Tombstone, Arizona Extra Pictures
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Tombstone Picture Page One
Tombstone Picture Page Two
Tombstone Picture Page Three
Tombstone Picture Page Four
Tombstone Extra Pictures
The links between the Xs are stories and picrures of people
that had a part in Tombstone, AZ history
(Scroll down page for story)
About Doc Holiday
About Wyatt Earp
About Virgil Earp
About Morgan Earp
About James Earp
About Warren Earp
About Newton Earp
About William "Curley Bill" Brocius (outlaw)
About Billy Claiborne (outlaw)
About Pete Spence (outlaw)
About Ike Clanton (outlaw)
About Phin Clanton (outlaw)
About Johnny Ringo (outlaw)
About "Old Man" Clanton" (outlaw)
Frank Stillwell (outlaw)
About Frank McLaury (outlaw killed at the OK Corral)
About Tom McLaury (outlaw killed at the OK Corral)
About Billy Clanton (outlaw killed at the OK Corral)
About Johnny Behan (Sheriff)
William Breckinridge (Deputy Sheriff)
About Fred White (Marshal)
About George Parson
About Wells Spicer (Judge)
About George Goodfellow MD
About Nellie Cashman (Angel Of Mercy)
About Big Nose Kate (prostitute & Doc Holiday's girlfriend)
About Ed Schieffelin
About John Clum (editor/publisher of Tombstone Epitaph)
Earps Death In The Tombstone Epitaph
Tombstone Epitaph Story The Day After The OK Corral Shootout
Tombstone Pioneers Burial Places
Mistakes In The Movie Tombstone
For fallacies in the movie Tombstone please visit this web site: http://www.ferncanyonpress.com/tombston/movie.shtml
Obviously I did not take these pictures
Photo taken in San Diego, CA about 1887
Wyatt Earp 1869
Wyatt Earp July 1882. 19 Months after the gunfight at the OK Corrall
Bat Masterson remained Wyatt's friend for most of his life. They initially met as buffalo hunters and later worked together in law enforcement in Dodge City, Kansas. For a short time, Bat also dealt cards for Wyatt when Wyatt had the gambling concession at the Oriental Saloon in Tombstone. He eventually became friends with President Theodore Roosevelt, who arranged for him to be appointed deputy U.S. marshal for the southern district of New York state.
Gunfighter/gambler Luke Short was a good friend of both Wyatt and Bat. He, too, dealt cards for Wyatt at the Oriental. Wyatt came to Luke assistance when he was run out of Dodge City in an incident that became known as the Dodge City War.
Celia Ann "Mattie" Earp was Wyatt's second wife. They were together for about eight years.
This photograph was taken just two weeks before he died on January 13, 1929. He was 80 years old.
Josephine Earp later in her life. She and Wyatt remained together until his death in 1929. Wyatt and most of their friends called her "Sadie", a nickname derived from her middle name, Sarah. She is now more often referred to as "Josie".
Wyatt and the woman is believed to be his wife Josie. This is taken in front of a saloon, owned by Wyatt, in Tonopah, NV in 1902
Wyatt A Josie Earp Tombstone
Newton Earp family. Newton was father to all the Earp's.
Morgan Earp was shot through the shoulders in the gunfight near the O.K. Corral. Though he recovered from this, the outlaws murdered him a few months later. It was his death that prompted Wyatt to launch his vendetta against the outlaws. It was actually the Vendetta, not the gunfight, that made Wyatt famous.
Virgil Earp was Tombstone's marshal and deputy U.S. marshal for the area. He was shot through the calf in the gunfight. Two months later he was severely wounded in an attempt by the outlaws to murder him. Six inches of bone had to be removed from his left arm, crippling him for life.
James Earp owned the Sampling Room Saloon in Tombstone. While he was in Tombstone at the time of the shootout, he played little role in it. Wyatt's older half-brother Newton didn't move to Tombstone with the rest, but his youngest brother, Warren, did. Warren was away at the time of the gunfight, but he was involved in the Vendetta.
This photograph of Doc Holiday was taken in Prescott, A.T. in 1879. It's thought that Doc sent this picture to his aunt, Ella McKey.
Doc Holiday in 1881. This picture was taken by Tombstone photographer, C. S. Fly, whose shop was at the site of the famous gunfight.
Doc Holiday 1872
Between the Xs are pictures of some of the people that were against the Earps
Ike Clanton was the main instigator of the
gunfight near the O.K. Corral. He was unarmed when the fight took place and
quickly fled the scene. This is a detail from a photograph taken by C. S. Fly in
his gallery at the site of the gunfight. Ike was involved in rustling and
Frank McLaury in 1879 before coming to Tombstone. As the Earps tried to disarm the cowboys, Frank and Ike's brother, Billy, drew their weapons. Even though Billy fired at Wyatt, Wyatt knew Frank was the most dangerous shot of the bunch so that's who he fired at. Billy's shot missed, but Wyatt's struck Frank in the stomach.
Tom McLaury in 1879 before coming to Tombstone. He was killed by a shotgun blast fired by Doc Holliday. Frank and Tom had been involved in selling stolen cattle.
Tom McLaury, Frank McLaury and Billy Clanton shortly after the gunfight. They and their fancy caskets were place on display in the window of a hardware store by their relatives to rile up indignation against the Earps and Holliday. This is the only known photograph of Billy Clanton.
Rustler Johnny Ringo was an expert shot and on at least one occasion he almost had it out with Doc Holliday. Ringo was probably involved in the ambush of Virgil Earp and the murder of Morgan Earp. He was later found dead under mysterious circumstances. Though some later claimed he was killed by Wyatt and Doc, they were actually in Colorado at the time.
Johnny Behan was the first sheriff of Cochise County. Behan was Wyatt's primary rival. Originally he came to Tombstone as Wyatt's replacement as deputy sheriff for the area when Tombstone was still part of Pima County. Behan was friends with the outlaws and later did everything he could to get Wyatt tried for murder.
Billy Breakenridge was deputy sheriff under Sheriff Johnny Behan and was involved in many significant events in Tombstone's early history. Later his story was ghostwriten by novelist William MacLeod Raine in the book Helldorado (1928).
Tombstone in 1879. The population of the town was 900 when the Earps arrived on December 1, 1879 and it doubled over the next two months.
Street map of Tombstone on the
day of the Gunfight near the O.K. Corral
October 26, 1881
The fire of May 25, 1882 destroyed most of the western half of Tombstone's business district, including the O.K. Corral. The previous year on June 22, 1881 a fire had destroyed most of the eastern half of the business district. Since they didn't have water to put fires out with, they had to try to contain fires by dynamiting buildings in the fire's path.
Allen Street at Fifth Street in 1880. The large building on the left is the Grand Hotel, where many of the outlaws stayed when in town. The one on the right is the Golden Eagle Brewery. Virgil Earp was right in front of where the man is sitting when he was ambushed and severely wounded.
The Cosmopolitan Hotel on Allen Street. The Earps
moved here after the gunfight. Fearing attempts to assassinate them, they felt
they would be safer living here than in their houses.
The outlaws came to dominate the town of Charleston and made it and Galeyville their headquarters. Charleston is about ten miles southwest of Tombstone.
George Parsons was a friend of Wyatt's who kept a journal recording every day of his seven years in Tombstone. His journal is one of the most reliable sources available for this period of Tombstone's history.
When Ed Schieffelin went into Apache country to search for silver, his friends told him he was crazy and that all he'd find was his tombstone. When he discovered the first of several of the area's most successful mines, he named that mine Tombstone. The town that quickly sprang up was named after that mine. The mines made him a very rich man.
Buckskin Frank Leslie killed several people, including Billy the Kid Claiborne, who was one of the survivors of the gunfight near the O.K. Corral.
Tombstone taken in 1882
Newspaper: Tombstone Epitaph
Crystal Palace taken in 1881
This is an old picture.
Dick Naylor was Wyatt's horse.
Dick was stolen by Billy Clanton. When one of Wyatt's
informants told him where Dick was, Wyatt confronted Billy
and got his horse back.
I don't totally agree with the story below, I put it here because I thought it was intresting.
If you want to know about the Gunfight at the OK Corral, there's a few things you have to know first.
One of the most important facts to know is:
There really WAS a Gunfight at the OK Corral. This may seem an unnecessary point to western history aficionados. But I've known Ph. D.'s that thought it was just a Zane Grey or Louis L'Amour story. Nope, it really happened.
But even though there really was a Gunfight at the OK Corral, there really WASN'T a Gunfight at the OK Corral. Or rather what happened on October 26, 1881 in Tombstone, Arizona wasn't really at the OK Corral. But years later, after just about everyone involved was dead and gone, it DID happen at the OK Corral. If this seems confusing, it'll be explained later. But you better get used to it. The Gunfight at the OK Corral was without doubt the most confusing fifteen second gunfight in history.
