Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Tombstone: The Town Too Tough To Die

Despite two devastating fires in June 1881 and May 1882, in which much of its downtown was destroyed, Tombstone’s epitaph has yet to be written. In fact, The Tombstone Epitaph, the town’s newspaper (see photo at right), is the oldest continuously published newspaper in Arizona, having been started in 1880. Epitomizing the Wild West, Tombstone was reincarnated as a tourist destination in the last half of the twentieth century.

A mix of the historical and modern greets visitors to Tombstone (see photo at right). The downtown section encompasses a grid that includes First Street to Sixth Street and Toughnut, Allen, and Fremont Streets. In this compact area, tourists can find restored nineteenth century edifices, many of which have been converted to shops or restaurants, and other buildings which maintain their original function or have been repurposed to present the history of Tombstone to outsiders.

The Can Can Restaurant (see photo below) was owned and operated by a Chinese entrepreneur, Quong Kee; an entire section of Tombstone known as “Hoptown” was where the Chinese inhabitants lived. There was also a Jewish community in Tombstone that included several merchants and even some of the lawmen. Near the OK Corral, the boarding house and studio owned and managed by Camillus S. Fly, a well-known photographer, and his wife Molly, also a photographer, can be visited. Perhaps one of his many trips was to Denver, where he took the infamous photograph of Heyes, Kid, and Clementine mentioned in Dreadful Sorry, Clementine.

Museum exhibits provide background information about the history of Tombstone from its founding by Ed Schieffelin in 1877 to the present, and the many shops offer tourists numerous opportunities to take a piece of that history home with them. From reenactments of gunfights and bank hold ups, to period fashion shows, to the many saloons and crib houses where prostitutes plied their trade (see photo of crib above), along with opportunities to ride in stagecoaches and visit a silver mine, which was the source of the town’s original wealth, the Old West comes alive in Tombstone.

Website for The Tombstone Epitaph:

Legends of America website about the history of Tombstone: