Tombstone 1882 was a thriving active town. Its initial attraction was silver mining. We found out that the house we purchased in town was over an 1882 silver claim called the California Mine!
If you'd like, Take a Look at the Map that locates every mining claim 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. Actually there were more businesses here, and many more people than currently are living in town now!
Lots of mining towns arose in the Old West. Let's take a step back!
When you think about its dawn, its origins in 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!
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. Only a few miners lived there then.
But two years later many more adventurers moved to Tombstone seeking 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.
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 provided medical needs, bathing rooms, haircuts and shaves, and transportation lines.
The Vizina & Cook building at the Northeast corner of 5th & Allen Streets was a major complex renting to many merchants. One noteworthy was The Oriental Saloon. The Safford Hudson & Company Bank located there. Another, the Pima County Bank was at 4th & Allen.
Seven hotels provided for overnight stays. Some still remain to this day! They are true Tombstone 1882 historic town sites:
Some were destroyed in the fires of 1881 and 1882: [Read it Now]
*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
Saloons were absolutely a part of the life! 18 were available by 1880. Three were considered luxurious:
Another very popular saloon was the Golden Eagle Brewery on the Northwest corner of 5th 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 5th and Allen: the Crystal Palace Saloon.
Those who lived in town generally aligned with either of the two political parties. Yes, more or Less: just 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.
The organization of Tombstone began by filing a townsite claim in an area known as "Goose Flats." The Tombstone Townsite Company recorded it with Pima County on April 22, 1879. Lots were sold, a post-office opened, a justice-of-the-peace appointed and an interim mayor and councilmen were elected. Fred White became Tombstone's Marshall.
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 earned 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 his brothers.
John H. Behan was selected as Deputy, replacing Wyatt. That caused underlying conflict between the two. Behan also was a bartender, gambler, horse racer, and was seen accompanied by many local women.
In Tombstone 1882 other activities kept local people occupied, besides the saloons and Old West Gambling Halls. Assorted sporting events entertained residents. Those mostly being m the young, single males.
Other entertainment was accessible in Tombstone 1882. Women needed a means to enter social life. Men desired a way to engage in uplifting fellowship together 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. This vibrant, active community, with many businesses and families. Social clubs, church groups and political organizations formed. This enabled more interactions. For instance...
Women wanted a local social life. They attended theatrical productions, went to church, and became members of suitable groups. Some options for them were...
Clara Spalding Brown was an 1880 to 1882 Tombstone resident. Married to a local miner, she was involved in town activities.
Clara began corresponding 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 point of view, a woman's perspective.
Note some of her own descriptions, from her 1882 Tombstone home letters...
Tombstone's first major fire shocked the town! It happened June 22, 1881. Starting out front of the Arcade Saloon, on Allen Street just three shops East of the Oriental. It consumed four city blocks, wiping out or damaging 66 businesses. In six months, nearly everything was rebuilt even better.
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. But they lacked efficient means to get water to fires at needed pressure.
Immediately afterwards, executive action began. The Rescue Hook and Ladder Company was officially organized on June 26, 1881. Plans developed to construct a firehouse on Toughnut Street, between 5th & 6th. It was completed August, that year. They bought a hook and ladder truck 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 complete by July 1882.
Not in time to help fight the biggest fire in the town's history.
Tivoli Gardens was a saloon on the North side of Allen Street, between 4th & 5th. On May 26, 1882 a fire began in a water closet at the back, spreading quickly to its canvas roof and wood framing. It then sped throughout the whole block, jumping to the South side of Allen, along 4th.
It consumed the Grand Hotel. Lit into Spangenberg's Gun Shop, through gunpowder and ammunition. Sparks flew! Police Chief Dave Neagle was on the scene, as were Sheriff Behan and his deputies, plus the fire department.
The fire reached Fremont Street's North side. It crossed West of Fourth Street. People rallied 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!
But you know, 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.
2 Noon (1880, Feb. 7). Chicago Tribune. Chicago, Illinois.
Bailey, L.R. (2004). Too tough to die: The rise, fall and resurrection of a silver camp: 1878 to 1990. Westernlore Press. Tucson, AZ. - Major reference for everything not notated.