In 1879 Rev. John Baptist Salpointe, Vicar Apostolic of Arizona sent Father Antonio Jouvenceau to Tombstone to ascertain the need for a church in the busy mining camp. Church services were being held in vacant rooms or closed bars. Led by Nellie Cashman “Angel of the Camp”, the citizens of Tombstone raised money to build a one and a half story adobe building that housed a rectory on the top floor and a church on the bottom floor. This building was dedicated on January 1,1881, becoming the first church building in Tombstone.
In 1882 a larger wooden church was constructed on the corner of Sixth and Safford, facing Sixth Street. Nellie Cashman was again involved in the construction efforts. She raised money and borrowed a wagon and team to haul wood from the Chiricahua Mountains. The new church allowed the 1881 building to be used solely as a rectory. The 1882 church served the Tombstone community until about 1946 when it was moved to its present location. In 1947 a new church was constructed on the corner of Sixth and Safford Streets under the guidance of Father Thomas Doyle, Pastor. This church faced Safford Street. Later the property north of the church, which included two large 1880s entwining Lady Banksia rose trees was donated to the church. The property became part of the Sacred Heart Complex, which includes the classroom building constructed in 1965 (now the Sacred Heart Thrift Store), and the new rectory built in 1972.
Under the direction of Father John Fahey (Pastor 1999-2003), restoration work was started on all the buildings. The 1881 church-rectory serves as the parish office; the 1882 church building serves as the parish hall; and the 1947 church building continues to be used for church services. The bell was manufactured in 1883 by Rumsey Mfg. Co. of St. Louis, Mo. and used to sit on a bell tower beside the Old Church and the new one. It was moved to the top of the church in September 2000. It has a wonderful sound and is rung before each Mass on the weekends. In February 2002. All three buildings, as well as the beautiful Rose Tree Garden behind the church were placed on the National Register of Historic Places by the U.S. Department of Interior.
Restoration work is an ongoing activity and Father William Gyure (2013-2017) continued the work that Father Fahey started. The inside as well as the outside of the buildings have had much work done; as well as the beautification of the grounds. The last thing Fr. Bill did before retiring was have a new floor put in the Church. Fr. Matt Crehan O.F.M (2017-2019), got beautiful new lighting for the inside of the church.
Sacred Heart Church is the Mother Church for the other Catholic Churches in Cochise County. The architecture is similar in the Churches in Benson, Wilcox, Ft. Grant and Pierce/Sunsites.
Over the years we have had 41 priests. We now have our 42nd. One of them, Father Thomas Doyle, served twice. We are very proud of the fact that Sacred Heart Church has been serving the community of Tombstone for almost 140 years.