Prospecting Pays off for Schieffelin in Tombstone

In this final post about Tombstone founder Ed Schieffelin, Tombstone City Historian Don Taylor tells of Schieffelin’s mines in the Tombstone Hills, his departure to prospect in California and Oregon and, finally, his return to Tombstone.

Minerals bring wealth
The Schieffelins and Gird stayed focused on silver mining. By May they sold the Contention for $10,000 to Josiah White (quite the sum in those days!). The Ed Schieffelin Monument (Photo courtesy of Luanne Mattson)record of the sale created quite a stir. The three were approached to sell the Lucky Cuss, the Tough Nut and several other undeveloped claims for the outrageous amount of $90,000. Unfortunately, that deal fell through. Yet just like the sale of the Contention, the fact that the sale had been attempted created even more excitement about the new area. So much so that on Sept. 27, 1878, Governor A.P.K. Safford and John S. Vosburg entered into partnership with the Schieffelins and Gird. For an undivided 25% interest in the milling and mining properties, Safford and Vosburg agreed to build a 10-stamp quartz mill on the San Pedro River.

With capital and a stamp mill on the way, the Schieffelin brothers began working the Tough Nut in the fall of 1878 with 6 miners. Within a year, 75 miners were working the claim. The Tough Nut turned out to be a monster of a mine. By the middle of January, the Schieffelins, Gird, Vosburg and Elbert Corbin, who had purchased half of Vosburg’s original interest, formed a new corporation for a second mill on the San Pedro. The Tombstone hills and the riches they contained were no longer a secret to anyone. The Tough Nut and Good Enough were outfitted with steam hoists in November 1879. With the completion of the second mill, silver bullion was being shipped in vast quantities, and these two mines were projecting dividends of $50,000 per month for the next two years.

More manpower was required to maintain the high level of production. With population came purveyors of goods and services, residential and commercial construction, and “entertainment” providers. In other words, civilization and social development came to the Tombstone Hills.

Civilization advances; Schieffelin goes prospecting
Growth and advancing civilization made Ed Schieffelin uneasy. He yearned for the excitement of prospecting. In March of 1880, a syndicate paid the Schieffelins $600,000 for their shares in the Tombstone Gold and Silver Mill and Mining Company.

Without business obligations, Ed was free to find the next big strike. In July 1880 he scoured the Dragoon Mountains. Ed and Albert left Tombstone for Los Angeles. They bought 12 acres in the eastern part of the city for a home for their parents. Albert returned to Tombstone, and with Richard Gird, continued to run mining operations. Gird held on to his company shares until 1880. Suffering from mercurial poisoning, Gird sold his interests and, as the men had agreed years before, split the proceeds equally with the Schieffelins.

Albert continued to be active in Tombstone. In 1881, he partnered with William Harwood to build Schieffelin Hall on Fremont Street. Upon completion it was the largest auditorium between El Paso and San Francisco. By 1884, Albert was seriously ill with tuberculosis. He died in his parents’ Los Angeles home in October 1885.

Ed seemed to ignore his wealth. True to his nature, he seemed to grow restless and started prospecting again. Ed and his younger brother Effingham began putting together an expedition to Alaska. Ed commissioned a steamboat to be built and in March of 1882, he and Effingham reached Juneau. The Schieffelin expedition was the first to explore the Yukon River. They did not find the new bonanza on this trek. Upon their return, Ed said, “It is the worst country for mosquitoes I ever saw. So, after spending two summers and one winter in the country, we came back satisfied that we wanted no more of Alaska.”

He relocated to northern California in 1884 where he married and attempted to settle in Alameda. Ed soon turned his attention to Oregon. Legend has it that Ed found a silver strike richer than Tombstone. However, he was found dead of an apparent heart attack in the doorway of his cabin near Canonville, Oregon.

To this day, no one knows the exact location of his last strike. Ed had specified in his will that he be buried in his prospector’s clothes with his canteen and pick on top of a hill close to the site of his first camp near the Tombstone Hills.

M.W. Jones was commissioned to erect a 25-foot cemented stone monument shaped like a claim marker over Ed’s grave. The inscription on the monument reads:

Ed Schieffelin,
Died May 12, 1897,
Aged 49 years, 8 months,
A Dutiful Son,
A Faithful Son,
A Faithful Husband,
A Kind Brother,
A True Friend

Visit the sites mentioned in this blog post:
Schieffelin Monument (pictured above) - on Schieffelin Monument Road, 2 miles west of Tombstone
Schieffelin Hall – on Fremont Street