Tombstone 1882

Tombstone 1882

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Tombstone 1882 was a thriving active town. Its initial attraction was silver mining. We found out that our house here in town was actually was built over an 1882 silver claim called the California Mine!

map locates every mining claim that was registered in Tombstone. With all that, can you imagine the population here in Tombstone in 1882? Plus the support services that went along with it!

Many mining towns arose in the Old West. Let's take a step back!

When you think about its dawn, its origins - Tombstone Arizona History shows us how it began as a mining town. We'll see what was happening around that time. We'll get an appreciation for the times surrounding Tombstone 1882 - and even up to today!

Tombstone District

Tombstone A.T. photograph by C.S. Fly in 1881Tombstone, Arizona Territory, 1881

Before 1882, Tombstone was growing. Ed Schieffelin has credit for its founding and naming, about 1877. Its morose name became the official name on April 5, 1878 - when only a few miners lived there.

But 2 years later many more had moved to Tombstone to seek their fortune in mining. The population in 1880 was over 2000. In 1882 the Chinese population was 245.

Soon to be infamous players were already in the Tombstone District, such as all the Earps and Doc Holliday. The Clantons and the McLaurys were all living in the Tombstone Territory. Johnny Ringo and Curly Bill Brocius had both been in the vicinity for a few years. 

Commerce Available

Tombstone 1882 had hotels, merchants and bath-houses.Hotels & Bath-houses: Needed For Personal Hygiene

By 1880 Tombstone had mercantile stores, butcher shops, assorted clothing, merchandise and food outlets and two furniture stores. Numerous types of eateries included Italian and Chinese restaurants, ice cream parlors, bakeries. Several services were provided such as medical, bathing, haircuts and shaves, and transportation lines.

The Vizina & Cook building at the Northeast corner of Fifth & Allen Streets was a major complex rented out to many merchants. The Safford Hudson & Company Bank located there. Another, the Pima County Bank was located at Fourth & Allen.

Stay In Town...

7 hotels provided for overnight stays. Some still remain to this day! They are true Tombstone 1882 historic town sites:

  • San Jose House - Built November 1879 
  • Russ House - Opened December 18, 1880 It's Story>
Cosmopolitan Hotel in TombstoneThe Cosmopolitan Hotel Under Construction

Some were destroyed in the fires of 1881 and 1882: [Read it Now]

  • Mohave Hotel, becoming Brown's Hotel - Originally built April 1879
  • Rural House - Opened late 1879
  • Grand Hotel* - Opened September 9, 1880
  • Cosmopolitan Hotel - Originally opened late 1879, but burned in the devastating fire of May 1882

*The Allen Street fronting arches of the building were not destroyed and you can still see them now when you walk along Allen Street at the front of J.L.Silver Co., Big Nose Kates, & Madame Mustache 

Out On the Town

Saloons - they were absolutely a part of the life! 18 were available by 1880. Three were considered luxurious:

  • The Alhambra - On Allen Street, between Fourth & Fifth
  • Kelly's Wine Rooms - On Fremont Street
  • The Oriental Saloon - In the Vizina & Cook Building, 5th & Allen
  • Read More about some of these old West Saloons - Here>
Golden Eagle BreweryThe Historic Golden Eagle Brewery

Another very popular saloon was the Golden Eagle Brewery on the Northwest corner of Fifth and Allen. Not opulent! But with a lunch counter serving beer, spirits and meals, it had reasonable prices.

We love the history of this authentic saloon. We love meeting up with locals here! Yes, its historic counterpart is still there today - on the corner of Fifth and Allen - the Crystal Palace Saloon.

And now, let's look at Tombstone 1882 - let's go there!

Tombstone 1882's Importance

Those who lived in town generally aligned with either of the two political parties - somewhat like today!

Either the Republicans or the Democrats. The two local newspapers had leanings to each party. The Tombstone Epitaph's editorials presented the Republican viewpoint. Tombstone's first newspaper, the Nugget, held the Democrat's outlook.

Early Tombstone AZOld Allen Street in Early Tombstone

The organization of Tombstone began by filing a townsite claim in an area known as "Goose Flats." The Tombstone Townsite Company had it recorded with Pima County on April 22, 1879. Lots were sold, a post-office opened, a justice-of-the-peace was appointed and an interim mayor and councilmen were elected. Fred White became Tombstone's Marshall.

The Earps in Town - Begin Earning $$

Virgil Earp was appointed Deputy for the Southeastern area of Arizona Territory. He was in Tombstone by the beginning of December 1879. His wife and brothers James and Wyatt were with him. A number of months later, other Earp brothers arrived in town - Morgan and Warren.

