is in a name? If you hear the name Chicago you may think of "The
Windy City", say San Francisco and "City By the Bay" is thought
of, New York brings to mind "The Big Apple". Well, say the name
Tombstone and one thinks of many things. It creates images of
gunfights and dusty streets, whiskey and faro games, Wyatt and
Doc, and a plethora of old western movie scenes. But to some,
saying the name Tombstone brings their thoughts to the place they
call home. And mixed in their minds are memories of a hometown
as well as a place that has drawn visitors from all over the world.
Arizona has been titled "The Town Too Tough To Die" and for good
reason as many things have worked against this town still standing.
A town was formed around the area known as Goose Flats shortly
after prospector and scout Ed
Schieffelin discovered a wealth of silver in this area around
1877. He had been warned of only finding his 'tombstone' while
searching for his treasure and thinking this an appropriate name
for this new town site the location soon become known as Tombstone,
Arizona Territory. Well that word can bring to mind thoughts of
death perhaps thinking of the marker set upon a gravesite. Would
the name be a premonition of sorts as many similar towns that
sprung up over a mine claim had and would die
The late 1880's and up to
the turn of the century found the silver mining industry failing
as efforts to remove the seeping water that found its way into
each mineshaft failed. Miners were disgruntled and soon found
new employment in the copper mines of Bisbee and other new mining
towns. Families were moving away and the town was soon becoming
its predetermined status, a ghost town. In 1929 a vote brought
about yet another major change for this town. Bisbee was now to
be the new county seat. All official offices were to be relocated
some 25 miles away creating still another link to the town's preordained
eventual death. Was not the name Tombstone becoming more and more
appropriate for a dead town?
And yet, many residents continued
to stay on here. Homes were still occupied and residents still
met at the town hall for the political banter. Flour and coffee
as well as other dry goods would have been purchased from the
local market perhaps located on Allen Street. The ladies auxiliaries
would have met and box lunch socials would have been prepared
and anticipated. The town did not die.
1929 also brought about a new term in Tombstone's history. That
word is Helldorado. It brought about a time when people came together
to bring life to a dying town. An event would be planned that
would bring folks to this small spot on the map. A spot where
Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday are synonymous with legends and lore.
People began coming to Tombstone to relive the past and walk where
Wyatt and Doc had walked. They began begging for more of this
history to be known and books were soon written about this town
with a name meant for death. Soon, with the advent of motion pictures,
movies were made with heroes and heroines depicting the Wild West
life of Tombstone Arizona Territory. More and more people wanted
to visit this legendary town. The town was tough. It had not died.
highway was built to this small town. Highway 80 left the 86 at
Benson and came through the rugged and wash ridden land toward
Tombstone. Soon a paved road brought the many visitors to this
part of Arizona. A Greyhound Bus Station would inevitably be required
as this town was a stop along the route traveled by many on their
way to their destinations like Los Angeles or El Paso. The corner
of 5th and Allen would be that bus stop. The Crystal Palace offered
a refreshing stop for those departing the bus, even if just for
a short stop over. What a thrill when one could say, "I've been
to Tombstone and have had a drink at the world famous Crystal
Services were needed to carry
on a life in Tombstone that could sustain its growing population.
Movie theaters, soda fountains, drug stores, dry cleaners, lumber
and hardware stores and markets were what occupied the buildings
on Allen Street. Tombstone Union High School had been built where
once cribs of prostitution occupied the east end of Allen Street.
Students from all around Cochise County were educated here and
prepared for perhaps college life in the big city of Tempe, Arizona.
The Army Base, Fort Huachuca
was nearby and often brought not only the men on leave to our
town for some livelihood and refreshment but also brought many
a family to live in our town. Housing was sparse near the Fort
and being the closest town with amenities, Tombstone became home
to many military families. The town was still needed. The town
was still tough.
Arizona was rapidly becoming
known as the destination for the asthmatic and severely allergic
population. The dry and arid climate along with the lack of the
offending vegetation brought many easterners to our state. Tombstone
would shortly become known as the town for Health, History and
Homes and apartments were
being built to accommodate the influx of military families as
well as those seeking better health. Clinics were formed in various
buildings and homes, each with a cure for the arthritic or asthmatic.
Motels sprung up along the highway to accommodate the travelers,
tourists and part-time or winter residents. And the ever-present
"filling stations" were dotted along Allen Street that was then
the highway. One could even purchase an automobile at that time
in Tombstone. And the corner of 4th and Allen housed the County
Hospital where many a baby was born.
Life was good in Tombstone.
Saturday afternoons could be spent at the Crystal Theater watching
a double feature. Grocery shopping, dropping off one's dry cleaning,
picking up the pharmacy needs, or perhaps seeking refreshment
at the soda fountain would have occupied one's days then. This
was no ghost town. In fact, it was home to many, many families
who were living in "The Town Too Tough To Die".
I did not live in Tombstone
then. But I do know that today the highway has by-passed Allen
Street. We do not have a hospital in town. There is no longer
the Crystal Theater or the corner drug store with a soda fountain.
The Greyhound Bus does not come through Tombstone or even travels
Highway 80 any longer. The filling stations have been replaced
with eateries or banking buildings and the used car lots now offer
parking for the many visitors to our town. The buildings where
markets, sundries and supply stores and even dry cleaners once
occupied and gave life to this little town have been replaced
with a wealth of shops that help create the Tombstone we know
The town of Tombstone is
still here. Even though it no longer is the epicenter of Cochise
County, it is still home to many wonderful families that love
this little spot on the map of Arizona. It continues to draw old
west fantasy seekers from all over the world. Books and movies
are still being written and produced about this town and its historic
inhabitants. And many, many families look forward to their vacations
where historic buildings still stand as monuments to the fact
that this town that has a name synonymous with death has outlived
its destiny and will forever be the town too tough to die.