The History of Tombstone's Boothill Graveyard
In the early years Tombstone's Boot Hill Graveyard (1878-1884) was originally called the "City Cemetery". After the city built the Tombstone Cemetery on the west end of Allen Street, the "City Cemetery" was then called the old cemetery. Sometime around 1929 and the towns first Helldorado Days, people started calling the "Old Cemetery" Boot Hill Graveyard.
Its occupants ran the spectrum of all the cultures and nationalities of early Tombstone.
Cowboys who "died with their boots on" lie next to housewives, business men and women, miners, gamblers, ladies of the "red-light district" and all the famous and not so famous occupants that contributed to Tombstone's early history.
By the 1920s, Boothill had fallen into ruin with many
grave markers lost or unreadable. A group of citizens in
Tombstone and Cochise County began the task of researching old burial records, consulting with relatives, older residents, and using all means available to identify the occupants and mark the graves properly.
The task took several years and the efforts of many to accomplish. This resulted in the graveyard being restored much as it was in the early years when it was the city cemetery.
The town also housed a few theaters, with the most prominent of those theaters being The Bird Cage Theatre as well as Schieffelin Hall. The Bird Cage Theatre was more than just a theater it was a gambling hall, saloon as well as a brothel. Any woman with self-respect wouldn’t step foot inside the Bird Cage Theatre.
“Respectable” individuals in the town went to Schieffelin Hall for entertainment. In June of 1881, the Schieffelin Hall was opened and built by Al, the brother of Ed Schieffelin. It was used as more than a theater, as it was also a recital hall as well as a meeting venue for citizens of Tombstone..,This building is considered the largest adobe structure standing In the Southwest U.S. Wyatt and Morgan Earp were both at a performance at the Schieffelin Hall when Morgan was shot dead by the bullet of an assassin. This building is still used today by civic groups and city government.
In the 1880s, there was two large fires that went through the city. Reportedly, one of the fires was at the Arcade Saloon and began when a whiskey barrel was ignited by a cigar. The fire, which occurred in June of 1881, destroyed more than 60 downtown businesses. The town was able to rebuild and continue to grow. However, just short of a year later, a second fire ignited in downtown destroying, again, a large section of the downtown businesses. But, the town rebuilt once again.
The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral is the most famous Tombstone event, although it happened in a Fremont Street vacant lot and not the O.K. Corral. The event took place on October 26, 1881, when the Cowboys had a bit of a run-in with a few Earps – Morgan, Virgil and Wyatt. Not even 30 seconds and about 30 gun shots later, Frank and Tom McLaury and Billy Clanton were dead. For many, it is believed that it this sole event that has kept the city of Tombstone alive. Click here to see more Wild West Photos!