to THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English. I'm Bob Doughty.
Barbara Klein. The United States has thousands of ghost towns. These are
communities that once were successful but all the population moved to other
places. Today on our program, we visit a town in the western state of Arizona
that was saved from being a ghost town by a violent history. It is called
that is now Tombstone, Arizona was first a mining camp. Silver miner Ed
Schieffelin named the town. In eighteen seventy-seven, Mister Schieffelin was
searching for silver in the Arizona territory. The area at the time was
extremely dangerous. Apache Indians considered it to be their land and were all
too ready to fight for it.
Schieffelin used the army’s Camp Huachuca as a base for his search for silver.
The soldiers there once asked him why he went out into Apache country every
day. He answered: "To collect rocks." One soldier then told him: "You
keep fooling around out there amongst them Apaches and the only rock you’ll
find will be your tombstone!" A tombstone is the stone that marks a
person’s grave in a large burial place.
not long after, Ed Schieffelin finally did discover valuable silver ore in the
area. He decided to call his claim "Tombstone" because of the
soldier’s warning. Soon, people heard about his silver discovery and arrived in
the area. Others found more silver and established other mines. And they used
the name Tombstone for the town they built nearby.
around Tombstone became well known for its silver mines. And more people came
to the town. Some were settlers, storekeepers and miners. But others were looking
for easy money. These were gamblers and thieves who drank too much alcohol and
settled their disagreements with their guns.
end of eighteen eighty-one, the town of Tombstone had a population of more than
five thousand. It also had five local newspapers, at least two theaters, a
courthouse, hotels and many local drinking places. And a gunfight had already
taken place that would forever include Tombstone among the famous stories told
about the American Wild West.
called "The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral."
famous gunfight took place on October twenty-sixth, eighteen eighty-one
between the town's top lawman, or marshal, and his deputies on one side and an
outlaw group called the Cowboys on the other.
from people who saw the fight led to newspaper reports, more stories, books
and later movies and television shows. Not all these stories are exactly true. For
example, the gunfight did not really take place in the O.K. Corral, but near it
in a field just off a main street in town. Here is one generally accepted
marshal in Tombstone was Virgil Earp. His brothers, Wyatt and Morgan, also
lived in the town. In fact, Wyatt was deputy city marshal, and Morgan had been
named a special policeman. The Earps had a long-standing dispute with the
Cowboys. They had tried to arrest group members in the past for crimes such as
robbery and murder. Members of the group included Billy Claiborne, Ike Clanton,
Billy Clanton, Tom McLaury and Frank McLaury.
day of the famous fight, those men were gathered near the O.K. Corral, an
enclosed area used to keep horses and other animals. They were armed, in
violation of a town ban against carrying guns. They were also drinking alcohol
and threatening to kill the Earp brothers.
Earp decided that it was his duty to disarm them. His two brothers and a
friend, the gunfighter Doc Holliday, went along to help. The four walked down
the street toward the corral. Virgil Earp told the cowboys to surrender their
weapons. Billy Claiborne ran away. And the fight began.
not last long. Historians say thirty-two shots were fired in the space of about
twenty-three seconds. No one really knows who fired first. But Tom McLaury,
Frank McLaury and Billy Clanton died of gunshot wounds. Virgil Earp, Morgan
Earp and Doc Holliday were wounded but survived. Only Ike Clanton and Wyatt
Earp were not hurt.
nineteen ninety-three movie called "Tombstone" is one of the most
recent attempts to tell this story. Listen to its recreation of the famous
fight. Sam Elliott is Virgil, Kurt Russell is Wyatt and Stephen Lang plays Ike
here to disarm you. Throw up your hands."
Virgil: "Hold it. It’s not what I want."
Wyatt: "Oh ... my ... God."
Ike: "Please ... please! Stop! No! No! Don’t shoot. I got no gun. Please.
Don’t shoot me. I got no gun!"
Wyatt: "Ike … get to fightin’ or get away."
Earps and Doc Holliday were arrested for murder and tried in the courthouse. A
judge decided they had acted within the law. Wyatt Earp spoke in his own
defense at the trial. Here is part of the local newspaper’s report of what he
believed then, and I believe now ... that these men … had formed a conspiracy
to murder my brothers Morgan and Virgil and Doc Holliday and myself. I believe
I would have been legally and morally justified in shooting any of them on
sight, but I did not do so or attempt to do so; I sought no advantage. When I
went as deputy marshal to help disarm and arrest them, I went as part of my
duty and under the direction of my brother, the marshal.
did not intend to fight unless it became necessary in self-defense and in the
performance of official duty. When Billy Clanton and Frank McLaury drew their
pistols I knew it was a fight for life, and I drew and fired in defense of my
own life and the lives of my brothers and Doc Holliday."
people still dispute this. They say the Earps and Doc Holliday did not fire in
self-defense, but used the law as an excuse for murder. Experts say one of the
reasons the gunfight is so interesting to many people is that no one knows who
shot first or why. But we do know that the violence between the Earps and the
Cowboys did not end at the O.K. Corral.
attempts to kill the Earp brothers took place after the famous fight. The
first injured Virgil; the second killed Morgan. Wyatt, Doc Holliday and others
decided to hunt down and kill those members of the Cowboys they felt were
the gunfight at the O.K. Corral brings visitors from all over the world to the
small town of Tombstone. The latest information from the Tombstone Chamber of
Commerce says the town has a population of almost one thousand eight hundred
people. But it welcomes between one hundred thousand and four hundred thousand
visitors each year.
day at the O.K. Corral, actors recreate the famous gunfight. But other
gunfighters are remembered in Tombstone, too. An outdoor restaurant called "Six
Gun City" recreates some of the other real gunfights that took place in
example, one recreation plays out the gunfight that killed Billy Claiborne, a
member of the Cowboys gang who ran from the O.K. Corral. He was killed by
gunfighter Frank Leslie on the main street in Tombstone. In fact, a marker near
the spot tells what happened. It says: Buckskin Frank Leslie killed Billy
Claiborne here on November fourteenth, eighteen-eighty-two.
and others who died in those early Tombstone years are buried in the local
graveyard, Boot Hill. It was named Boot Hill because many of those buried there
died violently, or, as the saying goes, "with their boots on."
there ended after eighteen eighty-four, but the cemetery was restored in the
nineteen thirties. Only a few headstones survive, but small metal signs mark
the graves. Many simply say "unknown," but others include short
sayings. One that has been repeated many times says: Here Lies Lester Moore,
Four Slugs from a Forty-four, No Les, No More.
from all over the world visit Tombstone to experience a small part of the old
American West. They want to imagine what it would have been like to live in a
place like Tombstone. It does not really matter if all the old stories are true
or not. The people of Tombstone are only too happy to welcome them to a place
known as "the town too tough to die."
program was written by Nancy Steinbach and produced by Caty Weaver. Doug
Johnson was our reader. I'm Barbara Klein.
Bob Doughty. Join us again next week for THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special