Westerners in the 19th century, at least most of those we remember today, were men of action. They roamed the Plains and the Rockies. They trapped and hunted. They fought with fists, knives and guns. They lived off the land. They civilized the land. They landed in the history books and magazines…well, at least a few of them did. Some wanted to die with their boots on; others had no choice. But at some point, of course, whether in a moment of truth or just a bad moment, each legendary Wild West action figure met his maker (from Colt, from Winchester or whatever). Cut—end of action. A burial scene of some kind inevitably followed, and then it was time to rest, in peace or otherwise. Today we take an interest not only in the lives and deaths of such notable characters as Buffalo Bill Cody, Doc Holliday, Tom Horn and Alfred (aka Alferd) Packer but also in their grave sites. Here’s a closer look at some of those sites. If you can’t find the spirit of the West in such places, where can you find it?
William Frederick “Buffalo Bill” Cody
Born: February 26, 1846, near LeClaire, Iowa Territory.
Died: January 10, 1917, in Denver, Colo., from kidney failure.
Claim to Fame: Buffalo Bill’s Wild West extravaganza (he did not like calling it a “show”) made him an international celebrity and forged the lasting legend of the Wild West era. He was also a buffalo hunter for the railroad (the origin of his nickname), a cavalry scout and an Indian fighter (famously winning a duel with Cheyenne warrior Yellow Hair).
Big Myth: Bill rode for the Pony Express. Many historians now question that claim.
Buried: Lookout Mountain [www .buffalobill.org] just west of Denver, beside his wife, Louisa Maud Cody.
Gravestone Inscription: AT REST HERE BY HIS REQUEST.
John Henry “Doc” Holliday
Born: August 14, 1851, in Griffin, Ga.
Died: November 8, 1887, at Hotel Glenwood in Glenwood Springs, Colo., from tuberculosis, with his boots off. His last words were supposedly, “This is funny,” although biographer Gary L. Roberts says it is unlikely Holliday could speak at all.
Claim to Fame: His friendship with Wyatt Earp and standing alongside Wyatt, Virgil and Morgan Earp in the October 26, 1881, gunfight near the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona Territory.
Big Myth: Holliday killed many men. The dentist turned gambler may have killed no more than one man (Tom McLaury in the Tombstone shootout) and probably no more than three. He did not kill Johnny Ringo, who most likely committed suicide in Turkey Creek Canyon, Arizona Territory, in July 1882. Doc was in Colorado at the time.
Buried: Linwood Cemetery (aka Pioneer Cemetery), in Glenwood Springs. Another marker advises, THIS MEMORIAL DEDICATED TO DOC HOLLIDAY, WHO IS BURIED SOMEPLACE IN THIS CEMETERY. The original grave marker disappeared long ago, and there is still debate over where Doc was buried. But based on contemporary accounts, says biographer Roberts, Doc was indeed laid to rest at Linwood.
Harvey Alexander Logan (aka “Kid Curry”)
Born: 1867, in Richland Township, Tama County, Iowa.
Died: June 9, 1904, near New Castle, Colo., from suicide. On June 7 Logan and others robbed a train at Parachute, Colo. Trapped by a posse and wounded, Logan put a bullet into his own head.
Claim to Fame: The wildest of Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch (aka Hole-in-the-Wall Gang). The Pinkerton Detective Agency considered Logan “the most feared and dangerous outlaw.”
Big Myth: Like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Logan was a thief but not a killer. Actually, while working with his brothers as a rancher in Montana, he turned into a treacherous, cold-blooded murderer with at least nine victims.
Buried: Linwood Cemetery, in Glenwood Springs, Colo. Yes, the same cemetery in which Doc Holliday is said to rest. Logan’s actual plot is unknown.
Alfred (aka “Alferd”) Packer
Born: January 21, 1842, in Allegheny County, Pa.
Died: April 23, 1907, in Deer Creek Canyon, Jefferson County, Colo., from natural causes.
Claim to Fame: Eating human flesh. Stranded with other miners in the Rocky Mountains in the winter of 1873–74, Packer was the sole survivor. He claimed to have eaten his companions only after they had died, but he was sentenced to death in 1883. A court reversed the decision in 1885 and gave him 40 years. He was paroled in 1901. Forensic researchers have since examined the “crime scene” near Lake City, Colo., and period documents refer to gunshot wounds and hatchet blows. Packer’s cannibalism made him a macabre celebrity.
