Tombstone, Arizona Territory

TOMBSTONE, ARIZONA TERRITORYTOMBSTONE, ARIZONA TERRITORY. As the story goes, Ed Schieffelin, while prospecting in southeast Arizona, was told that all he would be able to find would be his tombstone. What Schieffelin found was an area that ended up producing $30 million in silver. On September 3, 1877, he recorded his claim, jokingly naming it the Tombstone Mine.
           
Buildings started springing up overnight. But Tombstone was different. By the end of 1877, the heyday of the cattle towns was all but over. Texas Rangers were chasing all the bad guys out of Texas. And Pat Garrett was wrapping up things in New Mexico. So, Tombstone became the last hurrah for many a desperado. With a town of miners, claim jumpers, con artists, soiled doves, gunmen and gamblers, it wasn’t surprising that there seemed to be at least one killing a day. The Tombstone Epitaph reported these killings in a special column called “Death’s Doings”.
               
Wells Spicer in an early letter said that Tombstone had two dance halls, a dozen gambling places and more than 20 saloons. But, he wrote, “Still there is hope, for I know of two Bibles in town.”
 
Three years after Schieffelin filed his claim; Tombstone had about five hundred buildings, with more than a hundred selling hard liquor, and about half of those houses of ill repute.
TOMBSTONE, ARIZONA TERRITORY
 
Tombstone’s reputation even became a concern of President Chester Arthur. Tombstone survived disastrous fires in 1881 and 1882. But in 1886, when water flooded the mines, the population began to shrink. But, in the spirit of a town too tough to die, Tombstone, Arizona remains today the number one place that Old West enthusiasts want to go.

How Tombstone, Arizona Was Named

Ed Schieffelin - how Tombstone, Arizona was named.On April 1, 1877, a young prospector named Ed Schieffelin arrived at Fort Yachuca in southern Arizona. He told the soldiers he was going into Apache country and trying his hand at prospecting. They told him that the only thing he would find there would be his tombstone. That is how Tombstone, Arizona was named.
 
By October he had run out of supplies and money. Not willing to give up, he kept looking, and was finally rewarded with the discovery of a silver vein 7 inches wide by 50 feet long. Ed Schieffelin named his mine the “Lucky Cuss.” Remembering the remarks of the soldiers that all he would find would be his tombstone, Ed, along with his brother Al, founded the Tombstone Mining District.    
 
As soon as the word got out of a silver strike, prospectors came from everywhere. Next came the gamblers and ladies of the evening. Within 3 years the town comprised of almost 500 buildings, with more than 100 of them selling liquor, and half of these places were “houses of ill fame.”  
 
Tombstone did have two newspapers and a hall built to attract legitimate theatrical endeavors. There were also churches and schools that incidentally, were supported by a tax on the gambling halls and houses of ill repute.
 
Nine years after that first discovery of silver, water flooded the mines, and the population of Tombstone dwindled down to a few hardy souls. But, during that short period, the people who came through Tombstone read like a who’s who of the Old West. This was not only because of the attraction of silver, but the rest of the west was settling down, and this desert town in the Arizona Territory was the last hurrah for wild men looking for excitement.  

David Neagle – Marshall of Tombstone

David NeagleOn July 15, 1880 David Neagle arrived in Tombstone, Arizona. If he had had the ability to see the future, he would probability have continued on down the road.       
 
 David had operated a mine in the past, and knowing many of the miners, thought he could earn a living in that business in Tombstone. But that wasn’t the direction fate took him. He signed on as county deputy sheriff under Sheriff Behan where he perused stage robbers and stock rustlers… one time alongside Wyatt and Morgan Earp.           
 
David Neagle was a man “credited with being one of the fastest pistol shots in the West, and of indisputable courage,” and was liked by both the Democrats and Republicans. 
 
After the O. K. Corral shootout and the ambush shooting of Virgil Earp, Neagle decided to run for town marshal as an independent and won. This was during a time when the conflict between the Earps and the Clantons, and the Republicans and the Democrats was at its worst. But Neagle serving both as the town marshal and deputy county sheriff was liked by everyone, yet not quite trusted by anyone because he seldom took sides.  
 
When County Sheriff Behan decided not to run for another term, Neagle, again as an independent, decided to run for county sheriff. But this time he was branded as a Republican friend of the Earps, which resulted in his being defeated. It also resulted in the Democrat vote being split, and a Republican elected.  
        
By now Neagle was wearing thin on everyone. So David quietly served out his term as town marshal, left Tombstone, and headed for Montana. 
 
David Neagle is a good example of how, in a polarizing situation, when you want to be everyone’s friend, you sometimes end up being no one’s friend. 

