Boom Town

Were it not for the Earp/Clanton gunfight, it’s fair to say Tombstone would be remembered mainly as a mining camp with a fairly unusual name. It was a successful mining camp, but it only lasted a decade or so.

Thus was the romance of Tombstone. Within six months ten thousand men had placed a city upon that desert mountainside. Silence of the unpeopled hills had been routed by the hum of industry. Curling smoke betrayed peaceful, happy firesides. Life was normal and we looked toward the future with optimism.

—John Clum
Mayor of Tombstone
editor of the Epitaph
page 78 of Apache Days & Tombstone Nights
Neil Carmony, ed..

John Clum, Wyatt & Sadie/Josie Earp, George Parsons, Nellie Cashman–all lived in Tombstone in 1881, all lived long lives, and all spent many years in mining camps in many places. This short quotation expresses an important force in all those lives, and in the lives of many less heralded folks who mined, or lived near mines. To all appearances, everyone on this list would have lived pretty much the same life with or without the savage gunfight which appears to define the Tombstone story. (Of course, other folks’ lives were profoundly affected by the shootout. This necessary acknowledgement does not change my point.)


Clum, forever a booster, exaggerates the growth of Tombstone a bit. The town may have reached ten thousand, but it was several years, not a few months.


That Sadie/Josie thing is a bother. Josephine Marcus Earp is hardly the only person known to history by a different name than they used in life–Adrian Anson comes immediately to mind–but it’s annoying. And I repeat, for emphasis: Tombstone’s history is a contentious trap, and has been so from the start. Long-standing disputes make it difficult to find a foothold.