The May, 1889 issue of the San Diego based magazine, The Golden Era, featured an in depth article on Tombstone and Cochise County that can serve today as an example of the steadfast belief of Tombstone's early pioneers that this special town, among all others of mining camp fame, would prove to be immune from the destiny that met most camps of that day. Tombstone's prosperous future was never doubted, even when outside forces, whether they be from man or nature, forced their influence upon the growing camp, threatening to place a literal tombstone upon its eventual status of ghost town.
The author of this article, J. Rowland Hill, spoke of a Tombstone whose beginnings were fraught with one catastrophe or near disaster after another and writes from the hindsight view of the first eleven years of Tombstone's infancy. His words are honest, captivating and insightful and a virtual tour into this town's history not riddled with the infamy of a thirty second gunfight, but of the trials and tribulations of starting up not only a mining camp but also a soon to be cosmopolitan community.
Much can be learned of Tombstone's history from his words. And though there are too many words to print in its entirety we will aim to share with you in this and the next two issues the essence of his article, as written, while focusing on the spirit of unity and community this town put forth, to not only survive, but endure and thrive.
TOMBSTONE - THE NAME
The name adopted by this city, under which to run its corporate municipal government, is by some persons considered unfortunate, on account of alleged repulsive associations connected with the term; but it is evident that the majority of its citizens are satisfied with the name, even though a few persons at a distance have sought to cast a stigma upon the growth and activity of the place, and have affected both criticism and witticism in the matter, neither of which have served any good purpose; nor can it be said that they have wrought any injury to the material prosperity of the city. Even in point of association, the name cannot be considered repellant in every aspect of the case. It carries with it a sense of permanency, a sense of confidence that beneath it lies that which we all hold dear. When in February, 1878, the energy and perseverance of F. E. Schieffelin were rewarded by the discovery of the fabulously rich mineral deposits in this vicinity and he, in memory of the doleful predictions of his companions at Huachuca, saw fit to place the name of Tombstone upon the district, no doubt the emotions which throbbed in his bosom, were the reverse of those associated with the "gloomy and peculiar" as a writer has expressed it.
The name, then applied to this city and the vast mineral deposits beneath and around it, we may consider, not in a gloomy or transitory sense, but as marking a region whose deep and extensive mineral wealth is beyond a cavil. From the best available data at hand it is believed that the mines of this district have yielded between $25,000,000 and $30,000,000---a pretty good showing for a camp whose ledges have only been worked for eleven years, and fully half of that time being only indifferently worked.
TOMBSTONE - MINING AND MILLING
The Tombstone Mill and Mining Co. is the pioneer company of this district. Its operations have never been suspended since their commencement in 1878, excepting a few months during the strike of 1884 – although the number of men now employed is only about 60, owing to the low price of silver and the low grades of its ores. The Gird mill on 20 stamps, located at Charleston, on the San Pedro river are both idle; also the Girard mill of 20 stamps, at Tombstone.
Water has been reached at but one point on its property, which is on the West Side shaft No.3, the depth being thoroughly opened above water level – the Lucky Cuss and the West Side-Sulphuret. The ore, of shipping grade, is sent to the El Paso (Texas) smelter. The coinage value of its gold and silver yield for the year ending March 31, 1889, was $173,576.
To facilitate and render more profitable the working of these vast deposits, the company now has in course of erection (nearly finished) a complete silver or amalgamated mill, with a capacity sufficient to handle thirty tons of ore daily. Already no less than 327 tons of heavy castings and machinery are on the ground and partially placed in position. These figures give to outsiders at least some idea of the immense preparations being made in order to develop the hidden treasures of this vicinity, though this is but one of the numerous companies that have expended their thousands in the district, some of whom exchanged their thousand for millions. At the same time such enterprises as this shows, even in times of comparative quietude, the confidence which exists as to future development.
TOMBSTONE - THE TOWN
The city of Tombstone sprang into existence as from the touch of some fabled eastern genie; new camps were established; vast herds of cattle were brought in, and the spring of 1881, when the region was given a separate political existence, Cochise was the most thriving county in the territory. The population of the county, within a year thereafter, ran up to 9650, nearly seven-tenths of which was within the limits of the city.
Tombstone is a city of no mean significance, and possesses a municipal standing that would be hard to excel, taking into consideration its youth and untoward circumstances. Nothing but a confidence and courage born of faith in her mineral resources could have withstood the test with a like degree of energy and perseverance on the part of her citizens. Harassed by the merciless Apache in early days, when the menace against life and property was so great and constant as to drive the refugees to this camp for protection which they barely possess for themselves, the citizens joined hand to hand and beat back the wily foe. Isolation from populous cities, from smelters and from railways to carry the product of the mines – all these and many other adverse circumstances were against the growth of prosperity of the city. Then, again, when the larger mines were preparing to handle the water – much of the richness being below water level – by some sad fatality the pumping apparatus of a leading company was destroyed by fire, the same having been placed in position at a cost of nearly $300,000. All these counter-influences have been against the growth of the city; and for four years this partial paralysis to some extent crippled the energies of the citizens. Notwithstanding all this, the financial situation is very creditable.
By careful management and a wise financial policy, the debt of the city, which had reached a maximum of about $35,000 some years ago, is now reduced to $11,000; while the valuation of public property is placed at not less than $55,000. This comprises a fine, capacious City Hall building, city water works, two engine houses, four hose carriages, two thousand feet of the best rubber hose, fire hydrants and all needed facilities for the rapid extinguishment of fires. No city can boast better water, and it is doubtful whether any city of five times the population of Tombstone ever possessed as costly and permanent a water service as will be seen elsewhere in this number of the Golden Era.
The city government is constituted as follows: Mayor, Charles N. Thomas (now serving his third term); Councilmen – Alex Durward, Jos. Lippert, Harry Campbell and John Prindeville; chief of Police, D.W. Gage; Treasurer, Oliver Trevillian; City Attorney, Geo. W. Swain; Auditor and Recorder, Nat Hawks; City Assessor, J.C. Weiser. The city government is run at an expense of about $10,000 annually. The total amount of real and personal property within the city is estimated to be worth about two million though for taxation purposes it is not placed at so high a figure, as the authorities have wisely considered it best not to impose burdensome taxes on a comparatively quiet time of business.
The population of the city increased very rapidly, running up to 7,000 and in an American town, the citizens being largely native born, with a sprinkling of the better class of the best nationalities. Although at present, owing to these mining drawbacks, the population is below figures named, it is more of a crystallized community and possesses staying qualities which are commendable and which will sooner or later achieve success financially and numerically. The order and good behavior are, to all appearances, equal to that of any community of any like size.
However, the time cannot be far distant when a return of better times will be witnessed. It is not in the nature of things that this abnormal state of affairs should last. The fact that wealthy mining corporations can wait complacently, at an expense of twenty to thirty thousand dollars annually for lying idle, when they know that the ore-body is incalculably rich, is preposterous and yet significant. It reminds me of the design used by many banking institutions in which a watch dog is represented as lying at the door of the money vault. He does not molest the safe or its contents, nor allow others to do it; he can not handle the key, while those wealthy mine owners do hold the key to the situation and by a single turn can liberate millions, and start the wheels of prosperity. Some valuable mining properties, however, are not wholly at the mercy of the few autocrats whose grasps is only too great and whose purpose is evidently to absorb the whole if possible. Considerable is being done by these new enterprises, and it is expected that gradually there will be a decided improvement in the business of the camp, which will in turn bring about a better feeling generally. As it is, some 20 delivery wagons are kept constantly running, exclusive of milk, lumber, vegetable and laundry teams.
TO BE CONTINUED