Boothill in Tombstone, AZ at sunset.
“The only stone out there you will find is your tombstone.”
That is supposed to be what soldiers told the founder of the town of Tombstone, AZ. But they were wrong. Ed Schieffelin found silver. A lot of silver. But those soldiers were right about one thing. Bunches of people did find their tombstone there. I know because I recently visited Tombstone, AZ cemetery otherwise known as Boot Hill. Many graveyards are called this because of the number of men who died with their boots on.
3-Fingered Jack Dunlop. I wonder if one of the fingers he lacked was his trigger finger.
Tombstone is a misnomer here because, although each grave is piled with stones to keep out critters, the markers are made of wood. Tombwood just sounds wrong, though. Doesn’t it?
1881 – Hanged.
A woman working in the gift shop told me the weather is so rough on the wood they have to remake the markers every seven years.
You know the OK Coral?
The most famous residents here are the losers of the shootout at the OK Coral (Billy Clanton, Frank McLaury and Tom McLaury). But there is no shortage of interesting ways to die here.
Some markers have the cause of death but no names.
Here lies an unfortunate teamster killed by Apaches. Cause of death, but no name.
Some have no name or cause of death.
This marker reads only: Two Chinese
Sometime you get the name and the cause of death but no real answers as to why or how this happened. Here is the grave of George Hand who was, apparently killed by Indians.
George Hand -Killed by Indians
Some markers are just plain tragic. This man’s marker reads: Here lies George Johnson Hanged by Mistake 1882 –He was right and we was wrong, but we strung him up and now he’s gone.
George bought a stolen horse, rode it into Tombstone where he was arrested and hanged for horse theft. No one believed his story and the truth arrived too late for Mr. Johnson.
There is no way to correct some mistakes, like, for instance, hanging an innocent man.
Most of the deaths were violent, but not all. My brochure, purchased for $2, relates that one cowboy who laid to rest in an unconventional manner. His friends lassoed his ankles and dragged him into his grave because no one really likes to touch a person who died of smallpox.
There are some markers renowned for their poetry, rather than for containing the famous remains of famous folk. This one is often quoted. Perhaps you have heard of it:
FOUR SLUGS FROM A 44
They don’t really know all the stories of all the men and women laid here to rest. I’m left to wonder about just what happened to some of these folks because their graves give no clue.
I can’t really imagine what Tombstone was like in its heyday, but I do know it was not boring.