Jews in Tombstone,Arizona and Wyatt Earp

Home of Wyatt Earp and his brothers and Doc Holliday and Josephine Marcus the Jewish wife of Wyatt

Tombstone and much of Arizona and the West has a big history of Jews who were prospectors and merchants and even cowboys .In towns like Prescott and Phoenix and Douglas and Tucson and Tombstone they became merchants and lawyers and statesmen.
The Jewish history goes back to the 15th century with the Spanish as many Jews sought to escape the Inquisition and came as “New Christians”
Here in Tombstone an Indian decided to pay respect to the Jews and in their burial ground off from the Christian Boot Hill where the infamous outlaws of the day were also buried he put together a memorial with Indian symbols as well as Jewish .Earth was brought from Israel to complete the memorial.
I came here and there was a fence but of course this did not deter me and i handily climbed over it and said a Bracha ,a blessing over the memorial and i spied an old bowl imbedded in stone left over from the frontier cemetery from the 1800’s and i saw immediately this was where the mourners would wash their hands as to Jewish custom.

I am a Western buff and i have probably read most things written about Wyatt Earp and i have a pretty good picture of who he was and not all of it flattering.
I was always transfixed by the beauty of his common law wife Josephine Marcus and her Jewish roots. You can see her picture below….She died in 1944 and is buried with Wyatt who she lived with for 44 years traveling from Tombstone to Alaska. I first bought this picture as a postcard in Deadwood South Dakota in 1974.I still have it.
Wyatt is actually buried in Colma outside of San Francisco in the Jewish section of the cemetery and ironically near the grave of my former uncle in law.

My research of Tombstone from 1881to 1884 confirms that Tombstone had more than 5,300 residents, many of them Jewish.
Dr. Gustave W. Sichel, a dentist, set up practice in Tombstone in early 1882; A. H. Emanuel was the superintendent of the Watermill Mining Company; and Charles Feldman was listed as a miner, as were C. Gorin, Herman Lavin and the above-mentioned Mr. Steinthal. Lionel M. Jacobs, Harry Castle, Albert Springer and Mr. Solomon were all with the Cochise County Bank, which was owned by Lionel and his Tucson brother Barron Jacobs.
Former San Diego residents Adolph Levi, Albert Fortlouis (who had a tobacco store) and Louis Linoberg (who worked as a clerk in the R. Cohen hardware store) were all Tombstone businessmen. Phillip Gotthelf owned a tobacco store; Elias Laventhal operated a general mercantile; John Lippert and Abraham Peyser were barbers; Alfred Hartman operated a jewelry store; Samuel Black was a tailor; and Louis Habel was a salesperson at the Shoenfeld & Heyman Furniture Store. The Summerfield brothers – Levy, Morris and Herman – operated one of the largest dry goods stores on Fremont Street.
Another prominent businessman was Hyman Solomon, who moved from San Diego to Tombstone in 1880. Hyman was the manager of a wholesaler in fine wines and liquor called Oberfelder and Company general merchandise firm in Tombstone. In 1882 Hyman was elected treasurer of the city of Tombstone.
Mr. A. H. Emanuel came to Tombstone in 1880. Unlike many other Tombstone Jewish residents, he remained after the silver bust; he ran a blacksmith and wagon shop. He was elected mayor of Tombstone in 1896 and re-elected in 1898 and in 1900.
Only two businesses were recorded as being operated by Jewish women. Mrs. David Gotthelf operated a “French millinery” shop, and Mrs. H. Cohen had a fancy dry goods store.
Records are sketchy as to how many actual Jews made Tombstone their home between 1881 and 1883, but estimates are between 300 and 500 individuals. A synagogue was never built, although records of services are known. Jewish people came to Tombstone for the same reason everyone came – to seize an opportunity for success. However, the isolation of the town and the harsh desert climate meant that when the economic conditions deteriorated, there was little to stay for. Tombstone, like so many other small camp towns of the West, rose and fell with mineral discoveries. But in its heyday the Jewish population left a lasting mark on the Territory.
After the silver bust, most Jewish residents departed for other regions and other opportunities.

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7 Responses to Jews in Tombstone,Arizona and Wyatt Earp

  1. Dan Gordon July 29, 2017 at 4:31 pm #

    We share an interest. I wrote the book , Wyatt Earp by Dan Gordon , published by Warner Books based on my screenplay with Larry Kasdan that Kasdan totally fucked up when he directed the film. What drew me to the story was my fascination with Josie or Sadie, as she was known to her sisters in law. I live in Az. Would love to talk about it, swap stories. Wyatt’s last stop before proceeding to the gunfight at the Ok Corral was Dave Cohen’s cigar store according to at least one source. My email is
    Looking forward to hearing from you

    • Jonathon Lipsin July 30, 2017 at 10:08 am #

      thanks for the comment Dan .I will check out your book.

  2. Bob Desman August 25, 2017 at 6:42 am #

    There seems to be some controversy about the subject of the “Kaloma” photo. Josie Marcus’ is pictured in Ann Kirschner’s book at age 16, and there are several verified pictures of her in her later years. The Kaloma photograph bears little resemblance to any of them. Its origin is the cover of Glenn Boyer’s “biography “I Married Wyatt Earp” published by the U of A press in 1975. Ostensibly, it was edited from Josie’s original manuscript. In the period since publication, so much of the book has been debunked it was dropped from the U of A catalogue. Marcus was born in 1861and the Kaloma photo was supposed to be from 1880—this 19 year old Josie is a far cry from the 16 year old pictured in Kirschner (the photo is also copyrighted 1914 so she would have been 53 at the time). What I find strange about the story of her life is the ending . . .her remains were cremated contrary to Jewish tradition.

  3. Bob Desman August 25, 2017 at 7:00 am #

    I just ran across another piece in “True West” suggesting the Kaloma photo is actually Evelyn Nesbit. Born in 1884, she was a chorus girl, actress, and artists’ model. She was also a pretty colorful character.

  4. Teri Green May 17, 2018 at 3:22 am #

    So cool. I didn’t know Jews were in Tombstone. One day I’ll go to Tombstone and look around.
    Teri Green
    Atlas Biomechanics

  5. annie solomon August 2, 2018 at 9:08 pm #

    who is the woman in the 3rd photo from the top?

  6. Irene February 10, 2019 at 5:56 pm #

    I found your research fascinating. We just visited the graveyard and Jewish Memorial which we found by chance when we were touring the Tucson area. Is there someway to find out more about the Gotthelf connection then and now? Are there any descendants living in the south west area? Thanks for sharing your findings. IRENE

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