.

Historic Route 66

Route 66 was replaced by the Interstate Highway System officially decommissioned and removed from the system on June 27, 1985.

Portions of the road through Illinois, Missouri, New Mexico, and Arizona have been designated a National Scenic Byway "Historic Route 66". It has begun to return to maps in this form. Some portions of the road in southern California have been redesignated "State Route 66", and others bear "Historic Route 66" signs and relevant historic information.

Needles

The city was founded in 1883 as a result of the construction of the railroad, which crosses the Colorado River at this point. The name is derived from pointed mountain peaks at the south end of the valley.

Historic Route 66 passes through the city, lined with motels and other shops from that era. Our excitement grew when we hit the "turn here" sign. I had researched Route 66 for many years on the net and finally this was it. Route 66 was now happening!

Oatman

We we progressed slowly along Route 66 stopping around every turn and taking pictures. Viewing the sights around us we just about missed this sign. I hit the brakes and backed up to get another look. Surfing the net, we already knew there were donkeys in Oatman but this sign struck us as rather unique - unlike anything we had seen before that's for sure.

As we rounded the corner into Oatman, it was everything we expected and more - a truly fascinating place basically out in the middle of nowhere. It is authentic old western town with burros roaming the streets and gunfights staged on weekends. The burros are tame and can be hand fed.

Our first stop was in front of a kiosk selling carrots ($1.00 a bag) and Route Beer 66. We no sooner had a bag of carrots in our hands that the entire herd descended upon us. We had to buy more carrots just to keep them happy.

Brenda, the owner of the kiosk, moved to Oatman 15 years ago from Massachusetts. She knew all the donkeys by name and gave us a bit of history about them. One donkey was off to the side - timidly clinging to the edge of town. Apparently the male stole her from another herd and she was afraid of the town. Brenda said that this happens often - nature's way of keeping the herd from getting too inbred. Brenda assured us that it wouldn't be long before her fears would subside and she would be part of the "in town" group.

One burro, demanding attention (we were out of carrots) walked right up to Brenda's kiosk, latched onto one of her paper posters and tore it off the wall. Time to buy more carrots I guess. One would swear Brenda and the burros were in cahoots.

Oatman's burros are the descendants of the burros brought by the miners in the late 1800's. When the miners no longer needed them, they were turned loose. Although there are many herds of "wild burros" in the mountains, each morning one particular herd continues to come into town as it has done for over a hundred years. They wander the streets, fascinate the tourists, and eat. Pellets and carrots are for sale at many of the shops. Shortly before the sunset they wander back to the hills for the night.

Oatman began over 100 years ago as a mining tent camp. In 1915, two miners struck a $10 million gold find, and within a year, the town's population grew to more than 3,500. It was named in honor of Olive Oatman, who was kidnapped as a young girl by Mojave Indians and later rescued in 1857 near the current site of the town. Oatman was served by a narrow gauge rail line between 1903 and 1905 that ran 17 miles to the Colorado river near Needles, California.

Both the population and mining booms were short-lived. In 1921, a fire burned down many of the smaller shacks in town, and three years later, the main mining company shut down operations for good. Oatman survived by catering to travelers on Route 66, but in the 1960s, when Route 66 became what is now Interstate 40, Oatman almost died. With the revival of Route 66, Oatman once again is a very popular tourist stop.

The Oatman Hotel, built in 1902, is the oldest two-story adobe structure in Mojave County and has housed many miners, movie stars, politicians and scoundrels. The town was used as the location for several movies such as How The West Was Won, Foxfire and Edge of Eternity.

Probably the Hotel's most famous claim to fame is that Clark Gable and Carol Lombard honeymooned there on March 18, 1939. Their honeymoon suite is still one of the major attractions at the Hotel. Gable returned there often to play poker with the local miners and enjoy the solitude of the desert.

Unfortunately, there are no tourist accommodations in Oatman, so we were unable to spend the night there. We would have liked to stay longer to visit the shops and of course "feed the donkeys".

