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Snapshot of 1800s Arizona

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On these snowy winter days I have had the opportunity to sort and read some of my family history treasures. In these books, letters and photographs is an illustration of what Arizona and the Wild West were truly like during the late 1800’s continuing on to the present time. I have the memoirs of my Great Grandmother Mary Otis Blake documenting her family’s arrival in Prescott, Arizona in 1874. Her father, my Great Great Grandfather Theodore Weld Otis was the Postmaster of Prescott from 1875-1883.

Great Grandfather Edward Meador Blake was an early member of the Arizona Pioneers society and he cherished Arizona history. His copy of the Arizona Historical Review published in October 1929 includes “It all happened in Tombstone” by John P. Clum. As I read Mr. Clum’s story of the Gunfights in Tombstone between the Earp brothers and the Clanton gang it began to dawn on me that I am holding a valuable treasure. I also realized that I have the earlier version of the Arizona Historical Review dated April 1929. In this edition Geo H. Kelly wrote a eulogy for Wyatt Earp who passed away January 13, 1929.

John Clum was an Indian Agent who famously arrested Geronimo without firing a shot before he left his position with the government and purchased a printing press. He was the publisher of the Epitaph Newspaper and also served as the Mayor of Tombstone during the time that Virgil Earp was the Chief of Police. He wrote, “Obviously I came to know him well-and I liked him very much. He was a courageous and efficient officer. Once he arrested me for fast riding. “

The story continues, “I was a resident of Tombstone all of the time the Earp brothers were there. I knew Virgil and Wyatt and Morgan and Jimmy. They all had the reputation of being handy and effective with a six shooter but I always regarded them as law abiding and orderly citizens –and I was not a ‘tenderfoot.’ I came to New Mexico 10 years before –in 1871 at the age of twenty. On that trip I saw the buffalo and the picturesque buffalo hunters in broad hats and buckskins. From 1874 until July 1877, I was in charge of the Apache Indians. I had been active on the frontier and knew something of the character of its citizens. “

Clum goes on to describe Wyatt Earp, “In these circumstances I am quite sure that Wyatt would have felt amused if he had know that I quite approved of his stature and personality when I first knew him. Above six feet in height, well proportioned, erect, hair a bit long but neatly kept, a royal mustache, a broad hat and a frock coat-I still have a clear vision of that dignified figure walking calmly along Allen Street. Wyatt’s manner, though friendly, suggested a quiet reserve. His facial features were strong, positive and pleasing. His habitual expression was serious, with a gracious smile when the occasion warranted it-but his mirth was never boisterous (as my own was apt to be). In fact about the time I was elected Mayor of Tombstone, Wyatt was quite my ideal of the strong, manly, serious and capable peace officer-equally unperturbed whether he was anticipating a meeting with a friend or a foe.”

John Clum’s story tells a great deal about Tombstone and the battle between the Lawmen and the desperadoes of the day. This includes a story about Clum, the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday along with other notable figures of the day who were on a Death List and marked for death by the “Rustler Clan.” He tells of preparing for a trip to Washington D.C. knowing that the stage he was about to board could be attacked under the guise of a robbery with the real intent of the gunmen being to murder Clum.

Sure enough a short distance from Tombstone the stage came under gunfire and the horses pulling the stage spooked at the sound. They bolted ahead running out of control. They pulled away from the bandits shooting at them. John Clum decided the renegades would probably come back for a second attempt to overtake the stage so he exited the stage coach, standing on the running board as the driver brought the stage to a stop. He tells of making the decision to slip away from the stage and continue on foot, in order to evade his would be attackers. He eventually made his way to a friend’s home at the Grand Central Quartz Mill where he was able to borrow a horse and continue his journey to Benson and on to Washington, D.C.

My Great Grandparents were living in Arizona in the same era as John Clum and the Earp brothers. Great Grandmother’s memoirs state, “After an idyllic wedding trip to San Diego, we came back to settle down in Prescott, Ned was agent for the Wells Fargo Company, and was kept busy receiving cargoes, dispatching stages, guaranteeing the shipments of bullion and other valuables, and keeping books on the whole concern. “ This was in 1894; a few years later they took up residence in Naco, near Bisbee, not far from Tombstone where Great Grandfather Blake was the Bank Manager for eleven years.

I have known for a long time that my ancestors were part of Arizona History, I just didn’t realize that they were probably friends with a man who served as the Mayor of Tombstone, Editor of the Tombstone Epitaph, friend and Pallbearer for Wyatt Earp.

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Kathy Gibson Boatman was born and raised in the White Mountains of Northeastern Arizona on a working Cattle Ranch. She is the sixth generation in her family to participate in agricultural endeavors in Arizona. One of her favorite pastimes is collecting Arizona History Books and documents. She is a photographer and the author of the cookbook "Cooking With Cowgirls". She enjoys writing about issues of importance and interest to Arizona citizens, rural communities and natural resource producers. You can reach Kathy at kathykg26158@msn.com.