And Wyatt Earp was really there, too, just like the movies say. And so was his friend John Henry "Doc" Holliday. Wyatt's brothers, Morgan and Virgil, were also there, as were a dozen or so eyewitnesses, none of whom seemed to agree on what happened.
But let's forget about the Earps for a moment. The fellow you really have to meet is the gentleman pictured above. His name is Joseph Isaac Clanton. Everybody called him "Ike". Now that's actually a pretty good thing. Certainly if you want to write about an Old West shootout, it's a help to have a guy name "Ike". Joe Clanton doesn't really quite have the right ring to it.
Ike lived on a ranch about 15 miles from Tombstone with his younger brother Billy and an older brother Phineas. Earlier their dad, Newman Hayes Clanton, usually called "Old Man" Clanton, ran the ranch but was killed in a rather controversial altercation as he led some cattle up from Mexico.
You won't hear much about Phineas and Old Man Clanton. But you will hear a lot about Ike's friends, Tom and Frank McLaury, who also had a ranch and worked pretty close with Ike and Billy. They all did pretty well for themselves. In fact, Tom would sometimes act as a banker and might be carrying a couple thousand dollars around with him when he was in town.
Now Ike and his friends are almost always painted as the bad guys at the OK Corral. Or they are by about 90 % of the historians and 100 % of the movies. They were rustlers, they say. So that makes them bad guys, right?
Well, if by calling them rustlers you mean they occasionally took cows that didn't belong to him, then you're probably right. But that doesn't necessarily make them bad guys. At that time and place, EVERY rancher would occasionally take cows that didn't belong to him. An old timer from New Mexico once dismissed the issue by saying rustling was hardly considered a crime at all - if you could get away with it.
But that doesn't mean there weren't some pretty bad dudes that DID rustle cattle and weren't very nice about it, either. And some of these guys would supplement their rustling income by high margin enterprises like stage coach robbery and adding a little murder on the side if it seemed necessary. Again the historians who side just a wee bit with the Earps say that Ike, Billy, Tom, and Frank did business with this somewhat more sordid element. But as you'll find out, at one time or another just about anyone who was anyone had something to do with the more shady characters.
So all in all, Ike pretty much thought of himself as a respectable a stockman, as did Tom and Frank. If they did any rustling it with enough taste and discretion to keep it within socially acceptable limits.
So they were all were set up and doing pretty well for themselves when a new family named Earp rolled into town.
Everyone knows who Wyatt Earp was. Everyone. Not too long ago a diplomat from the United Nations made a reference to Wyatt in one of his speeches. And everyone knew who he was talking about.
Everyone knows he was a federal marshal, carried a long barreled pistol called a Buntline Special, and was one of the most active gunmen the West has ever seen.
Of course, everyone is wrong, too.
But he DID make law enforcement a major part of his life. At least in his early years. Later though this interest faded out partly due to age, and partly no doubt due to the murder indictments that hung over his head.
But at twenty one, the young Wyatt was elected city marshal of Lamar, Missouri (where his folks had a farm). Later he was appointed assistant city marshal in the various Kansas cowtowns. Places like Ellsworth, Wichita, and Dodge City all record Wyatt was a member of their police departments. At Dodge he even served as a church deacon.
But he was never a federal marshal.
Between his stint as a lawman in Missouri and Kansas, he did some time in what was then called Indian Territory. That is, he DID some time, not spent it. He was arrested as a horse thief and wound up in the Fort Gibson slammer.
Funny thing about Wyatt Earp. People either love him or hate him. That was true a hundred and twenty years ago, and it's the same now. No one is ever neutral. It seems everyone is divvied up either as "Earp Champions" or "Earp Detractors".
In Fort Gibson, Wyatt never went to trial. The Earp Detractors say he jumped bail. But the Earp Champions pooh-pooh this and point out that the records show that when one of his (alleged) horse stealing buddies went to trial, he was acquitted. So clearly, they say, the judge decided there was insufficient evidence in holding Wyatt further and dismissed the charges.
All in all the Champions are probably right and Wyatt was just simply let go. But to even things out for the Detractors, there is enough left in the record to suggest he and his buddies WERE involved in various and sundry skullduggery even if it didn't pass muster for a criminal conviction.
Wyatt wisely moved on to Ellsworth where he was hired as assistant marshal and then later went to Wichita where he was given the same job. His older brother James was there too and ran a saloon. Wyatt actually came from a big family: there was Newton (a half brother), James, Virgil, Wyatt, Morgan, and Warren. They were a very clubby bunch and were often winding up in the same towns.
James was married to a lady named Bessie, and most commendably for a lady in the middle nineteenth century, she decided to open her own commercial establishment to supplement James' income. It got lots of publicity, and the newspapers would courteously referred to Bessie's place as a "sporting house." For those not familiar with the jargon of the times, she was NOT selling tennis shoes, baseballs, or golf clubs.
But Wyatt got into the swing of being an assistant marshal in Wichita and was highly praised as an efficient policeman. Even after his former boss lost an election, the new marshal hired Wyatt again as an assistant. But he didn't stay long since shortly after his reappointment he beat up his former boss. It seems the losing marshal had made Bessie's sporting house a campaign issue. Wyatt's rage was understandable perhaps, but assistant marshals beating up their former bosses was frowned upon even then, and Wyatt found himself out of work.
So Wyatt went on to Dodge, where he again was hired as an assistant city marshal.
Like at Wichita, Wyatt got good marks as a lawman. He was honest efficient, and a hard worker. Also the people liked the way he handled the Texas drovers who tended to get rowdy after three months on the trail. Now the mark of a good officer was to keep the drovers in control, but not handle them so roughly that they'd take their business to other towns. "Too roughly" meant plugging them. A dead drover was not only bad publicity, but they rarely spent their $30 a month in the saloons or Bessie's sporting house.
So Wyatt adopted a cheap, effective, and for the standards of the time, socially acceptable form of crowd control. It was called "buffaloing". Simply put, to buffalo someone you yank out your pistol and slap him upside of his head with the barrel. Now quieter and more docile, the fellow could be led off to jail.
Maybe THIS is where the story of the Buntline Special came from. If you want to buffalo someone it's best to use a long barreled Colt .45. Smith and Wessons are supposedly inferior for buffaloing as they tend to fly apart.
By now Wyatt had taken up with a lady named Celia Blaylock. Everyone called her Mattie. Given her future history and Wyatt's familial associations, possibly she had been a "sporting woman" like Bessie. Though she called herself Mrs. Earp, there's no evidence she and Wyatt were ever legally hitched. The same was true for Virgil and his wife, Allie, and for Morgan and his wife, Louisa.
Now James. He WAS legally married to Bessie. Which is weird.
Two of Wyatt's friends were also in Dodge about this time. One was a literate, articulate, and dapper young fellow from Quebec, Canada, who had spent some time with Wyatt out on the buffalo range. His name was Bartholomew Masterson who for some reason signed his name William Barclay Masterson. His friends (who were many) called him Bat. Bat's brothers, Ed and Jim, were also in town, and Ed became city marshal. Bat himself wound up as county sheriff and by all accounts was a good one.
Wyatt's other friend was a dentist named John Henry Holliday. Originally from Georgia, he was a graduate of the Philadelphia College of Dental Surgery. He set up his practice at Dodge, promising to cheerfully refund his fee to anyone who was not fully satisfied. He evidently was a pretty good dentist, too, since a crown he put in for a young patient in 1871 was still fully functional as late as 1967.
He was known (naturally) as Doc, but unlike Bat he didn't have any friends other than Wyatt.
Even Bat who once finagled a way to keep Doc from being extradited for murder didn't like him very much. In a newspaper interview years later, Wyatt called Doc "that mad merry scamp with a heart of gold", but a little after that Bat wrote that Doc had "a mean disposition and an ungovernable temper" and " under the influence of liquor" (which was almost always) was a "most dangerous man". Bat went on to add that Doc totally lacked all the "leadership qualities" of men like Wyatt Earp and "was much given to both drinking and quarreling and among those who did not fear him very was much disliked." Most everyone who knew Doc seemed to agree with Bat.
Gradually Doc's practice faded. Whether due to his cantankerous nature, his preference for gambling, or his tuberculosis that would send him into coughing fits while ministering to his dwindling supply of patients is anyone's guess. Probably it was all of them put together. Before long he was spending virtually all his time drinking, gambling, and getting into some rather spectacular arguments with his girlfriend, Kate Elder. As you may have guessed by now, Kate was a "sporting woman" and, no, she and Doc never got married.
Later Wyatt would testify under oath that Doc had saved is life in Dodge City by helping him with a bunch of rambunctious cowboys. Although there's nothing other than Wyatt's word on this, little else can explain why Wyatt put up with Doc as much as he did.
