Mesa to Pitt 2015

Mesa to Pitt 2015

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Two days in Tombstone March 22-23

March 22 and 23..... We now know more than I ever thought we would know about the history of Tombstone. My previous knowledge of the history around here amounted to the 1993 movie, 'Tombstone' with Kurt Russell, and the names Wyatt Earp, Johnny Ringo, Bat Masterson, Doc Holliday, and a few others from watching westerns as a kid. It turns out that the history here is fascinating, and amongst the speculation, conflicting stories, Hollywood myths, and other uncertainties, there is a lot of factual history here. We started out with a 'factual reinactment' of a few of the famous shootings, as opposed to the 'entertainment' shoot outs, then we visited the actual OK Corral where the Shootout at the OK Corral occurred, we went into the old silver mine that is under the town of Tombstone, we visited the Birdcage Theater, which is the sight of much gambling, tradings in the worlds oldest profession, and world class entertainment for the time, we drank and ate at two of the most famous saloons (the Crystal Palace and Big Nosed Kate's, which was the Grand Hotel back in the day, we studied legal findings at the  former Cochise County Courthouse, and visited Boot Hill, the famous cemetery where all the burials of the day occurred. All the while, the previously mentioned movie 'Tombstone' was rolling at several different locations, so we could identify the local scenery, as well as the filming we recognized from being at the Old Tuscon Studios just a few days ago.
Of course, the Shootout at the OK Corral was the centerpiece of most of the historical and tourist information. Supposedly Wyatt Earp and his two brothers, and their buddy Doc Holliday, who represented the faction that wanted to clean up the town (rich, eastern Republicans who saw dollar signs and wanted order to protect them), had philosophical differences with the 'Cowboys,' who were alleged democrats,  who wore red sashes and enjoyed the freedom, gambling, prostitution, gun play, and general unruliness that the money and prosperity of the area during the silver boom. Even though the Earps were the 'good guys', they had rivalries with the Sheriff Behan, that involved the same women, as well the use of force to beat the 'bad guys,' or the Cowboys, led by the Clantons and McLaurys. When the confrontation came to a head at the OK Corral, there are some stories that say some of the cowboys were not armed and were leaving town, other stories say that they were stalking the Earp brothers. Either way, the Earps and Doc Holiday, were the aggressors, and when the shooting was done, two Earp brothers, Morgan, and Virgil, were wounded, and three of the five cowboys were dead. The gunfight lasted about thirty seconds, with about 30 rounds being fired. The Earps were actually brought up on murder charges by the sheriff, but they were exonerated. That's where Johnny Ringo comes in. Two of the Earp brothers were later ambushed, one being shot in the back while playing pool, and they think, Ringo, the hired gun, had a hand in it. Ringo was found later in Colorado dead, and stuck in the crotch of a tree. Doc Holiday died shortly after of tuberculosis, which is the reason he came to Tombstone, thinking the dry weather would help the symptoms, and Wyatt Earp, who remained silent about the events of the day, died at a ripe old age in 1929. 
That little story just touches the tip of all the deaths over card games, including the one that went on for eight years in the basement of the Bird Cage Theater, the suicides of the drug addicted ladies of the night, the drunken saloon killings, the fights over the silver that was coming out of the mines, and the fact that everyone was always drunk and carrying a gun. At the peak of the towns prosperity, there were 106 saloons in a three square block area, and over 30 ill fame houses that were licensed by the town of Tombstone and were perfectly legal. 
A little bit about the Bird Cage Theatre, which was named after the lofts above the main floor where the 'soiled doves' serviced their patrons, including the dumb waiters where drinks and food were sent up to the cages. A can can show or some type of entertainment went on 24 hours a day, because the silver mines worked 24 hour shifts. Downstairs, the Faro game, which is now illegal because the odds so favored the dealers, could go on for eight years nonstop, because of the shift workers buying in and out. The neat thing about the Bird Cage, was that it was shuttered after the boom was over, and left untouched for over fifty years, before being reopened as a historical sight. The place was never remodeled, upgraded, or changed at all. The original curtains still hang, the original wall paper is being held on by plexiglass, and the card games sit as they were left, still on the dirt floors. You can see the gunshots in the ceiling and walls, and the whole place is pretty remarkable. 
Big Nose Kate's, the saloon that was the Crown Hotel, has a room in the basement where a guy lived, and tunneled straight down into the silver mine under the town, and stole silver out of the mine between shifts for his own benefit. This same saloon provided one of the most interesting evenings Pam and I have had on our trip. A live band rocked the joint on Saturday night, and everyone was in period dress and dancing in the isles and on the tables, and a very good time was had by all. Pam and I were the only people in there who could blow less than a 2.0, and the whiskey and ginger ales ( they made their own ginger ale that tasted much stronger than Canada Dry) that Pam and I had were only three bucks apiece. On the fourth Saturday of every month, is Twilight in Tombstone where everyone was dressed as cowboys and soiled doves (use your imagination) and there were reenactments of gunfights in the streets all evening. Everyone was in the mood, and it was not hard to imagine what it was like there in 1882.


