Tombstone 1882

Tombstone 1882 was stared because of silver mining.

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!

Mining Started It!

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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!

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. Only a few miners lived there then.

When we read that 1st book below: "Too Tough to Die" - we were amazed at all the inside information we learned about Tombstone. It's very well written, keeping your interest. It covers so much of the history, yet gets right to the point in an interesting way. A really fabulous overview. Really have to recommend it, if you haven't yet read it!

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.

[Read Tombstone Mining History>]

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 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.

Stay In Town...

Seven 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

Out On the Town

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

  • The Alhambra - On Allen Street, between 4th & 5th
  • 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
Golden Eagle Brewery in Tombstone is now history.The Historic Golden Eagle Brewery

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.

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. 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.

Early Tombstone AZ, looking down Allen Street in the 1880sOld 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 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.

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 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.

The Earp brothers in Tombstone, Wyatt, Virgil and MorganThe Earp Brothers who were involved in the infamous town gunfight.

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.

1882 Tombstone Sporting Entertainment

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.

  • Cock Fighting - A popular spectator gaming match throughout the U.S. was happening in the Old West. The place to be on Sunday afternoons was D.P. Walsh's Cock Pit Saloon, Allen St. between 6th & 7th.
  • Rifle Tournaments - Often sponsored by local shooting galleries. For example, Tivoli Gardens had a shooting gallery and sometimes backed events. On Nov. 18, 1880 Col. Stock produced a popular tournament. Sign-ups included Virgil Earp for a $70 prize.
  • Tombstone Driving Park - Quite a favorite by 1882. Built by John Doling for horse races, 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 - Began in March 1882 by George Staples Rice, Stonewall Mine superintendent. 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 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 most favored events. Usually sponsored at Tombstone Driving Park.

Social Entertainment

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...

  • Held at Danner & Owens Hall: the Grand Calico Ball was a by-invitation Thanksgiving-eve dance. They also had a New Year's Eve Masquerade party.
  • Christmas events for children were held in local churches. Santa handed out gifts amidst decorated Christmas trees.
  • The 6th Street Opera House apparently attracted the town's "lower classes." Those not in the "upper echelon" of local society. Located near the SW corner of Fremont and 6th, also called 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."2 
  • Ritchie's Hall was the other end of the spectrum, for the local elite. On 5th St., south of Fremont, superbly stocked and furnished. Private club rooms went only to key-holders. Varied entertainment troupes performed there.
  • Gird Hall was another available for traveling entertainers. Located near 4th and Fremont Streets
  • Schieffelin Hall was the most important entertainment spot for the entire town.  Initiated by the Irish Land League on March 17, 1881, when holding their St. Patrick's Day Ball before the official opening. Ready for occupancy on June 16, 1881.
  • The Miner's Union organized. The initiating meeting took place August 9, 1880
  • The Tombstone Brass Band's musician members were mostly Welsh and Cornish men. Donations provided for instrument purchases.

Other Tombstone 1882 Signs of Civilizing

Women wanted a local social life. They attended theatrical productions, went to church, and became members of suitable groups. Some options for them were...

  • The Home Dramatic Association, begun by local gentlemen who 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. It had soothing decor. They loaned books and publications.
  • 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.
  • Churches sponsored ice-cream socials.
  • W.A. Cuddy organized the Tombstone Dramatic Relief Association, a public service organization for any deserving need. Clara Spalding Brown was Secretary.

A Woman's Tombstone 1882

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...

[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..."
  • 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."

You Can Read All Clara's Letters:

  • 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."
  • 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 Fires

1881 Burn

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.

1882 Conflagration

Tombstone Fire of 1882 showing the destruction at the ok Corral1882 May Fire Destruction

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.

Tombstone Allen St. 1882, rebuilt after the May fireLooking West on Allen Street, Tombstone 1882 - After the May Fire Reconstruction.

But a month later - everyone was busy rebuilding!

Read Even More On Tombstone Fires>

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.

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.

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