“Your own tombstone”

Brunckow Cabin 001

Brunckow’s Cabin

Frederick Brunckow was a German-born, college educated mining engineer who migrated to the United States sometime in 1850.  His movement to the western United States came as a result of joining up with the Sonora Exploring and Mining Company.  In 1859, Brunckow left that company to develop his own mining company, which he named the San Pedro Silver Mine.  His stake was located about eight miles southwest of what would eventually become the city of Tombstone, Arizona near the San Pedro River.  Joining him in this endeavor was a chemist named John Moss (possibly Morse), a German-born cook named David Brontrager, and two miners named James and William Williams.  Brunckow hired Mexican laborers to build a supply hut and an adobe cabin for sleeping quarters.

On 23 July 1860, William went to Fort Buchanan [1] to purchase flour.  When he returned on the night of 26th July, Williams found the store ransacked and his cousin James laying on the floor—apparently murdered.  He returned to Fort Buchanan to notify the soldiers.  When soldiers arrived the next morning, they discovered two more bodies.  Moss was lying dead in an area just outside the camp, his body ravaged by animals, and the remains of Brunckow was found near the entrance to the mine shaft.  He had been killed with a rock drill.  Brontrager and the Mexican workers were missing, along with all the company’s livestock.  Altogether, around $3,000.00 worth of goods had been taken.  Later that night, Brontrager arrived at Camp Jecker and told the miners there that he had been taken hostage by the Mexicans.  He told the story that the Mexicans had turned on the miners a few hours after Williams had departed for Fort Buchanan.  They let him go, he said, because he was a good Catholic.  The soldiers buried the men, but their killers were never apprehended.

The first US Marshal appointed to the Arizona Territory was a man named Milton B. Duffield, a post he held from March 1863 to November 1865.  Duffield was a man of some reputation: iron nerve, gruff in the extreme, and deadly aim.  He was not a well-liked man, particularly if one happened to be wanted by the federal government, but he was regarded as fearless.  It was said of him that he never went anywhere without eleven concealed firearms and a knife.

In 1873, Duffield acquired ownership of the Brunckow mining claim and property—but another fellow named James T. Holmes claimed the property, as well.  On 5 June 1874, Duffield showed up at the Brunckow cabin to evict Holmes.  Typical of Duffield, he approached the cabin hollering and waving his arms, obviously spoiling for a fight.  Holmes, aware of Duffield’s reputation, walked out the front door with a double-barreled shotgun and shot the old lawman dead.  It wasn’t until after he shot Duffield that Holmes realized that he’d just killed an unarmed man.  Duffield was buried near the cabin and Holmes went to trial.  He was sentenced to three years in prison but escaped before being transferred to the territorial prison and was never seen in Arizona again.  Authorities made no effort to locate him.

Now enters Mr. Edward L. Schieffelin.  Ed was born in the coal-mining region of Wellsboro, Pennsylvania, the off-spring of prominent Pennsylvanians in 1847.  His great-grandfather, whose name was Jacob Schieffelin, III., was born in Montreal owing to the fact that his father, Jacob Schieffelin II was a loyalist during the Revolutionary War, imprisoned by rebels for a time.  Jacob II escaped confinement and made his way to Canada, where he remained until 1794.  Over a period of many years, the Schieffelin family established a pharmaceutical business, that continues to exist today as Schieffelin & Somerset, importers of wines and liquor.

Jacob IV was Edward’s grandfather (1793-1880).  His son, Clinton Emanuel Del Pela Schieffelin, was Edward’s father.  Clinton migrated to Oregon in the 1850s to raise cattle and speculate in mining.  Mining was an activity that interested Edward, who at age 17, set out on his own as a prospector and miner.

Ed Schieffelin 001

Edward Lawrence Schieffelin

Edward’s search for gold and silver began around 1865, which took him through Oregon to Idaho, into Nevada, Colorado, and New Mexico.  By every account, Edward kindly but somewhat unkept.  He stood above six feet tall, had long black hair, and a beard that was a mass of unkept knots and mats.  His clothing was a patchwork of cloth and animal skins.  Essentially, no one would invite Edward to a proper dinner party.

