Ride Shotgun With Me To The Wild West in Tombstone AZ
Visiting the Southwest United States provides plenty of opportunity to experience the Wild West or Old West. One of the most famous (if not THE most famous) such places is Tombstone, Arizona.
Tombstone, AZ is a short 1 hour drive from Tucson, or 3 hours from Phoenix. It’s now a National Historic Landmark Discrict as “one of the best preserved specimens of a rugged frontier town of the 1870s and ’80s”.
Since I’ve always been interested in history, and always enjoyed stories of the wild west, I decided it was time to visit Tombstone during a recent stay in Phoenix.
Watch my vlog of this trip here!
Mission San Xavier del Bac
My first stop on this road-trip was the Mission San Xavier del Bac, located just outside of Tucson, Arizona.
This historic landmark was founded in 1692, with construction completing in 1797. It’s very rare that we get to visit buildings or historic sites from the 1700’s here in North America, so I jumped at this opportunity!
This site was originally part of New Spain, and the Mexico. It didn’t become part of the United States until the Gadsden Purchase of 1854.
The site of the Mission was very impressive; definitely worth the stop. There was a special Mass happening during my visit, so I wasn’t able to get much footage inside (check out my vlog for more!).
After my visit I bought an “Indian Fry-Bread Taco” from one of the flea-market-style Native American booths. To be honest, it looks better than it tastes. Not that it’s terrible, it’s just pretty bland and greasy.
When most people think of Tombstone they picture Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, and the shootout at the O.K. Corral.
Though it’s considered to be the most authentic western town in the USA, people are still living there. The main “touristy” section is 3-blocks long and closed to car traffic, but there are a few other historic buildings and sites in the surrounding area.
The “Town Too Tough To Die” was founded in 1879. It’s considered one of the last frontier boomtowns, prospering from about 1877 to 1890 and centered on the town’s silver mine.
By far, Tombstone is most famous for the “shoot-out at the O.K. Corral” between the Earp brothers with Doc Holliday and the Cowboy Gang.
It was a lot of fun to wander the historic streets, and explore 500 feet below ground in the silver mines. I even managed to run into the Earps on their way to confront the Cowboys!
Boothill Graveyard, or the Tombstone Cemetery, was used from about 1878 to 1884 and was the burial place for many of the town’s first pioneers.
According to legend, the cemetery got its name because many inhabitants “died with their boots on”. As your tour the burial plots you’ll find outlaws and their victims, suicides and hangings, along with many of the town’s citizens and a number of unknown markers.
Entry to the graveyard is free, but it’s worth the $3 to pick up the pamphlet from the Historical Society. A lot of work went into comparing the burials with town records, and the results provide a very interesting glimpse into the wild west.
Some examples are:
1. Van Houten (1879) – Murdered over a mining claim dispute
2. Tom Waters (1880) – Shot over the colour of his shirt
3. Teamster (1881) – Killed by Apaches
4. George Johnson (1882) – Hanged by mistake for buying a stolen horse
5. Deron – Shot by Slaughter during arrest for his part in a train robbery
As with the town itself, the most famous residents of Boothill Graveyard are the victims of the O.K Corral Shootout. The 3 members of The Cowboys who died in the gun fight are buried together: Billy Clanton, Frank McLaury, and Tom McLaury.
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Here is a list of the resources mentioned in this post:
Mission San Xavier del Bac – Historic landmark was founded in 1692, with construction completing in 1797
Tombstone, Arizona – National Historic Landmark Discrict as “one of the best preserved specimens of a rugged frontier town of the 1870s and ’80s”
Boothill Graveyard – Burial place for many of the town’s first pioneers, used from about 1878 to 1884
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