George Whitwell Parsons
Updated: Aug 15
George Whitwell Parsons was an attorney, banker, miner, and a diarist. He would move to Tombstone, Arizona where he would get to know some of the infamous names associated with the town like the Earp’s and John Culm. Being a diarist, he would write in his journal daily, documenting events like seeing Ed Schieffelin the founder of Tombstone for the first time, The Shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Wyatt Earp's "Vendetta Ride." Through his Journal, we get an idea of what daily life was like in Tombstone.
George Whitwell Parsons was born on August 26, 1850, in Washington, D.C. Shortly after, his family would move to New York where he attend school.
His father was a successful attorney who opened his own practice. Naturally, wanting his son to follow in his footsteps and work for his firm, Parsons did become a licensed attorney. He did not enjoy the work though and wanted to find another job to generate some income, he moved to Florida.
In Florida, around 1874 Parsons would find work salvaging shipwrecks. One stormy afternoon while working in Cape Sable, the southernmost point of the United States mainland in Florida, a hurricane would strike that area and Parsons would have a near death experience that would scare him enough to quit that job and move on to California.
Parsons found a job as a bank clerk in 1876 at the National Gold Bank & Trust Co. in his brief stay in California. He would transfer to San Francisco for 3 years but eventually the bank would close, and Parsons would find himself out of work.
Hearing of the of the boomtown of Tombstone, Arizona he wanted to go on an adventure and try his luck as a miner. He was able to convince fellow banker and friend Milton Clapp to relocate his family and go with him.
When Parsons mom passed, he went into a depression. He started a diary to help him cope with her death in 1869. So, by 1880, he would be considered a diarist documenting his journey by stagecoach to Tombstone. Stopping at San Xavier del Bac, the historic Spanish Catholic mission and buying food at a nearby eatery called the Delmonico restaurant owned by who would later be known as “The Angel of Tombstone” Nellie Cashman. She would eventually make her way to Tombstone as well.
According to Parsons diary, he and Clapp reached Tombstone on the afternoon of Tuesday, February 17, 1880, at 6:30pm. Tombstone was described in Parsons diary on the first day as a “Rough Place.”
In Tombstone Parsons had to figure out how to generate an income. With mining the main reason for coming to Tombstone, he bought a small interest in the “Merry Christmas” mine and worked the claim which was somewhat of a disappointment. He quit the mine and found a job as a surveyor for $3.00 dollars a day. He also substituted for a sick friend at Tombstone’s branch of the Safford & Hudson’s Bank which helped him financially. Parsons would buy an interest in a few more mines but would eventually become a mine broker and open an agency with partner and friend J.L. Redfern. This would become his main source of income.
Parsons was a model citizen and become a member of “Committee of Vigilance,” an organization of town citizens in support of law and order. By joining this organization, he would get to know town sheriff Fred White, Earp brothers, John Clum, and Johnny Behan. Eventually he would also become acquaintances with Ike Clanton, “Curly Bill” Brocius, and Jhonny Ringo.
In the mid 1880’s the mines hit a water table and started to flood. Pumps would be brought in but were unsuccessful. The population started to decline, and some would move on to Bisbee, Arizona.
Parsons tried to make best of what was left in Tombstone. He became the first librarian in the Tombstone Library in 1885 but by this time, most of the Cowboy faction had disbanded. Earp and Holliday were now wanted men in Tombstone due to the conflict between the Cowboys. After the shootout at the O.K. Corral where Cowboys Tom McLaury, Frank McLaury, and Billy Clanton would lose their lives, the Cowboys retaliated by trying to assassinate Virgil while crossing 5th and Allen Street. He was hit with three 12-gage shotgun blast on the left side of his body. He would survive but not without the use of his left arm. Morgan was not so lucky, three months later on March 18, 1882, Morgan was playing a game of pool at Campbell and Hatch’s Saloon when a shot rang out from the back ally hitting Morgan in the back and killing him. Wyatt Earp would take his revenge. This would be known in history as the “Vendetta Ride. “
Wyatt, Warren, and James Earp; Doc Holliday, Sherman McMaster, Jack “Turkey Creek” Johnson, Charles Smith, Dan Tipton, and John “Texas Jack” Vermillion would go on to track down and kill every Cowboy that was suspected in the murder of Morgan. They would hide in the Dragoon Mountains and pick off the Cowboys one by one when the opportunity presented itself. Most of the Earp party later would flee to either Colorado or New Mexico after.
In January of 1887 Parsons decided to move back to Los Angels, California. As was in Tombstone, he was a prominent citizen of Los Angeles. He would join many committees and organizations. He was one of the founding fathers of the Chamber of Commerce for L.A. heading the committee of mines and mining. Also, he was involved in creating a deep harbor in San Pedro, California. There, oranges could be shipped to other states. In April of 1898 the San Pedro Harbor opened. George Parsons became the “Father of the Deep Harbor.”
Wyatt Earp would eventually move to Los Angels with his wife Josephine. They rented a
small apartment where Wyatt would die on January 13, 1929. He was buried in Hills of Eternity Memorial Park, a Jewish cemetery in Colma, California. Among pall bearers for Wyatt Earp would be W.J. Hunsaker (Wyatt’s attorney in Tombstone), John Clum, William Mizer, Tom Mix, and George Parsons.
George Parsons died 3 years later January 5, 1933, in Los Angeles. He was buried in Evergreen Cemetery.