In 1880, old age began about 40, the average life expectancy of a U.S. citizen. Life was hard, good nutrition & effective medical treatment were scarce. By age 40, most people, particularly women, were simply worn out.
Between 1879 and 1884, about 300 people were buried in the Tombstone Boothill Graveyard, including the separate Chinese & Jewish sections. Approximately 121 (40%) did not die of old age.
- Died in childbirth: 2
- Died by suicide: 5
- Killed by Apaches: 7
- Hanged: 10
- Died in an accident: 21 (5 from drowning)
- Died from disease: 21, ten of which were infants or young children
- Died by gunshot, knife, or blunt instrument: 52
Eight of the 10 hangings were legal executions of convicted felons. The other 2 were executions by lynch mobs. Of the 21 who died from accidents, most were mining-related (i.e.; fell down a shaft, etc.).
Of those who were killed in a fight, most were killed by gunshot, by far the #1 cause of premature death in Tombstone’s early days. It wasn’t so much “The Town Too Tough To Die” as it was “The Town Where People Went To Die”.
Note: a few notables, such as China Mary, were buried here after 1884 when the new Tombstone Cemetery opened at the end of Allen Street.
In Boothill Graveyard you can visit the resting place of some of Tombstone’s most famous, and infamous, characters. Here are just a few.
Fred White: Tombstone Marshall from 1879 to 1880 when he was mortally wounded by “Curly Bill” Brocius. Wyatt Earp escorted “Curly Bill” to the courthouse in Tucson under heavy guard, then testified that Marshall White believed the shooting had been an accident.
China Mary: the undisputed ruler of Hoptown, the Chinese section of Tombstone. No one in Tombstone could hire a Chinese laborer or even a Chinese prostitute without dealing through China Mary. She controlled the underground gambling and opium dens in Hoptown. She ran her own general store and was generous to those in need. When she died at the age of 67 in 1905, she was honored with a large funeral procession and dignified burial in the Chinese section of Boothill.
Note: her tombstone says she died in 1906. But the Tombstone Epitaph says 1905.
Ah Lum: China Mary’s husband and part owner of the very popular Can Can Restaurant located at 4th and Allen Street where the Old Time Photo shop is today.
Ah Lum died in 1906 at the age of 65. He is buried nearby. The Tombstone Times has a brief but good history of the Chinese in Tombstone.
He was gunned down by Wyatt in the now famous Earp Vendetta Ride.
Over 1,000 mourners followed her funeral procession to Boothill in 1883.
John Heath; lynched for his role in the Bisbee Massacre.
When the real “Billy The Kid” was killed in New Mexico, another young, self-proclaimed “gunfighter” named Billy Clayborne (sometimes spelled Claiborne) demanded that he now be referred to as “Billy The Kid”.
Clayborne may have shot as many as 3 men who refused. One was James Hickey.
Billy Clayborne: among the youngest of the “Cowboys”.
He was present at the site where the Earps met the “Cowboys” just moments before the now-famous gunfight. But, like Ike Clanton, Billy ran. After that he had a hard time getting any respect.
While young Billy Clayborne thought of himself as a serious gunfighter, his tombstone suggests that he wasn’t all that good at it.
The year after the Gunfight Near The OK Corral, Billy demanded that “Buckskin” Frank Leslie refer to him only as “Billy The Kid”. Frank refused. Billy, rifle in hand, called Frank out of the Oriental Saloon. Frank, a really good gunslinger, mortally wounded Billy with one shot to the chest.
Frank raised his gun to fire again when Billy said, “Don’t shoot me anymore, I’m killed.” Frank walked away. Billy died 6 hours later.
Lesson? In matters of gun fighting, it pays to know your limits.
Take one of the many Tombstone jeep tours offered by Into The West Jeep Tours and Mark and his crew will transport you back in time to the Old West of Cochise, Geronimo, Johnny Ringo, Wyatt Earp, and Doc Holliday. If you’re planning to visit Tombstone, these back country excursions are highly recommended.
You will not only see the rugged beauty of Cochise County from vantage points few get to experience. These jeep tours can also take you to historic sites, such as Cottonwood Springs where Wyatt Earp killed Curley Bill Brocius, and real ghost towns, such as Fairbank, Gleeson, Courtland, & Pearce.
On a pleasant Thursday in March (2013) Richard, my driver & guide, drove me through the hills above Tombstone to see the mining district that made hard-rock miners, like Ed Schieffelin, unimaginably rich almost overnight. As well-versed as I am on the history of this area and as many old mines as I have explored in my younger days, Richard explained a great deal that I had been unaware of. His shared knowledge was indeed an advanced history lesson taught by a man who is clearly passionate about his subject. He made my tour both enjoyable and enlightening.
