It required a special “Man of God” to minister to wild frontier towns.  There were few towns as wild as Tombstone, Arizona…and there were few ministers who were capable of bringing God to a town like Tombstone than Reverend Peabody.

In 1882, Tombstone, Arizona was a wild frontier town.  Of every three downtown businesses, two were either saloons or gambling dens.  At this time, Tombstone had approximately 4,000 residents.  Only a few citizens were interested in attending church.  Churches were usually in a tent.  And, the sound of the honky-tonk pianos and the nearby saloons would often drown out the minister.

All of this changed on January 28, 1882 when Reverend Endicott Peabody arrived in town.  Although Reverend Peabody was an Episcopal Minister educated back east and in England, he wasn’t a typical minister.  He weighed around 200 pounds, enjoyed boxing and baseball, and worked out every day.  As one contemporary said, “He had muscles of iron.”  While not tending to his perish, Peabody umpired baseball games, and refereed boxing matches.

The Episcopal women had been holding raffles for the building fund, and their husbands were working on the church.  Progress was slow.  Peabody, not one to be easily intimidated, solicited donations on both sides of Tombstone’s “Dead Line.”

He went into a hotel casino; walked up to a high-stakes poker game; introduced himself; and asked for a donation for the church.  One player handed over $150 in chips, and told everyone else to do the same.  The local musical society put on the opera H.M.S. Pinafore with the proceeds going to the church building fund.  It raised $250 because saloons bought a lot of tickets that were never used.

Six months after Reverend Peabody’s arrival, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church was completed.  Right after its completion, Peabody went back to Massachusetts.  St. Paul’s is still in Tombstone, and is one of Arizona’s oldest Protestant churches.

Filed under: Old West History

Like this post? Subscribe to my RSS feed and get loads more!