Sitgreaves Pass

We reluctantly left Oatman and continued on Route 66. It rises to a peak of 3,550 feet between Kingman and Oatman as it breaches the Black Mountains. The pass was named for Captain Lorenzo Sitgreaves

In 1926, not all cars could speed up the mountain through the pass. Vehicles of the era, lacked a pump to bring the gasoline from the gas tank to the engine. Gravity was quite adequate to bring the fuel to the engine unless the tank was low and the vehicle was traveling up an incline. The solution to this problem was to back up the steep and winding mountain road.

Fortunately, we had no problem climbing the mountain an were able to stop along the way to investigate some abandoned mines and take in the spectacular views.

Cool Springs - Mile 45

Cool Springs Camp gave early westward bound Route 66 motorists a welcome break before they tackled the treacherous winding ascent through the Black Mountains over Sitgreaves Pass. Built in the 1926, its amenities included a cafe, garage, a Mobil Oil gas station and tourist cabins.

We stopped here to investigate, however, were disappointed to find out they were not open. (As it turns out, they have not been open for quite a while.) There was a coke machine and benches under the shade so we stayed long enough to have a refreshing drink.

The tourist bubble burst when Route 66's alignment was changed in 1952 and Cool Springs, along with other businesses catering to Route 66 motorists, shut down. It was converted to a poultry operation called "The Chicken Ranch." However, after a fire, that enterprise was also abandoned.

Chicago real estate agent Ned Leuchtner and his wife Michelle purchased the Cool Springs Camp in 2002. They began a slow reconstruction project and plan to eventually locate to the desert. By 2004, there was again a recognizable building that could house a service station and cafe with the promise of more coming.

Seligman - Mile 140

We reached Seligman late in the day and still very much in awe of Route 66. We managed to get a nice "old route" motel. After quickly unpacking the car, we headed out to see the sites of Seligman. Karen and I had stopped in Seligman briefly several years before, so we were quite happy to be back and do some exploring.

Roadkill Cafe & OK Saloon

We had our supper at the Roadkill Cafe. The restaurant has an “Old West” atmosphere and a gift shop with fun "Roadkill" souvenirs and Route 66 memorabilia.

We spent some time viewing the exhibits and gift shop items. Of course, I just had to buy a Route 66 sign.

The OK Saloon is filled with antiques. Located outside of the OK Saloon is the old Arizona Territorial jail whose walls once corralled such notorious outlaws as Seligman Slim, Four-Fingered Frank and Carl “Curly” Bane. Adjacent to the jail are the Old West storefronts which have been used as a background for many commercials as well as documentaries.

Rusty Bolt

The next morning we shopped at the Rusty Bolt. In 2001, we had stopped briefly at this store and we were looking forward to being able to spend more time this year. The store front is like none other we have even seen. If the roof top mannequins and antique cars don't rouse your curiosity, the grave at the side of the building certainly will cinch it - "here lies Billy Pretzel last guy who touched my Edsel". Much to our delight, the store had tripled in size since our last visit. All the more shopping for us to do. Between the Route 66 memorabilia and the Betty Boop posters, we had to once again rearrange the car.

Seligman was established in 1886. It was located more than a mile southeast of its present location. Houses and structures were moved piece by piece to where they are today.

Seligman is the town where Arizona’s revival of Route 66 began. It marks the beginning of Arizona's Historic Route 66, the longest continuous stretch still in existence. In November 1987 Arizona officially deemed old US Route 66 from Seligman to Kingman as Historic Route 66. Seligman embraced Route 66 wholeheartedly upon its arrival in the late 1920’s and continues to do so today.

Williams - End Route 66

Founded in 1880, Williams was named for the famous trapper, scout and mountain man, "Old Bill Williams." There is a statue of "Old Bill" at Monument Park, located on the west side of town. The large mountain directly south of town is named Bill Williams Mountain.

In the beginning, Williams, like so many other towns of the Old West, gained a reputation as a rough and rowdy settlement filled with saloons, brothels, gambling houses and opium dens. Restricted by a town ordinance to Railroad Avenue’s “Saloon Row,” it didn’t stop the numerous cowboys, railroad men and lumberjacks from frequenting these many businesses.