Edward’s prospecting efforts were largely unsuccessful by his 30th year.  He learned that a group of Hualapai Indians had enlisted as scouts for the U. S. Army, which at the time was establishing a fort to counter against the rampaging Chiricahua Apache.  The new encampment was designated Fort Huachuca at the foot of the mountains of the same name, located in Pima County, Arizona Territory.

Schieffelin became a scout for the army and accompanied the Indian scouts on expeditions into the back country to prospect for silver.  He was aware that some silver had been discovered in the northern Arizona regions, but with the Apache being a real and present danger in the south, not many people were interested in prospecting for minerals in the border area with Mexico.

Nevertheless, the efforts of Frederick Brunckow intrigued him, and he began prospecting the rocky outcrop northeast of the Brunckow cabin.  In 1876, Schieffelin and his party were attacked by Apaches and one man was killed.  In all, some 22 men had been killed in this region.  It was enough to give a superstitious man pause, but apparently, Ed had no such forebodings.  A friend and fellow scout named Al Sieber warned Schieffelin, “The only rock you will find out there will be your own tombstone.”

Unfazed, Schieffelin began using Brunckow’s cabin as a base of operations in 1877.  After many months, while working in the hills east of the San Pedro River, Ed discovered pieces of silver in a dry wash at a place called Goose Flats.  It took him several more months to find the source, which measured some fifty feet long and around 12 inches wide.  The find, and the source of his claim, was situated near Lenox’s grave.  Thus, when Schieffelin filed his claim, he named it Tombstone.

Goose Flats-Tombstone

Aerial view of Goose Flats/Tombstone

It was not long before there were numerous ramshackle dwellings, supporting a human population of about 100 miners.  The mines were named “Lucky Cuss” and “Good Enough.”  Former governor Anson Safford offered financial backing for a share of the silver.  Schieffelin and his partners (brother Al and Richard Gird) formed the Tombstone Mining and Milling Company.  In March 1879, Goose Flats became Tombstone, Arizona —an unincorporated community of Pima County— because it was large enough to accommodate a growing town.  Lots were sold on Allen Street for $5.00 each and the population literally exploded.

When Cochise County was formed from the eastern section of Pima County, Tombstone became the county seat.  It was a prosperous town.  The Tough Nut Mine produced silver valued from $170/ton to $22,000/ton.  But the real money-makers were of two sources: the stores, saloons, and houses of ill-repute that sprang up from no-where, and the thieving of a growing criminal element who were known as The Cowboys.  Escalating murder rates was simply a by-product of too much whiskey, and too much meanness.

Next week: Cowboys and Carpetbaggers.


  1. Burns, W. N.  Tombstone: An Iliad of the Southwest.  University of New Mexico Press, 1999
  2. Thrapp, D. L.Encyclopedia of Frontier Biography, Vol I.  University of Nebraska Press, 1991
  3. Moore, R. E.The Silver King: Ed Schieffelin, Prospector.  Oregon Historical Quarterly, Winter 1986.


[1] Fort Buchanan, Arizona Territory, was established in 1856.  The fort was situated approximately three miles southwest or present-day Sonoita in Santa Cruz County on the east slope of Hog Canyon.  The area of Fort Buchanan was a hotbed of hostile activity by the Chiricahua Apache.  The fort was officially abandoned in 1861, although the California column occasionally manned the fort during the Civil War.  In February 1865, Apache hostiles attacked and burned the fort, causing the US Army to abandon the fort permanently.

About Mustang

Retired Marine, historian, writer.
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4 Responses to “Your own tombstone”

  1. Andrew says:

    So, that’s how Tombstone got it’s name.
    Interesting stories of several unusual men who mage up the the Old West.

    Liked by 1 person

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