About seventy miles southeast of Tucson, AZ, 30 minutes off of Interstate 10 (I-10), and past a Border Patrol station is Tombstone, AZ. This tiny town is famous because on October 26, 1881 at about 3 pm, nine men participated in what is now regarded as the most famous gunfight in the history of the Old Wild West.
About seventy miles southeast of Tucson, AZ, 30 minutes off of Interstate 10 (I-10), and past a Border Patrol station is a little town called Tombstone, AZ. Despite its small area of 4.3 square miles; this town is famous, it has been featured in a number of films like Gunfight at the O.K. Corral and Wyatt Earp and is named “one of the best preserved specimens of the rugged frontier town of the 1870s and ’80s” by the National Park Service – well, you know, according to Wikipedia.
“Why?” you ask? Because on October 26, 1881 at about 3pm, nine men participated in what is now known as the most famous gunfight in the history of the Old Wild West. Four men (Doc Holliday, Wyatt, Virgil and Morgan Earp) fought five civilians at a vacant lot near the O.K. Corral which resulted in the death of Billy Clanton, Tom, and Frank McLaury.
Being naturally curious and a lover of history, I couldn’t help but succumb to the pull of the place. So after an uneventful lunch at Honey Bear’s BBQ and a less interesting visit in Phoenix, AZ, we bypassed Tucson and drove straight to O.K. Corral for a crash course.
We parked the car on S 3rd St. in front of the O.K. Café just an hour or two before sunset. We hurriedly piled out of the car and headed to different directions. I walked past the Tombstone City Park while loading film in my Diana and made a beeline for O.K. Corral. Again, I am transported into a different era.
Just like most historic places in the U.S., the old buildings in Tombstone’s Historic District have been turned into souvenir shops and little museums. But because they were restored and preserved, and because of some horse-drawn carriages running about town, you still get the feel of the Old West. With some imagination, one could probably conjure up the smell of gunpowder, whiskey, and horse manure and the sounds of saloon women laughing.
We piled back in the car a few minutes before sunset. Our curiosity has been satiated – for now – and we are ready to get back on road. We, however, got a bit lost and accidentally ended up in the Boothill Graveyard parking lot.
It was a happy accident. I immediately grabbed my cameras, crossed the lot and walked into the gift shop where I gave the nice old lady at the counter a $2 donation and wrote down my name and email address in their visitors’ mailing list. She gave me a pamphlet which turned out to be a descriptive list of all the graves on site.
I dumped the pamphlet in my purse. There is little time as the sun was setting down fast. I headed out the door in one corner of the gift shop which lead me to a modest expanse of arid land full of cacti and old graves dating back to the 1800s. I wasted no time taking pictures.
The sun was setting when I finished. As I headed back into the gift shop I saw the resting place of the three men who were killed in the famous gunfight.
Their combined headstone says, “Murdered on the Streets of Tombstone.”
O.K. Corral is open daily from 9am to 5pm, with a gunfight reenactment at 2pm. Boothill Graveyard may or may not be the original cemetery. Most of the grave markers are not the original markers as those were made of wood and have rotted over time.