Ah, the day I've been waiting for ... the premiere destination for my entire trip -- Tombstone! But, first, a little side trip to the ghost town of Fairbank, Arizona along the way. Though getting its start as a simple stage stop, Fairbank began to boom when the railroad came through in 1881. As nearby Tombstone, some ten miles away, didn't get a railroad until 1903, those last decades of the 20th century were booming for the small town of Fairbank, so much so that it gained three different railroads and depots. It lived on beyond the mining heydays, but it too, eventually died. Situated on BLM land today, there are a number of buildings that can still be seen standing on this historic site.
On to Tombstone! Just ten more miles down the road we arrive at my much anticipated destination. I was so excited to visit this historic place where so many of those Old West figures walked, that we got an early start in the morning and was glad of it. Arriving before most of the businesses were even open, we virtually had the town to ourselves. We first spent the time just walking around, taking photos, and enjoying the Old West atmosphere. The City of Tombstone has done a great job in preserving its historic buildings and providing an authentic peek into the past. Its main street is blocked off to traffic and still retains its dusty street. Makes for much better photos!!
After having seen it all, we then began to explore in more depth. Our first stop was the O.K. Corral and Historama. Though the site is not the "real" actual place of the gunfight, they've done a great job a re-creating the past. The tour provides a a 30-minute presentation, complete with films and animated figures on a revolving stage of Tombstone's early years . Next door to the Historama is the corral, where life-size figures portray the legendary gunfight between the Earps and Doc Holliday against the Clanton Gang. Other sights to see include the reconstructed Camilius S. Fly studio, complete with many of his historic photographs, old stables, carriages, a hearse, and even a red-light district shack. Live gunfights were scheduled throughout the day.
Next, we head over to the Tombstone Epitaph, which got its start in 1880 and is still in business.Today, this historic newspaper is published by the University of Arizona's Journalism Department. At the old newspaper office, you can see the original press and other printing exhibits and to pick up your own Epitaph.
On down the street we stopped in at the Bird Cage Theatre, an 1881 dance hall, gambling house, saloon, brothel, and theater that provided the finest and most expensive entertainment of the day. During its first eight years, the doors never closed. This old place, which now serves as a museum, was the scene of twenty-six deaths during its eight years of business. The self-guided tour offers views of the historic bar, gambling tables, and bordello rooms. You can see the actual faro table that Doc Holliday once dealt cards at as well as a multitude of other items that were originally in the old theatre and never left.
Hungry, we then head over to Big Nose Kate's Saloon, a large and colorful cowboy bar that began life as the Grand Hotel in 1881. Dressed in period costume, we enjoy the employees and live entertainment, as much as the great food. In the corner, an old cowboy takes photos for tips. We eagerly step up to the plate! My only regret is that we haven't the time to while away the afternoon, drinking sudsy beers with these great characters.
Now, on a hunt for the old house that Wyatt Earp once lived in, we find it, now hosting the Wyatt Earp House and Gallery, which brings together the history of the Old West with western and southwestern art.
Last, but not least, we head on over to Boot Hill Graveyard. Though I knew that those Clanton Gang members killed in the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral lay there, as well as John Heath, who was lynched by a Bisbee mob, I didn't know that the old cemetery contained so many other graves - some 250 of them, ranging from outlaws, to painted ladies, to regular folks.
Alas, our time in Tombstone has come to an end and we still have some time so we head down the Ghost Town Trail in search of yet more old mining camps - Gleeson, Courtland, and Pearce and are rewarded with a number of historic buildings along our way.
Finally, we head back to Sierra Vista and our hotel.