“I’m Your Huckleberry!”

When we left Yuma. AZ, this past Wednesday (April 4), we traveled about four hours east along Interestate 10 to a small town in Arizona called Benson. Now you might be wondering WHY anyone would want to spend a couple of night in Benson. Well……..

Yesterday we spent the day in Tombstone, Arizona! Yep! TOMBSTONE. The town known as “The Town Too Tough To Die” and also known for one of the wild west’s most famous gunfights between the Earp brothers with Doc Holliday and the Clanton Gang: The Gunfight at OK Corral.

Tombstone was founded in 1877 by Ed Schieffelin. Ed was part of a scouting mission looking for Apaches. During his stay at Camp Huachuca, he would go out into the desert wilderness looking for “rocks.” His friends thought he was crazy and warned him that the only thing he would find would be his own “tombstone” (meaning he would die out there all alone). Ed was fortunate and did not find his own tombstone but found silver instead. Upon the advice of his fellow soldiers, Ed named his first silver mine Tombstone.

Word of the silver strike spread quickly and before long homesteaders, cowboys, prospectors, lawyers, business people and gunmen headed to the area known back then as Goose Glats. A town was formed near the mine, and in 1879 it was named Tombstone after Ed Schieffelin’s first silver mine claim.

Tombstone’s population increased steadily and by the mid 1880s it was about 7,500. This was based only on white males over the age of 21 who were registered to vote which was the custom at that time. In reality the population would have been at least 15,000-20,000 if it had included women, children and other ethnicities.

Tombstone had an abundance of saloons, hotels, bordellos, and theaters. The Bird Cage Theater was not only a theater but a gambling hall, saloon, and brothel. This theater had the reputation of being one of the wickedest and wildest night spots in the country. That’s probably true since you can still see the 140 bullet holes in the walls and ceilings.

The streets of old town Tombstone have been preserved and looks like a scene right out of a western movie. You can even take a tour of the town in a stagecoach!



Original adobe home built in 1882.



This is the Tombstone Courthouse.



Big Nose Kate’s Saloon – original structure!  The plaque on the wall to the right of the door says:  “Registered Tombstone Historic District.  Big Nose Kate’s.  Once the Grand Hotel.  An original building.  Through these doors walked the most famous and notorious people of the 1880 era.”



Inside Big Nose Kate;s Saloon – gorgeous bar!


We wanted to eat here and get a drink, but, as you can see, it was too crowded and the wait time was really long.


This Wild West small town really has an interesting history with too many fascinating details to tell about here. Feel free to google it and read all about it. However, there is one unique historical event that I must tell you about – – –

The Gunfight at the OK Corral.

This inevitable showdown took place on October 26, 1881 and was for the control of Tombstone after months of threats, romantic rivalries, stage robberies, pistol whippings, and arrests. Police Chief Virgil Earp deputized brothers Wyatt and Morgan along with Doc Holliday to help him disarm the cowboys who were waiting to confront Doc when he returned to his rented room at Fly’s (a local hotel).

When the bullets started flying, unarmed Ike Clanton ran into Fly’s and kept on running. In thirty seconds nearly thirty shots were fired. The three cowboys who stood their ground and were killed in the gunfight were: Frank McLaury, age 33, stumbled onto Fremont Street and was shot in the head; Tom McLaury, age 28, who may have been unarmed, was cut down by a blast from Doc’s shotgun; and Billy Clanton, age 19, was killed by a shot from Morgan Earp’s gun. Ike Clanton (age 34), who ran when the shooting started, was later killed by Detective Brighton in 1887.

Wyatt Earp was 33 years old when the shootout took place; Doc was 30, Virgil was 38, and Morgan was 30. Both Virgil and Morgan Earp were badly wounded, but Doc Holliday suffered only a superficial hip wound. Wyatt Earp walked away without a scratch.

Wyatt died At the age of 81 in 1929. Virgil was ambushed December 28, 1881, (two months after the gunfight) but survived. He didn’t die until 1905 (62 years old) when he caught pneumonia. Morgan was ambushed and killed the night of March 18, 1882 (five months after the gunfight). He was shot through the window of a door while he was playing billiards.

They reenact the gunfight several times a day.  We wanted to go see it, however, they don’t allow dogs inside the corral area.  Therefore, Zoey and I stayed outside and roamed the streets while Jack witnessed the reenactment and took these pictures.


Life size statues of the Earp’s and the Clanton gang on the actual site right before the gunfight started.



Doc Holliday who narrated the reenactment.


Morgan Earp in the middle.  The other two men are part of the Clanton gang.



Virgil Earp on the left and Wyatt Earp on the right.


Wyatt Earp.


All the Earp’s and Doc.



Things start getting “heated.”



Jack said the shooting started suddenly and was over REALLY quickly!


Of course, Jack had to have his picture taken with the Earp’s and Doc.


Well……me too!

