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Tombstone is More Than a Title From a Movie!

Ed Schieffelin

Ed Schieffelin 2

In 1877, the City of Tombstone was founded by Ed Schieffelin. At the time, there was a scouting voyage in Tombstone against the Chiricahua (chir-i-cow-uh) Apaches. Ed was part of this mission and was staying at a place called Camp Huachuca (wa-chu-ka) . During his stay, he would leave the camp to look for rocks within the wilderness despite the fact that fellow soldiers at his camp warned him not to.

The soldiers told him that he wouldn’t find stones out in the wilderness and would only eventually find his own tombstone. Fortunately, for Ed, he did not find his tombstone, but he did find something: silver.

Taking the advice his fellow soldiers gave him, his very first mine was named The Tombstone.

Word quickly spread about his silver strike. It wasn’t long before homesteaders, cowboys, speculators, prospectors, lawyers, business people and gunmen headed to the area. Known as Goose Flats back then, a town site was situated near the mines in 1879 and was named Tombstone due to the first claim of silver mining by Ed Schiefflelin.

The popular in Tombstone increased to approximately 7,500 by the mid-1880s. However, this figure only consisted of the white males over the age of 21 that were registered vote. The figure that consists of women, children and other ethnicities, the population was at least 15,000 and possibly as much as 20,000. Tombstone was considered to be between San Francisco and St. Louis as the fastest populating city. Tombstone was home to more than 100 saloons, a multitude of eateries, a huge red-light district, a larger popular of Chinese, newspapers, churches, schools, and one of the original Arizona community swimming pools, which is still being used today.

The Schieffelin Hall

“Respectable” individuals in the town went to Schieffelin Hall for entertainment. In June of 1881, the Schieffelin Hall was opened and built by Al, the brother of Ed Schieffelin.

It was used as more than a theater, as it was also a recital hall as well as a meeting venue for citizens of Tombstone. In the Southwest U.S., it is this building that is considered the largest adobe structure standing.

Wyatt and Morgan Earp were both at a performance at the Schieffelin Hall when Morgan was shot dead by the bullet of an assassin. This building is still used today by civic groups and city government.

Tombstone Fire

Downtown Tombstone after 1882 fire destroyed the town's business corridor for the second time in two years.

On June 22, 1881 there was two large fires that went through the city. Reportedly, one of the fires was at the Arcade Saloon and began when a whiskey barrel was ignited by a cigar. The fire, which occurred in June of 1881, destroyed more than 60 downtown businesses. The town was able to rebuild and continue to grow.

However, just short of a year later on May 26, 1882, Tombstone's second great fire started in the restroom of the Tivoli Saloon, on the south side of Allen Street, between Fourth and Fifth. The damages from this great blaze were estimated at $500,000; almost three times the amount of the first fire on June 22, 1881.

Boothill Graveyard

Boothill Graveyard was also a huge part of Tombstone. Founded in 1879, Boothill Graveyard was used until the new cemetery – New Tombstone City Cemetery – opened in 1884. After the new cemetery opened and began being used, Boothill Graveyard was called “The Old Cemetery.” The newer cemetery is still being used today. Stories say that Boothill received its name from the fact that the individuals there had died unexpectedly or violently and were buried boots intact. However, Boothill was in fact named after the pioneer cemetery in Dodge City hopefully helping tourism in the late 1920s. Many individuals from Tombstone are in this cemetery, including victims from a shootout that took place in 1881 between the Cowboys and Earps on Fremont Street. For years, though, the cemetery was neglected. It was taken over by the desert and gravestones were removed by vandals. Some began to clean up The Old Cemetery in the 1920s and doing research so that the grave markers could be properly replaced.


O.K. Corral

In a Fateful 30 Seconds ...

On the cold afternoon of October 26, 1881, four men in long black coats strode purposefully down the dusty Fremont Street. Around the corner, in a narrow vacant lot behind the O.K. Corral, waited six cowboys. In a fateful thirty seconds, nearly thirty shots were fired at close range. The gunbattle between the Earps – lead by Marshal Virgil Earp, his brothers Wyatt and Morgan and their friend, Doc Holliday – and the Clanton-McLaury gang left Billy Clanton and the McLaury brothers dead and Virgil, Morgan, and Doc wounded.

