That Time When...Walking the Streets of Tombstone

February 25, 2017  •  2 Comments

As part of our series "That Time When...", we take a look back at our 2007 journey to Tombstone, AZ, where we found more than just an Old West tourist destination. We found the Ghost Town Trail. 

We had stayed in Sierra Vista and decided to day-trip it out for adventure. Coming up Highway 90, then east on 82, first on our list was the ghost town of Fairbank. 

Fairbank, AZ - Adobe BuildingFairbank, AZ - Adobe BuildingOld commercial buildings in the ghost town of Fairbank, Arizona. They once held a post office, saloon and general store. Settled in the late 1870's, this town was first called Junction City, and at the time was a simple stage stop on the way to Tombstone. Later it would be renamed Kendall, before finally becoming Fairbank when it gained its post office in 1883.  We found the old adobe commercial building that once housed the post office, a saloon and general store. 

1920 Fairbank SchoolThis old school house now serves as a visitor's center and museum. The 1920 Fairbank School now serves as a visitors center and museum. The school served children through 1944, and the post office didn't close until the late 1970's. In 1987 the Bureau of Land Management took over the property and it became part of the San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area in November of 1988. The NCA has since stabilized, preserved and in some cases restored the old remaining buildings. 

Fairbank, AZ - HouseFairbank, AZ - House Read about the mining and railroad history of this neat little stop in our article Fairbank - Dead in the Desert

On to Tombstone, the Town too Tough to Die!

Tombstone, AZ - Allen Street TodayTombstone, AZ - Allen Street TodayThe famous silver-mining town of Tombstone, Arizona once had some 10,000 people and was the county seat. It was called "Tombstone" because it was feared that the Apache would kill anyone encroaching on the area. Today it is referred to as "The Town Too Tough to Die". Ed Schieffelin, a prospector, looked out on the mountains from where he stood at Camp Huachuca, commenting that the rich colors of the mountains looked like a promising place. A nearby soldier was quick to warn him that the area was controlled by Apache indians and said "All you'll find in those hills is your tombstone." Luckily for us, Schieffelin was a stubborn man. 

Tombstone, AZ - StreetTombstone, AZ - StreetTombstone, Arizona Street by Kathy Alexander. Tombstone was officially established in March of 1879 and quickly became a boom town with the promise of Silver Mining. Tombstone, AZ - StagecoachTombstone, AZ - StagecoachTombstone, Arizona Stagecoach by Kathy Alexander.

In fact, by the time Wyatt Earp arrived in December that year in hopes of establishing a stage line, he discovered the town already had two. So off to the gaming tables he went, as did many of the towns rowdy residents.  

Tombstone, AZ - Crystal PalaceTombstone, AZ - Crystal PalaceBuilt to attract the "finer" elements of Tombstone, the Crystal Palace Saloon provided shining crystal tableware, elegant deacor, the finest wines and spirits, and as many as five bartenders standing on duty to quickly serve their patrons around the clock. From the start, owner Wehrfritz also insisted on strictly honest games of chance. Though it was just one of 110 establishments licensed to sell liquor in the booming city, the new establishment soon attracted the most prominent businessmen. Open 24 hours a day, the Crystal Palace attracted everyone from the doctors, to lawyers to mining officials, as well as other hangers on wishing to rub elbows with the prominent, but would brook no funny business within its walls, protecting itself from the many bullet holes found in other lesser establishments in the community. The rich Old West history runs deep in this now tourist town. The post office, established shortly before the town was laid out, continues to operate to this day. The local Newspaper, the Tombstone Epitaph, is the oldest continually published paper in Arizona, and the infamous Allen Street has been restored to attract thousands of visitors from around the world each year. 

Tombstone, AZ - Big Nose KatesTombstone, AZ - Big Nose Kates We had a blast visiting Big Nose Kate's Saloon, a large and colorful cowboy bar that began life as the Grand Hotel in 1881. 

Tombstone, AZ - Birdcage TheatreTombstone, AZ - Birdcage TheatreThe famous Birdcage Theatre opened its doors on December 25, 1881 and for the next eight years would never close, operating 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Also called the Bird Cage Opera House Saloon, the establishment featured a saloon, gambling parlour, theatre, and a brothel. In no time, the theatre gained a reputation as one of the wildest places in Tombstone, so bad that the few self-respecting women in town refused to even walk near the place. The New York Times reported in 1882, that "the Bird Cage Theatre is the wildest, wickedest night spot between Basin Street and the Barbary Coast". During the years that the theatre was open the wicked little place witnessed a number of gun and knife fights that took some 26 lives, and left 140 bullet holes in the ceilings, walls, and floors, many of which can still be seen today. The Bird Cage Theatre, an 1881 dance hall, gambling house, saloon, brothel and theatre provided a peak at history as it now serves as museum. The scene of twentysix deaths during its eight years in business, you can actually see the faro table that Doc Holliday once dealt cards among the many items that never left the building from the early days. 