In 1926, Route 66 was completed through Williams, which spurred several new businesses along the highway. It was this increased automobile traffic that would eventually shut down the rail service in Williams in 1968. Williams lies on the route of Historic Route 66, Interstate 40, and the Southwest Chief Amtrak train route. It is also the southern terminus of the Grand Canyon Railway, which takes visitors to Grand Canyon Village.

Williams will go down in history as being the last town to have its section of Route 66 bypassed. Lawsuits kept the last section of Interstate 40 from being built around Williams. After settlements called for the state to build three exits for the town, the suits were dropped and I-40 was built.

In 1984, Interstate 40 was opened around the town and newspapers the next day reported the essential end of the famous US 66. The following year, Route 66 was decommissioned.

With the Route 66 segment of our trip now finished, we headed south - destination Tombstone.


Flagstaff to Tombstone, Arizona

Morman Lake

Mormon Lake is a shallow lake located in northern Arizona. With an average depth of only 10 ft the surface area of the lake is extremely volatile and fluctuates seasonally. When full, the lake has a surface area of about 12 square miles making it the largest natural lake in Arizona. In particularly dry times, the lake has been known to dry up, leaving behind a remnant marsh.

Cacti Along the Road

The vegetation was like none we had seen before. I didn't realize that Karen had not seen saguaro cactus. I saw them first many years ago in Phoenix.

The Saguaro, pronounced "sah-wah-roh", is a large, tree-sized cactus native to the Sonoran Desert in Arizona. The saguaro blossom is the state flower of Arizona.

A fully-grown Saguaro cactus can absorb over 3,000 gallons of water in ten days. This is helped by the ability to form new roots quickly.

Saguaros have a relatively long life span. Some may live for more than 150 years. They can take up to 75 years to develop a side arm. An adult may weigh 6 tons or more. Harming a saguaro in any manner is illegal by state law in Arizona, and when houses or highways are built, special permits must be obtained to move or destroy one affected.

More about Saguaros

We encountered many strange looking cacti along the southern Arizona routes. They are absolutely fascinating not to mention very beautiful especially at this time of year when they all seemed to be in flower.

 

San Pedro River

While travelling in the heart of the desert, you get used to it's grey/pink colours. So as we came upon this lush green valley that seemed to swallow the highway, we weren't surprised to see the sign designating the San Pedro River. The surprise was that the river was bone dry. We could not find even a small creek. The river must still flow underground and fill only in high rains.

It was in this lush valley we found the Fairbank historic townsite where we stopped and took a short break before continuing on to Tombstone.

Fairbank Ghost Town

Fairbank, founded in the 1880s, was originally called Junction City, Kendall, and then Fairbank after Chicago investor Nathaniel Kellogg Fairbank, who provided funds to open the silver mines in nearby Tombstone.

On February 15, 1900, it was the scene of a gunfight between lawman Jeff Davis Milton and members of the Burt Alvord gang, resulting in gang member "Three Fingered Jack" Dunlop being killed, and both Milton and gang member Bravo Juan Yaos being wounded, and the gangs attempt at a train robbery being thwarted.

During Fairbank's short heyday the town was home to a post office, established on May 13th, 1883, mills, several rail lines, a school and a hotel. By 1970 almost nothing was left at Fairbank. The last few residents were evicted when the buildings were declared unsafe. An effort to preserve the remains of Fairbank has been only partially successful. Some buildings remain at the site, but several are in extremely poor condition. The largest remaining structure, a hotel, collapsed in 2004.


Tombstone - The Town Too Tough to Die
We finally made it! We arrived in Tombstone on June 18th. After all these years of talking about Tombstone, it was hard to believe we were there. We were quite surprised. We imagined Tombstone to be a large City with an "old Tombstone" type area within it where the history, museums, etc. would be. Little did we know that the Tombstone of 2008 is not much different that the Tombstone of 1887.

We arrived mid afternoon and headed downtown to take in the sights. There, we visited the Historama, purchased tickets for the many attractions, and adopted our soon to be permanent shotgun rider "Willie". We toured the OK Corral Museum and watched a historical presentation. A visit to Boothill Cemetery completed our afternoon and we headed back to the hotel.

