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Mrs. Martha Swain Recalls Arrival in Tombstone

Shortly after arriving in Tombstone the Swains moved into a house located adjacent to the courthouse which was completed in 1882. Some of the chairs used to seat spectators at the courthouse dedication came from the Swain home as well as from those of other residents nearby.

Mrs. Swain liked to recall the days of bustling Tombstone and its fascination as well as its hardships. The camp was really booming. When she arrived there the Bird Cage theater was just finished. There was no water supply other than that packed into the town on the backs of burros from Sycamore Springs. The precious fluid sold at the rate of two buckets for 25 cents and was used sparingly. The price of foodstuffs was sky high. Eggs sold for as much as 25 cents apiece.

Tombstone made up in action what it lacked in polish. The town never slept. Throngs jammed the gambling halls and saloons 24 hours a day. Freighters with great cargoes of merchandise filed in and out of the camp in a steady stream.

The carpenter's saw and hammer were continually busy erecting a new frontier community. George went to work in the mines to support his family, his first experience underground. But it wasn't long before he was elected justice of the peace, in 1883.

Recalls Execution

The five Bisbee holdup men who were hanged in a group, Daniel Kelly, Omar W. Sample, James Howard, Daniel Dowd and William Delaney, were a cheerful quintet as they languished in jail waiting for their day of doom. Mrs. Swain recalled. They sang throughout the day and often hollered at the Swain baby from behind their cell window. The quintet were tried in Tombstone before George Swain, then justice of the peace.

The dwelling on occasions, however proved too close to the courthouse for comfort or safety. After Nellie Cashman and her miner friends had destroyed bleachers which were to seat uninvited guests to the hanging of the five Bisbee holdup men and slayers on March 28, 1884, the curious began to climb any tree or roof nearby from which they could overlook the hang-pit below. So many of them climbed atop the Swain roof that the entire building threatened to collapse under their weight and the Swain family was forced to hire a couple of special policemen to keep the crowd from the roof.

Mrs. Swain recalls the mob that hanged Heath.

Mrs. Swain recalls to this day the scenes of violence when the mob removed Heath from the jail, threw a rope around him and half carried, half dragged him to the telephone pole out of town where he was unceremoniously hanged. With her frightened children clinging to her skirts, she stood on the steps of her front porch as the gruesome bit of drama was enacted.

Webmaster's note: The Coroner's official cause of Heath's death was "Emphysema of the lungs."

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