Tombstone By Tombstone: Here Lies the Old West, 1840-1920
printed for Tom Todd by Createspace, an Amazon Company, 2012, 200 pp., soft cover
Review by Jim Dunham, posted 2 March, 2013
Tom Todd feels he was born a hundred years too late. That is a feeling most fellow members of the Wild West History Association can share easily. Born in Arkansas in 1939, he eventually followed his love of the Old West and settled in Show Low, Arizona. Supposedly this town got its name from a card game where the winning hand was not the high cards.
Often the WWHA Roundup features bus trips or excursions visiting such important places in frontier history as Fort Stanton near Lincoln, New Mexico, or the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas. A highlight of these adventures is to stand before the cemetery markers of fallen heroes or notorious outlaws. There is a special thrill to seeing the gravestone of John Wesley Hardin or Wyatt Earp.
We may be limited in how many of these graves we can visit, but Tom Todd has produced an excellent book that gives us a chance to experience them through his writing and photographs. Seventy-five grave sites are highlighted, accompanied by a brief biography or summary of events that led to each gunfighter’s death. Those included run the gamut from the famous to the obscure. “Big Nose Kate,” Elfego Baca, the Clantons, “Nate” Champion, Commodore Perry Owens, and Tom Horn are here, but so are Eugene Blair, George Colgate, Belle Drewry, and Benjamin Gifford. Missing, however, are some of the usual suspects like Wyatt Earp, “Wild Bill” Hickok, and “Bat” Masterson. Perhaps Todd’s intent is to highlight some of the folks who get missed when the “big” names are always out front. Certainly Pearl Hart, Thomas Rynning, Al Sieber, and many others are very deserving. Numerous photos add context to the stories.
This book is listed as volume one, and that implies more follow. Let’s hope so. The only negative about the book is its production quality. Like most efforts to self-publish, the costs are high and the competition is stiff from university presses and major publishing houses. Also the subject has a fairly narrow interest area, but then it’s an area that WWHA members care about. I wish Todd much success with his “Tombstone by Tombstone.”