One man’s obsession with graves turns into a 40-site-strong tour of some of the Old West’s fiercest gunfighters, lawmen, Indians and more.
- Written by Bob Stinson
- Published May 13, 2013
“Doc Holliday...He Died in Bed.”
Wow, who knew this deathbed twist would jolt True West’s Facebook fans to generate the first major top-rated feed in the magazine’s social media history? It is shocking that tuberculosis turned out to be the loaded gun that claimed the life of one of the Old West’s most iconic gunfighters.
That milestone post’s 7,500 views has long been beaten, but the ungovernable passion that drives folks to walk the weeds to locate a lone marker or tombstone, and to tramp through out-of-the-way pioneer cemeteries, that won’t soon die out.
Just seeing a photo of the Doc marker stirred up Old West aficionados to chime in with stories and pictures of their visits to the O.K. Corral gunfighter’s marker of death.
Yes, our Old West heroes may be immortal in our minds, but they ended up six feet under, as we all will. Since we can’t rub shoulders with these frontier cowboys, lawmen, Indians and outlaws, the next best thing is to visit them at their final resting places, where their stories came to an end.
True West’s editors turned to none other than self-confessed tapophile, tombstone tourist, grave site connoisseur Bob Stinson to guide our readers on a 40-site-strong R.I.P. repertoire that pays respect to some Old West icons who still make their way into our hearts—beyond the grave and all.
Grave Site: Linwood Cemetery
Where: Glenwood Springs, Colorado
Why You Should Pay a Visit: John Henry Holliday, more widely known as Doc Holliday, went west from Georgia for new opportunities and, likely, to help his tuberculosis. But the lure of the gambling dens (and his coughing) took him away from dentistry and into the life of a sporting man. He was a well-known figure in the boomtowns, where he drank heavily, played the cards and built a reputation (only partly accurate) as a dangerous man. He is best known for his friendship with Wyatt Earp and his involvement in Tombstone’s 1881 O.K. Corral gunfight.
Pay Your Tribute By: Taking a dip in the Glenwood Hot Springs pool, which opened, unfortunately, the year after the doc had succumbed to the tuberculosis he hoped would see relief from such healing waters.
Grave Site: Original site was the Sawtelle National Cemetery in California, but he was reburied at Old Trail Town Cemetery.
Year Buried: 1900
Where: Cody, Wyoming
Why You Should Pay a Visit: Mountain man, Civil War vet, Indian fighter and scout, John “Liver-Eating” Johnson lived a life that was so cinematic, Hollywood made a movie based on him, 1972’s Jeremiah Johnson, starring Robert Redford. The actor even served as a pallbearer at Johnson’s reinterment at Old Trail Town in 1974.
Pay Your Tribute By: Cracking open a copy of Crow Killer: The Saga of Liver-Eating Johnson, the book that inspired schoolteacher Tri Robinson to petition to make Johnson’s wish come true: he wanted to be buried at his stomping grounds in the northern Rockies. That’s how he ended up in Cody.
Grave Site: Boothill Graveyard
Year Buried: 1881
Where: Tombstone, Arizona
Why You Should Pay a Visit: Frank and Tom McLaury and Billy Clanton may have rustled some cattle and associated with the wrong crowd, but they got more than they bargained for when they met up with the Earps and Doc Holliday one fateful afternoon in October 1881. They paid with their lives, and now they lie side by side forever. Billy Clanton’s ill-tempered brother, Ike, ran away from the confrontation and survived. While you are here, stop by Fred White’s grave; as Tombstone’s first town marshal, he got gunned down by Curly Bill Brocius in 1880. Other outlaw Cowboys laid to rest here include Old Man Clanton.
Pay Your Tribute By: Touring the famous O.K. Corral gunfight site and watching a daily two p.m. re-enactment of the shoot-out that claimed their lives.
Grave Site: Johnny Ringo State Historical Landmark on East Turkey Creek Road
Year Buried: 1882
Where: Cochise County, Arizona
Why You Should Pay a Visit: An enemy of the Earps and Doc Holliday and a friend to the outlaw Cowboys, John Peters Ringo probably was involved in the attempted assassination of Virgil Earp and the murder of Morgan Earp. Ringo was known as a gunfighter, but history does not record his gunfights. That’s what a reputation can do for you, as most men of the time wanted nothing to do with Ringo.
Pay Your Tribute By: Trying to track down Ringo’s grave site at Turkey Creek Canyon. He most likely committed suicide, while on a bender, near a large oak tree in West Turkey Creek. His grave is located on private property, but visitors are allowed; just ask permission at the house where the trail begins. Head over to nearby Willcox after visiting Ringo and say hi to Warren Earp in the Pioneer Cemetery.
