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Keith Davis
This month in Tombstone History
Thu May 16, 2013 12:28am

May 29, 1925 - Tombstone Epitaph

The Letter Box

Eagle Rock, L. A. Co., Calif.

Editors Tombstone Epitaph,
Tombstone, Arizona.

Dear Sirs;-
Some kind friend is sending me your paper which I enjoy very much, and recently met many old Tombstone friends here in L. A. when the hearings were being held in the Crabtree case, some of whom I thought dead many years ago.

Among others was J. P. Clum, who was the first mayor of Tombstone, and we talked over the subject of the "Boot Hill" Cemetery which is spoken of in the book we saw entitled "When The West Was Young," and which has many familiar facts recorded, but there never was such a name given to the first cemetery in Tombstone.

I lived in Tombstone from the spring of 1880 until the fall of 1886, where I maintained a surveyor's office over the old Oriental saloon, until the place was burned down and I lost all my instruments and records and nearly lost my life, as I had to jump from the front window to the hard street below and was picked up by good friends and carried home to the second block below the Aztec House. Later I was superintendent of the Townsite mine for some time and went through the trying times of the strike when the Grand Central hoist was burned and my mine was the last to shut down although I always paid union wages, but got a skull and crossbone valentine just the same from an invisible hand.
My last home was on the third lot below the old Joe Hoefler store on Fifth Street, but when I last visited Tombstone there was nothing on the lot but a small branch of an old umbrella tree where I once had a blue house with fountain in front and a fence all around. Childs lived next door below me and first above was Ben Weifritz' home, and next above his was an adobe house where Tom Farish lived, while across the way were the abodes of Ward, Wallace and others, the block being built up solid.

My first born child, (a boy) was buried in the old cemetery in February, 1883, by Andy Ritter, undertaker, and his records, if they can be found, might give you some data. His place was just below the old P. W. Smith adobe store on the corner of 4th and Allen, and the last time I was there Frank Wolcott had the store.

I am still a member of the Masonic lodge in Tombstone and from sentiment shall never demit from same. (Ask H. P. Johnson).

I surveyed the ground for the Masonic cemetery below town and helped clear it up, and removed the body of my boy from the old cemetery and his was the first grave dig in the new and present cemetery. The site is at the lower end and near the center and is marked by a simple board with letters still plain, and although set in deep when made, they now stand out like raised letters, the elements of 42 years having deepened the board but not erased the lettering.
Your article of February 15th in the Epitaph has set me to thinking of long ago, and I hope to be able to revive some memory that may help to locate the resting place of friends buried there. I hope you will be able to find the records of Andy Ritter (the old undertaker)and if found they will surely lead to the location of the graves of the early pioneers who were buried there.

I had hoped to visit the old camp the past winter, but was not able to do so, but I still hope to spend some time there some day and go over the ground where the happiest, as well as the saddest days of my live were spent.

I sure could write a book of the life spent there which would almost awaken the dead, as well as perhaps kill some of the living, if any there be yet remaining.

There will never be another Tombstone and I am glad that a part of my life was spent there, and at the time when it took brave men and women to battle the life of the frontier, which made the friendship of those deeper and nearer to the heart than any other place on earth. I believe Mr. Ritter was afterwards a county officer, and some of his old records may be there among the county treasurer's files. The office records may show where he came from and where he went upon leaving town.

in 1884 Frank Murphy and I were the Arizona commissioners to the World's Fair at New Orleans, and I gathered two carloads of exhibits from the then territory and many prizes were awarded, and the first mineral exhibit at Phoenix was from this collection.

More anon-

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