Showing posts with label TOMBSTONE. Show all posts
Showing posts with label TOMBSTONE. Show all posts

Montezumas Peak Arizona - Montezumas Revenge

King Montezuma
“Montezuma’s Revenge” is slang for diarrhea suffered by travelers to a foreign country, when the local food does not agree with their digestion. Who was Montezuma? Why should he wish to take revenge and upon whom?  Montezuma was a 16th century Aztec emperor who ruled Mexico.  He presumably wished to take revenge on the invading Spanish, because he had a very understandable reluctance to being enslaved by them. I was reminded of Montezuma, when we visited a mountainous region of south eastern Arizona on the Mexican border in February 2011.  The Montezuma Peak there rises to a height of over 7500 feet. The nearby Montezuma Pass, at a height of 6500 feet, allows one to pass through the Eastern Huachuca mountains.  Pat and I did not stand atop the Peak, but we did manage to reach the height of the Pass and to look down upon the superb panorama which is to be seen from that level.

Coronado leading his expedition
In 1540, a Spaniard by the name of Francisco Vasquez de Coronado rode at the head of his large column of soldiers, clergy and slaves as it moved north from Mexico into what is today the United States.  The column passed through the Montezuma Pass in its search for gold.  Coronado thereby became Arizona’s first illegal immigrant.  I can relate to Coronado because I too am  an immigrant from Europe into the United States, even though I arrived at Miami Airport rather than coming over the mountains on horseback. Coronado and I have even more in common.  We both wanted to become wealthy in the New World, yet we both failed in that quest.  Coronado failed in his search for gold, which must have pleased Montezuma. However, the failure of the Coronado expedition did not please the Spanish Viceroy of Mexico, who described the expedition as an “abject failure”.  Coronado was demoted and made to pay the costs of the expedition.  This bankrupted him and he died at the age of 44.  Yet all this took place only half a century after Christopher Columbus had first landed in the Americas and many years before the English established their first settlements on the Atlantic seaboard.

As Pat and I looked down, from the dizzy height of the Montezuma Pass onto the territory on both sides on the border, we saw that a straight black line had been drawn across the desert.  It disappeared into the far distance. We were looking at the famous border fence between the US and Mexico.  This thin line divides a people with an average annual income of $4000 from a people with an average annual income of $30,000.  This is no place to dwell upon the politics of immigration, but I know of nowhere else in the world where such great income disparities exist side by side.  Where else do the first world and the third world look at each other over a fence?

There is huge irony in Coronado’s failure to find wealth because, unbeknownst to him, his invading column was plodding over some of the richest mineral deposits in the world.  These minerals were identified in 1880 and efforts to mine them were centered on the town of Bisbee, Arizona, which is only 30 miles east of the Montezuma Pass.  The mines in Bisbee have since produced three million ounces of gold and eight billion pounds of copper, not to mention plenty of silver, lead and zinc.

Tombstone Consolidated Mines Company

Elsewhere on this website, I have written about Tombstone, Arizona, because its Wild West atmosphere is fun. Yet the mining production of Tombstone was a drop in the ocean compared to Bisbee. The Tombstone mine only lasted for ten years until it flooded in about 1890. Bisbee’s mines remained in production until the mid-1970s and the town has since evolved into an attractive artist’s colony, with an abundance of bookshops, art galleries, antique stores and agreeable restaurants.  Bisbee today is not trying to be part of the old Wild West. It leaves that to Tombstone. This is just as well because most of Bisbee was destroyed in 1908 by a large fire.  The town quickly rebuilt itself and the buildings of Bisbee that we see today remain much as they were when newly built in 1910. Bisbee sits in the mountains at an elevation of 5700 feet and is closely surrounded by steep hills up which its buildings climb.  Houses are perched precariously on every hillside.  It is said that, while remaining seated on their own front porches, many residents can spit down their neighbors’ chimneys. The hills are that steep!

During our visit to Bisbee, we looked down into the Lavender Pit, which appears to be a man-made version of the Grand Canyon in miniature on the edge of town. It is 900 feet deep and covers 300 acres. The story of its creation is a tribute to American ingenuity. The Lavender Pit operated from 1950 until 1974 and was named in honor of Harrison M Lavender, who ran the giant mining corporation, Phelps Dodge.  Lavender pioneered a way of extracting copper ore in commercial quantities from rock left over from earlier mining operations. His initiative transformed mere debris from the Sacramento Hill mine, which had earlier operated where the Lavender Pit stands today, into 600 tons of additional copper with gold and silver as byproducts. Incidentally, the Phelps Dodge Corporation was taken over in 2007 at a price of 25.9 billion US dollars. Therefore it looks as if somebody believes that a lot of wealth still remains to be taken from these mountains.  So Coronado really missed his opportunity and, as for me, the full and happy life that I have enjoyed during my years in the United States amply compensates for any wealth that may have passed me by.

