Tombstone Epitaph Special Historical Editions of the Old West's Most Famous Newspaper

Tombstone and
The EpitaphThe Tombstone Epitaph

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Post-Clum: Many Names Make News

One needs a scorecard to log the names associated with The Epitaph after Clum’s departure. His immediate successor was Sam Purdy, a Yuma newspaperman and Democrat. Purdy apparently did not stay long in Tombstone, consigning day-to-day duties to Charles Reppy, a Clum associate, through 1883. That left the Nugget, which had been Clum’s chief rival. Once fire destroyed the Nugget’s plant, it ceased publication. Reppy and partner W. D. Crowe distanced themselves from The Epitaph by taking over the Tombstone Republican. The following year, in 1884, a merger ensued, producing the Daily Epitaph and Republican, with Reppy as editor. In 1885, another consolidation occurred, when the Cochise Record, under editor David F. Cooper, and the Daily Epitaph were combined into the Daily Record-Epitaph. During this period, Clum, who had returned to Tombstone as postmaster, worked for the Record-Epitaph. It was one of two Republican papers in Tombstone. The other, the Daily Tombstone, was decidedly anti-Clum. Editor J. J. Nash derided Clum an “imbecile,” an “egotistical ass” and a “sop.” Editorial jockeying continued in 1886, when Harry Brook became editor of the Record-Epitaph, only to be followed nine months later by J. O. Dunbar, a political maverick who had been one of the founders of the defunct Nugget. The Daily Tombstone kept at the heels of the Record-Epitaph until the end of 1886. Reppy reemerged to take the helm of The Epitaph, now free of its association with the old Record, and to pick up what was left of the old Daily Tombstone. By this time, The Epitaph had switched to weekly publication, a reflection of the depth of Tombstone’s troubles underground.  Now the only paper in Tombstone, The Epitaph was accused by many residents of being too cozy with politically powerful officials in Cochise County. One way of putting heat on the county cabal was to give The Epitaph some healthy competition. That is what happened in late 1887, when four men, meeting at Martin Costello’s saloon, agreed to launch the Tombstone Daily Prospector. The men were Andy Ritter, Joe Pascholy, James Reilly and Stanley C. Bagg.

Stanley C. Bagg: The Not-So-Gay ‘90s

As Bagg recalled in 1929, the Prospector’s mission was “to combat the powerful group which ruled the roost at the court house.” Combat duty was turned over to editor Jimmy Nash, who did what Bagg called a “poor job.” So Bagg stepped in to give the county ring a real fight. A showdown ensued when both papers submitted bids for what Bagg later called “the velvet of the business at the time” – the printing contract for Cochise County government. Both papers bid on the contract; it was awarded to The Epitaph even though Bagg’s bid was much lower. Denied the velvet, Bagg sued the county, only to lose the case before District Judge W. H. Barnes. Unwilling to let the matter rest, Bagg’s Prospector attacked the decision in print – a move that landed Bagg back before Judge Barnes on a contempt charge. Bagg was given a choice – a $300 fine or 300 days in jail. Confident that the public would rally behind him, Bagg chose jail. Attorneys sidestepped the case, figuring any association with Bagg would be a death knell if they had to appear in Barnes’ court on a future matter. Sheriff John Slaughter was ordered to treat Bagg like in any other inmate, which meant Bagg couldn’t sleep in the sheriff’s office. The matter was finally settled when two men, Gus Tribolet and Sol Israel, raised contributions to cover the fine. In the end, Bagg was released after spending three days in jail.

In 1891, Bagg solved the rivalry problem by purchasing The Epitaph. He returned it to weekly status as a Sunday week-in-review publication. Having been the butt of Epitaph commentary, none of it too complimentary, bagging The Epitaph must have been sweet for the five-foot tall furniture store owner and son of the founder of the Detroit Tribune. Having taken control of Tombstone’s incredibly shrinking media empire, Bagg turned his attention to other matters, including positions with various prison, immigration and press commissions and associations. Like editors before and after him, Bagg extolled the wealth trapped below the surface at Tombstone. But by 1895, Bagg was forced to concede that Tombstone’s future simply was not especially bright. Bagg sold his papers and his Tombstone mining interests, and moved to California. He became active in the Rand Mining District in the Mojave Desert while maintaining a home in Santa Barbara. He died in 1931.

