|The Story of Edward Schieffelin|
|March 24, 2008|
Tombstone erupted into a boom town when Arizona was Apache Land. Geronimo, Victorio, and Nachez led their fierce warriors in raids the length and width of Southern Arizona. Few white men penetrated this barren, merciless land and returned to tell of it.
In 1877, a prospector by the name of Lewis wandered into the dry washes, coming down out of the Tombstone Hills into San Pedro Valley. He discovered several pieces of horn silver and followed them to an outcropping of high grade silver ore. On the strength of the specimens that he had brought out with him, A.M. Franklin and Marcus Katz of Tucson agreed to grubstake him for a share of his claim.
Lewis returned to the dry washes of the San Pedro confident that he could go straight to the ledge of silver. However, apparently he had not pinpointed the location very well as he was not able to find it again. For long, weary weeks Lewis, combed dry wash after dry wash, but he found no trace of silver.
Meanwhile, another determined prospector arrived. The newcomer had trailed into the country with a company of Hualapai scouts late in the summer of 1877 and had then used Brunckow's cabin as his base of operations. The prospector was Edward Lawrence Schieffelin, and he materialized from the desert a tall and wild figure. Although he appeared fifty years old, he had not reached thirty years yet. Ed was of a large and powerful build, a type of the physically perfect man, his bronzed face and flowing brown hair and beard, and his clear blue eyes told of his free and open life of the plains and the mountains. He stood five feet eleven and one-half inches tall and weighed about one hundred ninety pounds. Ed had been born in Tioga County, Pennsylvania in October of 1847.
For over ten years he had been seeking a rich ore deposit, but success had always eluded him. He had begun his search in the Coeur d' Alenes of Idaho, then across Nevada into Death Valley and into Colorado and New Mexico. Finally, his search had led him to into the San Pedro Valley of Arizona.
The tough desert men and the soldiers who stopped at Brunckow's accepted him without question because they knew he was a close-mouthed prospector. Shieffelin looked upon the place as a haven of rest, safety and comfort, secure from the Apache.
Ed strictly minded his own business and, at first light, he was up and gone into the endless wasteland that leads to what is now known as the Tombstone Hills and the Mule Mountains. At dusk , he reappeared , ate his supper, then climbed into his bedroll to await another day. Through all the daylight hours, he searched the dry washes and outcroppings for evidence of ore. On several occasions, he sighted bands of Apaches near him and carefully kept out of sight until they moved on. The miners and soldiers who occupied Brunckow's cabin saw him ride out each day and watched for his return at night. Other men had come there, ridden out alone just as Schieffelin did. The other men had not returned.
Soldiers would find what was left of them after the Apaches had ridden on. At last, one of the soldiers at Brunckow's asked him, "why do you go off into them hills?" "To collect rocks," Schieffelin replied. "You keep fooling around out there amongst them Apaches and the only rock you'll find will be your tombstone!" the soldier blurted. On one occasion, it was too near dark for Ed to return to Brunckow's. He chose a round-topped hill further up the wash for his camp and settled in for the night among some big rocks.
After a nervous, restless night, Ed was up at break of day and headed straight for the (Tombstone) hills. All along the wash he found scattered pieces of silver float. Moving up the wash, he saw the red and black ledge of silver ore.
He estimated the vein to be fifty feet long and twelve inches wide. Ignoring the cactus spines and sharp rocks, Ed climbed to the ledge. Breathless , he reached it, ran his hand lovingly over its rough surface than sunk his pick into it prying our several pieces. They were dark and heavy with pure silver! He had found it! A real strike! After searching for over a decade, he had found a bonanza! All the years he had wandered through the lonely desolate mountains and deserts; starved, blistered and frozen and faced death so many times, were as nothing. Now the wealth he sought was in his grasp! The vein of silver that he had exposed was pure and soft and a coin pressed into it , left a clear imprint. Ed smiled to himself as he thought of the words, "All you'll find out there will be your tombstone." If the Apaches had found him he probably wouldn't have needed one. Recalling the warning, he mused over the word "tombstone." Yep, he liked it! Might make a good name for his claim."