The Earps all began earning their living with mining claims, bartending and gambling. U.S. Marshal Crawley Dake appointed Virgil Earp as Deputy U.S. Marshal on November 27, 1879. Wyatt Earp was named a Deputy on July 27, 1880. But political complications led to Wyatt's holding the post for about four months. He resigned to assist in a political campaign, which he thought would help his own agenda.1 Morgan Earp worked as a deputy for both of his brothers.

The Earp brothersThe Earp Brothers who were involved in the infamous town gunfight.

John H. Behan was selected as Deputy, replacing Wyatt, which caused underlying conflict between the two. Behan also was a bartender, gambler, horse racer, and was seen accompanied by many local women.

1882 Tombstone Sporting Entertainment

In Tombstone 1882 there were other events to keep people entertained besides the local saloons and gambling houses. A number of sporting events kept the residents occupied - that being mostly the young, single males.

  • Cock Fighting - A popular "sporting event" throughout the U.S. in the Old West. The place to be on Sunday afternoons was D.P. Walsh's Cock Pit Saloon, Allen St. between Sixth & Seventh.
  • Rifle Tournaments - Often sponsored by local shooting galleries. For example, Tivoli Gardens had a shooting gallery and sometimes sponsored events. On Nov. 18, 1880 Col. Stock sponsored a popular tournament. Sign-ups included Virgil Earp, George Sims & Charley Bartholomew for a $70 prize.
  • Tombstone Driving Park was quite popular by 1882 - built by John Doling for horse racing, it became a community gathering spot. Well known locals such as Wyatt Earp, John Behan and James Vogan raced their steeds there. Behan often was a judge.
  • The Tombstone Baseball Club was initiated in March 1882 by George Staples Rice, superintendent of the Stonewall Mine. Their permanent name became the Tombstone Base Ball Association. 
  • Boxing & Wrestling matches - Usually in the town's theaters or larger saloons - but sometimes outdoors. Many arranged at Tombstone Driving Park. Wrestling often had a hefty winner's pot, authentic ground rules and a referee. Boxing was less regulated. One match went 34 rounds! Sometimes arranged to settle a grudge!!
  • Track & Field contests - 250 Yard Dashes, and High Jumps were the popular events, usually staged at Tombstone Driving Park.

Social Entertainment

Other entertainment was available in Tombstone 1882. Women needed a means to enter social life. Men desired a way to engage in uplifting socializing along with their wives. Single men and women also needed to properly meet each other in a civilized town, after all!

Such was the case in the growing town of Tombstone, 1882. It was a vibrant, active community, with many businesses and families. Social clubs, church groups and political organizations had formed. This enabled more interactions. For instance...

  • Held at Danner & Owens Hall, the Grand Calico Ball was a by-invitation Thanksgiving-eve dance; also held was a New Year's Eve Masquerade party.
  • Christmas events for children were held in the local churches. Santa handed out gifts amidst decorated Christmas trees.
  • The Sixth Street Opera House apparently attracted "lower classes" of the town - those not considered in the proper "upper echelon" of local society. Located near the SW corner of Fremont and Sixth, also known as the E. Fontana Dance Hall. Traveling performers played there. The customers were known to be "motley...mingled Mexican and white...ill-dressed, and some half-drunk." [Noon, Feb. 7, 1880, Chicago Tribune] 
  • Ritchie's Hall was the other end of the spectrum - for the local elite. On Fifth St., south of Fremont, it was superbly stocked and furnished. Private club rooms were available only to key-holders. Varied entertainment troupes performed there.
  • Gird Hall was another available for traveling entertainers. It was located near Fourth and Fremont Streets
  • Schieffelin Hall was the most important entertainment spot for the entire town.  It was initiated by the Irish Land League on March 17, 1881, when they held their St. Patrick's Day Ball before it was officially opened. It was ready for occupancy on June 16, 1881.
  • The Miner's Union was organized, the initiating meeting taking place on August 9, 1880
  • The Tombstone Brass Band sought musicians, and donations provided for instrument purchase. Most of the members were Welsh and Cornish men.

Other Tombstone 1882 Signs of Civilizing

Many women wanted to be included in local social life. They attended theatrical productions, went to church, and became members of suitable local groups. Some options for them were...

  • The Home Dramatic Association, begun by local gentlemen who specifically invited local women to join in.
  • J. Goldtree & Company initiated the first local library within its cigar store - setting aside a parlor and reading room. Its rooms had soothing decor. They had books and publications for loan.
  • Clara Spalding Brown was a founding member of the Tombstone Dramatic Association.
  • The Methodist Society ladies sponsored semi-monthly sociables to encourage church attendance and assimilation of newcomers to town.
  • Church sponsored ice-cream socials.
  • W.A. Cuddy organized the Tombstone Dramatic Relief Association. Clara Spalding Brown was named Secretary. Its purpose was as a public service organization for any deserving need. 

