I am confident that during March of 1879 Edward Schieffelin (above) was suffering from ennui. He had new clothes, he was bathing and eating regularly, and probably for the first time in his life he was being treated with respect by strangers. But the man who had spent half his life alone, seeking his fortune over the next hill, admitted, "I never wanted to be rich, I just wanted to get close to the earth and see mother nature's gold." His discovery of the Tombstone silver lode had robbed him of what Shakespeare's Hamlet called "...the name of action". So in Philadelphia, he left negotiations for the million dollar deal to his brother Alfred and their partner, Richard Gird.
The principle investors in the richest silver strike since the Comstock lode, Frank and Phillip Corbin, had built their fortune (above) making door locks and metal trimmings for coffins. They knew nothing about mining. But because they agreed how best to profit from the Lucky Cuss and Tough Nut claims, they were welcomed as partners.
The new corporate offices for The Tombstone Milling and Mining Company, at 425 Walnut Street in Philadelphia, issued half a million shares of stock, which were quickly snapped up by investors. Almost over night Ed Schieffelin was a millionaire. And there was more to come.
Within a year there were 3,000 working mines between the Dragoon and Mule mountains and the San Pedro River. Besides the original four, the richest claims would be the Grand Central, the Goodenough, the Vizna, the Empire, the Tranquility, the Sydney, The Girard, The Sulphuret and The Bob Ingersoll. But none were as rich as the first. At depth the Tough Nut's vein was sometimes 20 feet wide, and required 75 men to extract it and another 80 to mill what it produced. The vein in the Grand Central mine was 8 to 12 feet wide.
Tombstone Mining and Milling sold half of the Lucky Cuss for $10,000, using the cash to fund construction of stamping mills, under newly named Superintendent Richard Gird.
Over 500 tons of ore each day from all the mines had to be transported by 16 mule team ore wagons 8 miles west to the San Pedro river, at a cost of $3.50 a ton. Along both banks, 7 deafening stamp mills were constructed, surrounded by almost identical reverberating villages of between 200 and 600 residents each, named Charleston, Contention, Fairbank and Millville. Here running water or steam driven steel hammers, 140 "stamps" in total, pounded the ore 24 hours a day until it was reduced to powder. Separated in baths of cyanide, and then heated to 1,763 degrees Fahrenheit, the 90 % pure liquid silver was then poured into molds. Carried by stagecoach to Benson, where it met the The New Mexico and Arizona branch of the Atchison Topeka and the Santa Fe railroad, the ingots were then shipped the bars to El Paso, Texas for ultimate refining.
In one year alone- between April 1881 and April 1882 - the San Pedro mills shipped $1.3 million worth of silver bullion to El Paso - about $30 million today. In just 4 years greater Tombstone grew from 100 to 8,000 white males. Adding women, African Americans, Hispanics and Chinese, the real total was probably closer to 10,000 souls living in the Sonoran desert without direct access to fresh water, food, or plumbing.
Everything had to be brought in by wagon or burro. And still the town eventually supported Vogan's 10 pin Bowling Alley And Bar, a gym, a book store, 4 churches, an ice house, one school, 2 banks, 3 newspapers, several billiard parlors, an ice cream parlor, 2 Italian, 1 French, a couple of Chinese and several Mexican restaurants, as well as many that promised "Home Cooking" and a few which actually delivered it, 110 saloons, 42 lawyers, at least 14 gambling and dance halls and at least a dozen brothels.
The Can Can French restaurant advertised "Game as wild as a tornado, chicken as tender as a maiden’s heart, ice-cream as delicious as a day in June, dessert that would charm the soul of a South Sea Islander and smiles as bright as the morning sun..." The Grand Hotel boasted 16 rooms, each "..fitted with walnut furniture and carpeted...spring mattresses that would tempt even a sybarite, toilet stands and fixtures... the walls papered, and...each room having windows." There was even limited telephone service by 1882.
Most famous (or infamous) business in Tombstone would be the tiny Bird Cage Theatre- open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week after it opened Christmas eve 1881. It was named for the twin balcony, 7 bedrooms 2nd floor, suspended from the ceiling- their physical load transferred to the thick adobe exterior walls (below). Their moral load carried by the patrons seemingly without effort
A beer at the bar cost a dollar - equivalent to $22 today - extra if you ordered it from one of the suspended "cages" (above). These were single use spaces - prostitution being pound for pound and minute for minute the most profitable business in Tombstone.
According to the New York Times the Birdcage was "...the wildest, wickedest night spot between Basin Street (New Orleans) and (San Francisco's) the Barbary Coast."
It was also small. Past the bar (above), the main hall was just 15 X 15 feet, not including the stage and orchestra pit. With summer temperatures routinely reaching 118°F, and with open flame gas jets providing the only lighting in the windowless building, crowded with warm bodies and clouds of cigar smoke from the basement gambling parlor, tempers and oxygen must have both been in short supply.
The only thing holding the level of sin at bay seemed to have been the lack of water, and by March of 1881 the Huachuca Water Company had trapped the flow from 3 springs behind a dam (above) built across Miller canyon, 6,500 feet up in the Huachuca Mountains, southwest of Tombstone. Gravity forced the fresh water through the 7 inch iron pipe across 26 miles of desert to a 1 million gallon reservoir just above Tombstone. The water must have been hot.