Big Myth: Al Packer was a crazed monster. After he was paroled, Packer moved to Littleton, Colo., and became a respected member of the community, especially popular with local schoolchildren, and reportedly a vegetarian to boot.
Food for Thought: Students at the University of Colorado in Boulder can eat at the Alferd Packer Memorial Grill, though no doubt many prefer to eat off campus.
Buried: Littleton Cemetery, Littleton, Colo. His ghost, perhaps headless, is said to haunt the cemetery and the Lake City winter camp.
Born: November 21, 1860, in Scotland County, Missouri.
Died: November 20, 1903, in Cheyenne, Wyo., by legal hanging.
Claim to Fame: Horn was an Army scout, a cowboy, a miner and a livestock detective, among other things, but he is best known as a hired killer, especially for his alleged July 1901 bushwhacking of 14-year-old Willie Nickell, son of a Wyoming sheep rancher.
Big Myth: Tom Horn was innocent. Even if he didn’t kill young Willie Nickell, Horn previously had hired out to kill men for money and had completed the assassinations.
Buried: Columbia Cemetery, Boulder, Colo., beside brother Charles and Charles’ wife, Elizabeth.
Bonus Grave: Willie Nickell is buried in Lakeview Cemetery, Cheyenne, Wyo.
Born: 1862, in Hamilton County, Texas.
Died: October 26, 1881, in Tombstone, Arizona Territory, from gunshot wounds.
Claim to Fame: Dying at age 19 in the gunfight near the O.K. Corral.
Big Myth: Billy was just like his older brother Ike Clanton. In fact, Billy was a hardworking cowboy, while Ike was a braggart and a hard drinker. Billy tried to get Ike to leave Tombstone before the showdown. Once the gun battle started, Ike survived by running away, and Billy died fighting.
Buried: Boothill Cemetery, Tombstone, Ariz. Exactly where is uncertain, perhaps near his father, Newman Haynes “Old Man” Clanton, Cowboy patriarch.
Inscription on a Marker He Shares With the McLaurys: MURDERED ON THE STREETS OF TOMBSTONE, 1881.
Frank and Tom McLaury
Born: Both born in Meredith, N.Y., Frank on March 3, 1849, and Tom on June 30, 1853.
Died: Both died October 26, 1881, in Tombstone, Arizona Territory, from gunshot wounds.
Claim to Fame: Dying with Billy Clanton on the losing side of the West’s most infamous gunfight.
Big Myth: Frank (top left) and Tom were known killers. Not true. They were associated with the Cowboys (enemies of the Earps) and knew how to handle guns, but they were cattle ranchers and not known to have killed anyone. On October 26 they got caught up in a firestorm created for the most part by the ill-tempered Ike Clanton.
Buried: Boothill Cemetery, Tombstone, Ariz., probably beside Billy Clanton. Frank and Tom were buried in a single grave somewhere on the hill (most likely not where today’s markers stand).
Warren Baxter Earp
Born: March 9, 1855, in Pella, Iowa.
Died: July 6, 1900, in Willcox, Arizona Territory.
Claim to Fame: Trying to live up to the reputation of his brothers. Warren (some sources say Baxter was actually his first name, but he didn’t use it) rode with brother Wyatt, Doc Holliday and others on the infamous vendetta ride in 1882. He died in his own gunfight, shot down in a Willcox saloon by Johnnie Boyett, one of Cochise County rancher Henry Hooker’s range foremen.
Big Myth: He was in Tombstone at the time of the gunfight near the O.K. Corral. Actually, he had left earlier and was at the family home in Colton, Calif. Warren was back in town when brother Morgan was murdered on March 18, 1882.
Buried: Somewhere in the Pioneer Cemetery in Willcox. Originally he had a wooden marker. His metal tombstone —inscribed WARREN BAXTER EARP and THE WAY IT WAS, with cast-iron artwork of a gun, hat, bottle, badge and steer’s head—is in a different spot.
Originally published in the October 2012 issue of Wild West. To subscribe, click here.