A Woman's Tombstone 1882

Clara Spalding Brown was an 1880 to 1882 Tombstone resident. Married to a local miner, she became quite involved in town activities. She also was a writer.

Clara began a correspondence reporting to the San Diego Daily Union newspaper. Her newsy letters chronicled life in Tombstone during the time she lived there. She penned it from her own point of view, a woman's perspective.

Note some of her own descriptions, from her 1882 Tombstone home letters...

[ad] A Story That Inspired Us...

And Our Response - Read More>

  • January 29, 1882: published February 4, 1882 - " the state of affairs in this camp is far more unsettled than it was in the early days of the settlement. It is not quite so bad as a New York paper, which asserts that "few die with their boots on," has it, but but altogether more lawlessness than should be countenanced in any portion of Uncle Sam's domain."
  • March 10, 1882: published March 13, 1882 - "The case of the people against the Town Site Company, having been allowed, through some remissness on the part of the lawyers, to go by default, the injunction on Clark and Gray has been removed, and Clark now publishes a conspicuous notice to settlers in the papers, to the effect that he is prepared to sell lots at reasonable figures, and for less than the cost of litigation would be to occupants. A portion of the residents, fearful of ejectment have "settled" with Clark..."
  • March 26, 1882: published March 31, 1882 - " was not the Earps who first disturbed this quiet, and that their criminal actions since have been from the determination to avenge the murder of a dearly beloved brother. I do not present this as sufficient excuse for their conduct, or approve any act contrary to law; but there are certainly extenuating circumstances to be taken into consideration."
  • May 15, 1882: published May 20, 1882 - "This is a season of church benefits. Pinafore by the Episcopalians was preceded by the Floral Mythological Concert for the Presbyterians, and a necktie party and dance by the Catholics, while the Methodists are are arranging for a strawberry festival."
  • July 24, 1882: published July 30, 1882 - "A large portion of the burned district has already been rebuilt, with even more substantiality and elegance than before." [Read More Now]
  • September 30, 1882: published October 5, 1882 - "Society is improving all the time. Gradually the standard of respectability has been raised, until now a lady can go "into company" without coming into contact with, and thus treating as an equal, persons who would elsewhere be proscribed from the ranks of honest society. The churches are all undergoing improvement and the schools are increasing rapidly."
  • November 14, 1882: published November 18, 1882 - "With this letter I resign the post I have hitherto held as your Tombstone correspondent, for this, I trust is the last letter I shall ever indite from so gloomily named a town."

Tombstone Fire

1881 Burn

Tombstone's first major fire gave the town a shock. It happened on June 22, 1881. Starting out front of the Arcade Saloon, on Allen Street just 3 shops East of the Oriental. It consumed 4 city blocks, wiping out or damaging 66 businesses. In 6 months, nearly everything was rebuilt - better yet.

This fire brought to mind the lack of fire-fighting equipment in town. Tombstone had a volunteer fire department, and since 1881 had a source of water flowing into town. But they lacked an efficient means to get water to fires at needed pressure.

Immediately afterwards, executive action was begun. The Rescue Hook and Ladder Company was officially organized on June 26, 1881. Plans were developed to construct a firehouse on Toughnut Street, between Fifth & Sixth. It was completed in August of that year. A hook and ladder truck was bought from a San Francisco department.

They addressed the water issue. The Huachuca Water Company planned a system of pipes and reservoirs to get water to Tombstone from the Huachuca Mountains SW of town. The entire system was completed by July of 1882 - not in time to help fight the biggest fire in the town's history.

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1882 Conflagration

Tombstone Fire of 18821882 May Fire Destruction

Tivoli Gardens was a saloon on the North side of Allen Street, between Fourth & Fifth. On May 26, 1882 a fire began in a water closet at the back, and spread quickly to its canvas roof & wood framing. It then sped throughout the whole block, and jumped to the South side of Allen street and along Fourth.

It began consuming the Grand Hotel. From there to Spangenberg's Gun Shop, lighting into gunpowder and ammunition. Sparks flew! Police Chief Dave Neagle was on the scene, as were Sheriff Behan and his deputies, plus the fire department.

Tombstone Allen St. 1882Looking West on Allen Street, Tombstone 1882 - After the May Fire Reconstruction.

The fire reached Fremont Street's North side. It crossed West of Fourth Street. There was a rally to save the Oriental Saloon, with continuous streams of bucket-brigade water sent on top as best as could be accomplished.

It finally burned itself out when beaten back by bucket-brigades and towns-folk beating it away. All in all, the entire business district was burnt out! All the major hotels, saloons, restaurants, groceries and mercantile shops were gone. But a month later - everyone was busy rebuilding!

It was - and still is...

The Town Too Tough to Die!


1 Guinn, J. (2011). The last gunfight: The real story of the shootout at the O.K. Corral and how it changed the American west. New York: Simon & Schuster.

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