Boasted the "Epitaph", "It is safe to say that no other town in America, of its size and population, is better supplied with amusements...Only last evening...there were meetings of firemen, Odd fellows, city council, the literary and debating society, together with a ball, a theatre, a dancing school, and a couple of private parties, all at full blast! Hurrah for Tombstone! (above)"
The town's economy rested on the strong backs and arms of its 6,000 male miners and mill workers - mostly Cornish, Irish, Poles and Germans (above). They earned the union wage of $4 for every 10 hour shift in the tunnels. Between that sum and the pay for teamsters and support staff, $168,000 in cash was injected into Tombstone's economy each week.
And just about as many faro dealers, bartenders, south side prostitutes, lawyers, restaurant owners, hotel clerks, bakers, Chinese laundrymen, Mexican laborers, opium den operators, life insurance salesmen and politicians did their very best to take every dime of it. It was a miner, whose addictions had reduced him to a dish washer, who bestowed upon Tombstone it's official nickname - not El Dorado (golden city) but Helldorado.
Still, in its bloodiest year - 1881 - Tombstone, Arizona officially recorded only 6 homicides. And 3 of those were by police officers, in the shoot out at the O.K. Corral. Over the decade between the town's founding and water flooding into the mines, there were 130 "murders and self-defense" gun deaths, 18 "accidental" gun deaths and 15 self inflicted gunshot deaths. That low a death toll, when compared to the higher rates in outlying mill towns, can only be ascribed to ordinance Number 9, imposing a $25 fine for carrying a deadly weapon "...in the hand or upon the person or otherwise....within the limits of said city of Tombstone..." Guns were still readily available, but the slight delay in accessing them seems to have made all the difference.
Meanwhile Mose Drachman, resident of the little mill town of Charleston (above, bottom) - population about 350 - and without benefit of ordinance Number 9 - remembered "...it was not an uncommon sight to see one or more dead men lying in the street when going to work...If a dead man had a gun on him and was shot from the front, no one bothered to look for the killer.”
Charleston's only employee was sheriff, judge, treasurer and Justice of the Peace, James Burnett, "...a known scoundrel..." "Justice Jim" operated on a strictly cash basis, kept the town treasury in his pocket, recorded no records and favored the "open carry" approach to justice.
One of the few murders in Charleston to ever go to trial occurred outside Harry Queen's saloon on 1 October, 1881. Braggart and hothead James Hickey was on the tail end of 3 day bender, and out of money. As he staggered out the door he ran into Billy "The Kid" Claiborne (above). Hickey had been looking for the popular Claiborne for days, spoiling for a fight and calling him "a prick eating son-of-a-bitch". The Kid tried to walk away from the drunk, and warned Hickey that if he kept following, Claiborne would kill him. When Hickey kept coming, Billy shot him down, and when Hickey got up, The Kid shot him once more in the face, killing him. It took 2 trials but Billy Claiborne was eventually found to have killed in self defense.
More typical were 2 other murders in Justice Burnetts' jurisdiction of Charleston (above). First, the January of 1881 shooting of W.P. Scheider, chief engineer of the Corbin Mill, who was gunned down by Johnny-Behind-the-Deuce, AKA Micheal O'Rourke - and the March 1882 killing of 26 year old Martin Ruter Peel, who was murdered in full view of witnesses by 2 masked men. Martin was an engineer for Tombstone Mining and Milling, and the son of a prominent judge. Yet no one was ever charged in his murder. O'Rourke was arrested and was threatened by a lynch mob of miners and cowboys - encouraged by Curly Bill Brocius and Johnny Ringo. The lynching was blocked by among others Wyatt Earp, who managed to lock up the killer in Tombstone. But Johnny-Behind -The- Deuce never stood trial because he escaped jail. Thus the "Open Carry" version of justice was far from open or just.
Albert Schieffelin stayed around Tombstone long enough to build the largest adobe structure in the southwest, where men could take their wives to hear music and see theatre - Schieffelin Hall. Then he left for Los Angeles, where he died in 1885, of the consumption he contracted in the mines. Richard Gerd ran the mills for years, eventually selling his share of the flooding mines for $800,000. But the finder, Ed Schieffelin , never returned to Tombstone.
Eventually Ed (above) bought a ranch near the Schieffelin homestead in the Rogue Valley in Oregon. But even a wife and child, and mansions outside of San Francisco and in Los Angeles could not hold him. In May of 1897 Ed suffered a heart attack, alone in a California mountain cabin, still looking for "Mother Nature's Gold". When he died, Ed was not yet 50 years old. He left his wife Mary, "...all...real and personal properties, in...California", and gave the rest of his fortune to his only surviving brother, Jay.
As his will requested Ed was buried 3 miles east of Tombstone, near the dry wash where he had first found ore. In his coffin he was provided with a pick. a shovel and his old canteen, should the afterlife offer him opportunities for more prospecting. His tombstone (above) is, as he requested, "a monument, such as prospectors build when locating a mining claim." It was as if he were saying this was where his life ended, after 15 years of searching and 20 years before his death.
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