Welcome back to Woody’s Wild West, where stories and tales of the Wild West come alive. I just returned from performing in Congress, Arizona’s Wild West Days, as well as Helldorado Days in Tombstone. This was one of the biggest Helldorado events in recent history. It saw the return to Tombstone of World Champion Western Performer and Rope Spinner Loop Rawlins for the first time in years from his show in Las Vegas.
There are a surprising number of visitors that think Tombstone was just a movie. Many more don’t know how the mining camp (and eventual town) came by its famous name or the mystery surrounding one of its founders. One of the wildest of the Wild West towns, and indeed the largest, between St. Louis and San Francisco in its day, has an interesting story behind its infamous name. So…. Have a seat and let me share the story of Tombstone with you.
It seems an adventurous young man named Ed Schieffelin born to a prominent New York family wanted to try his hand at Indian scouting and prospecting in the west in Arizona. After doing some prospecting and surveying of the Grand Canyon he found himself enlisted with a group of Indian scouts.
These scouts were headed to set up a new Calvary post near the Mexican border called Camp Huachuca in Pima County (present day Cochise County and Fort Huachuca) to counter the Chiricahua Apache threat led by Apache chief Cochise and renegade Apache Geronimo.
As Ed went out on patrols from the fort he also began to survey the area rock and stone formations for gold and silver deposits. As a consequence of these patrols, Ed began to learn the lay of the land: where the Apache Indians were and where they were not, thereby avoiding attack.
Soon, he felt confident enough that he could avoid these attacks. He began to go on excursions on his own to check some of these formations which might yield the precious ore he was seeking. Following one of these trips into the desert, near a place called “Goose Flats” not far from Cochise Stronghold, a scout by the name of Al Sieber questioned Ed about why he was venturing out alone. Ed replied, “Prospecting for rock and stone formations which might yield silver or gold ore.” To which Sieber replied, “The only stone you’re going to find out there is your “tombstone”, Ed.”
Well, Ed didn’t find his “tombstone,” but one of the biggest ore deposits in Arizona. Later, while looking for his brother in the Globe, Arizona area, he asked 20 to 30 different individuals about the value of the ore samples he had found. Ed was told that they were worthless. As you can imagine, Ed became discouraged. Ed gave the samples to the foreman of a mine who told him it was mostly lead. In his frustration, Ed threw some of the samples out the door of his brother’s cabin, but, at the last minute, decided to keep three. Learning of a mining assayer (person who analyzes ores and minerals) named Richard Gird, Ed turned the remaining samples over to the assayer. Three days later Ed’s brother shook him out of his bunk and told Ed the samples weren’t worthless but assayed at $2000 a ton.
On a gentleman's hand shake, the three became partners in the mining operation, naming the first mine “The Tombstone,” hence the name of the famous town. They had many different names for their mines which came about in similar manners. At one point, Brother Al and partner Gird became discouraged when the vein played out. Ed, being ever the optimist, kept looking until he found another vein. Al called Ed a “Lucky Cuss” which became the name of one of the richest mining claims in the district - the ore assayed at $15000. Ed ran into trouble on one of his other claims because of difficult rock formations which caused him to constantly change direction to follow the vein of ore, he said “This going to be a Tough Nut to Crack.” The “Tough Nut” mine became the name of the mine rich in “Horn Silver” and the famous Tombstone Courthouse is located on the street of the same name. Then on another occasion some miners’ mules got loose. They were dragging their chain across some rocks which produced a bright gleam on the chain and revealed more ore deposits near the Schieffelin. Gird claim troubles soon began. After much legal wrangling between the two parties one claiming the other had a claim on the ore, the contentions between the two parties were settled by dividing the claim between the two. So came about another of name of a mine “The Contention Mine.” This mine, as well as the other miner’s claim, produced the highest grade ore in Tombstone.
The partners eventually sold their interest in the district and became millionaires and the town became the “Town to Tough to Die.” Ed moved back to Oregon with family after prospecting some more. One day a when Ed didn’t show up for mining supplies, a neighbor went to investigate found Ed face down in his cabin, dead, of an apparent heart attack.
So here ends one of the great pioneers of the old West, who risked it all against Indian attack, and hostile desert environment to discover one of the bawdiest, wildest towns in the west and one of the richest strikes in Arizona and US history. Or does it?
It seems along with Ed’s body was discovered several ore samples. Some say as “rich or richer than Tombstone’s.” Supposedly, the find was written in his journal but with no map to where the ore samples’ origins were located. One thing is for certain, by this time, Ed would know a good ore sample having worked alongside Gird (the assayer) and all the mining he and his brother did in Tombstone. Yet, no one has ever found the source of the samples.
Well as the story goes Ed eventually did find his tombstone in Tombstone, Arizona (just not the way everyone expected.) He was originally buried in Oregon near his cabin. When his will was discovered with his request to be buried in Tombstone, he was later moved. So ends the legend of a man buried at the end of Allen Street, in the desert he had searched for, under a miner’s marker. (Interestingly, he was not laid to rest in “Boot Hill” Cemetery which the town of Tombstone has made famous.)
Well… so long for now, till we meet again for another tale of the old west from WWW Woody’s Wild West.