Where was the Tombstone jail?

Dave Snell
Tucson, Arizona

The Tombstone jail was the Cochise County jail, but not the one in the classic courthouse, built in 1882, that is now a state park and museum. The jail was a wooden structure on 6th Street, 20 feet by 20 feet, nailed together by two-by-four lumber. One door connected it to the jailer’s office.

Wyatt Earp and “Doc” Holliday spent some time there during Judge Wells Spicer’s hearing following the “Street Fight” behind the O.K. Corral in October 1881. The jail was heated by a wood stove, and the outside temperatures were unseasonably cold. Tombstone’s Citizens Safety Committee kept watch on the fragile structure to prevent an assassination attempt by the Cowboys. Earp and Holliday spent 16 days in jail, and were released in time for Thanksgiving.

“Buckskin Frank” Leslie sat in the “new” Cochise County jail, after killing “Blonde Mollie” Williams in 1889. Countless others, well known and not, cooled their heels there over the years.

Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian and vice president of the Wild West History Association. . His latest book is Arizona’s Outlaws and Lawmen; History Press, 2015. If you have a question, write:  Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327 or e-mail him at

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