The gravesite of John Heath at Boothill in Tombstone, Ariz., whose lynching was real. Photo taken Tuesday, August 29, 2006.

A.E. Araiza/Arizona Daily Star 2006

Rain is an event here in Southern Arizona, and it almost always makes the news. But rain was not the most exciting thing to happen in Tombstone in July, 1937. How can rain compete with a fire, a ghost and a lynching?

From the Arizona Daily Star, Friday, July 9, 1937:



Tombstone Sees Lynching, Enjoys Rain, Fails To Lay Ghost

By Walter H. Cole
The Horace Greely of Toughnut Street

TOMBSTONE, July 8.—(Special)—A "lynching," a sepulchral controversy, a fire, an inch and a half of rain, a pleasing dispatch from the national capital and continued splashing at a city swimming pool have marked this hectic week in Tombstone.

Outstanding among these events was the "lynching," first to take place here since the famous lynching limb was lopped off the lynching tree on Fifth street last season. In the absence of a proper limb, the kicking "victim" was strung up to the jutting stub of the former limb.

The incident occurred when a motorcade from the east happened into town and one of its members, charged by the incensed citizenry with wearing goggles within the city limits, was forthwith lifted high over the heads of his grinning companions while cameras clicked and cries of "Leave him there!" filled the air.

The victim protested that he was not an easterner, that he was from Houston, Tex., but the unfeeling, hard-boiled, gun totin' people of this city were not to be influenced toward leniency and the verdict of the "mob" was carried out.

Whose Ghost Is This?

Further excitement was aroused this week by the often repeated question, "Whose ghost is this that rises from behind the grave in Boothill cemetery which is surrounded by an iron fence?" For many years efforts have been made to learn the identity of the occupant of the grave, and so quiet the poor ghost. The controversy of the week has not brought the town one iota nearer the answer.

An unnamed woman from St. Joseph, Mo., identified the grave as that of her mother, Mrs. Joe Stumpf, buried here in 1884. But one resident pioneer declares that she is wrong, and that the grave is the resting place of Mrs. J. H. Cummins, who also died here in approximately that year. Still another oldtimer states that Mrs. Cummins grave can be identified in the city cemetery and so the sepulchral breezes blow with a dank, cool tang.


On a hot noon, the municipal fire whistle announced a blaze which, it was concluded, started when some mischievous children lighted firecrackers in the house, threw them on a bed and went outside until the entire house was emitting clouds of smoke.

While saving the structure, Fireman E. B. Jones had a collision with falling ceiling and suffered a badly bruised and scratched forehead and nose.


Tombstone's rainy season has opened more actively than for some years. Citizens have been busy dodging late afternoon showers on their way to this and that scene of recreation. On the Fourth of July, practically an inch of water washed the dust off the rocks in a downpour which was followed on the fifth by almost a half inch. Other dainty showers keep the people guessing and are changing the surrounding scenery from brown to welcome green.


A dispatch from Washington, D.C., told the city council and Mayor Brooks Davis that the request for a PWA allocation for installation of a municipal natural gas system had been declared "technically eligible," amounts being a $15,000 loan and an $11,000 grant.

The city plans to join the line of the El Paso Natural Gas comapny, which runs one mile north of town.

Recreation Center

Tombstone's municipal swimming pool is becoming a center of recreation for a large part of the county, parties from Bisbee, Benson and other points coming daily for plunges.

Composing a Bisbee party were two doctors, Dr. C. C. Piepergerdes and Dr. Robert Fergus; one lawyer, Al Stoddard, assistant county attorney; three business men, Bob Hargis, Tom Hargis and Ralph Robinson, besides Dr. C. L. Stewart of this city and Mrs. Bob Hargis, Mrs. Robinson and the Misses Gertrude Schwab, Edith Anderson, Leona Cooper and Donna Gay Henshaw, all of Bisbee.


Wow! It's a wonder any work was done in Tombstone that week.

The Morgue Lady wonders why anyone would want to visit a town that actually has a tree called the lynching tree as if lynchings are a common event. Would a "kissing" tree not be more pleasant (except of course for those scamps who played with firecrackers and burned the house)?

She assumes the lynching in this article was not serious and that the "criminal" was freed at some point. (She isn't serious about lynching the firecracker-toting children, either.)

It was clearly similar to the ones Tucson has held when "unlucky" out-of-towners happen upon Tucson at the beginning of La Fiesta de los Vaqueros. The visitor is gently "lynched," forgiven and treated to rodeo tickets and a stay in our fair city. It is hoped Tombstone treated its miscreant as well.

The Morgue Lady wants to know more about the ghost and is determined to find out as much as possible. She will post such information when she has it.