Grave Site: Near Belle Starr Cabin
Why You Should Pay a Visit: Myra Maybelle Shirley, better known as Belle Starr, provided a safe haven for many outlaws, especially the James-Younger Gang. In 1883, she was found guilty of horse theft in Judge Parker’s Fort Smith court and served time in Detroit. An unknown killer shot her dead while she was riding home in 1889.
Pay Your Tribute By: Visiting with Dr. Ron Hood, who restored Belle Starr’s grave site and relocated her 1850s cabin to Youngers Bend. Take highway nine from Eufaula Lake Dam and continue two miles down a dirt road; visitors are welcome, just be sure to ask permission, as this is private property.
Grave Site: Kit Carson Park & Cemetery
Year Buried: 1868
Where: Taos, New Mexico
Why You Should Pay a Visit: Mountain man Christopher Houston “Kit” Carson was one of the greatest scouts in history. John C. Fremont hired Carson to guide several exploratory expeditions of the West since he knew the land as well as the Indians did. Dime novels helped Carson’s legend grow, which is somewhat strange for a man who couldn’t read or write.
Pay Your Tribute By: Visiting the 12-room adobe Kit Carson bought in 1843. Now known as the Kit Carson Home & Museum, the house features mountain man exhibits that include Carson’s own Spencer carbine and beaded carrying case.
Grave Site: Original site was the James homestead, but his grave was moved to Mount Olivet Cemetery in 1902.
Year Buried: 1882
Where: Kearney, Missouri
Why You Should Pay a Visit: Jesse Woodson James never conceded victory after the Civil War. He hated the Yankees and was a guerrilla fighter for the Confederates. His anger and bitterness carried over into his train and bank robberies. One of his own gang members, Bob Ford, turned against him and shot James in the back at the outlaw’s home in St. Joseph.
Pay Your Tribute By: Stopping by the James Farm and Museum in Kearney, the original location of James’s grave and his boyhood home. (The photo of James’s grave shows his mother standing at his original grave at the James homestead, before it was moved to Mount Olivet.)
Grave Site: Calvary Cemetery (City of Douglas Cemetery)
Year Buried: 1922
Where: Douglas, Arizona
Why You Should Pay a Visit: With the last name Slaughter and a height of five-feet-six-inches, you had better be able to kick some tail. John Horton Slaughter knew how to handle a gun. He was a Confederate soldier and Texas Ranger, as well as a cattleman in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. He also served as the Cochise County sheriff for two terms, helping clean up the lawlessness in Tombstone and surrounding areas.
Pay Your Tribute By: Visiting the San Bernardino Ranch that Slaughter purchased in 1884, which now offers up a museum sharing the lawman’s legacy as well as restored buildings that include the adobe ranch house.
Grave Site: West Point Cemetery
Year Buried: 1876
Where: West Point, New York
Why You Should Pay a Visit: The United States Military Academy was established in 1802 and has had a number of legendary Americans pass through its gates. George Armstrong Custer finished at the bottom of his West Point class in 1861, yet led exemplary service during the Civil War, only to lead his 7th Cavalry troops to their demise at the Little Bighorn Battlefield in 1876.
Pay Your Tribute By: The Little Bighorn Battlefield in Garryowen, Montana, is another must-see place on every Old West history buff’s bucket list. Markers show the exact locations where Custer and his men fell.
Why You Should Pay a Visit: Geronimo is probably one of the most recognizable names in the world. After years on the warpath, Chiricahua Apache warrior Geronimo achieved fame when he turned himself in for the final time in September 1886. He traveled with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West and made appearances at numerous fairs and gatherings before dying in the prisoner of war camp in 1909, never achieving the freedom he had been promised.
Pay Your Tribute By: Heading to the Fort Sill Museum, on the original parade ground, to see the photographs and artifacts of the Chiricahuas who lived here until 1914.
Grave Site: Originally buried in Odd Fellows Cemetery, he was then reinterred in the Masonic Cemetery in 1957.
Year Buried: 1908 / Where: Las Cruces, New Mexico
Why You Should Pay a Visit: The skinny, bean pole scoundrel who killed Billy the Kid, Patrick Floyd Jarvis Garrett got a sullied reputation after folks suggested he might have killed the Kid without any warning. After finishing out his term as Lincoln County sheriff, Garrett ranched and released his firsthand account (partly ghostwritten) about his experiences with the Kid. He died his own mysterious death, shot on the road, while talking with a rancher who he had leased grazing rights to in order to pay debts.