Schieffelin did not realize it at the time, but he had named a mine, the hills where it lay, an entire silver lode, and a town yet unborn. It would be a town whose fame and riches were soon to astound the world!
Ed collected a bag of samples, put up claim markers, then headed across the desert for Tucson. When he had completed filing his claim, he started for Globe. His brother Al had a good job up there and would have some cash money. In return for that badly needed cash, Ed would make him a full partner. In Globe, Ed was dismayed to discover that Al had moved to Signal, Arizona. He wasted no time as it was a long trip across the mountains and desert.
Brother Al was not particularly impressed with the story or Ed's bag of ore samples. He was not about to put his hard earned cash into such a "wild venture". His advice to Ed was to forget all about that silver ledge and go to work! Ed would not give up so easily, however, so Al brought a foreman to examine Ed's ore samples. The foreman looked at them and pronounced them "worthless". Shieffelin could do no more, so he took a job in the McCracken Mine. Even after several weeks of mine work, Ed still could not believe that his ore was of no value. Finally, he met Richard Gird, the assayer at Signal and Gird agreed to assay his ore samples.
Gird was astounded to find that Ed's ore showed that he had found a rich strike, with values running over $2,000 a ton. The assayer immediately offered to finance development of the mine in return for a one-third interest. Al was also to come in as a partner with a one-third share, the other equal share to be retained by Ed. The three men bound their agreement with a handshake, nothing was ever put into writing and all three men kept their verbal agreement even though it involved over a million dollars.
Richard Gird bought mules, wagon, guns, food, mining tools, a transit, level and assaying equipment. When their supplies were loaded, they set out on the trip to the very center of Apache land. They arrived in Tucson in the late Spring and stopped at Bob Leatherwood's Corral for a few days to rest. They could easily have been daunted as every day reports were coming in , telling of Apache raids and murder in the very area they were about to enter. Such news did nothing to change their plans. The decision was made to ride alert with rifles in hand. One of them stood watch at all times. Two of them watched from the ridges while the other packed and hitched the mules.
They traveled south up the San Pedro River and made a wide circle around the Mormon settlement of St. David. Permanent camp was set up at Brunckow's where several fresh graves were mute testimony to recent Apache raids.
Ed led the way up the dry wash to his ledge of silver. The three partners began to remove ore from the vein immediately. Dismay struck when they found out that it pinched out three feet down. The claim was apparently not worth working. Gird and Al were keenly disappointed and complained about giving up good jobs at Signal. The distant hills seemed to mock him but Ed said nothing. He knew that silver was there somewhere. Several weeks of fruitless prospecting followed. Ed searched each and every wash for the elusive ore body, meanwhile keeping an eye out for Apaches. Frequently, signal smoke rose from the Dragoon Mountains and answering columns of smoke climbed from the ridges of the Whetstones. Each new day brought new dangers but Ed continued to draw on that inner strength he had paid for with nearly ten years of his life prospecting.
Then, just as when discouragement was beginning to set in, Ed discovered a new outcropping! "You're a lucky cuss!" Al told him. Ed must have agreed , for that is how the famous "Lucky Cuss Mine" got its name. When Gird assayed the samples from it, they ran to $2,000 a ton!
Three days later, Henry Williams and Oliver Boyer also discovered a ledge of rich silver. Gird claimed that this discovery was on a claim already posted by he and the Schieffelin brothers. This disagreement grew into an involved argument. Afraid that they would lose out entirely, Williams and Boyer finally agreed to share the claim. They named their end of the claim "Grand Central" and, because of the quarrel over it, Gird and the Shieffelins named their parts the "Contention". These two mines were destined to become the richest in the Mining District.
The City of Tombstone was built on a flat mesa, surrounded by the Whetstone, Mule, Burro, Huachuca, and Dragoon Mountains. Early in 1879, Allen Street lots sold for $5 each and the town had forty cabins and a population of 100. A year later. in 1880, four town sites were thriving in the mining district. Tombstone, the largest, was near the Toughnut Mine; Richmond was one and a quarter mile southwest, and Charleston and Contention were on the San Pedro River, eight miles away.
