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Tombstone’s Boot Hill

July 1, 2012
Sue Eckhoff - Grundy County Heritage Museum , Reinbeck Courier

"We never did hang the wrong one but once or twice, and them fellers needed to be hung anyhow, jes' on general principles." A nameless judge in the old west.

The remains of some of Tombstone's most famous and infamous rest at Boot Hill graveyard. Tombstone came into being in 1877. Miner Ed Schieffen discovered silver and named his find the Tombstone. News of the strike spread and an avalanche of settlers converged until by 1881 more than seven thousand people lived in or around Tombstone. This of course included the lawless and violent types that frequented the gambling houses, taverns and brothels that lined the street. The criminal behavior became so out of control troops were sent from nearby Fort Huachuca to bring about order.

Sinners, who met their demise in drunken brawls, jealous rages, and crooked poker games, were taken to a lot of land on the side of a hill, which acquired the name Boot Hill because it was filled with people who had died suddenly with their boots on.

Most of the bodies buried at Boot Hill could be identified but some remains lie under the inscription "unknown." One such grave contains the body of a man found in 1882 at the bottom of a sixty foot shaft at the Minute Mine. According to the tombstone, "He was well dressed, indicating that he was not a miner."

Lester Moore's headboard became popular, not so much because of Lester Moore's but for the verse inscribed: "Here Lies Lester Moore, four slugs from a .44. No Less. No More." Moore was a Wells Fargo agent who was shot over a dispute about a delivery.

Of course the casualties from the Gunfight at the OK Corral are located there too. They aren't the only ones to meet their maker by way of the gun, but they are the most famous. Among the others was Chas Helm, a local rancher who was killed by a neighboring rancher in 1882 after a quarrel over how to drive cattle. William Clayborne shot James Hickey in the head in 1882 after demanding the man join him in a drink.

When a new Tombstone Cemetery was established in 1884, the Boot Hill graveyard fell into disrepair. Left in disrepair for more than fifty years, the land overtook the graves and souvenir hunters stole what the elements did not. A restoration effort was put into effect in 1940, the plots were cleaned up and new markers put into place.



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