Bucket of Blood Saloon
– Image Courtesy Jan MacKell Collins –

Canyon Diablo proved to be a formidable barrier to travelers along the 35th Parallel in northern Arizona. In 1881 the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad was building a bridge over the steep abyss. The “end of track” town that was established on the east side of the canyon  was named Canyon Diablo. It was reputed to be the wildest town in the West. The Main Street was given the obvious name, Hell Street. The population was 2,000 and the town had 14 saloons, 10 casinos, 4 bordellos and 2 dance halls along it’s main drag.  During the year of its existence it claimed 35 violent deaths; more than Tombstone, Dodge and Abilene combined. All were men except for the town’s most popular proprietor of a local establishment for working girls, Clabberfoot Mary, who had her throat cut. Trouble is, this story was first told by a writer working under the name Gladwell Richardson and most of it was good old prevarication.

It’s said that the towns along the railroad lines were among the wildest of them all. That’s because of the many stowaways riding the rails had no ties to the communities. Towns like Dodge City, Abilene and Wichita got western only when the trail herds arrived and the Texas cowboys got paid.

The Bucket of Blood in Holbrook was called the Cottage Saloon before a gunfight resulted in some blood on the floor and produced a new name. You’ll find postings on the Internet that say 26 men died with their boots on in 1886 alone, but there’s no provenance of that. The population was only 250 at the time. If that was true it would be one of the most famous stories in the West.

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