The cowtowns never lasted long as cowtowns. Eventually the residents who included increasing numbers of farmers got tired of both the cattle drives and the cowboys, and one by one the cattle drives were outlawed. So after a few years, Wyatt began to sense there wasn't much future in Dodge. Besides he had begun to think buffaloing cowboys and risking his life for between $50 and $125 a month wasn't really the way to a life of wealth and ease. Maybe being a businessman was the way to go. But he probably didn't have any real plans until he got a note from his brother Virgil who suggested that Wyatt join him at a little speck on the Arizona map called Tombstone.
Virgil had been living in Prescott, Arizona, and like Wyatt had worked into law enforcement. But his position was a little more lofty. As a Union Civil War veteran and a Republican, he had managed to wrangle an appointment as a deputy federal marshal and now hoped to make the most of it.
The job of a deputy federal marshal was high in status but low in pay. Usually they did the strong arm stuff for the chief marshal who usually sat on his rear end and handled the paper work. But a deputy's job gave both credentials and experience for other jobs in law enforcement. In those days before people worried about conflict of interest, you could hold several jobs at once. It was possible for a man to be deputy federal marshal, the county sheriff, the city marshal all rolled into one. There were practical advantages to this, especially in cities that were only about three blocks long. If someone caused a disturbance in the town you could follow him into the surrounding county just by mentally putting on your sheriff's hat as you crossed the city limits.
Better yet you could collect all the salaries. The sheriff's job was the best. By skillful management of fee and tax collection, you could pick up an extra $2,000 - $3,000 a month, and keep it pretty much legal. That was good money in 1880, a time when cowboys made no more than $100 for a three month trail drive.
So about the time Wyatt was thinking about leaving Dodge, Virgil heard that a silver strike had been made at Tombstone. His federal appointment would still be good there, so he mosied on down. That probably helped him get the job of city marshal. He needed an assistant, so he called on Wyatt. In between marshalling, they figured they could stake some mining claims. But rather than bust their heinies mining silver, they intended to simply sell their mines to any and all takers. Wyatt also figured he could obtain some gambling concessions at the various and numerous saloons that were sure to spring up along the main street of the town. So Wyatt left Dodge with Mattie, and they moved on to Tombstone.
As law officers, the Earps naturally came into contact with the current county sheriff, Johnny Behan. Johnny had been appointed by the governor, but now they were going to start electing their sheriffs. Wyatt wanted the job too (and the money that went with it) so he decided to run as well. Johnny, recognizing Wyatt's credentials and experience, told him that if he, Wyatt, lost the election then he, Johnny, would make him his deputy sheriff. Wyatt said he appreciated it, but if he won, he had his brothers to take care of (Morgan and James had rolled into town by then) and he couldn't return the favor. That was fine, said Johnny, he understood. He'd still appoint Wyatt deputy. The two men parted amicably.
Probably through Johnny, Wyatt met Ike Clanton and Tom and Frank McLaury. The Earps were often called in for posse duty and so were the Clantons and McLaurys. All evidence shows they got along pretty well, and would even work to help each other out. Later Tom even said Wyatt was a friend of his.
Johnny won the election but didn't make Wyatt deputy. He later said this was due to "personal reasons." The personal reasons might have been Sadie Marcus, who called herself Josephine. As a matter of fact, she called herself Josephine Behan, although like Mattie and Allie and Louisa, she wasn't. But since she lived in the same house with Johnny and was helping raise Johnny's son by his first marriage (Johnny was divorced), this seemed a good way to avoid offending the more delicate minded townspeople.
The story is usually told that Johnny didn't appoint Wyatt because Josie chucked him for Wyatt. That was pretty much Josie's tale, too. She said she split up with Johnny because Johnny was a philanderer (which he was), a liar (which he also was), had a weak character (which he did), and because she thought Wyatt had more manly qualities.
The trouble with Josie's story is that there's evidence that she left Johnny before she started associating with Wyatt. To make ends meet (no pun intended) she may have made her living as (yep) a "sporting woman." Tombstone old timers who remembered Josie took the story pretty much for granted, and certainly in later life, Josie was vague (and inaccurate) about her early days there. But the gist of the tale is probably true. Wyatt taking up with Josie probably soured Johnny on Wyatt. So Wyatt didn't get the job.
And what about Mattie? Simple. Wyatt, the widely respected law officer and former church deacon, just dumped her.
Now meet Ed Schieffelin.
Yep, that's what most people say. But American history, not to mention people like Hugh O'Brien, Kurt Russell, and Kevin Costner, owe a lot to Ed Schieffelin.
That's because without Ed Schieffelin no one would ever have heard of Wyatt Earp.
You see, despite the fact that Wyatt is known as one of the most famous lawman in the West and one of the nerviest, steely men with a gun, his reputation really rests on one, and only one, gunfight. That is, of course, the Gunfight at the OK Corral.
Without that single gun battle, his days spent in Ellsworth, Wichita, and Dodge would have been mentioned only in passing - or more likely totally ignored - by historians. No newspapers would have interviewed him in his later years, and he would never have been asked to referee the Fitzsimmons/Sharkey fight in 1895.
And he would almost certainly never have gotten involved in most of his later gunfights which - no matter how the Earp Champions sanitize them - were mostly him blasting away at unarmed or outnumbered men in revenge killings. Without the OK Corral, Hollywood would have had to look elsewhere for a hero.
So to have the Legend of Wyatt Earp you need to have the OK Corral.
And to have the OK Corral you need to have Tombstone, Arizona.
And to have Tombstone, Arizona, you need ...
You guessed it. You need to have Ed Schieffelin.
In 1877, Ed Schieffelin was a young man trying to strike it rich in the West. So he was no different than thousands of other men in the last part of the nineteenth century who wanted to make it rich without working for a living and who after he made his bundle would just take up and get out. Today Ed would probably be an aspiring CEO. But back then he had to be a prospector.
Unlike most of his contemporaries, though (and LIKE most CEO's), Ed did strike it rich. But not through any help of his friends. When Ed said he would try his luck in southern Arizona, they tried to change his mind.
Their main concern was that the Apache Indians had been causing "difficulties." The Apaches said the land was theirs and occasionally would have altercations with the prospectors like Ed who would drift down from time to time.
But as usual the tales were exaggerated. You'd be more likely to get killed by falling off your horse or by fording a river. But Ed's friends still told him all he'd find down there was his tombstone.
Instead he found a vein of silver that assayed at $2000 per ton. At a time when $10 a ton was a good find, you couldn't beat that. So he staked his claim and got rich.
But to show he was a good sport (and also to rub it in a bit), he named the town that sprung up as "Tombstone." It's still there today, about two hours south of Tucson. Now completely a tourist town, it remains a popular side trip for money-laden business executives on convention trips who will drive from as far away as Phoneix. "We love 'em," a local resident recently said.
But in the late 1870's, it was typical of a western mining boomtown. Virtually everyone there were young, footloose young men, all bent on making a fast, easy buck. And to cater to their whims were various and sundry merchants, storekeepers, and saloonmen, also intent on making a fast, easy buck. And there were ranchers (like the Clanton's and McLaurys), who hoped that raising (and sometimes rustling) livestock would make them a fast, easy buck. And to top the citizenry off, you had miscellaneous newspapermen, politicians, judges and businessmen, all also intent on making a fast, easy buck.
And don't forget the Earps. Even they (or perhaps we should say "especially they") were intent on making a fast, easy buck.
It was probably the merchants who made the fastests easiests bucks, though. Believing in the law of supply and demand long before John Maynard Keynes did, they fit their business to their clientele. Saloons, gambling, and dance halls were plentiful and with them up sprang the ubiquitous "sporting houses." And when you got sporting houses, whaddaya get with 'em? You bet - you get sporting women. In abundance.
There were also the more independent and self-employed of these feminine enterpreneurs. Anticipating the modern executive, they had (this is no joke) business cards printed up and boasted their charms with prominently placed advertisements. Some showed considerable ingenuity, and one ad boasted that "300 pounds of passion" were available for a most moderate fee. You don't get creativity like that from the J. Walter Thompson Agency .
But to balance things out there were also a few churches and schools. Bowing to practical reality and to minimize the forerunner of the modern tax revolt, the town fathers decided not to support these public institutions from a direct levy.
So where would you turn to if you wanted steady reliable revenue to support churches and schools in a town full of young, hormone-ridden young men?
Yep, you'd slap a tax on the sporting ladies and their establishments. And to make everything official and proper (and simple), licenses were issued, and the resulting fees were earmarked for the religious and educational institutions.
The trouble with a boom town, though, if you want to make money in mining, you have to be the first one there. Or at least pretty close on the heels of the first one. Ed got rich, sure, but a lot of other prospectors lost their shirts.
