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Bird Man of Tombstone

Col. Broderick “Clem” Hafford is barely visible at the far end of his Tombstone saloon near the door where Virgil and Wyatt Earp stepped out onto Allen Street to meet their destiny with the famous gunfight at the OK Corral.

Col. Broderick “Clem” Hafford is barely visible at the far end of his Tombstone saloon near the door where Virgil and Wyatt Earp stepped out onto Allen Street to meet their destiny with the famous gunfight at the OK Corral.

Some of Tombstone’s most famous gun fighters, including the Earps, Doc Holliday, Billy Claiborne and Johnny Ringo all patronized Hafford Saloon, which became one of the most popular watering holes in Tombstone. But the establishment is notable for another reason entirely.

Col. Broderick “Clem” Hafford, who opened the saloon in 1880, was perhaps more interested in collecting and studying birds and other wildlife species than serving drinks to Tombstone’s infamous residents. Pictures of the area’s birds covered the walls and even live specimens fluttered throughout his saloon.

Hafford was born in Massachusetts in 1835. Little is known of his early life except that he joined the military, rose to the rank of colonel and came west, ending up in Tombstone in late 1879, just in time for the big silver strike.

In addition to the saloon, Hafford’s business interests on Tombstone’s famous Allen Street included a wholesale liquor outlet, which featured liquors purchased form Hooper & Company in San Francisco. In 1882, Hafford purchased the Congress Hall Saloon in Tucson, which he ran concurrently with his Tombstone operations.

By February 1887, the Tombstone Epitaph reported that Hafford “now has a collection of 65 stuffed birds that have been killed in and around this section of country.” Hafford’s bird collecting caught the attention of the New York Times the next month when he claimed to have discovered a bird, called the “devil hawk,” that Mexicans considered an evil omen and were afraid of.

In 1890, Hafford continued his entrepreneurial ways and purchased a blacksmith shop next to his saloon, which he renovated into an art gallery and museum to house his now 250-specimen bird collection.

Three years later, Hafford traveled to San Francisco to exhibit his collection of birds and mammals at the mid-winter fair. After the fair closed, Hafford sold this collection to mining engineer Adolph Sutro, who served also as mayor of San Francisco. He put Hafford’s bird collection on permanent display.

In late 1896, Hafford went to Randsburg, Calif., to investigate a promising silver strike. He intended to return to Tombstone “if matters do not look favorable.”

However, the area boomed, and Hafford built a saloon on the town’s main street. He also joined Randsburg’s Committee of Arbitration, which was a group of vigilantes that formed and enforced the laws of the area.

On May 6, 1898, fire destroyed Hafford’s Saloon in Randsburg, along with several other buildings. He began rebuilding immediately, but deteriorating health forced him to retire.

He still ventured into the nearby mountains to check on some of his mining claims in the area, but his health continued to deteriorate. He checked into the Bakersfield County Hospital, where he died a short time later on Dec. 21, 1900.

During his time in southern Arizona, Hafford amassed nearly 2,000 bird specimens from the nearby Dragoon, Whetstone and Huachuca mountains.

His impressive collection eventually ended up in the Smithsonian Institution.

- Jane Eppinga. Photo courtesy of the Tombstone Courthouse State Park.
Sources include Cochise County Stalwarts, Tombstone Epitaph and the New York Times.

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