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URBAN LEGEND
by Rita Ackerman
Read what other travelers have to say about hotels in Tombstone Arizona

A young man and woman enjoyed an evening at a neighborhood get-together in 1888. When it came time to leave the young lady wasn't ready or perhaps had her eyes on a different escort, no one can know for sure, but the results of that slight to the young man who believed she was the love of his life was devastating.

The slighted young man returned to his father's house and spent a long, tortured, sleepless night. As his father was leaving for work the young man admitted to what had happened and the agonizing night he had suffered through. Not too concerned, the father went off to work but came home for lunch and found his son in a profound state of depression and anxiety. He decided to stay home for the afternoon and while they were sitting in the front room of their small corner house the young man spotted somebody passing by on the street. By this point in time, even the father's presence could not stop the chain of events that were about to unfold.

George Daves (sometimes spelled "Dawes") age 21, was in love with Cleopatra "Petra" or "Patra" Edmunds, a beautiful seventeen-year-old orphan who was destined to come in to a comfortable inheritance when she came of age. They were near neighbors as George was living with his father, Daniel "D. C." Daves on the northeast corner of Safford and Third Streets. Petra lived across the street in the home left by her parents, mid-block on Third between Safford and Bruce Streets. These locations have been verified with Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, a city plat map and deed and tax records from the newspapers.

As George sat in his father's front room he could see Petra (the most common spelling of her name) and another young man, Fred Stone, passing along Third Street. They were walking from the direction of her house and heading towards town. George watched for a moment from the front door, said goodbye to his father, picked up a revolver and went outside.

By the time his Mr. Daves could follow; George had fired three shots at the fleeing figure of pretty Petra. She ran into her house and George, brought up short by the gate, paused. There, before his father's eyes, he raised the revolver and shot himself in the temple. George died before anybody could reach him.

Meanwhile, Stone ran to town to get help. Other witnesses were in the immediate area and they all gave their accounts at the inquest held the next afternoon at Ritter's Undertaking Parlors. The one thing nobody could be sure of was the reason for the shooting. Stone denied being romantically involved with Petra. Stone's sister, Mrs. Mandich, implied she foresaw problems with George and warned Petra. Her testimony is a little erratic and she wasn't a witness to the actual events.

C. F. Hines and Harry Cook were walking south along Third Street from Bruce Street towards town. They passed the Edmunds' house and noted a young man and woman standing at the gate. As they passed on down the street they heard pistol shots and turned to see the horrific scene playing out. Hines testified that they saw another young man in front of the Daves' house and the girl running diagonally across the street away from the corner. George was chasing her with six-shooter in hand. He shot at her three times before she reached her house and ran inside. George stopped just outside the gate, aimed the six-shooter at his own head and pulled the trigger. Hines went on down Third and notified all the people he could find. When he returned to the scene about fifteen minutes later a small crowd was gathering around the body of the unfortunate young man.

Stone stated he and Petra had been standing at her gate discussing some flowers when two men passed. After discussion and indecision on the part of young Petra they crossed the street to either to go to his sister's house or on to town. They then crossed Third Street which took them past the Daves' house on the corner. He was a few feet ahead of Petra as they approached the corner and Petra suddenly turned and ran back towards her own house. At that moment he noticed George coming towards him with gun in hand. When George noticed Petra running away he changed his direction and chased her across the street firing three shots at the fleeing woman.

Stone continued along Third and found Ben James, apparently a deputy, sitting in front of the stage office. They made their way to the scene in front of the Edmunds' house. Fred J. Dodge, Wells, Fargo express man, was one of the first men at the scene. He testified that he passed the young man lying dead by the gate, took the gun from his hand, examined it and went on into the house. In the second room he found Petra bleeding from a wound to her shoulder. He helped take her into the bedroom then went after Dr. Goodfellow. They returned and Dodge stayed there until Ben James took over the scene.

The Epitaph and Prospector reported similar accounts of the tragic event. They both stated the cause of the shooting as jealousy. George and Petra had some agreement and he went off to Casa Grande to work in the mines to earn the money to marry her only to find her affections had cooled while he was gone.

In an article titled "A Bloody Tragedy" the Epitaph gave the location of the shooting as Third and Safford Streets. The Prospector started the article "All For Love" with the location on Second and Safford. However, by the third paragraph they mention the event on Third Street although they put the Daves house on Third and Bruce. Makes one wonder about their reporting ability. It also makes one wonder if these mistakes led to the urban legend so strongly believed today.