So if you weren't really cut out to be a miner, rancher, farmer, newspaperman, or, of course, a"sporting lady", there was one field you might try: land and mining speculation. If you were smart and didn't really intend on settling there permanently, you could make good money at it. And being no fools, that's what the Earps went in for.
Becoming a mining speculator was relatively easy. You went out and staked a claim. Then you assayed your ore at a good price. If it really didn't yield as much as much as you wanted, why a little persuasion with the local assay office might help increase the amount of silver found per ton. Or if the assayer was an honest man (and the problem was, most of them were) there was no real reason why the ore you gave him REALLY had to come from your claim. Then you could then sell your mine to some sucker - or rather, some enterprising young man. Except for the filing fee, what you got was all profit. Water rights could be similarly obtained and sold.
The Earps picked up a nice bit of change there. Virgil also retained his deputy federal marshal's commision and was hired as the town marshal. He made Wyatt his assistant. And if he needed more help, he'd call in Morgan. Wyatt sometimes would serve as a guard for Wells Fargo and Morgan would ride shotgun on the stage from Benson to Bisbee. James stuck to his saloon.
Wyatt was also a "special policeman" assigned to the Oriental Saloon. The Oriental was run by a man named Bucksin Frank Leslie. He lived a colorful life to say the least. Once he shot a man in the back, claimed self defense, and was acquitted. Naturally, he and Wyatt got along well.
Now a special policeman assigned to a saloon was a bit more elevated than a bouncer as it did have some official status in the town government. But just sitting around keeping the peace could get a bit tedious. You see, despite what the movies and TV portray, gunfights were rare. Marshal Dillion might have plugged ten or twelve guys every week, but the reality was a bit less exciting. Even during their most violent days, the towns of Abilene, Ellsworth, Dodge City, Wichita, and Hays might average one - count 'em - one fatal shooting every year or two. Sure, in a saloon an occasional rowdy might have to be told to quiet down or get out, but most of the patrons preferred to gamble and drink in peace.
So rather than read Shakespeare, discuss philosophy, or double as a singing waiter, Special Policeman Earp took on the added duties as a faro dealer.
No one plays faro much anymore. That's because it's boring. You put your money on a layout which shows all the card ranks. The dealer then turns up two cards. The first is a losing card and the other is a winner. If your bet was on a loser, you lose; if it's on a winner you win. Or you can put a copper marker on your bet; then if you lose, you win.
And the modern casino owners don't care for it much. Not because it's boring, but because it has a low house percentage. Although one bet has an advantage of 16 % for the house, others give only about 2 % and some are dead even. So given the rather complex rules of betting, a player can get by with a disadvantage of only about 1%. Of course, most miners (like some people even now) didn't even know what a house percentage was, or if they did, they figured that a possible 1% loss for an evenings entertainment was a good risk. After all, if you were lucky you might clean up.
But what Wyatt didn't tell his customers (and most modern casino owners won't tell their customers either) is that a house percentage is not the average expected loss. It's the average RATE of loss. So you keep betting long enough and you'll still lose all your money. It doesn't matter if it's a pari-mutual horse race with 10 heats and a cut of 20% for the state or a faro game with a 1% house advantage spread out over 500 hands. The money still ends up on one side of the table. And it ain't your side, baby.
So here's the set-up. Around 1880 you have the town of Tombstone, Arizona Territory, chock full of saloon keepers, sporting women, crooked (and honest) politicians, newspaper editors, aldermen, judges, and businessmen, all in town to make a fast easy buck. The Earps are there, too, and by gambling, law enforcement, and mine speculation are making a fast easy buck as well. And you have the Clantons and McLaurys about fifteen miles away, making a fast easy buck by raising and selling their livestock with a few other business interests thrown in for good measure.
In a town about three blocks long, you might expect it wouldn't be long before the Earps and Clantons would bump into each other.
And you'd be right.
In every movie and a lot of the books, the Earps are always the "good guys" at the OK Corral. By default, the Clantons and McLaurys are the "bad guys". After all, when Burt Lancaster (Wyatt, of course) showed up in Tombstone, he was told by Virgil about the trouble the nasty Clanton Gang was stirring up. Being a law and order man, this got Burt's- I mean, Wyatt's - dander up and, by golly, he was going to use his authority as US Marshal (!) to stop the Clantons and McLaurys from driving their (stolen) cattle through Tombstone.
This naturally raised the hackles of the cowboys and they swore they'd "git" Wyatt and his brothers. So the Clanton Gang threw down the gauntlet to the Earps and told them to meet them at the OK Corral. Being men among men, the Earps showed up on time and with a blaze of gunfire fought a pitched battle against the Clantons and McLaurys with the help of Johnny Ringo. To make the movie last a full hour and a half, the shootout took up about fifteen minutes. Of course, the Clantons and McLaurys were worsted.
Among the errors in this scenario, the writers never quite explained why a federal marshal would waste his time with that type of Mickey Mouse warrant or why the Clantons couldn't have simply detoured a hundred yards around the city limits. Tombstone's a nice town even today, but it ain't really all that big. But by now, of course, you should know none of it really happen that way, anyway.
If you really dig into the history of the Old West you find that the division between good guys and bad guys was really pretty blurred. A man might steal horses one year (like Wyatt) and then pin a badge on the next (again like Wyatt). A guy might pick up a few rustled cattle (like Ike) and then risk his life by serving on a posse chasing down some bona fide armed desperados (also like Ike). The truth is a lawman who did not have a few crimes under his belt was very much the oddball. And there were a lot of the famous outlaws (even Billy the Kid) who had officially served as deputies, even if on a temporary and somewhat ill-defined basis.
So it's tempting to pin the good guy/bad guy image on Hollywood. But that's not entirely true. Even back in the 1880's, the people who lived in the West thought in terms of good guys and bad guys. Actually that hasn't changed a whole lot even now. Just try talking politics to your neighbor.
The immediate problem in Tombstone, though - to use today's high falootin' professorial language - was that Wyatt and his buddies and Ike and his friends came from two "highly polarized and distinct socio-economic subcultures". Or simply stated (but pretty accurately), Wyatt's crowd were Yankees (Virgil was after all a Union veteran) and newcomers and they were all Republicans. Ike's friends - even at that time usually dubbed "the cowboys" - were Democrats, generally had lived there longer, and had southern leanings. So you can imagine that if Yanks and Rebs and Democrats and Republicans don't get along too well now how it was like only fifteen years after Appomattox.
Of course, you always thought of yourself as a good guy. The bad guys were anyone who was different. So if you worked on a ranch, you were a hard working stockman who busted your bun while the Yankee carpetbaggers sat on their hunkers and made easy, sleazy, greasy bucks by mine speculation, saloon keeping, and gambling (and don't forget the sporting houses). On the other hand if you were a speculator or business man (and that included gamblers, saloon keepers, and sporting women), you were convinced that you were promoting law and order by bringing financial stability and civilization to the wild and wooly. And one of your concerns would be the rambunctious cowboys who were likely to shoot up the town whenever they came around to drink and gamble at your saloon or visit your sporting house.
The newspapers didn't help too much either. You'd have one paper (whose editor was a Republican) that would trumpet about the "cowboy threat" and then there would be the other one run by a Democrat who would complain about the unsavory characters that ran the various saloons and sporting houses and made it dangerous to walk the streets. In fact, the saloon where Wyatt had his faro game, the Oriental, was considered one of the worst.
But despite all this hullabaloo, the Earps, Clantons, and McLaurys actually got on pretty well. After all, they were adults out to make a living and to some degree could put these largely imaginary differences aside. They saw each other around town a lot and would willingly serve together on the occasional posses that were called up. The Clantons and McLaurys would visit the Oriental Saloon (though they preferred the Grand Hotel), and they had no objection to sitting down with the Earps for a game or two of faro or poker.
And the Earps and Johnny Behan had been on friendly enough terms as well. After all, Virgil had known Johnny in Prescott and both men were heard to say they considered themselves friends. Wyatt and Johnny also maintained an amiable enough front as well. Both had earlier served as deputy sheriffs under Charlie Shibell, and the two rival newspapers, the Nugget and the Epitaph who rarely agreed on anything, praised both men and even seemed sincere about it. Later Johnny became sheriff and had considered Wyatt as the number one man for his deputy. And up until the day he died (literally), Tom McLaury said that Wyatt was a friend of his.
But gradually what can be described as a fairly friendly working relationship began to cool a bit. Certainly Wyatt taking up with Josie didn't help much. Neither did both of them wanting the same sheriff's job.
And there was the time time that Wyatt went to get his horse only to find it had unaccountably been misplaced. As a sometime lawman, Wyatt needed a good horse. And if this also allowed him to supplement his income by wagering on his mount during the horse races that would be held from time to time, so much the better. So he was a little miffed when someone ripped off what was pretty much a top notch steed.
