There was nothing
prosaic about the richness of
Tombstone's mines. They were founded on romance
and excitement ,
both of which, dominated the days of their operation. The
romance there was in their location.
Ed Schieffelin, in
the winter of 1877-78, after a short civilian service with a company
of soldiers, was employed to do assessment work on the Brunckow Mine,
about a mile north of the site of
This was the only mine then known in that locality. It had been
located in 1858 by a Polish scientist, who had given the claim his own
name. But, the mine was valueless. Schieffelin's idle time was spent
in the hills prospecting. He was probably the only man in the camp who
cared to prospect, for the hill slopes were uninviting, and it was
known that they contained
Indians. As he started on one particular expedition, a companion
queried, "Where are you going, Ed?" "Just out in the hills to look for
stones,” was the reply, and the parting observation as he tramped away
was: "The stone you will find will be your tombstone.”
Possibly that very
day, at a point a short distance below the present town, he traced
some rich silver "float" to a ledge on which he set his foot and
cried, "At last I have found my tombstone!" This claim, which he named
the Tombstone, he recorded at Tucson
on September 3, 1877. It was several miles from the later camp of
Tombstone and about four miles from the
His work on the
Brunckow Mine finished, Schieffelin went to Silver King, where he
learned that his brother, Al, had gone to Signal in Mohave County. He
journeyed there and showed his "float" to Dick Gird, assayer at the
time in the Signal Mill. Much interested, Gird and Al Schieffelin
accompanied him back to Southern
Arizona, and soon letters arrived in Signal telling they had
struck it rich, causing an exodus of much of the male population of
that camp bound for the new strike. The original location, the Tombstone ,
did not prove of much value, but much better success attended the
development of a number of claims staked out on the very site of the
town shortly after it was established. These claims included the Tough
Nut, Goodenough, Lucky Cuss, East Side and West Side.
Soon after the arrival of
Party, the upper mineral section of the district was accidentally
stumbled upon by Ed Williams and Jack Friday. In the night, their
mules had broken loose from a dry camp that they had made, and struck
out for water along an Indian trail. In the morning, the men tracked
the mules who had made their trail clear by dragging a chain attached
to one of the animals.
Following the chain trail, Williams
noticed the bright gleam of metal where the iron had been dragged, and
discovered what would become the Contention Lode, the richest location
ever made in the district. The mules were followed over into the
camp, where the new mine received its logical name in the
contention that arose over its ownership, for
was none too
well pleased that a stranger had discovered mineral almost under his very
The quarrel was
settled; however, by the division of the ground, the
taking the lower end -- the Contention, and Williams and his partner the
other, which was called the Grand Central. Gus Barren, a skilled miner and
Schieffelin, then was called up from Mexico to supervise the
Soon after discovery, the
Contention Mine was purchased by J.H. White and S. Denson, who represented
W.D. Dean of San Francisco .
The price was $10,000, considered exorbitant by the sellers themselves,
who could not foresee the future production of millions of dollars.
The principal mining
companies during the palmy days of the camp were the Contention
Consolidated, Grand Central, Tombstone Milling and Mining Company, Vizina,
Empire and Stonewall. Water was struck in the Sulphuret shaft at 500 feet.
The Grand Central and Contention put in pumps, but found that they were
draining the district, while the other companies refused to pay a
proportion of the expense. The Grand Central, which had surface works
materially higher than any other in the district, kept pumping to some
extent until May, 1886, when the surface works burned.
The Grand Central pump
was modeled after those that had proved successful in the Virginia City
section and is said to have cost $300,000. It was of the Cornish type,
with an immense wooden pump rod, operated by a massive walking beam that
reared about thirty feet above its foundation.
This beam and the equally
enormous flywheel still are on the hillside, a monument to departed
greatness. About a year after the fire, the Contention hoist and pumping
works also were burned, this practically marking the closing down of the
In the spring of 1880 the
Tombstone District had four towns. Tombstone then had a population of about 1,000, established on or near
the Tough Nut group of mines. Richmond was a settlement a mile and a quarter to the southeast. At Charleston, on the
San Pedro River, were the Corbin and Tombstone Mills. The Contention Mill was at Contention City, also on
the San Pedro River. In this same area was also the "Old Bronco Mine,"
which had a dark history, in which was mixed the murders of sixteen men.
Dick Gird claimed that the old Brunckow house had been the headquarters
for a band of smugglers, who did a little mining as a blind.
Early in 1880, Gird was
superintendent of the Tombstone Gold and Silver Milling and Mining
Company, of which ex-Governor Safford was president, and which owned the
Tough Nut and five other claims. On March 13, 1879, the Corbin brothers, Hamilton Distin of Philadelphia and
Simmons Squire of Boston had purchased the interest of the Schieffelin
brothers in the Tough Nut group for $1,000,000. Gird later received the
same sum for his third.
The Corbin Company,
comprising about the same interests, purchased the others of the original
mining claims located by the Schieffelins and Gird, including the Lucky
Cuss. The Grand Central, in the same period, was mentioned only as a
prospect that had been developed to a depth of 280 feet.
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