In two short years the population of Tombstone was to soar to over 5,000 people. Within the same period of time , the Bird Cage Theatre, the Cochise County Court House, five local newspapers, the Crystal Palace and Oriental Saloons were built, and the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral had taken place.
As the monied investors moved in, the Schieffelin brothers sold their mining claims. Only 35 years old, wealthy and famous, Ed wanted to see how the rest of the country looked. He visited New York, Chicago, Washington and numerous large cities. He stopped at the most famous hotels and dined in the finest restaurants. Wherever he went people gathered to stare at the man who had found a whole Mountain of Silver. However, civilization could not dim his fond memories of the old days in the deserts and mountains. Ed longed for the peace and solitude where he could spend weeks on end alone and never see a human being.
In 1883, he sailed a boat up to Alaska and prospected up the Yukon. No rich ores were found so Ed returned to San Francisco. That fall, he married a Mrs. M.E. Brown, a native of Virginia, but a resident of San Francisco. The marriage took place in La Junta, Colorado. Part of that winter the couple spent in Salt Lake City and in the spring of 1884 they went to Alameda, California where they bought a home.
Unimpressed with city life, Ed bought a ranch near his brothers, Eff and Jay, in Oregon. In September, 1896, for some unexplained reason, he returned to Alameda and made his Last Will and Testament. In his will he divided his worldly goods between his wife, Mary , and his brother, Jay: "I give my wife, Mary E. Schieffelin, all interests, both real and personal properties - in Alameda and Santa Clara Counties, California - also fifteen $1,000 University of Arizona Bonds. All other properties, both real and personal, I give to my brother, Jay L. Schieffelin."
Once more, the love of prospecting drew him back into the mountains. There in Douglas County, Oregon, he found his peace and contentment in a remote cabin on a ridge above Day's Creek. It was here that his nearest neighbor, a man named Jackson, found him dead on May 12, 1897. Though only 49 years old and presumably in good health, Ed Schieffelin was gone. The Sheriff was brought from Canyonville and an inquest was held at Ed's cabin. The coroner ruled that Ed had died of a heart attack.
There is still raging a controversy over whether he discovered yet another bonanza. Reports exist that say the last entry in Ed's diary read, "Found it at last! Richer than Tombstone ever hoped to be!" Ore samples lying in the cabin assayed at over $2,000 to the ton. Schieffelin was buried near his cabin, 20 miles East of Canyonville. He was not to lie there long, as his last wishes were found among his papers. They were: "It is my wish, if convenient, to be buried in the dress of a prospector, my old pick and canteen with me, on top of the granite hills about three miles westerly from the City of Tombstone, Arizona, and that a monument, such as prospectors build when locating a mining claim, be built over my graveyard or cemetery."
When Ed's wished were known, his brother , Charles, telegraphed them to Tombstone on May 17, 1897. Mayor Emanuel made all the funeral preparations and Colonel William Herring prepared to deliver the eulogy. Ed Schieffelin was laid to rest on Sunday May 23, 1897, with his wife, mother, brother and a huge crowd of friends present. They gave him the largest funeral in the camp's history. Saloons, stores and offices closed and people came from all over the country to take a last look at the man who had found a Mountain of Silver worth $85,000,000. His body was dressed in his old red, flannel shirt and his faded prospector's clothes. Beside him were placed his pick, shovel, the battered canteen he had carried the day he had made his strike.
The plaque on the gigantic miner's monument (with a sixteen foot base diameter and twenty-five foot height) reads:
Ed Shieffelin, died May 12, 1897, aged 49 years, 8 months. A dutiful son, a faithful husband, a kind brother, and a true friend."
Ed followed his dream into the Apache-infested wasteland and won wealth and everlasting fame. He found his Tombstone, just as the soldiers had predicted, and he will sleep in the shadow of it for all eternity.