The Western frontier of the United States was a dangerous place, where newcomers to the lawless boomtowns arrived brandishing increasingly affordable firearms, with which they indulged in opportunistic crime or dispensed frontier justice.
From the cemetery which holds the remains of the outlaws of the famous gunfight at the O.K. Corral, to the grave site of Wild West legend Billy the Kid, here are six famous gunslinger graves dedicated to those who expected to ‘die with their boots on’ in the Old West.
1. Doc Holliday's grave, Linwood Cemetery, Glenwood Springs, Colorado
The gunfighter and dentist John Henry ‘Doc’ Holliday was at the famous shootout at the O.K. Corral in October 1881 where he fought alongside the lawmen, the Earp brothers, against the outlaws known as the Cowboys. He died years later of tuberculosis at Glenwood Springs in Colorado at age 36, where he had made his way in May 1887 to take advantage of the reputed curative power of the nearby hot springs.
His grave is traditionally held to be in the Linwood Cemetery, though at an uncertain location, partly thanks to the loss of cemetery records. Though he certainly died there, an alternate explanation locates Doc Holliday’s grave in Griffin, Georgia, where he may have been reburied with his father in an unmarked grave.
2. Billy the Kid’s grave, Old Fort Sumner Museum, New Mexico
The infamous outlaw Billy the Kid is buried today in a cemetery at Old Fort Sumner Museum in New Mexico. Despite Billy the Kid’s real name being Henry McCarty, his tombstone records him under another alias, William H. Bonney. The tombstone is located behind bars after repeated thefts.
Billy the Kid was only 21 when he was killed by Sheriff Pat Garrett in Fort Sumner in 1881. Nearby in Fort Sumner is the Billy the Kid museum. There is also the Bosque Redondo Memorial, designed by Navajo architect David Sloan to remember the forcible removal of Navajo and Mescalero Apache people from their homelands in the 1860s.
3. Pat Garrett’s grave, Las Cruces, New Mexico
Pat Garrett is buried in Las Cruces, New Mexico, at the Masonic Cemetery, though he was originally buried in Odd Fellows Cemetery. As sheriff of Lincoln, Garret had been on Billy the Kid’s trail when he ambushed the fugitive at his lodgings in Fort Sumner. He later co-authored an account of Billy the Kid.
Garrett himself was shot and killed in mysterious circumstances while riding with two ranchers. His death site is commemorated by a marker south of Route 70, between Las Cruces and the San Augustin Pass.
4. Jesse James' grave, Mount Olivet Cemetery, Kearney, Missouri
The gunslinger Jesse Woodson James became famous for his series of successful train, coach and bank robberies in the late 19th-century American West. He was eventually assassinated by his accomplice Robert Ford.
Jesse was first buried on the James family farm, but in 1902 his remains were transferred to Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Kearney, Missouri. In 1995, researchers confirmed the remains to be those of Jesse James.
5. Wild Bill Hickock's grave, Mount Moriah Cemetery, Deadwood, South Dakota
The gambler, lawman and gunfighter Wild Bill Hickock was a folk hero of the Wild West who met his end at a Nuttal & Mann’s Saloon in Deadwood, Dakota Territory, when a gambler murdered him by shooting him from behind.
During his life, ‘Wild Bill’ spied for the Union Army and participated in several famous shootouts. At his burial place in Deadwood, he is commemorated by a monument established in 1891.
6. Lester Moore's grave, Tombstone, Arizona
Open only between the years 1874 and 1884, the Boothill graveyard in Tombstone is filled with unnamed people who met their death in the Old West. Frequently, the graves here allude to their violent ends by gunshot or hanging. One of Boothill’s most famous tombstones is that of Lester Moore, later immortalised in song by Johnny Cash. It reads: “Here lies Lester Moore. Four slugs from a 44. No Less. No More.”
Tombstone, Arizona, was also the location of the famous gunfight at the O.K. Corral on 26 October 1881. Among Boothill’s buried are the remains of Billy Clanton and Tom and Frank McLaury, who were killed on that day. Admission to Boothill is free and it remains one of the Old West’s most famous cemeteries.