Contention’s Intentions and Sad Descensionby John Scott on Aug. 02, 2012, under Uncategorized
One arid day in the late 1870’s, a lone prospector named Ed “Hank” Williams (not the singer) was chasing down a wandering mule. When he caught up with the wayward equis asinus, he noticed its halter chains dragging against metal ore, and decided he hit pay dirt. Unfortunately, it was on a claim in Ed Schieffelin’s territory, and a dispute started. Eventually, the claim was split so that everyone could profit, and a town sprouted up.
Named after Schieffelin’s mine, Contention City started as a milling site in 1879. The town grew rather quickly, and was supposed to give Tombstone a run for its money. Sure, it had saloons, hotels, general stores, but it never quite gained the popularity that Tombstone did. It was lucky enough to be a railhead, which helped it prosper. After the OK Corral debacle, Ike Clanton attempted to get the Earp faction tried again in Contention City, but it never materialized.
The train-robbing Jack Taylor Gang met their end in Contention City in 1886. John Slaughter, Sheriff of Cochise County, after chasing them all over the territory, finally got a good tip and burst into a gang member’s cabin with guns drawn. However, the outlaws decided to buck the odds and put up a fight. That poor action resulted in two of them dying and Slaughter getting a nick in his ear.
Now, if Glenn Ford had been the head of the gang, they’d have gotten away easily.
That same year, the Tombstone and Contention mines flooded, which signaled the end for Contention City. Unlike Tombstone, it really had no popularized historic event to keep it on the map, and it drifted into decay. Today all that remains are some low adobe foundations, cellar holes, and a small graveyard.
Just like authors and artists, Contention City has become more popular since its death. Elmore Leonard immortalized it in the story Three-Ten to Yuma, which spurred two popular movies. Contention City is where bad guy Ben Wade catches the train to Yuma Penitentiary, following a fierce gun battle. Since no buildings stand in modern-day Contention City, neither film was shot there. Don’t despair; Old Tucson Studios has a train station with the Contention’s name on it, and a schedule for the next train…3:10 to Yuma.