Happily, the horse was soon found. Not so happily Billy Clanton was riding it. Evidently, the incident was written off as a misunderstanding because about all that happened was that Wyatt got his horse back. No charges were filed against Billy even though horse theft was a pretty serious offense. But, no, it wasn't so bad that the perpetrator would be the guest of honor at an impromptu neck tie party (like it is in the movies), but it was still grand theft and could get you one to three years up in the territorial prison in Yuma.
Then there was the time several government mules ended up getting stolen. The Earps were part of the posse that went to look for them. Find them they did - at the McLaury ranch. The story was that Frank was even altering the brands. Again what really happened isn't quite clear, but one of the army lieutenants did publicly accuse Frank of the perfididty. This in turn riled Frank enough to make him take out a newspaper ad asserting his honesty. Wyatt probably agreed with the lieutenant, but again no official action was ever taken.
These episodes are used by the Earp Champions to prove the cowboys were heavily into horse thievery, rustling, murder, mayhem, jay-walking, spittin' on the streets, cussin', and other nefarious activities. But the evidence couldn't have been too strong since nothing was done. And you have to remember that Wyatt's own gambling and saloon businesses sometimes got him and his brothers lumped in with the "tinhorn" gambling element, which many of the citizens didn't care for too much either.
But even after all this, Wyatt and Ike could still go to pretty elaborate lengths try to help each other out. Particularly if there was money in it. This is best illustrated by considering a little incident involving the Tucson to Bisbee stagecoach as it made it's thrice weekly run through Tombstone. It was also this incident that by its rather strange, circuitous , and contradictory meanderings ultimately led to the Gunfight at the OK Corral. And of course, the legend of Wyatt Earp.
Today to get to Tombstone you get off the interstate at Benson and drive twenty miles on a well maintained highway. But in the 1880's Benson was a stop over for the stage that ran from Tucson to Bisbee. Earlier the trip had taken two days but later when new waystations were put in you could make it in only one. A long, slow, bone jarring, hot, dusty, and tiring day, yes, but one day nonetheless.
On the evening of March 15, 1881, the stage was rumbling its way toward Tombstone. And for once what really happened could have come straight out of a Hollywood movie. Some vague shadowy forms reared up and called for the driver, Bob Paul, to halt. Since Bob figured about the the only person who would do that would be a road agent (as they were called back then) who was intent on increasing his equity, he kicked up his horses and began to get the heck out of there. And again just like in the movies, the bandits opened fire. The stagecoach guard riding shotgun, Bud Philpott (or Philpot) was killed and a passenger was also fatally wounded. But Bob got the team away and took his stage on into Tombstone.
Now although violence between consenting adults was sometime tolerated if limited to an occasional shootout in a saloon or back alley, out and out murder of respected citizens during a robbery wasn't. And that WOULD sometimes get the accused an EXTREMELY speedy trial. Well, maybe a group of twenty citizens storming the jail and dragging the miscreant to the nearest telegraph pole wasn't really a trial. But it sure was speedy.
But even that was rare. What usually happened was what happened here. A posse was formed (and included both Johnny Behan and the Earps) and headed out after the killers. They traced the trail to a ranch where they found a man who claimed the hold up had been the work of three men: Billy Leonard, Harry Head, and Jim Crane.
Now HERE's where it gets interesting. VERY interesting. These guys were pretty bad dudes, no doubt about it. And because of their particularly socio-economic class, they were neatly lumped in as part of the "cowboy" faction. Ha! the Earp Champions say. Proof, if any were needed, that the cowboy faction were in fact the lawless rogues of legend.
Well, maybe. But to make matters even more interesting (and confusing), it was also well known that Billy Leonard had one good friend who was definitely not lumped in with the cowboy faction. And that was none other than Dr. John Henry Holliday.
Doc probably first met Billy in the saloons and at the gambling tables when both men were living in Las Vegas, New Mexico. Billy, like Doc, was a rather strange character. Supposedly he was quite literate and skilled at various trades (including watch making and repair), but he apparently was also had a rather unsavory character. But then Doc wasn't really such a sweetheart himself. Both men liked to drink and gamble so they got along pretty well. And now the two friends were both in Tombstone and everyone knew it.
Maybe it was just guilt by association, or maybe Doc really was involved. In any case, Doc 's name was soon being mentioned as a member of the holdup gang. Some said he actually fired the fatal shots. Johnny Behan, who was now sheriff of Cochise County, listened to this talk and decided to do a little investigating.
Johnny figured the person to know most about this - other than Doc himself - was Doc's girlfriend, Kate Elder (or Kate Fisher or John Smith or whatever the heck she was calling herself then). Rumor was that Doc thumped her when he got mad (which was pretty much always), and Johnny figured that she'd probably be ticked off enough to rat on Doc. The story goes that Johnny also got her plastered, but however he did it, he ended up with a sworn statement from Kate that Doc was one of the holdup men. So Doc was arrested.
As you might expect of a case where the only evidence was an affidavit from a drunken ticked-off former sporting lady, the whole thing was immediately thrown out of court. In Johnny's favor, though, at that time and place confessions given while under the influence were sometimes admissible in court. But it was still kind of a dumb thing to do, because, boy, was Doc ever irritated at Johnny.
And Wyatt was still wanting to get the sheriff's job. He somehow got the idea that Ike Clanton (he was a cowboy after all) knew Leonard, Crane, and Head (sounds kind of like a law firm, doesn't it), and by some suitable skullduggery Ike could help lure them into a trap.
So Wyatt approached Ike and offered him a deal. If Ike would somehow get the three holdup men into Tombstone or thereabouts, Wyatt could nab 'em. He'd give Ike the reward money and a bit of extra out of his own pocket. Ike could also take over some choice land that Billy Leonard had claimed and Wyatt would use the prestige of the capture to help him get elected sheriff.
Wyatt later swore Ike agreed. Ike on the other hand claimed he refused to have anything to do with it.
Now here's where things get REALLY complicated. Somehow and from somewhere a rumor sprang up (possibly because Doc was a friend of Wyatt's) that the stage holdup had actually been engineered by EARPS, for crying out loud. According to this story the whole shebang had been a sham to hide the fact the Earps (tin horn gamblers, remember) had skimmed off a thousand or so dollars out of the stage's strong box. So Wyatt was a really going after Leonard & Co. to bump them off so they wouldn't squeal.
It's hard to tell where this story came from or how contemporary it was. But by the end of the year Ike was swearing under oath that Wyatt had confessed the whole thing to him, and some old timers from Tombstone for years after remained convinced it was true.
Really, though, the best bet is that Wyatt's version is pretty much what happened. He probably did try to cut a deal with Ike to nab he bandits and Ike may have agreed albeit with some trepidation. After all, he could stand to make a bundle, but if word got out that he had joined up with Wyatt to go after the Leonard et. al., he could be in a heap of trouble with some really bad dudes. But it all became a moot point when Leonard and Head were killed in a separate gun fight a little while later.
Almost a moot point that is. Somehow the story got out about the deal. Leonard and Head were dead but Crane was still around as were some of their other buddies. So now Ike had to go around telling everyone who wanted to listen (and many who didn't) that the story wasn't true. Ike? In cahoots with Wyatt? Never!
Naturally Ike telling everyone and his mother that these stories were bunk also made it look like Ike was implying that Wyatt was (to borrow a polite but hackneyed phrase) a low down Yankee liar. And Doc, who always seemed ready to jump to quick (and wrong) conclusions, got the idea that Ike was going around "threatening" his friend Wyatt Earp.
Here's what you've got by the fall of 1881. A stagecoach robbery that many believed Doc Holliday had a hand in (and some still do), but at the same time there was Doc's best (sc. "only") friend, Wyatt, trying to get Ike to help him nab the bandits. On top of this there were the Earp Detractors who said the whole thing was a cover used by the Earps to rip off Wells Fargo. And when everything fell through, Ike took to going around town swearing on a stack of Bibles that whatever Wyatt said about him wasn't true while the ever irascible Doc was convinced that Ike was making threats against the Earps.
So that's the way it was, October 25, 1881 (sorry, Walter), when Ike Clanton was sitting at the counter in the Oriental Saloon and Doc Holliday happened to walk in.
If you lived on a ranch in Arizona in the 1880's you usually looked forward to a day in town. Whatever you might say about Ike and his ranching buddies, they did work pretty hard. Although today a cowboy may have a bachelor's degree in Farm Administration or Feedlot Management with a master's in Agricultural Economics added for good measure, they can still put in an eighteen hour workday. So you can imagine what it was like in 1881, and a day off was always welcome.
But it couldn't be just for fun and games. After all, it took longer for Ike to get into Tombstone than it takes to fly from New York to Toronto. So you usually had to wait until there was some business reason to head on into town. But a boondoggle is a boondoggle in whatever day and age.