Grave Site: Littleton Cemetery
Year Buried: 1907
Where: Littleton, Colorado
Why You Should Pay a Visit: This American prospector was accused of cannibalism while guiding a party in Colorado during the winter of 1873-74. Sentenced to prison for 40 years, Alfred (also known as Alferd) Packer got out on parole early, in 1901, only to die a few years later, at the age of 65, in Deer Creek.
Pay Your Tribute By: Hosting a summer picnic beneath the shade of the tree near the grave site. Don’t forget to wear your “Have a Friend for Lunch” t-shirt or hat, available for purchase at the University of Colorado in Boulder. Pep up the conversation by sharing some funny moments from Cannibal! The Musical, by the South Park co-creators.
Pay Your Tribute By: Visiting the site where Garrett died, approximately a half mile from the highway marker, south of Route 70, between Las Cruces and San Augustin Pass. If you want to see it, join the Billy the Kid Outlaw Gang based in Fort Sumner.
Grave Site: Summit View Cemetery
Year Buried: 1896
Where: Guthrie, Oklahoma
Why You Should Pay a Visit: A member of the infamous Dalton Gang, Bill Doolin turned to train and bank robberies because ranching paid the cowboy peanuts. Legendary lawman Bill Tilghman captured him in 1896, but Doolin escaped his jail cell in Guthrie. Heck Thomas and his posse tracked him down to his father-in-law’s farm near Lawton and, after a warning, gunned down the outlaw in a hail of bullets and shotgun blasts; his chest had 20 buckshot wounds alone!
Pay Your Tribute By: Heading to downtown Guthrie to see the 1892 territorial prison. As Doolin proved, those 19-inch thick limestone and brick walls turned out to be escapable after all!
Grave Site: Las Animas Cemetery
Year Buried: 1869
Where: Las Animas, Colorado
Why You Should Pay a Visit: William Bent and brother Charles were among the West’s greatest trappers. They lived in two worlds—the white man’s and the Indians—and tried to fight white expansion while also making lots of money off of those settlers.
Pay Your Tribute By: Visiting the replica of Bent’s Old Fort, which the brothers, along with fellow trapper Ceran St. Vrain, opened on the Santa Fe Trail in 1833. Travelers could get a hot meal, rent a room, load up on supplies and hear the latest news from other pioneers passing through the area.
Grave Site: Salt Lake City Cemetery
Year Buried: 1864
Where: Salt Lake City, Utah
Why You Should Pay a Visit: Joseph Alfred “Jack” Slade was a respectable citizen and businessman...when he was not drinking. A driver for the Overland Stage Company, he was instrumental in establishing layover stations for the Pony Express. When he went on a bender, Slade became a dangerous man; he’d tear up saloons and anyone who got in his way. His continuous threats and violent behavior drove vigilantes to hang him in Montana in 1864. His body was placed in a tin coffin filled with alcohol until the following spring, when it was taken to Salt Lake City for burial; no one knows why it was not sent to his family in Illinois. Mark Twain helped popularize Slade by writing about him in his book, Roughing It.
Pay Your Tribute By: After your visit to the historic Mormon cemetery, check out a performance by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, which began singing in 1847 at the first tabernacle, completed in 1851; the present dome-roofed tabernacle was completed in 1867.
Grave Site: Clayton Cemetery
Year Buried: 1901
Where: Clayton, New Mexico
Why You Should Pay a Visit: Along with his brother Sam, Thomas Edward Ketchum, better known as Black Jack, led the train-robbing Ketchum Gang. During an 1899 train robbery that he tried to pull off on his own, Black Jack got shot in the arm, which had to be amputated. Sentenced to hang for the robbery, he was decapitated at the gallows during a botched execution.
Pay Your Tribute By: Resting your head at the Hotel Eklund, first opened in 1892. While eating in the Victorian dining room, with its crystal chandeliers and marble fireplaces, think of Ketchum, who apparently watched the men put the finishing touches on his scaffold while he was eating his breakfast in Clayton, his last meal.
Grave Site: He had a church funeral in Los Angeles, but afterwards, he was cremated and his ashes were taken to Hills of Eternity Memorial Park.
Year Buried: 1929
Where: Colma, California
Why You Should Pay a Visit: A visit to Wyatt Earp’s grave site should be at the top of any Western history buff’s bucket list. The most famous lawman the Old West has ever known, Wyatt Berry Stapp Earp was a true adventurer who spent his days in the rip roarin’ cattle towns of Wichita and... Registration is FREE and takes only a few seconds to complete. If you are already registered on TrueWestMagazine.com, please log in below. Get instant access to subscriber content on TrueWestMagazine.com! When it comes to keeping the lore of the West alive, nobody does it better. True West readers get the no-holds-barred, straight shootin' facts about the West from our staff of experts and historians. After subscribing, just come back here and register with us by clicking on the register link below.
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