John Ringo Grave

John Ringo Historic Site Monument

The Historic Site Monument at the Ringo Gravesite.

If you’ve read about the untamed American frontier and have never heard of Tombstone, Arizona, for shame! This little town is a great place to learn about frontier life in a mining boom town. Tombstone is rife with legends and stories that would keep anyone interested for weeks on end. It was a silver mining town known for its rough-around-the-edges citizens. Names like Wyatt Earp, Curly Bill Brocius, Big Nose Kate, Doc Holliday– are a dime a dozen in the annals of Tombstone history. Tombstone is noted for the longest poker game in history (8 years, 5 months, and 3 days) and the infamous gunfight at the O.K. corral which was primarily between the Earps and the Clantons and McLowerys.

Part of the culture of the “Wild West” was to bury a body along the trail where the person passed away. There was no transporting the body anywhere unless the deceased was close to the rail lines at their time of death. Decomposition was rapid because food didn’t have preservatives and embalming was still in its infancy. Bodies still relatively intact that were found on the trail were buried deep enough to keep the coyotes, vultures or other desert scavengers at bay. Most makeshift graves were covered with rocks and marked with a simple wooden cross near the place the body was found and buried. The practice of leaving a cross or headstone is still observed in parts of the American southwest– though, the bodies are typically transported and interred in an actual cemetery instead of beside the road.

One such body that was found and buried on the trail is the source of much historical intrigue as there is some disagreement over the death of this man whose personal legend is linked to the infamous “Town Too Tough to Die”– Tombstone, Arizona. The body of John Peters Ringo is interred near the oak tree where he was found. A coroner’s inquest was held to determine his cause of death, but not everyone agrees with the verdict. Continue reading

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Tombstone Thunderbird Photo (Part II)

The hunt for the elusive Tombstone Thunderbird photo is an enigmatic tale of mystery because of the particular circumstances surrounding this photograph, which may or may not have ever existed.  Several people claim to have seen the photograph in books or magazines, but no one can remember which book they saw it inside or where it was published. People look and look, but can’t find a photograph which they will swear up and down they’ve seen before. The photograph is supposed to be evidence of a referenced Thunderbird encounter from an article in the Tombstone Epitaph. Whether or not the photo exists and where it can be found if it DOES exist still remains a mystery…
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Thunderbirds (Part I)

For several hundred years, people have told stories of giant birds who have wing spans of over thirty feet that are able to whisk away animals in an instant. These large birds have been called “Thunderbirds” by some Native Americans because the wings of these large birds are said to make a thunderous crack as they stir the air. In conjunction with these stories, the Native Americans also have plenty of stories of young children being carried away by these giant birds; but, they’re not the only ones who have stories of these Thunderbirds.

French explorer Pere Marquette made note of a petroglyph near Alton, Illinois depicting an indian warrior who had successfully slain one of these large beats, known as Piasa or “bird that devours man” in that area of Illinois. Marquette described this petroglyph in journal entries from 1673. These historic sightings aren’t the only known records of such large birds. Some of these Thunderbird sightings have been as recent as 2002.
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Morgan Earp’s Ghost

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Campbell and Hatch

Campbell and Hatch Billiards in Tombstone, Arizona--the location of Morgan Earp's untimely demise.

March 18, 1882 gunfire rings out in the night and the bullet fatally strikes its target– Morgan Earp, brother of the infamous law-man Wyatt Earp. Morgan Earp bleeds to death on a billiard table in Campbell and Hatch’s Billiards on Allen Street in Tombstone, Arizona.

Though the original building has likely been reduced to ashes in one of the many Tombstone fires, the location where Morgan Earp spent a lot of his waking hours in life is still frequented by him in death.
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Cemetery Series: Tombstone’s Boothill

Boothill-- Marshall Fred White's grave

Marshall Fred White's grave

In a time of westward expansion, when men died “with their boots on”, a little town in the Sonoran desert called Tombstone was established. This silver mining boom town attracted people from all over the United States who were trying to strike it rich, but it also attracted violence as the town’s population grew. Tombstone’s cemetery was established to house the townspeople who succumbed to the desert heat, natural causes or the violent nature of the other townspeople. The violent deaths of many who are interred in the Old Tombstone Cemetery earned this hollowed ground the name of “Boothill” Graveyard. Of all the similarly named cemeteries, Tombstone’s Boothill is the most renown. Continue reading

Billy Clanton’s Corner

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If you ever go to Tombstone, Arizona one thing you DON’T want to do is speculate aloud over who started the infamous O.K. Corral gunfight. Even though the courts found the Earps and Doc Holliday innocent of murder, there is still a lot of controversy over whether Holliday and Morgan Earp fired the first two shots of the historic gunfight… and whether or not that shooting was justified.

Fly's Lodging House and Photographic Studio

Fly's Lodging House and Photographic Studio beside the O.K. Corral gunfight location in Tombstone, Arizona.

The southeast corner of Fremont Street and 3rd Street is where the O.K. Corral, now a major tourist location, still stands. The original gunfight took place in the empty alley north of the O.K. Corral between Fly’s Lodging House and Photographic Studio and the MacDonald Assay House to the west. At 3 P.M. on Wednesday, October 26, 1881 approximately thirty shots were fired in thirty seconds. Wyatt Earp walked away from the gunfight unscathed. Virgil Earp, Morgan Earp, and Doc Holliday sustained minor wounds. Ike Clanton (whose aptly named descendant, Ike Clanton, still lives in Tombstone) and Billy Claiborne ran through the gunfight uninjured. There were three casualties when the fray was finished—Billy Clanton, Frank McLaury and Tom McLaury all sustained fatal wounds in the gunfight.

While the justification of the shooting is still heavily debated to this day, one thing is certain—Billy Clanton is not resting in his afterlife. Continue reading