On October 25, 1881, Tom McLaury and Ike Clanton loaded up into a spring wagon and headed on into Tombstone. Tom had some business to transact with a local butcher and probably also had some banking business to attend to. Ike went with him mainly to pick up supplies for the ranch.
When they got there they checked into the Grand Hotel. In accordance with the city ordinances they left their guns at the hotel. Tom, who according to Josie, was the hardest worker of the bunch, headed off about his business.
Exactly what Ike did isn't clear. Since he was there to pick up supplies supposedly he spent at least part of the next 14 or so hours doing just that. But when we next hear about him it was about one o'clock the next morning and he was in the lunch room connected to the Alhambra Saloon about to have what he called "a lunch".
If he was hoping for a nice leisurely meal to aid his digestion, he was sadly mistaken. As he was about to take a bite, Doc Holliday walked in. And Doc wasn't the type of man that furthered anyone's gastrointestinal processes.
According to Ike, Doc began to "abuse" him. That's a formal nineteenth century way to say Doc started cussin' him out. Remember Ike had been going around saying he had not cut a deal with Wyatt to bring in the stage robbers. Even if done tactfully that still means Ike was calling Wyatt a liar. But since tact wasn't Ike's strongpoint, he probably threw a few character references in as well. Whatever he had been saying on the matter, Doc didn't like it.
Ike responded calmly and said he hadn't threatened the Earps. Since the issues had been fully discussed at this point, Doc anticipated the tactics of the modern political campaign and began to get personal.
He said that Ike was "a son-of-a-[gun] of a cowboy" and told Ike to get out his gun and "go to work." Scholars have debated what Doc meant by "going to work" but most don't believe Doc wanted Ike to pick up his pistol and rifle and head on back to the ranch. And of course he really didn't say "son-of-a-[gun]" either. But this story is written for the entire family.
Ike said that while Doc was cussin' him out that Doc had his "hand in his bosom." Ike must have been nervous since what he really meant was that Doc had his hand in his coat. Or maybe he meant his bosom was in his hand. In any case, most historians believe (as did Ike) that Doc was reaching for his gun. Ike told Doc he didn't have a gun.
"You're a [darned] liar," Doc replied, and added "You son-of-a-[gun], you ain't heeled, go heel yourself." Again Doc probably meant for Ike to get a gun since as far as is known Ike's boots were in fine shape.
Wyatt and Morgan were in the lunch room, too. Morgan also had his "hand in his bosom" according to Ike, who seemed to see hands in bosoms wherever he looked. Wyatt, in his own version of the story, said he was there too but didn't have his hand in this bosom. He was eating his dinner and that might mess up his coat.
Wyatt said he told Morgan (who had been acting as a special policeman for the last few weeks) that he should stop Doc and Ike from quarreling. Even by the rather lax standards of nineteenth century police procedure there's some doubt that Morgan did this in a proper and business-like manner. Or maybe Morgan figured a good way to keep Doc and Ike from quarreling was just to shoot Ike.
So Special Policeman Morgan officially said to Ike, "Yes, you son-of-a-[gun], you can have all the fight you want now."
Ike decided departure was the better part of valor, and he went out. He also asked Doc and Morgan not to shoot him in the back. About this time Virgil strolled up. Ike claimed Virgil did nothing to stop the "abuse", but Virgil himself said he told Doc and Ike to cut it out or he'd run them both in.
Virgil's story is probably true. Morgan was affable but hotheaded, and Wyatt, who was usually pretty steady, sometimes let his temper get the best of him. And Doc, of course, was a royal pain in the rear end even at the best of times.
But Virgil was then and in later years widely respected as a fair, level headed, and conscientious lawman. And he would toss anyone in the hoosegow who was causing problems. Once Wyatt got rambunctious and Virgil threw him in the slammer. Wyatt was fined $20 and paid up. Virgil even hauled his friend John Clum in for speeding. At the time John was not only the editor of the Daily Epitaph but he was also the mayor of Tombstone.
Again nobody knows exactly what Ike did after he left. Probably he wandered around a bit, pretty cheesed off at Doc and Morgan. But finally he sat down in a poker game with Tom McLaury, Virgil Earp, and some others. They played pretty much the rest of the night. We don't know who won, but Virgil had his gun in his lap the whole time
After he finished his last hand, Virgil got up and walked out. Virgil's story is that Ike followed him and griped about Doc hassling him. Ike said he was going to get himself armed and Doc had to fight. Virgil told him he was going to bed and didn't want Ike to cause any trouble.
Virgil then went home and told Allie he was trying to stop Doc Holliday and Ike Clanton from killing each other. Allie said she didn't see why he bothered.
As dawn came stealing over the blue Chiricahua Mountains, we find Ike sure enough HAD done exactly what he said he was going to do. He had picked up his rifle and pistol and was wandering around town looking for Doc. At some point, he decided to include the Earps in his hunt as well. As the morning wore on most everyone in town soon knew what was up, mainly because Ike kept telling them.
This is the point where the Earp Champions lay blame for the Gunfight at the OK Corral on Ike. After all, he was wandering about and for all appearances was intent on having a fight with Doc and the Earps. They seem to forget that it was Doc who really started it all.
And if you look at how the courts of the nineteenth century defined self-defense, it's likely that if Ike had found Doc and blasted him, he probably would have been acquitted. Of course, since Ike was wandering around making threats against Doc, if Doc had found Ike and shot him, Doc probably would have been acquitted too.
This "I'm OK and Innocent/You're OK and Innocent" philosophy of self defense may seem strange to those of us a hundred or more years later, but it made good sense at the time. For all practical purposes, most western shootouts could be classed as violence between consenting adults, and it just wasn't worth the taxpayer's money to waste much time with them. If you got in a scrap with someone and both of you wanted to shoot it out, well, fine, if no one else got hurt.
But to make sure that any violence was with the approval of all parties, when a gunfight erupted the winner couldn't just hop on his horse and ride happily off into the sunset. That's fine in the movies or TV, but in reality it didn't happen that way.
Instead if there was a gunfight and someone got plugged, both pluggor and the pluggee (if he survived) would get arrested and hauled into court. True, many of such cases never proceeded beyond a preliminary hearing. If there was any semblance of self defense, the fellow would usually be let loose and that was that. THEN he could ride off into the sunset. The days of getting slapped with a multiyear megamillion dollar lawsuit because you had violated the civil rights of the man who was about to blow you away were long in the future. Now that didn't mean there wasn't room for some pretty creative court rulings such as the time Judge Roy Bean fined a dead man $40 for carrying a concealed weapon. But that was Judge Roy Bean.
So before we rejoin Ike, let's look at some bonafide documented cases.
Buckskin Frank Leslie was the bartender of the Oriental Saloon (where Wyatt had his faro game). Once he got into an argument with a young cowboy for some reason. Frank was a hefty, no-nonsense type of guy and just gave the young cowboy the old heave-ho. Frank later learned that the fellow was waiting out front with a gun hiding behind a fruit stand. Frank got wind of this, walked out a side door, and shot him.
Verdict? Not guilty!
Well, Frank did say he called a warning first.
A few years later an assistant marshal of Dodge City, Mysterious Dave Mather, got voted out of office and was replaced by a fellow named Tom Nixon. Shortly after the election Tom took a shot at Dave, who got off with nothing more than a splinter in his finger. Tom was arrested and charged with attempted murder.
Now it seems strange that Tom was the one to take a plug at Dave and not the other way around. But there were some bad feelings between the two men above and beyond the assistant marshal's job. For one thing, the two men had interests in rival saloons, and Dave was selling his beer at less than half the rate of Tom's. It was also said that Dave was fooling around with Tom's wife. Whatever the cause, Mysterious Dave was evidently in a forgiving mood because he declined to prosecute.
Well, if Dave thought that to forgive was divine, Tom sure as heck erred by not finishing Dave off. A few days later Dave walked up behind Tom and softly called, "Tom, oh, Tom!" Before Tom could turn Dave shot him in the back. Now it was Dave's turn to get arrested. This time for murder.
Verdict? Not guilty!
Even as late as 1908, you had the same sort of thing ,and it involved none other than Pat Garrett, the man who shot Billy the Kid. Pat was in his late fifties then and had settled down to a not too profitable ranching venture outside of Las Cruces, New Mexico. He was going into town with a young man named Wayne Brazel who had leased part of Pat's ranch. At one point Pat got a bit nasty with Wayne about the details of the arrangement. Wayne was riding his horse alongside Pat's buckboard and later when Pat got down to take a pee, Wayne shot him in the back. Pat died almost immediately. Wayne, who said that Pat had "threatened him", was arrested.
Verdict? Not guilty!