This piece, written by Bob, was originally posted on our website on March 15, 2011.

Tombstone, Arizona - Thoughts of Mortality

Psalm 90, Verse 10 tells us that “the length of our days is seventy years – or eighty, if we have the strength”.  Yet, in my mid-seventies, I rarely find myself troubled by thoughts of mortality.  However, in January 2011, we visited a place where the mention of death is omnipresent. That place is Tombstone, Arizona.

Tombstone Consolidated Mines Company

Welcome To Tombstone sign
Its famous cemetery is Boot Hill. Its famous newspaper is The Tombstone Epitaph. Its famous name, Tombstone, is in itself an apt reminder of man’s mortality.  Tombstone is located in a very empty part of the United States, just a few miles to the north of the Mexican border.  The surrounding desert is flat and uncultivated, yet high mountain ranges rise up on every far horizon.  Who would build a town here and why would they call it Tombstone?
Ed Schieffelin

In 1879, Ed Schieffelin was prospecting for silver in this empty land and finally got lucky. Had he lived in 2011 with silver at around $30 an ounce, he would have been even luckier. When time came for Ed to file his claim, he was told that the area was so lawless that his proposed silver mining activities would quickly put him under a tombstone.  Not only would he be faced by murderous outlaws, specializing in horse rustling and stagecoach holdups, but the hostile Apache Indians were not gentle with those whom they perceived to be taking over their ancestral lands.


Led by strong leaders, such as Geronimo and Cochise, the Apaches were quick to kidnap or kill any strangers passing through this empty territory. With these dangers in mind, Ed filed his claim under the name “tombstone” and the area then took its name from that.  The town of Tombstone grew fast. By 1882, estimates of its population varied from between 5,000 and 15,000.  It became the seat of newly formed Cochise County in Arizona Territory.  However, on October 26th1881, dramatic events occurred at The OK Corral in Tombstone which made the town famous. Before relating those events, let me firstly admire the authenticity of the Tombstone of today. This place is no film set or artificial Disneyworld exhibit. It is instead a real town from the old “Wild West”, with its streets and buildings from that time carefully preserved for posterity. Consequently, we drank at The Four Deuces Saloon. We ate at The Crystal Palace Saloon.  We visited The OK Corral, the site of the famous gunfight now immortalized by several Hollywood movies. We visited the old silver mine and The Bird Cage Theater. Meanwhile, stagecoaches roll down the dusty streets. Tombstone is nothing if not authentic.

Click on player below to see Pat's video of the Gunfight at the OK Corral.

The 1881 gunfight at the OK Corral occurred at the climax of a struggle for the control of Tombstone between lawmen and cowboys. The former were led by Marshall Virgil Earp, who deputized his brothers Wyatt and Morgan and their friend Doc Holliday.  The cowboys, led by the brothers Clanton and McLaury, were waiting to confront Doc when he was returning to his rented room at C.S. Fly’s Boarding House and Photo Studio. The Fly premises still stand to this day next to the OK Corral.  Shooting broke out when the two factions met. 30 shots were fired in 30 seconds, after which three cowboys lay dead.

They were buried in Boot Hill Cemetery, where we visited their graves. Most of the occupants of Boot Hill had died with their boots on. Few had died of natural causes. Many of the gravestones are simply marked “unknown” and some of those buried were even the victims of lynchings.

Grave markers of the Clantons and McLaury's killed at OK Corral

Grave marker of George Johnson hanged by mistake

Grave marker of Frank Bowles in Boothill Graveyard
One simply has to sympathize with George Johnson, who was hanged by mistake in 1882.  His gravestone reads “He was right. We was wrong. But we strung him up and now he’s gone”.  Not so funny for the thoughtful visitor is the gravestone of Frank Bowles (1828-1880) which warns that “As you pass by, remember that as you are so once was I; and, as I am, you soon will be. Remember me”.