We were in an open-air jeep that Mark had modified to handle the demands of the rocky, uneven roads up there. What had been a standard Jeep with stick-shift and 6-cylinder engine was now an automatic with a powerful V-8 outfitted with some serious tread. This high-clearance beast could go anywhere it could get traction.
That said, they also have enclosed 4-wheel drive vehicles for those who want to see the Old West in climate-controlled comfort.
Into The West has several standard tours that take 2 to 4 hours and cost anywhere from about $55 to $95 per person. But they can easily create custom tours to suit the occasion, including weddings, cookouts, and outlaw shootouts.
My Jeep tour included a half-hour gunfight in a mock 1880’s saloon on Allen Street near the Bird Cage Theater. These theatrics at Doc Holliday’s Gunfight Palace are what tourists want to see. However having seen many, I can attest that Doc’s gunfights are the most realistic. The audience is particularly close to the action.
For more on Tombstone, check out our Southern Arizona Guide’s Tombstone Section, including our 1881 video interviews with Virgil Earp and Tom McLaury just before they walked out of a saloon and headed down to the OK Corral.
Also, if you’re interested in some of the ghost towns you an visit on these Jeep tours, check out our Ghost Towns section.
Visiting Tombstone’s Boothill Graveyard is free. After all, it’s a public cemetery. But it takes considerable willpower not to stop at the gift shop on the way out and buy a souvenir. We have several.
Newman (Old Man) Clanton was born in 1816 and was killed by Mexican troops in Arizona Territory on August 13, 1881, about 10 weeks before his youngest son, William (Billy) Clanton would die of wounds sustained in a blaze of gunfire on Freemont Street near the OK Corral in Tombstone; October 26, 1881.
Another son, Issac (Ike) Clanton, a mean-spirited, loudmouth cowardly drunk was instrumental in fomenting that gunfight between the Earps (Virgil, Wyatt, Morgan and Doc Holliday) and 3 Cowboys (Frank & Tom McLaury & Billy Clanton).
The “Old Man” was, by many accounts, a successful rancher and cattle rustler. It is unlikely he ever met the Earps or Holliday because he had moved to New Mexico before they arrived in Tombstone in late 1879.
Billy Clanton was only 19 when he and several of his “Cowboy” friends were confronted by Marshall Virgil Earp and his 3 deputies because they were armed in violation of Tombstone City Ordinance. Blowhard Ike Clanton & would-be gunslinger Billy Claiborne wisely chose to run. Billy Clanton, along with Frank & Tom McLaury, chose to fight … perhaps a slight error in judgment.
Frank & Tom McLaury were “leaders” of a loosely organized gang of horse thieves, cattle rustlers, and stagecoach robbers called “The Cowboys”. Confronted by Marshall Virgil Earp & his 3 deputies on that cold October afternoon, Frank was not about to surrender his weapon. Had he done so peaceably, it is highly unlikely the most famous gunfight of the American Old West would have occurred – at least then and there. Some say Tom McLaury was unarmed. More credible eyewitnesses say otherwise.
Deputy Wyatt Earp, believing Frank was the more dangerous of the three, shot him first at very close range. Frank, ever the personification of rugged determination, would be hit several more times in the next 30 seconds before Deputy Morgan Earp, also wounded & on the ground, put him out of his misery with a head shot from about 20 yards.
Following the gunfight, Tombstone was divided. Many supported The Cowboys while others supported the Earps. The funeral that followed was the largest in Tombstone’s history. More than 300 people followed the hearse to Boothill and 2,000 watched from the city’s sidewalks.
There are many interesting characters from Tombstone’s past buried in Boothill, including China Mary, one of Tombstone’s most notorious madams. If you visit Tombstone, Boothill is a must.
If you’re stuck with a fixed view for eternity, this one isn’t all that bad.
Steve Shaw’s Great American Adventures will take you on the trail of the famous and infamous, the heroes and scoundrels of the Old West. These adventures on horseback last several days and combine the rugged beauty of the American West with authentic history and Native American culture.
You can bring your own horse & tack or the experienced wranglers will provide everything you need: horse, tack, food, historians, and more. All riding abilities accepted. Non-riding spouses may also participate.
The next opportunity to experience the Earp Vendetta Ride takes place October 13th – 18th, 2013 at Tombstone, Arizona. This is your chance to ride where Doc and Wyatt tracked down some of the men who wounded Virgil and murdered Morgan following the most famous gunfight in American history. For brief histories of this time & place, click HERE.
The slideshow below has photographs from prior years.