Walking down the street in the afternoon, we noticed 6 motorbikes - from Calgary no less. Later that evening we met the bikers at the Crystal Palace and exchanged a few road trip stories before heading over to Big Nose Kate's Saloon.

At 8:16 pm, it was still 107° and the air conditioning in the saloon was the pause that refreshed. We then toured a bit around Town before calling it a night.

The next morning we were entertained with a skit at Helldorado, had our pictures taken in saloon girl outfits, and toured the Rose Tree Museum. In the afternoon, we attended the daily re-enactment of the gunfight at OK Corral and hopped a stage coach for a commentated tour of the Town.

The next morning, we collected our free copy of the Epitaph. With one final sweep around town and Willie riding shotgun, we headed on our way.

Tombstone, while not what we expected, was certainly everything we could have hoped for and more. I definitely want to go back there.

The Making of Tombstone

Tombstone was founded in 1877 by a prospector named Ed Schieffelin. Ed was staying at what was then called Camp Huachuca (wa-chu-ka) as part of a scouting expedition against the Chiricahua (chir-i-cow-uh) Apaches. During his time there he would venture out into the wilderness "looking for rocks", all the while ignoring the warnings he received from the soldiers at the camp.

They would tell him, "Ed, the only stone you will find out there will be your tombstone". Well, Ed did find his stone. And it was Silver. So, remembering the words of warning from the soldiers, he named his first mine The Tombstone.

By the mid 1880's Tombstone's population had increased to around 7,500. This figure includes only white male registered voters over 21 years of age. If you take into account the women, children, Chinese and the many "ladies of the evening" the estimates are that the population was between 15,000 and 20,000 people. At its peak, it was the fastest growing city between St. Louis and San Francisco. There were over one hundred saloons, numerous restaurants, a large red-light district, an even larger Chinese population, schools, churches, newspapers, and one of the first public swimming pools in Arizona (which is still used today).

While the area later became notorious for saloons, gambling houses, and the famous Earp & Clanton Gang shoot-out at the O.K. Corral, in the 1880s Tombstone was larger than Tucson and had become the most cultivated city in the West. In 1886 massive amounts of underground water filled the near 200 miles of mines and combined with the falling silver prices the boom ended. Having survived the Great Depression, removal of the county seat to Bisbee, and numerous city fires, Tombstone became known as the "Town Too Tough To Die."

Fires swept through Tombstone twice. Legend has it that in June of 1881 a cigar ignited a barrel of whiskey at the Arcade Saloon. The subsequent fire destroyed over 60 businesses in the downtown area. But the town rebuilt itself and kept on growing. In May of 1882 another fire ripped through downtown Tombstone destroying a large portion of the business district. Again, the town rebuilt.

Boothill

Tombstone is also the home of Boothill Graveyard. Boothill began in 1879 and was used until 1884 when the New Tombstone City Cemetery was opened on west Allen Street. After the opening of the new cemetery, Boothill became known as "The Old Cemetery". The City cemetery is still in use today.

Boothill
View Photo Slideshow

Legend has it that Boothill was named for the fact that many residents there died violent or unexpected deaths and were buried with their boots on. However, it was actually named Boothill after Dodge City's pioneer cemetery in the hopes of attracting tourists in the late 1920's. Many famous Tombstone folks lie there including the victims of the 1881 Shootout on Fremont Street between the Earps and the Cowboys. For many years, it was neglected. The desert overtook parts of it and vandals removed grave markers.

Then, in the 1920's concerned citizens began the process of cleaning up the Old Cemetery and researching the placement of the graves to preserve it for future generations (and to make a little money on tourism).

Perhaps the most famous of those buried at Boot Hill are Billy Clanton and the McLaury brothers, Frank and Tom. Their grave markers say "murdered on the streets of Tombstone, 1881". As legend has it, they were shot and killed by the Earp brothers, Wyatt, Virgil and Morgan, and John "Doc" Holiday at the famous Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.

OK Corral

The most famous event in Tombstone's history was the famed Gunfight at the OK Corral, which didn't actually happen at the corral, but in a vacant lot on Fremont Street. On October 26, 1881, members of the "Cowboys" had a run-in with Wyatt, Virgil and Morgan Earp with help from Wyatt's friend Doc Holliday. 24 seconds and 30 shots later, Billy Clanton, Tom and Frank McLaury were mortally wounded.