Statue of Wyatt Earp


"Factual" gunfight in Doc Holiday's Saloon.  The gunfight at the OK Corral isn't the only fight that took place.  And most took place in the saloons, not on the streets!

The audience just sat on one side of the saloon while the show was taking place in front of us



Stage coach and wagon rides were going up and down the streets all day long


The OK Corral was actually a feed and livery stable

Actual picture of the 3 cowboys killed at the OK Corral.  There are lots of photos of the Tombstone history.

Reenactment of the shoot out - nobody dead yet!

The Earp brothers
Now there are dead bodies!


Mike and some of his friends!


Actual photo of Geronimo and some of his braves during their surrender

Blacksmith at the OK Corral

Earp brothers and Doc Holiday just hanging out on the street
We toured a silver mine that was at the intersection of these two streets.  They were named after the Good Enough Mine and the Toughnut Mine!

We had to wear helmets down into the mine


Walking down into the mine

This is where a seam of silver went, so that's where they drilled.  Unlike coal that can open up into large areas, silver follows a seam that doesn't get too big.


Bird cages




Good advertising

This hearse took everyone up to Boothill


Faro game that lasted 8 years (not with the same people).  If someone dropped out of the game, someone else replaced them!  The chairs and table are on a dirt floor


This gentleman was just walking down the street!  People really get into dressing up!


Many of the locals have beards and longish hair.  Many just dress like cowboys all of the time.

Soiled dove in red


Seriously, doesn't he look like the real thing???


Pistol packing soiled dove

Shoot out reenactment in the street

This was an old sign that can still apply now days!

Mike trying to look the part in a cowboy duster - the shoes and shorts just don't make it!

Don't mess with this lady!


This Mexican tourist rode in on his motorcycle with a serape hanging off the bike!  He wasn't in a reenactment, he just dressed up to enjoy the day!


That was Tombstone's motto cause it burnt down twice in the 1880's and it was rebuilt both times!

People dressed up and hanging outside the Crystal Palace.

These folks were just out for an evening stroll.  As night fell, we just felt like we were back in time!

Inside the Crystal Palace


Stained glass windows at Big Nose Kate's

Good whiskey and tolerable water!


Our campground owners had a parrot


Sunday, March 23
Today we went to Boothill and then went back in town to check out the courthouse museum and places that we missed on Saturday.


There are 2 rose bushes that date back to the 1880's - they came over from Scotland.  This bush was at the Catholic church where anyone could look at it, and the other is behind a wall at the rose museum and you have to pay to see it.  It was in full bloom and smelled awesome!
The tombstones are wooden and are reproductions of the originals

Theses 3 fellows died at the OK Corral

Not everyone had the same opinion about the fight - some felt it was outright murder

Gonna just let you enjoy the sayings on these tombstones!







At least they were respectful!  


This gentleman founded Tombstone by discovering silver and then he formed this town.
This gentleman and Zeke  posed with me

Monument to Ed Schieffelin - he was not buried on Boothill.  He wanted to be buried out in the hills/desert of Tombstone.

They didn't live long back then, it was a hard life.