Old West/Ranching History

The Old West. To many, the phrase evokes the flurry of action that happened in less than 30 seconds at the O.K. Corral. As celebrated as it is, the real story may never be known. Tombstone’s Old West history is evident, with wooden sidewalks, horse-drawn stagecoaches and daily gunfights.

Start your exploration at the Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park for stories about lawman Wyatt Earp and others.

Another famous lawman in the Old West was John Slaughter. A cattle rancher and Cochise County sheriff, Slaughter and his ranch, near Douglas, survived many a drought because of a natural spring. One of the most notable cattle farms in the region, the Slaughter Ranch Museum is a place where visitors can contemplate the rugged Old West while picnicking next to the spring. 

From the late 1800s to 1930, the Willcox depot was a nationwide ranching and cattle-shipping area.  Both enterprises still flourish; livestock auctions are held every week, and the town is home to the only surviving Southern Pacific Depot in the southern U.S. 

Benson’s links to the Old West lie in its role to linking the West with news from the East. The Butterfield Overland Stage began in 1858. The U.S. government awarded a $600,000 contract to John Butterfield to carry mail from St. Louis to San Francisco twice a week. The stage’s southern route promised little snow and ran 100-250 coaches, about 1,000 horses, half as many mules and about 800 employees. The Butterfield Stage ended with the start of the Civil War in 1861. Every year, Benson holds the Butterfield Overland Stage Days. During the event, and for a month following, the U.S. Post Office designs a special cancellation stamp for letters mailed in the area.

More Cochise County Origins:
Mexican and Hispanic Influence
Native Americans and Apaches
Military History
Geology and Mining

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