Canyon Diablo, Arizona

The West was a wild place. People from all over the world heading to the new one to try to make a new life. Without rules, without law, and with a whole heap of things that could kill ya. Still, it held promise. It offered a different kind of life, a life you could build for yourself and your family. A chance to live differently to where you grew up. Of course, your chances of survival were severely reduced if you happened to live in Canyon Diablo, Arizona. 

Life in Canyon Diablo

With a population of 2,000 mostly there for the bridge building, you would likely be right in expecting a little public disorder. Gunfights were the norm, as were the bandits who regularly held up the stage. 

With a new town comes a new marshal, sworn in at 3pm and buried by 8, it was not a good place to wear a badge. Boot Hill had 35 graves until 1899 when the grave of, Herman Wolfe the trading post owner and Canyon Diablo’s last known resident, was dug. He was the only one buried there not to have died a violent death. 

Residences consisted of tents, shacks, and shotgun houses. This was not a place to raise a family. The longest lasting town marshal held his position for a whole month. And all of the town’s marshals were killed in the line of duty. They say it was meaner than Tombstone and Dodge. 

Canyon Diablo not depicted

Ten Years

When railway workers laying tracks reached the canyon in 1880 a settlement that catered to the railroad men’s needs was born. And this was the last stop on the line. The town attracted drifters, outlaws, prostitutes, and those willing to part with their money at the card tables. 

Of course, that meant there was an entertainment district with 14 Saloons, four brothels, ten gambling parlours, and 2 dance halls. Plus, of course, all those businesses you needed to get through a regular day but open 24 hours. And all of these businesses ran along Hell Street. 

But once the railway bridge was completed there was no reason for the train to stop there anymore. And the town died out, the last known resident dying in 1899. In 1903, the only thing remaining was a Navajo trading post. You can see how the site of the meanest town in the west looks today in the video below. The bridge has been updated over the years and the train still runs but all that’s left of the town is stone ruins, a railroad siding, and a graveyard. The only grave still visible is that of Herman Wolfe.

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