Gunfight at OK Corral
View Photo Slideshow

The Earps and the Clantons and the McLaurys were powerful factions in Tombstone and their famous gunfight was not the first conflict they had with each other. The cowboys had many run-ins with the law which brought them into conflict with the Earps on a regular basis. They also interfered with the Earps' political ambitions, including Wyatt Earps attempt to set up a successful campaign for sheriff. Even without their political conflicts, however, conflict between the two groups seemed almost inevitable. The Clantons and the McLaurys represented lawlessness while the Earps represented the law. Who was right and who was wrong didn't seem to matter.

Tombstone had a city ordinance at the time preventing anyone from carrying firearms. The Cowboys' alleged unwillingness to abide by this ordinance proved a source of much conflict between the two groups. It was why the Earps pistol whipped a drunken Ike Clanton on the 26th of October. This event was largely the spark that triggered the famous gunfight. It made the Cowboy faction resent the Earps even further and made the Earps more determined than ever to disarm any Cowboys in the town. Thus, they marched over to where the Clantons and the McLaurys had congregated behind the OK Corral and demanded that they disarm. They did not, and a gunfight ensued.

There was much controversy over whether or not the cowboys were even armed and the trial that ensued failed to prove or disprove anything. Much has been written over the years about who really was an outlaw and who really was a good guy. The truth will never be fully known. Only the streets of Tombstone and it's ghosts know for sure.

Helldorado

Helldorado, a nickname for Tombstone, Arizona (and variation of El Dorado) was created in the 1880's by a disgruntled miner who wrote a letter to the Tombstone Nugget newspaper complaining about trying to find his fortune and ending up washing dishes.

The mines filled with water and the demonetization of silver passed. Tombstone was fast becoming a ghost town. When Breckenridge published his book, Helldorado, in 1928, Tombstone once again attracted national attention. The town with a bank of memories polished up its gunfighter image and became an important tourist attraction. In 1929 the first annual Helldorado Days celebration was held.

The Bird Cage Theater

The Bird Cage Theatre is another story. It was a saloon, theatre, gambling hall and brothel. No self-respecting woman in town would even walk on the same side of the street as the Bird Cage Theatre. It opened its doors on Christmas Day 1881 and ran 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year until closing its doors in 1889. In 1882, The New York Times reported, "the Bird Cage Theatre is the wildest, wickedest night spot between Basin Street and the Barbary Coast." Evidence of this can still be seen in the 140 bullet holes that have been found in the walls and ceiling.

The Bird Cage was named for the cage style crib compartments suspended from the ceiling. It was in these fourteen draped "Bird Cages" that the "ladies of the evening" entertained their customers. They were the inspiration for the song, "She's only a bird in a gilded cage", which was quite popular during the early 1900's.

The Bird Cage is perhaps the most authentic tourist attraction in Tombstone. It still contains most of the relics, furniture, window coverings and even poker tables that existed in its wild west hey day during the late 1800s.

Local Attractions and Original Structures


Bisbee

Bisbee was founded as a copper, gold, and silver mining town in 1880, and named in honor of Judge DeWitt Bisbee, one of the financial backers of the adjacent Copper Queen Mine.

In 1929, the county seat was moved from Tombstone to Bisbee, where it remains.

A syndicated television series which aired from 1956-1958, Sheriff of Cochise starring John Bromfield, was filmed in Bisbee.

By 1950, boom times were over and the population of the City of Bisbee had dropped to less than 6,000, but the introduction of open-pit mining and continued underground work would see the town escape the fate of many of its early contemporaries. However, in 1975 the Phelps Dodge Corporation finally halted its Bisbee copper-mining operations. The resulting exodus of mine employees might have been the end of the town but Bisbee survived and remains as the county seat.


Mexican Border

We travelled right to the mexican border just so we could say we were there. Our intention was to turn north on hwy 191, however the few extra miles to the border was worth being able to say "we saw it".


 

©Jumpy 2008 - 2016