originated as a railroad town in 1880 when construction was halted
until a bridge could be built over the canyon. A further delay
was caused by financial difficulties and it wasn’t until 1890 that the
railroad bridge was completed.
The canyon had
earlier been given its name by a soldier named Lieutenant Amiel Whipple in
1853 when it presented such an obstacle to his thirty-fifth parallel
survey party. Having to go miles out of their way to get across,
he appropriately named it Devil’s Canyon. When the town was
born, it took the canyon's name, which ended up being extremely
appropriate for the reputation that the town would soon earn.
There being no law
enforcement in the settlement, it quickly became a wild and lawless
place as drifters, gamblers, and
made their way to town. With the closest law enforcement being
some 100 miles away, the settlement earned a reputation of being
combined, with many of it "citizens” winding up in the local cemetery. The
gambling dens and brothels never closed, running 24 hours a day. The
town comprised mostly of shacks with two lines of buildings facing
each other across the rocky road on the north side of the railroad
right-of-way. The "street,” aptly referred to as Hell Street,
ten gambling houses, four brothels and two dance halls. Wedged between
these businesses were a couple of eating counters, a grocery and a
dry goods store.
With a population of
nearly 2,000, a regular stage operated between
and Canyon Diablo that ended up being the target of many robberies.
Canyon Diablo finally got a peace officer, the first one pinned on a
badge at 3:00 p.m. and was laid out for burial at 8:00 p.m. Five more
foolish men also tried their hands at marshalling in this God forsaken
town. None of them lasted more than a month in the position before
they too were killed.
Boot Hill cemetery filled up fast, where at
one time 35 graves could be seen with wooden markers and stone covered
mounds. All are gone today, but that of Herman Wolf, a trader
who passed away in 1899 and the only one to have died peacefully.
Once the railroad bridge
was built over the canyon, the town began to die. Still wild, the
remaining residents requested that the army take over law enforcement, but
before they arrived the town was pretty much dried up and the lawless
drifters had moved on.