How the O.K. Corral Got Its Name 

(Text taken from the historic display in the O.K. Corral Office Museum.)
The phrase “O.K.”, used to name Tombstone, Arizona’s historic O.K. Corral, had its origins in the Pennsylvania Dutch country of New York State in the mid-1800s. Today, the term appears in many languages, and has become one of the most used phrases in the world. It is even used in computer programs to indicate agreement. Not bad for an idiomatic expression that is over 150 years old and almost disappeared from use.
Originally spelled with periods, this term outlived most similar abbreviations of the era owing to its use in President Martin Van Buren’s 1839 campaign for reelection. During the presidential campaign, candidate Martin Van Buren was supported by a political club in his home town of Old Kinderhook originally called the “Oll Korrect” club. The name was later changed to “Old Kinderhook” and then shortened to “O.K.”. Van Buren was an O.K. Club member, and his supporters used the term as a general descriptive term for their candidate who they saw as “above average” or “outstanding”. The abbreviation proved eminently suitable for political slogans and campaign pins, although Van Buren lost the election.
During the 1830s there was a humoristic fashion in Boston newspapers to reduce a phrase to initials and supply an explanation in parentheses. Sometimes the abbreviations were deliberately misspelled to add to the humor. Opposition newspapers used O.K. in March 1839 as an abbreviation for all correct, the joke being that neither the O nor the K was correct.
Here is how one unhappy opposition newspaper of the time described Van Buren’s O.K. campaign pins:
“frightful letters …… significant of the birth-place of Martin Van Buren, Old Kinderhook, as also the rallying word of the Democracy of the late election, ”all correct” …. Those who wear them should bear in mind that it will require their most strenuous exertions …… to make all things O.K.”
The term then seems to have largely disappeared from use until some time after the Civil War. Eventually it came back into general use, and was thus chosen by John Montgomery to describe his “O.K. Corral, Livery and Feed Stable” which he founded in Tombstone, Arizona in February, 1879.
How should O.K. be written? John Montgomery always used “O.K.” on his Corral’s 1880s signs. Today, however, there are many versions: two capital letters without periods, two capital letters with periods, o-k-a-y, or two small letters with periods. There is also the question of what part of speech O.K. represents: a noun, a verb, an interjection, a complete sentence, or part of another sentence? In fact, the term “O.K.” goes beyond the boundaries of any single grammatical category to encompass a huge range of expressions.

Tombstone Courthouse State Park

Cochise County was created by a vote of the citizens in 1881 with Tombstone serving as its county seat.  The fire of 1881 destroyed the first courthouse in Tombstone. 

When the new Mining Exchange Building was completed, Tombstone officials chose the first floor as the new Courtroom as they were looking for something as fire resistant as adobe.   The Earp/Holliday hearing about the gunfight as held there on Fremont Street in late 1881.   However plans were underway to build a new permanent Courthouse.  A kiln was built and Chinese brink makers were brought to Tombstone.  The cornerstone as laid on August 11, 1882 with great ceremony.   “Offerings were deposited in a cavity beneath the cornerstone: coins, cigars, specimens of ore, poems and essays.”  The imposing building was completed in 1883. 

The two-story courthouse, designed in the Victorian style, was constructed of red brick in 1882. The courthouse, a splendid example of territorial architecture, continued to serve as a county facility until 1931 when the county seat was moved to Bisbee.

The City of Tombstone leased the courthouse building until the County transferred it to the City on January 5, 1942.


The City leased the building to the Tombstone Restoration Commission.  In 1952, the Tombstone Restoration Commission began fundraising efforts to restore and repair the old Courthouse.  By 1957, the first floor was finished and necessary repairs done on the second floor and the Restoration Commission moved their museum in with some rooms designated for community use.  In 1958 the Restoration Commission began efforts to turn the Courthouse into a state supported and funded museum for completion of the second floor and to ensure the building would be cared for and maintained. 

Mrs. Edna Landin, President of the Tombstone Restoration Commission, brought the proposal of making the Tombstone Courthouse a State Park to the attention of the State Parks Board shortly after the legislation passed creating Arizona State Parks. In April of 1958, Mrs. Landin and several members of the Tombstone Restoration Commission attended a meeting of the Parks Board in Tubac to advise the Board that the City of Tombstone would donate the property, if the Parks Board accepted it as a State Park.

The State Parks Board tentatively accepted the Tombstone Courthouse as a State Park pending acceptable agreement between the City of Tombstone, the Tombstone Restoration Commission, and the Parks Board. During the process of transferring the property, it was learned that the City of Tombstone did not own the land under the Courthouse as that land had originally been leased to the County for 99 years. The agreement was finalized and the City transferred the courthouse, its contents and the remainder of the 99-year lease on the property to the Board on August 1, 1959. Because of the restoration and rehabilitation work done by the Tombstone Restoration Commission, Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park was ready to open to the public and was Arizona’s first operational State Park. Dell Lamb was the first Park Manager.

The Tombstone Restoration Commission transferred ownership of a lot across the street and east of the Courthouse to the Park Board on April 4, 1960. This lot has been continually been used for visitor parking. The old Law Offices located across the street and north of the Courthouse were acquired by State Parks on January 12, 1973. State Parks negotiated a lease for the property under the Courthouse from the mining company in 1981. The Agency continued to lease the property until it was purchased on January 25, 1994. The last parcel acquired for the Park was the Ed Schieffelin Monument site located 3 miles north and west of the City. This property was donated to State Parks on December 31, 2003.


How Allen Street Got It's Name

John Pie Allen

Allen Street was named for John B. Allen (John Brackett “Pie” Allen).  

John Brackett "Pie" Allen (October 22, 1818 – June 13, 1899) was an American prospector, businessman, and politician. Unsuccessful in his efforts as a prospector, he earned his nickname baking pies for settlers and soldiers in Arizona Territory. His business success made him a prominent territorial citizen and he served three terms in the Arizona Territorial Legislature, two terms as Mayor of Tucson, Arizona Territory, and was appointed Arizona Territorial Treasurer for six years.

