Shoot-Outs and Cemetery Stories of Cochise County


A ‘Love Your Parks Tour’ Law & Order Story by Lisa D. Smith and Nancy J. Reid, assigned by San Diego employment attorney Ward Heinrichs.

A stroll through a cemetery can reveal clues to mysteries and unlock stories about the people and times passed on. These two particular “resting places” in southeast Arizona bring to life the gunslinger shoot-outs and hangings, all vestiges of the “old west”.

Just a short walk from Railroad Avenue in Willcox, there is a historic cemetery where about 90 or so people were buried between 1880 and 1918. Warren Earp, the youngest of the Earp brothers, is buried there. He died in a shoot-out on July 6, 1900 at Henry Brown’s Headquarters Saloon. Not only can you visit his resting place, you can go downtown, stop in at the Flying Leap Vineyards Tasting Room & Art Gallery, where he was actually shot.

Most of us recognize the names, Wyatt, Virgil and Morgan Earp, from the O.K. Corral, Tombstone gun battle. Right after the infamous shoot out, Morgan Earp was assassinated and Virgil was critically wounded. Wyatt blamed arch-enemies, the Clanton’s and McLaury’s, and commandeered the help of Warren and Doc Holliday to exact revenge. After killing the two men Wyatt suspected as being behind his brother’s murder, he along with Doc and Warren fled to Colorado to evade the law.

Later Warren returned to Arizona, only to meet his demise at the hand of John Boyett, a long-time adversary. Boyett was considered innocent on the grounds of self-defense, and it was said that Warren was an abusive bully and a loudmouth.

Another interesting grave is that of Bill Traynor who was shot by Bill Downing in Tom Fulghum’s Saloon on Maley Street in May 1899. This was ruled self-defense as both parties had threatened the life of the other over cattle branding issues. The cemetery is the resting place for a mix of bandits, prostitutes, and law-abiding citizens.

Located in Tombstone, this noteworthy graveyard is the resting place for a myriad of townspeople, outlaws and those shot during drunken disputes. If you walk down the rows and read the grave markers, you will see things like a man shot over the color of his shirt, man shot arguing over the best way to drive cattle, and a woman stabbed while quarreling over a man.

You’ll also find the graves of Wyatt Earp’s arch enemies, members of the Clanton and McLaury gangs, as well as some of the “cowboys,” a loosely organized group of outlaws that rustled cattle and robbed stagecoaches in Virgil Earp’s territory. Billy “The Kid” Clayborne (or Claiborne), age 22 lies here. He adopted the nickname following the death of the more famous “Billy the Kid,” William Bonney, in 1881. Clayborne was with the “cowboys” at the O.K. Corral gunfight, but fled when the shooting began. He was killed by Buckskin Frank Leslie with a single shot to the chest, a little over a year later, outside the Oriental Saloon in Tombstone. This was the result of an argument that began earlier, with Leslie’s refusal to refer to Billy as “The Kid.”

Later, after murdering a couple of other people, Leslie ended up in Yuma’s Territorial Prison. There are rows of gravestones for those who committed suicide, succumbed to disease, died from mining accidents, were hanged, and those killed by Indians.

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