Boothill Graveyard

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The first graveyard in Tombstone, Arizona, shows the violent side of the Old West. For the second time, Women Writing the West has brought me to Tucson, and Tombstone draws me like a magnet although it is seventy miles away. Last week I went twice. My only visit to this famous cemetery was just before Halloween.

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Boothill contains those who died in the first years of the silver-mining boomtown of Tombstone. It’s now on the National Register of Historic Places, and visitors are given a pamphlet with details of the dead. Who says historical research is dull?

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Mr. Killeen was shot by Frank Leslie in a disagreement over Killeen’s wife. The recently widowed Mrs. Killeen married her husband’s murderer.

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Three-fingered Jack Dunlap was robbing a train when a guard shot him. Dunlap’s partners in crime left him, and he named them before he died.

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George Johnson did not realize the horse he bought was stolen.

Outlaws and respectable folk, prostitutes and strangers rest in peace. Margarita, a dance hall girl (who probably kept her last name secret), was stabbed by another, who went by the name of Gold Dollar. They had argued about a man.

Victims of diphtheria. Suicides, many of them women. Accidents, including in mines. One well-dressed stranger was found dead in an abandoned shaft.

Many murdered. Death by hanging, legally and illegally.

 

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Outlaws killed in the shooting at the O.K. Corral.

 

Tombstone is the site of the famous gunfight at the O.K. Corral, where Wyatt Earp and his brothers, along with Doc Holliday, killed three outlaws in a gang. They rest here, together. Two were brothers.

They say that those who live by the sword, die by the sword.

I was shaken. I did not find it spooky, only sobering. I’ll leave you with a little graveyard humor. Lester Moore was a Wells Fargo agent and argued with a man over a package. Both died, but I’m sure Moore got the better epitaph.

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The Birdcage Theater’s “Basement Bordello”

 

Wild times at the Bird Cage Theater in the silver boomtown of Tombstone, Arizona.

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Tombstone was the site of the O.K. Corral, where Wyatt Earp and his brothers, along with Doc Holliday, had a gunfight with a gang.

The Bird Cage Theater website proudly quotes the NY Times from 1882, when the Bird Cage Theater was new:  “The wildest, wickedest night spot between Basin Street and the Barbary Coast.” That’s New Orleans to San Francisco, quite a ways.

At the Bird Cage Theater, stairs backstage lead down to one of the wicked areas. There are some bedrooms where prostitutes entertained customers, and they are right beside poker tables. The poker players must have heard a lot of embarrassing noises from behind the prostitutes’ doors a couple yards away from their card game.

The poker games went round the clock. You’d sign up and have to wait a day or so for your spot to open. Someone would go and find you when it was your turn.

This basement is shown in two small photos on the home page, on the right. They are not labelled, but here’s how to find them: where the text reads: “recently, six more rooms …” the photo beside it shows one of the prostitutes’ bedrooms. Below it, you can see a table and chairs where men, and maybe women, played poker. Wild and wicked, indeed.