Morgan, Wyatt, Virgil Earp and Doc Holiday

Both Virgil and Morgan Earp were badly wounded in the shoot-out at The OK Corral and Doc Holliday suffered a superficial hip wound. Wyatt Earp walked away unharmed.  In fact Wyatt Earp was in his eighties, when he died of old age in 1929. He had obviously studied the verse in the Book of Psalms quoted at the beginning of this article and determined that he had “the strength”.  Yet Wyatt Earp still had some more killing to do before leaving town.  A few weeks after the events at OK Corral, both Virgil and Morgan Earp died as a result of further shootings in Tombstone, which Wyatt was quick to avenge.  He killed Frank Stillwell, the alleged assassin of Morgan Earp, in Tucson Railway Station.  These and other killings by Wyatt Earp were beginning to make him a target for criminal prosecution, so he wisely left Arizona Territory in April 1882 never to return. When we visited Boot Hill, we asked to see the graves of Virgil and Morgan, but we were told that they had been buried in California.  Clearly they had no intention of spending eternity close to the Clantons and the McLaurys.

Tombstone today claims for itself the motto “The Town Too Tough to Die”, but it survives with a population of only about 1,500, which is a tiny fraction of its population during its boom days. Those days were ended by major fires and flooded mines.  With the exception of the tourist industry, there are now few job opportunities here.  Millions of Mexicans recently entered the United States illegally to search for work. Many of them passed through Southern Arizona, but they found no reason to stick around in today’s Tombstone. Yet, 130 years ago, it was a very different story.

This piece, written by Bob, was originally posted on our website on March 16, 2011.

Tombstone Arizona - Apache Spirit Ranch

Ed Schieffelin monument
Exploring unusual places has always been a passion of mine. Such was the case one Sunday afternoon in February, 2012, when I set out to find the gravesite of Ed Schieffelin, the founder of Tombstone. Schieffelin’s last will and testament instructed that he be buried standing up in the location of his first campsite. The strange cone shaped tomb stands alone on top of a hill surrounded by a magnificent unobstructed 360 degree view of an immense valley that 300 million years ago was the bottom of an inland sea. Schieffelin’s creation, Tombstone, sits two miles south of the monument, nestled in the shadow of the Dragoon mountain range, once home to the famous Chiricahua Apache leader, Cochise, and his people.

Heading back in the direction of Tombstone, I came across two dozen horses spread out through several large corrals standing in the shadow of what appeared to be a small western town.

Horses at Apache Spirit Ranch

Walking down Main Street, a dirt path wide enough for two stagecoaches to comfortably pass each other, I encountered a woman carrying linens out of a building with the words Doc Holliday over the door.

Main Street at Apache Spirit Ranch

Imagine my surprise when she spoke to me with a heavy German accent. When I inquired about what the place was she explained that it was a hotel named the Apache Spirit Ranch and pointed me to the lobby for more information. It was there I met several more German nationals, and in particular, Julia Wieck, Co-Manager of the Ranch.

I asked Julia for permission to make some videos of the ranch using my cell phone. She graciously agreed and then spent the next hour giving me a tour of the place and explaining the meaning behind the name, Apache Spirit Ranch. She later set up interviews for me with the owner and other ranch employees to help me learn more about this unique environment.

Click below to see the video of my tour with Julia Wieck.

Julia began my tour by a visit to an authentic Apache village constructed on the property by Joe Saenz, a Chiricahua Apache and friend of Peter Stenger, the CEO and manager of the German investment company that owns the ranch. Peter lives in Munich and has a passion for the history of the Wild West. I was lucky enough to meet him when he arrived two days later at the ranch.

Apache camp

Apache Joe Saenz is the Interpretive Display Consultant and Cultural Guide for the ranch. Guests are invited to sit by the campfire in the Apache village and listen to Joe and other members of the Apache Nation talk about the history and former lifestyle of the Apache people who once called this area home.

Click on the video below to see my interview with Chiricahua Apache Joe Saenz.

Brad Kissinger and Eunice Lindsay are the horse wranglers and trainers that lead guests on horseback to many of the unique trails, mines, and historic haunts surrounding the ranch. “We have a variety of horses to suit guests with different riding abilities or skill levels,” says Brad.

Horse Wranglers Eunice Lindsay and Brad Kisssinger

The facilities of the ranch are on a par with a three-star hotel, with all the comfort and amenities ideally suited for family getaways. Special facilities are easily accessible for handicapped guests. Tours are available to the main Arizona attractions, such as Tombstone, Tucson, and the border town of Nogales, just to name a few. An enormous barn is available for events that can include full catering services.

Guest room at Apache Spirit Ranch
Apache Spirit Ranch is far more than a western themed ranch. Peter Stenger, with the guidance and cooperation of his friend, Apache Joe Saenz, has created a unique resort where people can experience a different kind of vacation that goes beyond reliving the era of Cowboys and Indians. It invokes the Great Spirit of the Apache people and honors all those who once called this region home.

Click on the video below to see my interview with Peter Stenger, CEO Apache Spirit Ranch.

This piece, written by Pat, was originally posted on our website on March 3, 2012.