Quite A Lot, Actually
Here at Texansunited.com we are continuously looking for ideas that our small Texas towns might use to promote themselves to those tourists, those road trippers, those daytrippers who are constantly looking for their next adventure. This last week we went as far as the little town of Tombstone, Arizona to see just what it is that it does to stay alive.
The answer we found is beginning to have an echo on this sight…history, History, and HISTORY! I’ll give you the punch line first: The town of Tombstone has about 1,500 residents, a small town by anyones standards, right? Of course, those 1,500 full-time residents share their town with the 500,000 people who visit each year.
Why do they come? They come because Tombstone markets its western heritage, bloody though it is, and people are intrigued with what they perceive as the Old West. They always have been, and they always will be.
Now, in case you are a little rusty on your western history, I’ll try to see if I can condense just what it is that Tombstone markets into a fairly small nut shell. First of all, what would become the townsite was founded in 1877 by a prospector “looking for stones,” when he wasn’t scouting Indians. Soldiers tried to scare the man out of his hunting by telling him the only stone he would find would be his tombstone.
As it turned out, the soldiers were wrong and Ed Schieffelin struck silver, naming his mine Tombstone. Miners flocked to the area and by 1879, a town was laid out and given the name of Schieffelin’s first mine…Tombstone.
“By the mid 1880’s Tombstone’s population had increased to around 7,500. This figure counted only the white male registered voters that were over 21 years of age. If you take into account the women, children, Chinese, Mexicans and the many ‘ladies of the evening’ the estimates are that the population was between 15,000 and 20,000 people.
“At its peak, it is said to have been the fastest growing city between St. Louis and San Francisco. There were over one hundred saloons, numerous restaurants, a large red-light district, an even larger Chinese population, schools, churches, newspapers, and one of the first public swimming pools in Arizona (which is still used today).”
A town smaller than Brownwood, Texas with over 100 saloons? The West was a rough place, and it was settled by rough people. In fact, the names below belong to some of the roughest characters of that time period.
“The most famous event in Tombstone’s history was the famed Gunfight at the OK Corral, which didn’t actually happen at the corral, but in a vacant lot on Fremont Street. On October 26, 1881, members of the ‘Cowboys’ had a run-in with Wyatt, Virgil, and Morgan Earp with help from Wyatt’s friend Doc Holliday.
“Twenty-four seconds and 30 shots later, Billy Clanton, and Tom and Frank McLaury were mortally wounded. In many people’s opinion, it was this one event that has kept Tombstone alive for all these years.”
In 1929, the county seat was moved away from Tombstone, and it looked as though it was all over for the town that had survived the Old West but maybe not the progress of the 20th Century. However, some brilliant citizens coined the phrase “The Town Too Tough To Die” and sent out invitations for the rest of the country to come in and learn of the town’s rowdy past.
Without a doubt, it worked, and the town of Tombstone owes a huge debt of gratitude to those citizens of long ago for their foresight and ingenuity!
Here in Texas the teeny town of Hico may have done as good a job of promoting its western heritage as any town I have seen in our area. It has taken the idea that Brushy Bill Roberts was actually the infamous outlaw Billy the Kid and used that as a launching pad for the town.
Hico still has its historic buildings intact, and it promotes those buildings, a reformed outlaw, antiques, and steak and chili cookoffs, and the crowds pour into the town where Brushy Bill dropped, years after Billy the Kid was supposedly killed.
But what about us? Do we have to market the west if our town has something else?
Absolutely not! The Old West comes to mind with me because my home town of Comanche, Texas is completely overrun with western heritage. However, Comanche has chosen not to market the Old West. Your town may be just as determined not to capitalize on that time period. Hopefully, if that is the case, your town has something else that you can build on to entice visitors to stop and stay a while with you.
One such town is Dublin, Texas. Dublin has done a fabulous job of running for all its worth with the fact that Ben Hogan spent the first ten years of his life there. I have to stop very often and cheer Dublin for the way it has embraced this part of its history and made it known to the rest of the world.
Dublin is also working to promote its very famous rodeo heritage. Many people do not know that Dublin was once the stop before Madison Square Garden on the rodeo circuit. How great is that? Of course, Dublin also has five active museums open 363 days a year for the visitors who want to know more as well as over 1,000 members in the Dublin Historical Society and more volunteer labor than even I can imagine!
The bottom line is that if a tiny town of 1,500 can do it, the rest of us can also if we want it badly enough. We just have to find our niche and then work together to get it done. Good Luck!