Tombstone, Arizona has never been the wild, “gun-toting,” “shoot-em-up” place it has been made out to be. It was very modern, sophisticated, and extremely wealthy. Telephones were installed in Tombstone in 1882. By 1883, the City had two gas companies; three water companies; two ice companies; five ice cream parlours; fresh seafood was delivered daily from Baja, Mexico; west of the city was a track for horse racing and on the infield of the racetrack was a baseball diamond.
The Goodenough Mine, founded by Ed Schieffelin was Tombstone’s major silver producer. The claim was filed in 1878, production began in 1879. Ed was one-third partners with his brother Al Schieffelin and Richard Gird. There were several hundred mining claims near Tombstone, although the most productive were immediately south of town. These included the Goodenough, Toughnut, Contention, Grand Central, Lucky Cuss, Emerald, and Silver Thread. Due to the lack of readily available water near town, mills were built along the San Pedro River about 9 miles (14 km) away, leading to the establishment of several small mill towns, including Charleston, Contention City, and Fairbank.
Schieffelin left Tombstone to find more ore and when he returned four months later, Gird had lined up buyers for their interest in the Contention claim, which they sold for $10,000. It would later yield millions in silver. They sold a half-interest in the Lucky Cuss, and the other half turned into a steady stream of money. Al and Ed Schieffelin later sold their two-thirds interest in the Tough Nut for US$1 million, and sometime later Gird sold his one-third interest for the same amount.
One of the byproducts of the vast riches being produced, lawsuits became very prevalent. Between 1880 and 1885 the courts were clogged with a large number of cases, many of them about land claims and properties. As a result, lawyers began to settle in Tombstone and became even wealthier than the miners and those who financed the mining. In addition, because many of the lawsuits required expert analysis of the underground, many geologists and engineers found employment in Tombstone and settled there.
Mining was an easy task at Tombstone in the early days, ore being rich and close to the surface. One man could pull out ore equal to what three men produced elsewhere. Some residents of Tombstone became quite wealthy and spent considerable money during its boom years. Tombstone’s first newspaper, the Nugget, was established in the fall of 1879. The Tombstone Epitaph was founded on May 1, 1880. As the fastest growing boomtown in the American Southwest, the silver industry and attendant wealth attracted many professionals and merchants who brought their wives and families.
When the railroad was not built into Tombstone as had been planned, the increasingly sophisticated city of Tombstone remained relatively isolated, deep in a Federal territory that was largely an unpopulated desert and wilderness. Tombstone and its surrounding countryside also became known as one of the deadliest regions in the West.
Water was hauled in until the Huachuca Water Company, funded in part by investors like Dr. George E. Goodfellow, built a 23-mile-long (37 km) pipeline from the Huachuca Mountains in 1881. No sooner was a pipeline completed than Tombstone’s silver mines struck water.
There are widely varying estimates of the value of gold and silver mined during the course of Tombstone’s history. The Tombstone mines produced 32 million troy ounces (1,000 metric tons) of silver, more than any other mining district in Arizona.
In 1883, writer Patrick Hamilton estimated that during the first four years of activity the mines produced about USD $25,000,000 (approximately $657 million today). Other estimates include USD $40 to USD $85 million (about $1.09 billion to $2.32 billion today). Renewed mining is planned for the area.