Often referred as “the town to tough to die”, Tombstone was founded in 1877 by a prospector named Ed Schieffelin. Ed was attached to a scouting expedition against the Chiricahua Apaches. He would sometimes venture out to prospect. His friends told him the only stone he would find would be his own tombstone. Thus, he named his first silver mine Tombstone.
Tombstone was a thriving mining town by 1881. It had four churches, an icehouse, a school, two banks, three newspapers, an ice cream parlor and a bowling alley. The ladies and gentlemen of Tombstone attended operas at the Schieffelin Hall opera house.
Tombstone also had over 100 saloons, 14 gambling halls and numerous dancing halls and brothels. The Bird Cage was in operation for eight years and was known as the wildest night spot in the west. Prostitutes plied their trade in cribs suspended from the ceiling. There are over 100 bullet holes still in the building.
At about 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday, October 26, 1881 the “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral” took place. This was Wyatt Earp, his brothers and Doc Holliday against the outlaw “Cowboys” Billy Claiborne, Billy & Ike Clanton and Frank & Tom McLaury. Thirty shots were fired in about thirty seconds. Wyatt was unscathed. His brothers and Doc Holiday were wounded. Billy Clanton and the Mclaury were killed. Billy Claiborne and Ike Clanton ran away from the gunfight and were not hurt.
The Earps and Doc Holiday were charged with murder but were exonerated a few months later. Billy Clanton and the McLaury brothers were buried in Boot Hill.
The incident was relatively unknown until Stuart Lake published a biography of Wyatt Earp in 1931. This book has since been shown to be more fiction than fact. In 1957 the movie “Gunfight at the OK Corral” was released. Prior to that the altercation was just known as a famous gunfight in Tombstone. The action actually occurred in a narrow lot west of the rear entrance to the OK Corral.
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