So maybe Allie's advice to Virgil was probably the best. If Virgil had let Ike and Doc settle it themselves, there would have been a lot less trouble for everyone.
But Virgil took his law enforcement responsibilities seriously. Around eight o'clock, one of Virgil's deputies, Andy Bronk, came in and told Virgil that Ike was walking around with a gun, and that "there was likely to be [heck]." Virgil thought for a moment and decided if Ike was only shooting his mouth off and not much more there wasn't much to get worried about. So he went back to bed.
Now carry firearms around town was illegal. But bowing to practicality, it was understood that if you kept the gun hidden, you were usually OK. Unlike the movies you rarely saw anyone walking around town with a gun and holster complete with cartridge loops and leg straps. Guns were typically shoved into pockets (front or hip) or trouser waistbands and you wore a coat or a long shirt to cover them up. Some people would have special coats with the pocket slit so you could reach into your pocket and grab the gun. Wyatt himself went so far as to have his coat pocket lined with leather so the pistol wouldn't snag. The main thing was to keep it out of sight.
And it was all right to be armed if you were just coming into or leaving town. Maybe that's what John Clum, Tombstone's mayor, thought when he saw Ike. John hadn't heard of the hiatus with Ike and Doc. He just saw Ike carrying around a rifle and didn't get too excited. If anything, he thought it was a joke.
"Hello, Ike," he called, "any new war?" John then went about his business, no doubt chuckling at his own wit.
The trouble was Ike was being a bit ostentatious, and he kept telling everyone how he was going to get Doc and the Earps. One of Ike's unwilling listeners was Ned Boyle the bartender at the Grand Hotel who bumped into Ike on the street. Ike told Ned that he was waiting for Doc and the Earps to show up so he could have it out. Ned told Ike forget about it.
Ned then went to Wyatt's house and told him what Ike was up to. Wyatt seemed puzzled and wondered what the heck had gotten into Ike.
Then Ike went into Julius Kelly's bar and started telling everyone he was looking for the Earps. By George, they had threatened him when he wasn't heeled, and now he was ready.
You'd think Ike was working his way through the city directory to hear about it. Now off he wandered now to Hafford's Corner Saloon and talked to the owner. Again he said the same thing, that he was looking for Doc and the Earps. Now he added that they had agreed to a showdown at high noon. Mr. Hafford pointed out it was ten minutes past and told Ike to forget it.
Ike kept rambling about town, and in an amazing flash of insight, decided if he wanted to find Doc, by golly, he might try looking where Doc lived. So he headed over to the boarding house owned by Camillus Fly where Doc lived with his girlfriend, Kate Fisher.
But even here he didn't seem to try all that hard. He just stuck his head in, looked around, and walked out. But Mrs. Fly was a bit upset to see the bleary-eyed Ike in her house with a Winchester. She told Kate, and Kate went in to wake up Doc. She said Ike had a rifle and was looking for him.
"If God will let me live to get my clothes on," Doc piously said, "he shall see me." Evidently Doc felt that a gunfight called "The Nude Gunfight at the OK Corral" would look pretty ridiculous in the history books. Besides, it was cold that day.
It's kind of funny. Ike spent the whole morning looking for the Earps and Doc, and everyone except Ike seemed to have no problem finding them. About the only conclusion you can draw is Ike wasn't really all that anxious for a shootout. If left alone he probably would have gotten tired (he hadn't slept that night) and then gone on back to the hotel. He could then have gone to bed convinced that everyone in town now knew how Ike Clanton had stood up to the Earps. And the thing would have blown over.
But Ike didn't know when to quit. His wandering around town for five or six hours, visibly armed and threatening to plug Doc (at least) and the Earps (if they so chose) was too much for a lot of people. So about noon, Virgil had gotten tired of people telling him about the Odyssey of Ike Clanton and decided he'd have to do something. So he got out of bed, and like Doc, figured a lawman would be more effective with his clothes on. So he got dressed and out he went.
Ike spent all morning looking for the Doc and the Earps and didn't find them. It took Virgil about two minutes to find Ike.
There was no Miranda ruling back then. None of that "You have the right to remain silent" stuff. And no lawman who wanted to live long enough to run for re-election tried the Matt Dillon bullshine routine of "Hold it! Drop your gun!" either. Instead Virgil saw Ike, walked up behind him, and slapped him upside the head with his revolver.
He then said "You [darned] son-of-a-[gun], we'll take you up here to Judge Wallace's office." And that's where they went.
Ike's day in court is interesting if for no other reason it was witnessed by some fairly impartial individuals. And as usual when this happens the stories vary somewhat from how the major participants tell it, and none of them seem to come off all that well. The Earps don't seem quite the staunch upstanding lawmen intent on preserving law and order and Ike didn't seem to be much of a innocent injured party simply trying to defend himself.
The judge wasn't there so someone went off to fetch him. Morgan and Wyatt also showed up and they began where Doc left off.
Wyatt no doubt was a man who had plenty of courage but here he didn't show it too well. With Ike sitting there with his head banged up, unarmed, and outnumbered three to one, Wyatt said that Ike was a "[darned] dirty cow thief" and offered to fight him anywhere. Morgan then added "I'll fight you anywhere or any way."
Wyatt kept at Ike, saying "You cattle thieving son-of-a-[gun], you've threatened my life enough, and you've got to fight!"
"All I want is four feet of ground," Ike said. Perhaps he was still a bit woozy from getting slapped in the head since he had a whole ranch already. He went on to show his concern about increasing the business opportunities and income of Tombstone's public servants. "If you fellows had been a second later I would have provided a coroner's inquest for the town."
The razzing continued until the judge showed up and fined Ike $25 for carrying firearms within the city limits. He threw in $2.50 for costs. It makes you wonder how much the judge got paid. Virgil told Ike he would leave his arms at the Grand Hotel. Ike paid up and left.
Then right after court, Wyatt ran into Tom McLaury. Wyatt was still ticked off at Ike, but he figured Tom was a good substitute.
"Are you heeled?" Wyatt asked, not noticing Tom's boots anymore than Doc had.
Tom said he wasn't, and from what some of the by-standers said, it appears that Tom was more interested in finding out what the heck was going on than picking a fight with Wyatt. Now Tom may have been a bit miffed at what had happened to Ike, but he wasn't particularly nasty about it. One witness even heard Tom say he had always been a friend of Wyatt's. But then he added that if Wyatt wanted to fight he would fight him anytime.
Bad move, Tom. You just didn't say something like that to Wyatt Earp.
"All right, make a fight here!" barked Wyatt. And Wyatt being Wyatt Earp yanked out his gun and slapped Tom on the side of the head.
"I could kill that son-of-a-[gun]", Wyatt said to no one in particular as he strolled off to have a smoke.
Like the meaning of life, the purpose of black holes, and if a falling tree makes any noise if nobody is around, the question of whether Tom McLaury was armed that day has become one of the great unanswered mysteries of the universe. At this time though Tom probably wasn't. If he did Wyatt could have - or at least should have - hauled him off to jail.
Now with both Ike and Tom not feeling their best, outnumbered, and with the city marshal and his deputies (not to mention Doc) considerably irritated with them, it's possible they would have gotten the heck out of town. Or at least that's what they should have done.
But then Ike's brother Billy and Tom's brother Frank happened to ride into town.
Suddenly the odds had evened out.
Like everything else about the Gunfight at the OK Corral, there's at least two mutually exclusive versions why Billy and Frank came into Tombstone on October 26, 1881. One story has it that after Ike and Tom got buffaloed they sent a telegram to Billy and Frank telling them to come on into town. With the sides evened up the cowboys could now clean up the Earps and Doc with no trouble.
It doesn't take much figuring to realize that's not very likely. After all, Western Union didn't have direct access to the Clanton and McLaury ranches back in 1881. And since Billy and Frank showed up just an hour or so after Ike and Tom got clobbered, there just wasn't the time for the telegrams to go flying out from Tombstone to summon Billy and Frank. Even with an added surcharge it's unlikely Western Union could have sent two of its employees to chase them down before they got into town. So when Billy and Frank checked into the Grand Hotel, they certainly had no idea what was going on.
Actually Frank (like Tom) had some business to transact, and Billy probably came in to help Ike haul back the supplies. And no doubt they figured if Tom and Ike were in town having a good time, drinking, gambling, and visiting the sporting ladies, so could they. Of course, by this time Tom and Ike weren't really having such a good time.
As luck would have it, the first thing Frank and Billy did was bump into Doc Holliday. You should know by now that Doc would immediately start cussin' Billy and Frank out, call them sons-of-[guns] of cowboys, and tell them to get out their guns and go to work.
Nope, not this time. All Doc did was walk up to Billy and in a most friendly manner shake his hand.
"How are you?" asked the world's most inexplicable gun-toting dentist with a cheery smile.
