Boot Hill, or Boothill, is the given name of many cemeteries, chiefly in the Western United States. During the 19th and early 20th century it was a common name for the burial grounds of gunfighters, or those who "died with their boots on" (i.e., violently).
Origin of term
Although many towns use the name "Boot Hill," the first graveyard named "Boot Hill" was at Hays, Kansas, 5 years before the founding of Dodge City, Kansas. The term alludes to the fact that many of its occupants were cowboys who "died with their boots on," the implication here being they died violently, as in gunfights or by hanging, and not of natural causes. The term became commonplace throughout the Old West, with some Boot Hills becoming famous, such as Dodge City, Kansas, Tombstone, Arizona, and Deadwood, South Dakota.
The most notable use of the name "Boot Hill" is at the Boothill Graveyard in Tombstone, Arizona. Billy Clanton, Frank McLaury and Tom McLaury; the three men who were killed during the famed Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.Formerly called the "Tombstone Cemetery", the plot features the graves of
Located on the northwest corner of the town, the graveyard is believed to hold over 300 persons, 205 of which are recorded. This was due to some people (especially Chinese and Jewish immigrants) being buried without record. There is a separate Jewish cemetery nearby with some markers restored, and there are also marked graves of Chinese. However, most of the loss was due to neglect of grave markers and theft of these wooden relics as souvenirs. For example, when former Tombstone Mayor John Clum visited Tombstone for the first Helldorado celebration in 1929, he was unable to locate the grave of his wife Mary, who had been buried in Boothill.
The Tombstone "boothill" cemetery was closed in late 1886, as the new "City Cemetery" on Allen Street opened. Thereafter, Boothill was referred to as the "old city cemetery" and neglected. It was used after that only to bury a few later outlaws (some legally hanged and one shot in a robbery), as well as a few colorful Western characters and one man (Emmett Crook Nunnally) who had spent many volunteer hours restoring it.
Currently, the Boothill Graveyard is open to the public for a $5 fee, and is a popular stop for tourists visiting Tombstone.
Boot Hill Museum
The Boot Hill Museum is located on the original location of the Boot Hill Cemetery in Dodge City, Kansas.
In popular culture
Boot Hill is the name of the cemetery in Dodge City in the Gunsmoke radio series. In many episodes, the marshal (Matt Dillon) would allude to "putting you in Boot Hill", or "another man headed to Boot Hill". In the first season of the Gunsmoke television series, the introduction to each episode showed Matt Dillon walking around Boot Hill reflecting on the deaths of men buried there.
Boothill Graveyard is referenced in many films such as Tombstone (1993), Wyatt Earp (1994), and Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957), during which it was repeatedly sung over the recurring title theme song by Frankie Laine. In the later half of the movie Laine changes the theme to:
So cold... so still...
There they lay side by side,
the killers that died,
in the Gunfight at O.K. Corral.
Boot Hill is the name of a role playing game first published in 1975 by TSR, Inc., the original publisher of Dungeons & Dragons. It was the third game released by TSR and notable as one of the first games to use ten-sided dice.
The Outlaws' song "Hurry Sundown" also references "lying" an unnamed character in "Boot Hill".
The song "The Ballad of Billy the Kid" from Billy Joel's 1973 Album Piano Man contains the lyrics "And he never had a sweetheart, but he finally found a home, underneath the boothill grave that bears his name".
In cricket, the term 'Boot Hill' is used to refer to the fielding position of short-leg because of its proximity to the batsman and high likelihood of being hit by the ball, making the position particularly dangerous. Players fielding in this position typically wear a helmet and other protection.
In the comic book series Preacher, the Saint of Killers rests at a tomb on Boot Hill when not actively pursuing his goals.
A blooming prickly pear at Boothill Graveyard
Deadwood, South Dakota
Dodge City, Kansas
The shops at Boot Hill Museum, including a reconstruction of the Long Branch Saloon
The Boot Hill Cemetery at Tilden, Texas in 2006
Grave of Frank H. Reid in Skagway
The Boothill Cemetery at Coulson, Montana
View of Virginia City, Nevada, from Boot Hill
List of places with Boot Hill cemeteries
- Alma, New Mexico
- Anamosa, Iowa
- Billings, Montana
- Bodie, California
- Bonanza, Idaho
- Calabasas, Santa Cruz County, Arizona
- Calico, San Bernardino County, California
- Canyon City, Oregon
- Canyon Diablo, Arizona
- Columbia, California
- Coulson, Montana
- Cripple Creek, Colorado
- Deadwood, South Dakota
- Dodge City, Kansas
- El Paso, Texas
- Fort Sill, Oklahoma
- Guthrie, Oklahoma
- Hartville, Wyoming
- Hays, Kansas
- Idaho City, Idaho
- Leadville, Colorado
- Livermore, California
- Mowry, Arizona
- Newton, Kansas
- Ogallala, Nebraska
- Pioche, Nevada
- Powderville, Montana
- Riley Camp, Quay County, New Mexico
- Seney Township, Michigan
- Sidney, Nebraska
- Silver Reef, Utah
- Skagway, Alaska
- Tascosa, Texas
- Tilden, Texas
- Tincup, Colorado
- Tombstone, Arizona
- Valentine, Nebraska, also known as Minnechaduza Cemetery
- Virginia City, Montana
- Virginia City, Nevada
- Weaver, Arizona
- Webster, Park County, Colorado
- Boot Hill was a common name for the prison graveyard at New Westminster, British Columbia.
- Boot Hill was also the name given by the prisoners to the cemetery at the Japanese-run Batu Lintang POW and civilian internment camp in Kuching, Sarawak, Borneo during World War II.
- Boot Hill is the name given to the fictional cemetery at the end of Phantom Manor at Disneyland Paris where one can see comic gravestones and graves of the Ravenwoods, the former inhabitants of the Manor. At the far end, there are some geysers which erupt quite frequently.
- American Frontier
- Bisbee Massacre
- Cowboy Action Shooting
- Fairbank Train Robbery
- Potter's field
- Shootout at Wilson Ranch
- Shootout on Juneau Wharf
- Western (genre)
- Boot Hill Cemetery
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- "National Park Service – Prospector, Cowhand, and Sodbuster (Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings)". Nps.gov. 2005-05-22. Retrieved 2012-10-26.
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- "Boot Hill - New Westminster BC - Abandoned Cemeteries on". Waymarking.com. Retrieved 2012-10-26.
- Britz, Kevin (October 1, 2003). "'Boot Hill Burlesque': The Frontier Cemetery as Tourist Attraction in Tombstone, Arizona, and Dodge City, Kansas". Journal of Arizona History. Arizona Historical Society. ASIN B00E428MGY.
- Brown, Robert L. (1972). Colorado Ghost Towns – past and Present. Caxton Press. ISBN 978-0-87004-218-8.
- Nye, Wilbur S. (1983). Carbine and Lance: The Story of Old Fort Sill. University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 978-0-8061-1856-7.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Boothill Graveyard (Tombstone, Arizona).|
- Boot Hill Museum, Dodge City, Kansas
- A tombstone in Boot Hill Cemetery in Tombstone, Arizona, from a Library of Congress website