Saturday, November 8, 2008

A Glimpse of a Moment in Arizona History

A few Sundays ago, there was an article in the Arizona Republic about the Gunfight at the OK Corral in Tombstone, Arizona. October 26th was the 127th anniversary of this infamous gunfight.

Reading this article brought back a flood of memories. I have always been interested in Arizona history. It has been a passion of mine and so much of the history of Arizona is not that long ago when you compare it to U. S. and world history. When I was growing up in Douglas, I remember hearing stories about Pancho Villa, the deportation in Bisbee of the miners who worked in the copper mines, Texas John Slaughter, and so many stories.

When I started teaching third grade, I wanted my students to be able to know about Arizona history first hand, so I decided to take them on a field trip to Bisbee and Tombstone. I was the first elementary teacher in Gilbert to ask to take students on an overnight field trip. I remember that I had to go before the Governing Board personally to make this request. The members of the Board had many questions as to why I wanted to do this and how I was going to make it happen. I was prepared and they gave me the go ahead.

The entire semester before we went, I did a lot of teaching about the science and history of southern Arizona. I continued this trip for the entire time I taught third grade, about nine years. It was an incredible trip and one that I know my students remember to this day!

I always remembered hearing from my Uncle Matt about his father-in-law, Emil Marks. Emil was his wife, Gyp's, father and the grandfather to my wonderful Phoenix cousins. Emil was a barber in Tombstone during the 1880's. He cut the hair of many of the historic figures. I remember hearing about how he decided to move to Bisbee because things had gotten so bad in Tombstone during this time.

The year 1981 was the 100th anniverary of this historic event. The morning of October 26, 1981, there was an article in the Mesa Tribune by a columnist by the name of Walter Zipf. He wrote about the 100th anniversary of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. He told the story of what occurred that day. Of course, I was very interested to read this when I saw the headline. In this article, Mr. Zipf told about how he had actually interviewed someone many years before who had witnessed this gunfight. He went on to write about Emil Marks, a barber in Tombstone. I immediately called my Uncle Matt. He immediately went out and got copies of the newspaper for all of his children. I don't think that he knew that Emil had witnessed this event.

The past few weeks I have tried to find my copy of the article. I was able to locate a copy of it from some papers that are at the University of Arizona. I have been in contact with a librarian from the U of A who is trying to locate it and send it to me.

I did find some information on the web from the Arizona Jewish Historical Society. Here is what they have written:

"Emil Marks, a barber, completed his 1881 journey from Germany to Tombstone by stagecoach over the very rough road from Benson. He was to find himself shaving the beards and cutting the hair of the likes of Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday and the Clanton boys, all of whom kept their guns on their laps during his ministrations. This made him very nervous.

He realized that his fears were well founded when hostilities opened up and he watched as the memorable gunfight at the OK Corral unfolded."

I find this information fascinating! Even though Emil was not related to me, I feel as though I am a part of his family because of how I feel about my cousins, Yaya, Pat, Marion, Cecilia, and Teresa. I hope they enjoy reading this post! The picture at the top of this entry is of their grandfather, Emil Marks!

9 remarks:

velvet brick said...

I never knew that you were the first teacher to take your students on an over-night field trip! You are so knowledgable about history and I love how you embrass your passion! Great family photo of Emil Marks! Thank you for the history lesson, Mrs. Rogers! : )

Cecila said...

We missed you tonight.
Thank you for the memories of our grandfather. My mother Gype would be proud of you writting such a beautiful history of her dad.
Matt would say "that away Sheila".
Can you tell I wrote this myself?

Cheela said...

Carol, thanks again for always commenting!! It was quite an experience going before the Board. I had to do this for the first few years I took my class on this incredible trip!!

Cecilia, what can I say? I remember the night a few months ago that I had to walk you step by step to just get to this website. Jay had to finally find it for you and now you have it bookmarked on your favorites. And tonight you posted all by yourself!!! WOW!!! I loved your parents so much. I remember being a bit afraid of your mom when I was a kid. Then I found out that her "bark was so much worse than her bite!" I will always be grateful to her for those first years at ASU and how homesick I was. She was very good to me and I loved her a lot!

teresa said...

Sheila, I thank you also for remembering my grandfather. Dad had some good stories about him. My mom would just beam when he started telling them. One that I remember of the "Clanton boys" came in to his barbershop and didn't put his gun and holster up, but kept it under his cape. My grandfather got so nervous that he packed up and moved his barbershop that night. The Clanton's found him the next time they needed barbering and kept going to him. Maybe that's why he finally moved to Bisbee and changed occupations!! He was a lover not a fighter.
Teresa Ann

Anonymous said...

I love stories about Arizona's wild wild west. I would love to hear more stories about my great grandfather! It's so facsinating and you are right, fairly recent. You know that's how Mike and I started talking...I used my great grandfather as my claim to fame and it just so happened that Tombstone was Mike's favorite movie... -Maggie

Anonymous said...

. . . and I remember a field trip to Bisbee with you . . . what a group I had ~ thanks for T.W. at least :) That trip was so much fun, I'm glad I had the opportunity to go!
Love & hugs,

Anonymous said...

I love the music you've downloaded with the stories...I always feel like I'm watching a movie. You always seem to paint a picture with your words....I see where Kerri gets it from!

PS- Parker newest phrase is "gonna beat you Focker" which he, of course, picked up from his dad!

Susie of Arabia said...

It's funny that I just watched the movie "Tombstone" here yesterday, and now I'm reading your post about it. I remember that Helldorado Days was always an event my brothers and I would always try to get my mother to take us to. It was always in October, around my birthday. What a colorful history that town has! And how cool about Emil being the barber for those characters. A great post, Cheela!

Michele said...

Hi Shiela, what a fascinating story! Here I am in sleepy little old Ireland and I find I have a connection to the gunfight at the OK Corral. Isn't that just amazing? I have found so many connections in my life recently it's wierd.
For example: a few years ago i moved to a quiet country area about 30 miles from the hospital I work in. A friend asked me if I had met the "lady from Dublin " who had a holiday cottage about 1/4 of a mile from where I had built my house. I said no not yet. When I met this lady it turned out her daughter who was a plastic surgeon was married to my second cousin Brian Kneafsey who is also a plastic surgeon! But that wasn't all. One day she told me she had been to see her GP (family doctor) and while waiting in the surgery she heard the receptionist calling a Mrs O'Donnell. So as her first husband had been called O'Donnell she asked the lady if there was any connection. There wasn't but when they started chatting they found out that the lady was my mother's sister! And they had been living 1/2 a mile from each other for 40 years. Not only that but the receptionist in that doctors surgery was married to another cousin of my father's. she is Gemma Kneafsey. And also Another first cousin of my father, Mai Murray, lived 2 streets away from her! How wierd is all that!
Poor Mai is not well. She has terminal cancer. All these cousins are the grandchildren and great grandchildren of William Kneafsey.
Oh my i have run on. hope i didn't bore you all.

Happy Christmas to all and a peaceful and prosperous New Year!