William Hattich: Back Shop to Roll-Top

Bagg’s successor was William Hattich, who arrived in Tombstone in 1881 at age 9. “Willy” had known the likes of John Henry “Doc” Holliday, had hawked papers on street corners and had darkened his hands as a printer’s devil in the town’s back shops.  Having lived through the glory days, Hattich was an unabashed booster. When he took over the daily Prospector and weekly Epitaph, Hattich wrote, “Like the courage, perseverance and hope characteristic of the sturdy Arizona prospector in his diligent search for the precious metal, the new Prospector starts out with sharpened tools, new energy and honest and conscientious convictions to prospect on the highways of success.” Standing above the factionalism of a previous decade, Hattich said, “Merchants, cattlemen, ranchers, miners and laborers…will find the Prospector a defender, well-wisher and ready and willing champion of their interests.” Hattich was exuberant when E. B. Gage, former superintendent of the Grand Central Mine, returned to head the Tombstone Consolidated Mines Company, an outfit that would finally drain the water from the mines and pump up the local economy. In 1901, The Epitaph declared, “prosperity has superseded depression.” Two years later, it was equally ecstatic when the El Paso & Southwestern Railroad arrived in Tombstone. Slow as actual progress was underground, Hattich wrote optimistic headlines: “Glowing Prospect of Tombstone District,” “Encouraging Showing Below the Water Level,” “Rich Ore Body Encountered,” and “Future Looks Bright.” Even when the mining company was in trouble, Hattich used the fact that machinery was not being brought to the surface as evidence that "no abandonment is contemplated." That was in 1911. Two years later, on the Prospector’s 25th anniversary, Hattich announced his retirement and soon moved to Southern California. He maintained his Tombstone connections, providing much behind-the-scenes help as Tombstone planned its first Helldorado celebration in 1929.

The Giragi Brothers: A Tough Challenge

The Giragi family picked up where Hattich left off. Having lived in Congress, Metcalf and Pearce before settling in Tombstone, the Giragis had a fair taste of Arizona. Two sons of Frank and Sarah Giragi, Columbus and Carmel, Epitaph building in 1915became friends with Hattich. Columbus took the route of printer’s devil, while Carmel did advertising work. When Hattich retired, the young Giragis used their meager savings to acquire the Prospector and Epitaph. Wallace Clayton, a later Epitaph editor, wrote in 1980 that Hattich essentially gave the papers away as a mark of his friendship with the Giragis – and his pessimism about Tombstone’s future.That future certainly was on the Giragis’ minds when they wrote, “We firmly believe that a reorganization of the mines will bring about prosperity as never witnessed before and confidently believe same is at hand.” People believe as they chose; in reality, the Giragis could not escape the continuing declines of Tombstone’s fortunes; in 1924, they closed the Prospector. Tombstone now was down to one weekly, The Epitaph. Appearing on Fridays, the “county-wide weekly,” as Giragi family in 1915the Giragis called it, would carry with it “more prestige, more confidence and more real advertising value than any other newspaper medium.” They held The Epitaph until 1926, when it was sold to William B. Kelly, owner of the Bisbee Daily Review, 25 miles down the road.

The Giragis’ newspaper careers did not end in Tombstone. They saw better prospects elsewhere, taking over papers in Winslow, Holbrook and, later, Flagstaff. Columbus Giragi was known for a pithy column, “Sparks from the Grindstone,” and an irascible yet lovable personality. A former employee said Columbus was “witty, cynical, caustic, profane, sarcastic, but generally good humored, and always at the finish line, wise and fair.” Long after leaving Tombstone, Columbus Giragi was the low-key sponsor of a grave marker for one of Tombstone’s best-known Chinese residents, Quong Kee, the long-time owner of the Can Can Restaurant. In a private communication, Giragi wrote that he wanted to do something to mark the generosity that Quong Kee had shown him decades earlier.

The Kellys and Helldorado

Two men named William Kelly – father and son – owned The Epitaph between 1926 and 1930. William B. Kelly, who had held interests in several Arizona newspapers, carried The Epitaph for two years. His son, William H. Kelly, then a student at the University of Arizona and editor of the campus paper, The Wildcat, took over in 1928.The younger Kelly was among the first to sense that Tombstone’s future might be found in the town’s history and setting instead of its flooded and dormant mines. Several events seemed to coincide. Writer Walter Noble Burns was researching a book, Tombstone: An Iliad of the Southwest. With its attention to the gunfight at the O. K. Corral and other slices of southeast Arizona history – such as John Slaughter’s rearing of an Apache orphan, Apache May – Tombstone caught the eye of national publications. Consistent with a dramatic change in American culture in the 1920s – automobile tourism – Kelly sensed the ingredients were right for Tombstone to showcase itself on the 50th anniversary of the town’s founding. “Helldorado,” drawn from the title of a book by Billy Breakenridge, was the name given to the 1929 event. The Epitaph and the city underwrote the cost of the event, which was both popular and marginally profitable. It even drew Epitaph founder Clum, who quipped that he was “armed only with a fountain pen – sometimes the mightiest of weapons.”

For its success in drawing attention to Tombstone’s place in the history of the Old West, Helldorado was not enough to keep Tombstone from economic decline. Copper, not silver, was the metal in demand in the 1920s and 1930s. With nearby Bisbee emerging as a copper capital, the economic, demographic and political centers of gravity had shifted away from Tombstone. In November 1929, Cochise County voters decided that the county seat should be moved from Tombstone to Bisbee. 

Perhaps sensing that Tombstone could not be rebuilt any time soon, the younger Kelly sold The Epitaph to Walter Cole, a south Los Angeles resident with 25 years in the newspaper business. On its 50th anniversary, May 1, 1930, The Epitaph announced the sale. Cole paid about $4,000 for the Epitaph Publishing Company, securing the debt with two lots in Seattle, Wash. That done, Kelly returned to Tucson. He later received a Ph. D. at Harvard University, and then became the first director of the University of Arizona’s Bureau of Ethnic Research, where he specialized in study of Indians of the Southwest.

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