Tombstone, AZ - Ok CorralTombstone, AZ - Ok CorralPhoto by Kathy Alexander. Although the O.K. Corral and Historama is not the actual site of the famous gun fight, you will enjoy the recreation of the past during a 30 minute tour, complete with films, animated figures and more. Next door is the 'corral', where you can enjoy the "gunfight". 

Tombstone, AZ - Boot Hill GraveyardTombstone, AZ - Boot Hill GraveyardOne of the most famous cemeteries in the country, Boot Hill Graveyard was originally platted on a slight hill just northwest of Tombstone in 1878 and called the "Tombstone Cemetery." It was used for all burials until 1884, when a new Cemetery was built at the end of Allen Street, when it then took on the name, the Old Cemetery. And of course no trip to Tombstone would be complete without a visit to Boot Hill Graveyard, the final resting place of such notables as the Clanton Gang, John Heath and others. 

For old west lovers, this is a must stop, and well worth the time spent walking the streets and soaking up the history. Re-enactments, characters and more abound to please audiences of all ages.  

Read about the incredible story of the Earps, Holliday, Big Nose Kate, the Clantons and more in our article "Tombstone - The Town Too Tough to Die."

Here's a slideshow of our visit, along with some other historical photographs. Continue reading below for information on the Ghost Town Trail. 


Ghost Towns: America's Lost World DVDA 5-Part Journey into Abandoned History, including appearances by Legends' own Kathy Weiser and Dave Alexander.

The Ghost Town Trail - Gleeson, Courtland & Pearce

On a dusty road winding out of Tombstone, we began an adventure on the Ghost Town Trail. 

Gleeson, AZ - HospitalGleeson, AZ - Hospital About 16 miles on the trail you run into Gleeson. The first mining camp here was called Turquoise when the post office opened in 1890, however the camp was short lived and the post office closed.  

Gleeson, AZ - JailGleeson, AZ - Jail However in 1900, John Gleeson arrived to begin mining again, and after finding copper, a new camp sprung up in his name and yet another post office was established, this time as Gleeson. 

Gleeson, AZ - RuinsGleeson, AZ - Ruins After the mining was done, the town was done as well, with the post office closing by 1939. Today the old settlement has numerous ruins, including an old hospital, saloon, dry good store, jail and mining remnants. 

After Gleeson, just about three and a half miles, you'll come to Courtland.

Courtland, AZ - RuinsCourtland, AZ - Ruins Although it got its start after Gleeson, it grew four times the size, although it has far fewer remains. Another mining town, Courtland was established around 1909. 

Courtland, AZ - JailCourtland, AZ - JailPhoto by Kathy Weiser-Alexander. The town once boasted a movie theatre, ice cream parlor, pool hall and swimming pool. Though it hung on through the Great Depression, its post office closed in 1942. Today most of what remains are ruins. 

Another 10 miles or so down the road found us in Pearce. 

Pearce, AZ - General StorePearce, AZ - General Store Founded by the discovery of Gold by Jimmie Pearce, the town was established in 1896.  Pearce, AZ - Post OfficePearce, AZ - Post Office The post office, closed in the late 1960's, is now a private residence, but the area has seen some rejuvenation. 

There's some rich old west history to be found in all three of these Arizona Ghost Towns.  Learn more in our article "The Ghost Town Trail - Gleeson, Courtland & Pearce."

Here's a slideshow of our trek on the Ghost Town Trail

See more about our time in Tombstone via our old travel blog HERE


Ghost Town Photo Prints for SalePrint's, canvas wraps and more from our Ghost Town galleries.



Leigh Carter(non-registered)
We went to Bisbee, Tombstone and Fairbank in June 2000. It was 100 degrees in the shade then. I would love to go back to them, but not in June.
the town, not much to see. a couple blocks of dirty dusty streets. much like a TV set. because of time, toad type car and 2 big older dogs did not venture further ..,

but, had we ventured further would have found endless history and things to see. we will go back again.

the in town RV park, small, all dirt, barely acceptable.

m n ma ..,. spring 2015
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