Doc Holliday was Wyatt Earp’s good friend for many years before The Gunfight at OK Corral. He even saved Wyatt’s life once while they were in Texas. In the movie, Doc says “I’m your Huckleberry” to Wyatt which means something along the line of “I’m your man for the job.” Doc Holliday died of tuberculosis (he caught the disease while caring for his mother until she died from it) in 1887 at the age of 36.

All in all, we had a fantastic day in Tombstone, Arizona.

So for now ….. “On the Road Again!”


Yuma Territorial Prison

While we were in Yuma, AZ, we visited the Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park.  This prison opened in 1875 while Arizona was still a U.S. territory.  For the next 33 years the prison held a total of 3,069 prisoners, including 20 women.  The prison was under continuous construction, and the labor was provided by the prisoners.  The last prisoner left the prison in 1909.

The Yuma Union High School occupied the prison from 1910-1914.  When the High School football team play against Phoenix, they unexpectedly won.  The Phoenix team called the Yuma team “Criminals.”  Following that game Yuma High adopted the nickname with pride, and they are sometimes referred to as the “Crims.”  Their symbol is the face of a hardened criminal and their school’s merchandise shop is called the Cell Block.

You enter this historic park through a gift shop (of course!).  One of the museum workers takes you outside, tells you a little about the prison, and gives you a map.  We took a “self guided” tour, but you can get a guided tour, I think, if it’s arranged in advance.  Most people just do the self guided thing.

It was kind of hot the day we toured the prison (90+ degrees).  I could NOT even imagine how hot it would have been in one of those cells with SIX inmates per cell during the REALLY hot summertime!  With no windows, there would have been NO way to even get a breeze through most of the cells.  The whole time we were in the prison, all I could think about was HOW miserable it must have been to be a prisoner here back in the late 1800s.

Here are a few of the pictures I took.  The first several pics are inside the museum, and, if you zoom in, you might be able to read some of the interesting history.  After those, the pictures are of the actual prison (or what is left of it and has been restored).



Three of the more notorious women prisoners.



A photo of what the prison looked like perched on the bluff of the Colorado River in the early 1900s.



Each cell housed six prisoners who slept on these narrow bunk beds.



That’s a pretty tough looking prisoner!



Two bunk beds with three beds each. MAYBE the cell was 10 feet x 8 feet. With only one man in the cell there would barely be room to turn around. Can you imagine SIX men inside?

The dark cell was just that:  DARK.  They dug a room out of the solid granite with no windows and one door.  It was used as a type of solitary confinement for punishing wayward prisoners.  They put an iron cell inside this granite room.  The iron cell was to keep the prisoner (or prisoners) from jumping the guards when they brought in their food which was bread and water once a day.  There was one small hole through the top of the dark cell to let in air.  Sometimes the guards would drop a snake or scorpion down that hole just to watch and see what the prisoners would do.


Entrance to the dark cell.


This is the hole in the ceiling – the only place for air and light to come in (other than when the door opened). The ceiling looked like it was 2 feet thick, or more, of solid rock.


This is the floor of the iron cell. It sure wasn’t very big. It looked as if this iron cell was a lot smaller than the regular cells.


Yep! It was kind of creepy in the dark cell. I was SO glad to get out of there!

We walked around the prison “yards” and tried to imagine how hot it would be there in the summertime when the temperatures were at least 15 degrees hotter than the day we were there.



Much of the prison yard wall was destroyed or carried off as building materials for other structures after the prison closed and before it was deemed an historical site.


Several more prison cells were added in the latter years.



The bell was used to warn the town when prisoners escaped. When the prison closed, it was used at a local church. Of course, Jack HAD to ring the bell. Believe me – it was LOUD!

As we left the prison and museum, we climbed to the top of the main guard tower.  It was the only guard tower left from the original prison.  The views from the guard tower were gorgeous!



The building in this picture is the gift shop where you enter the prison museum and prison.  There are two bridges behind the building that cross the Colorado River.  The darker one in the front was built by the railroad;  the silver one in the back (you can barely see it) is for cars.  


The building on the left is the museum.


If you look closely, or zoom in, you can see the Colorado River. The prison was built on a bluff overlooking the river.

After we left the prison, we drove across the bridge over the Colorado River.  On the other side, at the top of a hill was an old mission.  Just passed the mission was a casino.  What a MIX of old history and modern times!  There was a state park right below the bridges and people were swimming in the river.



The Colorado River. It was so hot the day we visited the prison that I seriously considered jumping in the river.

Touring the prison gave me the opportunity to learn more about the history of the Yuma, Arizona, area.  I’m beginning to realize what a RICH history each place we visit has and how much each area contributed to the building and development of our wonderful country!

After leaving the prison, we went back to the RV to load everything up and get ready to leave the next morning for our next location.  I’ll tell you where we are headed in the next post.

So, for now ….. “On the Road Again!”


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