Thursday, June 2, 2016

The Only Stone You'll Get Is a Tombstone

By Paisley Kirkpatrick
There's a tale the old-timers used to tell in the sunbaked streets of old Tombstone -- the thrilling tale of Schieffelin's gold. Millions of people have read about him and seen the monument to him on the highway near Tombstone -- Ed Schieffelin.
Ed liked the excitement of being right up against the earth, trying to find her gold. He went into California first and then after a few years, to the Grand Canyon country. While there he joined some scouts who were fighting Apaches and ended up going with them into southern Arizona. He quit them to prospect in the Huachuca Mountains. He stayed in the vicinity of a camp of soldiers. When one of them asked him what he was looking for, he answered, "Oh, just stones."
"The only stone you'll ever get in this country will be a tombstone," the soldier said.
The first claim ED staked out he named Tombstone, and from it the town took its name -- which also led the first newspaper of the town to be named Tombstone Epitaph.
The Tombstone claim did not prove to be very rich, nor did his next claim, the Graveyard. The Tough Nut made him rich in silver and gold. He and his brother and a third partner traded off part interest in the mine to moneyed men who put up a mill to refine the ore. In 1879 the mine was paying $50,000 a month. For a while, Ed Schieffelin hauled the bullion from his mine to Tucson, but got restless and went to prospecting again.
In 1880 he and his brother sold out for $600,000 -- $300,000 each -- and he went to prospecting farther off. When their third partner sold out for a real fortune later, he subtracted $300,000 for himself from the sum and divided the remainder equally between himself and the two Schieffelins.
In 1897 Ed bought a fine outfit in San Francisco: wagon, mules, tools, especially fine cooking utensils, and plenty of provisions and struck north. At Grants Pass, Oregon, he saw an eighteen-year-old boy named Charlie Williams working around a blacksmith shop and asked if wanted to go into the mountains. The boy was eager to go. Ed was happy he now had a helper. They stopped on Day Creek and camped in an abandoned cabin. Ed told Charlie they could go no farther in a wagon, but would make this place headquarters while he prospected in rough country. He told Charlie he could go off for a few days as he himself would be away from camp a while. Both left.
When Williams returned to the cabin, he found the dead body of Ed Schieffelin. Ed had apparently been sitting, breaking stones with a hammer when he died. The rocks were found to be very, very rich in gold. The camp seemed not to have been molested by anybody, but some of the new cooking utensils were missing. The theory developed that Ed had taken the utensils himself and made a kind of sub-camp near where he had struck the rich ore.
Prospectors hunted for the location from which Ed brought in samples. For a long time they hoped to find the missing cooking utensils as a marker. Any camp would have been made convenient to water. When no cooking utensils could be found, the prospectors searched everywhere for the gold, near the old cabin on Day Creek and far out from it. They never located the site. Its whereabouts died with Ed Schieffelin.
True West, October, 1958 issue -- written by J. Frank Dobie

15 comments:

  1. My husband and I love J. Frank Dobie's tales. Don't you wonder what happened to Ed's fortune he'd left behind? And what an honest partner to split with the brothers after they'd left.

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  2. I was wondering about those points, too, Caroline. Those fortune hunters gave us some good stories over the years. Thanks for stopping by.

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  3. Hi Paisley: Really enjoyed your Post. Very intriguing and informative. According to friends, all these years later, prospecting is nearly as hard and unpredictable.

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    1. Thanks Gini. We lived where the 1849 gold rush happened near Placerville, CA. People still look for the elusive gold. Too much hard work for me.

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  4. I love a bit of mystery--the case of the missing cooking utensils...a very interesting tidbit. I love that the Tombstone newspaper was named the Tombstone Epitaph. Loved your blog, Paisley.

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    1. Thank you, Sarah. I love to learn how places and things get their names. It's too bad Ed was more careful choosing his friends.

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  5. That third partner was quite a guy, wasn't he? You don't find many people like that.

    Ed Schieffelin sounds like he was quite a character. Thanks for posting this fascinating peek at his life, Paisley. :-)

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    1. Thanks for stopping by today, Kathleen. So many interesting characters from that time in history.

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  6. Hmmm...what an odd story. I guess they were right after all..in the end, all he got was a tombstone.
    Interesting reading, Paisley. Thanks.

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  7. It is interesting that he got a stone after all. Thanks, Celia.

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  8. Interesting post and history lesson, Paisley. So, did he have a heart attack at the table? Curious.

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    1. Thanks, Ashley. It is a good question. I have no idea. Sad that it happened when it did, though.

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  9. Interesting story. Sad. I wonder how old he was when he died.

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    1. Hi Linda. They lived a hard life. It didn't say his age but I'd guess he probably wasn't that old. Thanks for stopping by.

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  10. An entertaining post, Paisley. Always interesting to find out how towns get their names.

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