The most dependable record is the inquest, Case No. 53, held April 14, 1888 which states the location as Third Street between Bruce and Safford. Following through with a city plat map, deeds and tax records the Edmunds house is definitely placed mid-block on the west side of Third between Bruce and Safford and the Daves house on the northeast corner of Third and Safford Streets.

Tombstone Map

Why is this location so important?

In 2000 the History Channel produced "Haunted Tombstone" sharing stories of the Town to Tough to Die. One of the stories portrayed in this episode, set in the then Buford House Bed and Breakfast, was about a young man and woman and a love story that went tragically wrong. There are many stories that have been told of George haunting the premises and appearing to those who stay in this old house. And the urban legends that go along with this dwelling are repeated over and over again, as urban legends often are.

However, the "haunted" legends of that house are based on erroneous stories that George Daves and his father had lived in the Buford House on the south side of Safford between First and Second at the time of the tragedy; his spirit still residing there.

Part of this misconception may be because later in her life Petra Edmunds lived in the house on the corner of Second and Safford. The events in the inquest and newspaper articles could be made to fit that location but only if the actual locations are ignored and the legend goes solely on the information of where Petra later lived.

Back in 1888 Doctor Goodfellow continued the care of Petra until she recovered. There was, undoubtedly, lots of talk about her part in George's suicide. Out of concern for his charges reputation, her guardian, B. S. Coffman, printed the following letter in the Prospector on April 18, 1888. It is directed directly to the young lady's physician:

   Dr. G. E. Goodfellow, -- My Dear Sir: I have been pained at hearing some slanderous reports, which have been rather industriously circulated, derogatory of the character of Miss Patra Edmunds, whose murder was so cowardly attempted a few days since. As administrator of the estate of their deceased mother, and thereby having charge of the orphaned children, I beg to call on you to confirm or refute the reports. As you are in charge of the wounded girl as her physician and surgeon, you are certainly in possession of all the facts in the case.
Yours very truly, B. S. Coffman


Doctor George E. Goodfellow came back with a quick answer on April 17:

    My Dear Sir: In reply to your communication in regard to certain rumors in circulation concerning the unfortunate girl who was so causelessly and cruelly shot a few days ago, I have to say that there is not one particle of truth in any of the malevolent and rancorous stories now in current; also that the persons originating the vicious and slanderous reports are malicious liars. And I herein notify any and all persons to no long use my name as authority for the creations of their salacious imaginations--as I am informed has been done.
Very respectfully, George E. Goodfellow.

Petra was the daughter of Eugene "Stockton" and Antonia Edmunds. He died in 1886. An odd little side line is that Antonia was arrested soon after "Stockton's" death. It was believed she had fed him ground glass. His body was exhumed and she was cleared of the charges but that time must have added to the confusion of the young Petra. Antonia Edmunds died just a year after her husband causing unimaginable pain for the children. Petra withstood it all and later married Walter Lombardi. They lived in the house on the northwest corner of Safford and Second Streets, just a block from the terrifying ordeal she experienced in her teens. She was buried in Tombstone City Cemetery in 1960.

The Daves family came from California. Daniel Castleman and Aveline Daves had 18 children. Two of whom ended up buried in Tombstone. Aveline and the other children stayed in California while Daniel came to Tombstone to do some mining. Their grown children came and went as they tried to make their own way in life. Son, Louis, had the lot just east of his father. Louis died of natural causes in 1881 and is buried in Boot Hill. Next door to him was another brother; Lorenzo Daves. George was the third youngest of all the children. I don't have records for when the rest of the family left Tombstone but they don't seem to have stayed very long after George's suicide. The town hadn't been very good to them.

A note about the Buford House seems in order. It was built and owned by George and Anna Buford. Three of their children died in the old house. The rest of the family moved to Oregon. George died in Los Angeles in 1900.

How stories change over years, sometimes from misinformation, sometimes to fit where the teller would benefit the most is always a mystery. Did people just assume Petra was living in the same house at age 17 as she did in her later years? How did George Daves, through legend, end up living in the G. W. Buford house? Did that error in the 1888 Prospector become very convenient for future storytellers? These questions may never be answered. What is important is that this urban legend can now be laid to rest.

Transcriptions of the actual articles and legal documents concerned with the shooting of Cleopatra Edmunds and the death of George Daves can be seen at http://ritaackerman.weebly.com/documents.html. Spellings and misprints have not been changed. Transcriptions and research by Rita Ackerman.

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