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. Read and see if anyone is really Buried at Boothill here. 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 with 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 66 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, which would make her 67, 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. Ah Lum died in 1931 at the age of 71. He is buried nearby in the New Tombstone Cemetery. 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. His body was actually delivered back to his home in Terrell, TX.
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.
More stories about Boothill Graveyard here.