This is our camping area which is only a short walk to Tombstone.
Warning: History lesson
The town of Tombstone was named by Ed Schieffelin in 1877 as a joke. He was a known speculator trying to find valuable minerals in the mountains in the area. The soldiers of the near by fort told him that he would only find his own tombstone if he kept searching in Apache lands.
During one of his searches, he found really rich ore that contained a lot of silver and some gold. Soon after he had staked his claim, people started to flood into the area. At its peak in the mid 1880’s, Tombstone had as many as 20,000 people. It had 3 full-time embalmers which is 2 more than the largest cities in the country. The embalmers were needed for two reasons. One - most of the miners died after only a few years of work and two there were a lot of gunfights in town. There were more than 100 saloons and many restaurants. The town had a huge “red-light” district as prostitution was legal. China town was large and included opium dens. The locals were well informed about world and local events because of the two newspapers. There were several churches and schools for children.
Schieffelin Hall was the prime entertainment spot for the higher class and church going people of the town. It opened in 1881 and was the primary location for music and dances. The top floor is still used by the local Masonic Lodge. Only the “moral” men were allowed to join the lodge. Wyatt Earp applied and was rejected even being a local law man. His character was well known in town.
Other more “proper” entertainment included Cock Fighting (Really?!), Rifle shooting tournaments, the now popular game of Baseball, Boxing and Wrestling matches, Horse races on the new track, and track and field contests which use the same track as the horse races.
Back to the tour and the gunfight in Fremont street and an empty lot?
Oh! Sorry I mean the gunfight at the OK Coral.
We started the day with a gunfight show at the OK Coral. They did a very good job demonstrating the movie version of the fight. We watched as the Clantons and McLaurys fought with the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday. It was fun. Later we will discover the real story.
The actual fight took place behind the sign on the left and into Fremont street.
They did have nice displays which included photographs, buildings showing a photographers studio, what a crib (prostitutes room) looked like, many saddles and other equipment. There was even a docudrama of the town over several time periods that was narrated by Vincent Price.
The reenactment was well done. We "participated" by Booing the Cowboys and Cheering the Earps and Doc Holliday. (Yes, spelled with two ll's)
After a walk down the street stopping in a couple of stores, we decided to have lunch. The saloon and restaurant is called Big Nose Kate’s Saloon. She was a real person who was a prostitute and frequent companion of Doc Holliday. All the tables were taken so we sat at the bar.
I asked the bartender about the bar because it looked very old. He told us the story about the bar, bar-back, and flooring. The bar and back is the original used for 140 years. So we could have been having lunch where the Earps, Doc Holliday, or the Cowboys had stood to be served. The flooring was the original inlay flooring. In its day, the hotel rooms on the top floors were considered the finest in the State.
We had a great lunch. Shawna had beer in a huge mug and I had a Sarsaparilla. Of course, all the employees were in costume and the walls were covered in pictures and paintings. They had live entertainment. I left off on taking pictures of the paintings and pictures that were less than family friendly.
When we walked out, the stagecoach was pulling up and we continued to shop and explore.
The last place on the street was the Bird Cage Theater. This business has some insane history. It was a theater, brothel, and had gambling. The theater opened in 1881 and is exactly as it was when it closed in 1889. It was one of only a few buildings to never be burned from its original construction. Everything even the stage curtain, velvet and wallpaper on the walls, paintings, flooring are just as they were in 1889. The actual Fero card table where Doc Holliday dealt was there. We walked where all the famous people of Tombstone had walked and sometimes died. Bullet holes are found in the wood all over the place. They claimed to have the “best” soiled doves and you can guess what they did in the rooms on the balcony level. The girls would look down from their velvet lined rooms overlooking the theater to coax up men from below. This is the place where the phrase “she is only a bird in a gilded cage” came from.
Around the theater floor and the stage are several displays of original Tombstone items which included personal items of the Earps and Doc Holliday along with other interesting things.
On the stage was the burial coach used for the funerals of those whose families could afford its use.
Below the stage was the an area where poker was played, changing rooms for the stage performers and the wine cellar. They offered the highest stakes gambling in town at these poker tables. When the theater closed, everything was left as you see here including the bottles on the bar. Amazing!
After the tour of the Theater, we walked back along Allen street headed for the 5th wheel.
Along the way, we passed the entrance to the Good Enough Mine. The person selling tickets said if we wanted to go on a tour we were just in time. We paid for tickets got our hardhats and signed the waver.
The tour took us down below the town and even had some tunnels that passed under where we were camping.
The mine is still filled with silver ore. We were given a tour through all the safe areas of the mine and included a long staircase that took us 100 feet below the surface or the first level.
High grade silver ore is still to be seen in the mine. The mine had produced an estimated amount that is over $1 billion in today's dollars.
The mine was in operation until it was closed and that only happened because the price of silver is not high enough to make operation profitable. The mine still has plenty of ore and may be restarted as soon as the price of silver rises.
We were thirsty and headed back to town. Along the way, we met Lisa who does a night time walking tour. Our plan is to return tonight for the tour.
Doc Holiday's Salon looked inviting so we stopped in for a drink. We were the only tourists everyone else was a local. It was nice to just sit and relax.
Just before our night time walking tour, we stopped at the "World's Largest Rosebush".
Originally the bush was planted in the courtyard of a small hotel. The down stair rooms had been converted into a museum of items collected for display.
A huge collection of locks was very impressive. There was a memorial to J.H. Macia who flew with the Doolittle bombing of Tokyo.
There were even Roman bottles dated to between 100-300 AD.
After the museum, we walked out to the courtyard where the rose bush was just starting to put on leaves.
The White Lady Banksia Rose was planted in 1885 and now grows on a horizontal trellis that covers 9,000 square feet. The trunk is over 12 feet around at the base. It was amazing.
The rose bush was full of birds starting nests. Leaves were just starting to come out. Soon the entire bush would be covered by small flowers. It would be worth the trip just to see that.
After a quick dinner at the 5th wheel, we walked back up for our night time walking tour of Tombstone.
The last thing we did in Tombstone was to take a walking tour and Lisa was incredibly informative. As we walked the street this evening, she pointed out the buildings and history.
The history of the “OK Coral Gunfight” we see in movies is very different from reality. The Cowboys, the name a gang gave themselves, had been terrorizing Tombstone, rustling cattle, robbing banks and stagecoaches. They had killed the previous town sheriff and threatened to kill the Earps who were the new town marshals.
The Earps knew that the gang was at the coral and on their way there had stopped off to buy more ammo. Then they walked down to Fremont street where the alley and empty lot that was used when people left the OK coral. When the two groups confronted each other, the Cowboys were in the lot at the edge of the street and the Earps were in the street. 30 shots were fired in 30 seconds. At the end of the shootout, all but two of the Cowboys were fatally shot. Two of the Earps had been shot though none fatally.
The bank in Tombstone was one of the best protected in the country. They had to be because the Cowboys would try to rob the bank several times each year. Sometimes more than once in a week. They were never successful. It was one of the few bank vaults that required multiple people with keys to unlock..
We were shown so many locations were gunfights took place. It is not surprising as Tombstone was known as one of the most dangerous places in the country.
It was a great tour and we really enjoyed what we learned about Tombstone but there is far to much to include here.
We have enjoyed our time in Tombstone but need to head back to Pensacola.
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