Murdered on the Streets of TombstoneMurdered on the Streets of Tombstone, Joyce Aros, Goose Flats Publishing, (520) 457-3884, $26.99, Paper. 340 pages, Author’s Notes, Photos, Illustrations, Bibliography, Index.

Countess books, movies, magazine articles, radio programs and internet chat rooms have hashed and re-hashed the history of Tombstone, Arizona “The Town Too Tough To Die.”  The most important incident triggering all the excitement was a shootout that came to be known as “The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.”

So along comes Hollywood to tell about a huge band of outlaws and cattle rustlers known as “The Cowboys” who are terrorizing Cochise County.  But not to worry, in order to rid the Territory of these villainous, snaggle-toothed ruffians, the illustrious Earp boys arrive from Kansas to settle their hash.

And settle it they did!  On a cold and windy day in late October, 1881, things came to a head and when the smoke cleared, brothers Frank and Tom McLaury, and their young pal Billy Clanton lay dead in the street behind the O.K. Corral.

One hundred and thirty years later, why are we still worrying about it?  Everybody knows (Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, Hugh O’Brien, and Rhonda Fleming told us) the Earps were the good-guy heroes, and the three dead cowboys had it coming.

But Wait!  Not so fast!  There is a lot more to the story, and Tombstone writer-researcher Joyce Aros gives us the benefit of her sleuthing.  She has tediously combed through courtroom testimony, oral history on file at the Arizona Historical Society, books, letters, interviews plus a good dose of horse sense to draw her conclusions.

Aros begins her book explaining the circumstances of life in the new Territory, and how the Clantons and the McLaurys fit into all this.  Aros allows the reader to become familiar with these men by putting faces on them.  They were living, breathing human beings who had struggles, hopes and dreams in a new land where hardworking, determined men built their ranches.

The fateful day they came to town, Tom and Frank McLaury had business to finish before heading to Iowa to attend their sister’s wedding.  Meeting with them was their friend Billy Clanton, a nineteen-year-old rancher who was on business of his own that day.

Aros is able to show the Earps were prepared to fight, but the young ranchers were not. Tom McLaury was not even carrying a gun, Frank McLaury was leading his horse, (who takes a horse to a gunfight?) and when confronted by the gun-wielding Earps, Billy Clanton shouted “I don’t want to fight!”  Even so, guns blazed and in less than thirty seconds three men were dead.

Tom, Frank and Billy were not outlaws.  They came to a sad and thunderous end behind a dusty corral on the streets of Tombstone, Arizona where they have been vilified for more than 130 years.  When you turn the last page of this book, the Earps might still be your heroes, but certainly Tom, Frank and Billy will become real people whose lives were taken far too soon.

We still do not know for sure what triggered the deadly hatred the Earps had for these three young ranchers.  However, through this detailed examination in Murdered on the Streets of Tombstone, Joyce Aros has done an incredible job of finally declaring balance to a tragedy that has gone unchallenged far too long. You can decide for yourself by grabbing the book HERE.

Editor’s Note: The reviewer Phyllis Morreale-de la Garza is the author of numerous books about the Old West including The Earp Gamble, published by Silk Label Books, P. 0. Box 700, Unionville, New York 10988 (845) 726-3434. Www.silklabelbooks.com

*Courtesy of Chronicle of the Old West newspaper, for more click HERE.

Tombstone, Az. Sheriff John Behan

John BehanJohn Behan was the sheriff of Cochise County, the county that contained Tombstone, at the time Wyatt Earp was there. He was a friend of the cowboys, the political power at the time. We know of him as a foe of Wyatt. And, the result of movies about the O. K. Corral shootout, we know him as a corrupt lawman. But, just who was John Behan?
John Harris Behan was born in Missouri in 1845. As a young man he went to California, and then to Prescott, Arizona where he became the sheriff of Yavapai County. And, according to locals was trustworthy, brave and intelligent. He even served a couple of terms in the state assembly.
 
When Tombstone was founded Behan moved there. Then in 1881 Tombstone was made the county seat of the newly formed Cochise County, and Behan was appointed the county sheriff. The conflict between Behan and Wyatt Earp was probably more the result of two men displaying their testosterone than a conflict between good and bad.
 
After being voted out of office, Behan became the superintendent of the Territorial State Prison at Yuma, Arizona, the most severe federal prison in the southwest. Later Behan served as a U. S. agent along the Mexican border fighting smuggling. He joined the military during the Mexican-American War. And continuing his service to his country, served as a “secret agent” for the United States in China during the Boxer Rebellion. In 1901, he was living in Willard’s Hotel at 1400 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington D.C.. The census gave his occupation as “Promoter”.
Finally, at the age of 67, on June 7, 1912, after spending most of his life in service to his government, he died in Tucson, Arizona.
 
I believe you can agree John Harris Behan was much more than just a corrupt sheriff who opposed Wyatt Earp.
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