July 19, 2016

Photo Essay: The Death Toll of Tombstone

Two years ago, I cancelled a trip to Deadwood, South Dakota merely hours before I was supposed to leave.

I'd lost a job and gotten into a car accident a couple of months before, and as a result, my bank account was empty and my brain wasn't right.

I'd even borrowed money from a friend to do the trip, but it turned out I really just needed that money to live.

So, in the midst of a full-blown panic attack, I backed out.

And while I initially felt relieved, I've been regretting the aborted trip.

So then I found myself on the Rental Car Rally to Tombstone, which is probably the next best thing to Deadwood—if not even better.

Both towns grew out of a mining boom—Deadwood, gold and Tombstone, silver. Both were lawless, capitalistic places of gambling and prostitution and gunfights and corruption.

A lot of people died in both Deadwood and Tombstone. Some were hanged at the gallows. Others were shot dead in the streets.

Not many died of natural causes.

The most famous—or infamous—of those buried at Boothill Graveyard are the McLaury Brothers and Billy Clanton, who died in a pistol fight at the OK Corral with Wyatt Earp and "Doc" Holliday.

But the markers of tragedy are everywhere in the cemetery: from George Johnson, who innocently bought a stolen horse to the unknown, unidentified, and forgotten.

Those that are marked "Unknown" might be Mr. Huggins who was burned to death, Rose Campion who died in childbirth, Thomas Harper who was hanged for shooting a man, or the man he shot, John Talliday.

Most of the graves date back to the early 1880s, but preservationists and historians thoroughly researched the burials to get an accurate descriptive list of the more than 250 grave sites here.

They weren't able to figure out every last detail—and some of the bodies weren't identified even when they were found, like the well-dressed man found at the bottom of Minute Mine, where he clearly had no business being.

But we know that Eva Waters died at just three months old from scarlet fever.

The daughter of Frank Bowles told the story of her father being thrown from a horse and accidentally shooting himself in the knee.

John Heath was hanged from a telegraph pole.

James Hickey was shot in the temple by William Clayborne after "over-insisting" that they have a drink together.

Something tells me that "Sudden Death" is a euphemism for how Mead, a blacksmith for Sandy Bob's stables, actually died.

There were so many horrible ways to die back then—like being ambushed by Mexicans while on a cattle drive, as was the case with "Old Man Clayton."

And sometimes, they're only remembered by a nickname, like the "Queen of the Red Light District," Dutch Annie.

Other horrors that befell the pioneers of Tombstone include being beaten in the face with a stone and trampled by horses and run over by wagon wheels, as well as consumption, diphtheria, pneumonia, nephritis, inflamed bowels, and overdoses.

But mostly, they were shot or stabbed or committed suicide.

As they say, death never took a holiday in Tombstone.

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: Glimpses of Arizona
Stepping Around Graves
Photo Essay: The Mysteries of Jack-o-Landia
Photo Essay: That Which Doesn't Kill You

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