John B. Allen was rechristened "Pie" Allen based on his successful Tucson-area based pie business. He came to Arizona in 1857, attempting to make a fortune in gold in Yuma. He eventually came to Tucson and sold dried apple pies to the rough characters of the western town. With his proceeds, he later purchased a large ranch and alfalfa farm in Maricopa Wells and built a fine store in Tombstone. As his fame and fortune grew, he was elected to the Territorial Legislature and as Territorial Treasurer from 1867 to 1872 he balanced the books. As Adjutant General, he became known as "General Pie." He filled two terms as Mayor of Tucson. He was also known for his building projects and concern for forward looking projects.

In 1899, Pie was dying of cancer and many citizens of Tucson hosted a honorary dinner for him. After dinner and pie, Pie was presented with a gift purchased by Zeckendorf and Company. It was understood that the man who had lived in the rough frontier would recognize his fate -- the gift was his already engraved tombstone and it was received well. He died within the month and was buried in a Tucson cemetery. When the city changed its laws and ordered the removal of bodies from cemeteries within the city limits, Pie's remains were not claimed by family members, nor was he buried in one of the fraternal sections. Pie was apparently not moved at all. Tucson archaeologist Homer Thiel says that only his sunken headstone was moved to county sections at the rear of Evergreen Cemetery along with the rest of the unclaimed.

Allen Street - Then and Now

Allen Street, Tombstone AZ in the late 1920s
Allen Street, Tombstone AZ in the late 1920s

Today, 1400+ residents call the city of Tombstone home. The climate is wonderful thanks to the Cochise County’s high desert. Each one of these year-round residents believe in heritage and history preservation of their authentic Wild West Town. 

National Historic District

Periods Of Significance: 1850-1874
Significant Years: 1877, 1881
Periods Of Significance: 1850-1874 Significant Years: 1877, 1881

On July 4, 1961 the Arizona State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) certified Tombstone to be eligible to apply to become a National Historic Landmark.  On that same date the Department of Interior certified that 43 sites across the United States were eligible to become designated National Historic Landmarks.  The City of Tombstone submitted their letter of intent to the Department of Interior on July 17, 1961.   The communication between Tombstone and the the Department of Interior about the date of the designation and the ceremony – it appears the ceremony was October 1, 1962.   And the plaque in Tombstone just indicates the year - 1962.

The Tombstone Historic District was given designation as a National Historic Landmark District on October 1, 1962 by the Department of Interior / National Park Service as "one of the best preserved specimens of the rugged frontier of the 1870s and '80s." National Register Number: 66000171.  (Published date October 15, 1966)

Excerpt from the NPS Document:  

"With great fanfare and celebration, a plaque was unveiled on October 1, 1962 designating Tombstone a National Historical Landmark. Landmark designation represents official recognition that the city is an important part of Western history, and that the community may play an important role in symbolizing that history for future generations.

Each of these accomplishments has added to the credibility of the city as a visitor center by both strengthening the 1880's character and by publicizing the direction of community development. Of course, nearly every newspaper or television item has brought up one or two old stories as a means of introduction. Not that one was really needed. For some reason, ever since its inception. Tombstone has never lacked for general public interest.

Perhaps the Tombstone myth has emerged because people had little to associate with the town after its mines closed,except for the past. As early as the 1920's, accounts of the incident at the O.K. Corral were being republished and interviews were being made with those who had lived in Tombstone during its earliest history. Then came the books, shelves of them.

Somewhere along the way Hollywood "discovered" Tombstone,and an international star was in the making. Television added more glamour to the public's impression by introducing the city's name to millions of viewers every week. The net result was world wide acquaintance with the name of Tombstone."

The Tombstone Courthouse was given designation as a National Register of Historic Places on April 13, 1972 - National Register Number: 72000196.

The Tombstone City Hall was given designation at a National Register of Historic Places on February 1, 1972 - National Register Number: 72000195.

Complete Wiki Listing of all Cochise County, Arizona National Historic Places.

Preserve America Community

Sign Historic Tombstone Preserve America
Preserve America Communities

Preserve America is a federal initiative that encourages and supports community efforts to preserve and enjoy our priceless cultural and natural heritage. The goals of the program include a greater shared knowledge about the nation's past, strengthened regional identities and local pride, increased local participation in preserving the country's cultural and natural heritage assets, and support for the economic vitality of our communities.

Mrs. Laura Bush designated Tombstone, Arizona as a "Preserve American Community" on January 21, 2009.  The Preserve America initiative is a White House effort to encourage and support community efforts to preserve and enjoy America’s priceless cultural and natural heritage. “Sustainable historic preservation is a wise investment in the future, not a cost for maintaining the past. Communities and the nation receive significant economic, educational, and cultural benefits, including heritage tourism, in return for their preservation efforts.”

Preserve America - Tombstone Arizona 


Detailed information on all aspects of this initiative can be found at