Finding Doc Holliday acting pleasant must have really shaken Frank up. He decided to have a drink.
As Frank stepped to the bar, a young cowboy named Billy Allen sidled up. He asked Frank if he had heard about the trouble his brother and Ike were having and added that Tom had gotten smacked on the head by Wyatt Earp.
"What did he hit Tom for?" Frank asked.
Billy said he didn't know.
"I will get the boys out of town," Frank said. "We won't drink."
At least that's the way Billy Allen told it. Earp Champions are quick to label him as a cowboy "partisan", and are convinced the story of a subdued Frank wanting to avoid trouble is a dastardly lie from beginning to end. The Earp Detractors point out the story was delivered under oath and is proof that Frank, Tom, Billy, and Ike were doing everything they could to avoid a confrontation with the bullying, arrogant, and murderous Earps.
So why, the Earp Champions ask smugly, did Frank and Billy immediately troop over to a gun shop and begin to stock up on cartridges? That was a funny thing to do if they wanting to get out of town in a hurry. But apparently that's what they did, and a lot of people saw them.
Normally a group of cowboys in a gun shop wouldn't attract much attention (Tom and Ike had joined them by then). But people tend to pay more attention to such things when two of the men had been slapped upside the head by the city law officers. And when one had been wandering around all morning rather ineffectually looking to "open the ball" with half the city police force, people really sit up and take notice.
And remember, despite what you see on movies and television, most people did not, repeat NOT, walk around the western towns visibly armed. So a pretty good crowd developed as Billy and Frank stuffed bullets into their gunbelts. Included were not only the sundry worthies and loafers about town, but also Frank McLaury's horse who with all the others had walked up on the sidewalk to have a peek.
On a television show what would happen now is one of the guys on the "other side" would walk up and try to start a fight. Or at least try to get the other fellows goat. That shouldn't happen in real life, but it did happen here: Wyatt Earp came walking by.
And what he saw riled lawmen's instincts to the core. Flagrant violation of the city ordinances! Sheer effrontery on the part of the lawless cowboys who should have been spending their time at his faro game rather than thumbing their nose at the law of the land! As a lawman whose jurisdiction included the whole of the Oriental Saloon, he had to take action.
But he didn't walk up and buffalo Tom and Billy and haul them in for carrying firearms in town (which he could have done). Instead he saw there was a far more heinous crime in progress.
That is, Frank's horse was standing on the sidewalk. This was sort of a nineteenth century equivalent to double parking. His law and order instincts taxed to the utmost (and also to irritate Frank a little), Wyatt took hold of Frank's horse and led him back to the street.
Saloonkeeper Robert Hatch had seen Wyatt go to the gunshop. He knew the McLaurys and the Clantons were there too and hurried away to find Virgil. The townspeople were no longer amused at what was going on and were getting decidedly nervous.
"For [gosh] sake," Hatch said when he found Virgil. "Hurry down there to the gunshop, for they are all down there, and Wyatt is all alone! They are liable to kill him before you get there!"
But all that happened was Frank came out and told Wyatt to leave his horse alone.
"You will have to get this horse off the sidewalk," replied Wyatt. "It's against the ordinances." And having made his point (whatever that was), he went on his way.
After the Clantons and McLaurys left the shop, they walked down the street and over to the OK Corral. Depending whose side you're on, you can either believe they were plotting to ambush the Earps or doing their best to quietly leave town. As a legal ruling was later to state, "witnesses of credibility" would swear to both.
That's one of the problems with the Gunfight at the OK Corral: there were few objective and impartial witnesses. Most everyone involved had an ax to grind and would have done almost anything to get the other fellows over a barrel. This is a tradition, by the way, that is maintained to this day by modern Western historians and writers, especially if they write about the Earps. Those boys (and gals) can get downright nasty with each other. So who do you believe?
What we need here is someone who had never met nor heard of any of the Earps, the Clantons, or the McLaurys, but who nevertheless had overheard important and incriminating discussions of those involved. You'd also want this same person to be an eyewitness to the whole shebang that followed. Naturally, you would also prefer someone who would have absolutely no motive to tell anything except the whole unvarnished truth about what he saw and heard.
Now if you guess that that would mean we have to find someone who didn't even live in Tombstone and who would by some amazing stroke of luck just happen to stroll by when people were talking about blasting the other guys away, you'd be perfectly correct. But if you feel that you might as well wish for a million tax free dollars while you're at it, oddly enough you'd be wrong. There was, in fact, someone who fit this bill perfectly.
His name was H. F. Sills and he was a railroad engineer who was stopping over at Tombstone. He had never met nor even knew of the Earps, the Clantons or the McLaurys. He knew nothing of any of the political bickering and factionalism or about the "cowboy" or "tin-horn gambler" threats and probably couldn't have cared less.
After getting into town, he headed down Allen Street and passed the OK Corral. As he walked by he saw a bunch of men standing off to the side and talking rather loudly. Normally, he wouldn't have thought much of it except he heard them say they were going to get someone named Virgil Earp and kill him on sight.
Mr. Sills walked on and asked a bystander who Virgil Earp was. He was told he was the town marshal. In fact he happened to be standing just a ways off and was pointed out. Sills walked up to him.
"Is your name Earp?" he asked.
Virgil said it was.
"Are you the marshal?" Sills again asked.
Virgil said he was.
Mr. Sills then told Virgil what he had heard and repeated that the cowboys said they would "Kill them all."
If Virgil thought that all had to deal with was Ike shooting off his mouth, he now began to think the situation was a bit more serious. So he went to the Wells Fargo office and picked up a shotgun. About this time a number of other people had approached Virgil and offered to help.
By now the cowboys had walked on through the OK Corral, using it as a shortcut from Allen to Fremont street. The next we hear of them they were all standing in the vacant lot between Fly's boarding house and another boarding house owned by William Harwood. Fly's boarding house, of course, was where Doc Holliday lived.
What can you conclude when you have a group of men who had just been overheard plotting to kill the city marshal and were now waiting by the abode of the man who they think started it all? It would seem pretty clear now that by this time the Clantons and McLaurys had decided to postpone their return trip home and really had decided to blast Doc and the Earps.
With the motives and intentions now so evident and the good guys and bad guys at last so clearly identified, its a shame to have to muddy everything up again. Actually, it appears that rather than lay in wait for the Earps and Doc, Frank simply turned right and walked two doors to Bauer's Meat Market. He started talking with the butcher on duty, James Kehoe, about some money he owed the firm. Which was why Frank came to town in the first place.
And to REALLY muddy things up, now Johnny Behan decided to help out. Remember Johnny Behan? The sheriff of the county who had tried to nail Doc for stage robbery by getting his girl friend plastered? The Johnny Behan who couldn't stand Wyatt, not only because Wyatt was about ten times the lawman Johnny was, but also because Wyatt had snitched Johnny's girlfriend?
Yep, that's the Johnny Behan we're talking about.
Somehow, the same Johnny Behan - good old affable, smooth talking, philandering Johnny - had managed somehow to have absolutely no idea what was going on. He had remained blissfully ignorant of Doc and Ike's altercation the night before, Ike trooping around town all morning with a rifle and pistol, not to mention Ike getting buffaloed by Virgil and hauled into court. And of course, Johnny had completely missed any news of Tom getting his head thumped by Wyatt. To miss all this in a town the size of Tombstone takes rare skill.
Finally despite his best efforts, Johnny heard something about what everyone else had been talking about for the last eight to twelve hours. He was in the barber shop getting a shave when someone came in and said there was trouble brewing between the Earps and the cowboys. Johnny asked the barber to hurry along.
Johnny's version (of course) tends to paint the Earps a bit different from the upstanding law officers intent on preserving the peace. According to Johnny, he found Virgil on the street and asked what was going on. Virgil (again so says Johnny) replied that there were a lots of sons-of-[guns] around town that were looking for a fight. Johnny told Virgil (so he claimed) he should disarm them. Virgil replied (once again according to Johnny) that he wouldn't do that. He'd kill them on sight.
Virgil in HIS version of the conversation said that he was going to disarm them and asked Johnny to help him. He said Johnny refused, saying they'd get killed.
So it's easy to blow Johnny's tale off as just another Johnny-I -hate-the-Earps story. Unfortunately (for Virgil) a by-stander, P. H. Fellehy, overheard heard Johnny and Virgil talking.
"Those men have made their threats," Fellehy remembered Virgil saying. "I will not arrest them, but kill them on sight." Some think this proves Fellehy was a member of the cowboy faction. Actually he ran a laundry.
So the best guess is Virgil probably did make this (for him) most uncharacteristic reply. But by this time Virgil was so fed up with Ike and his friends that he probably would have liked to plug them all, if for no other reason just to shut them up. But as you'll see, Virgil was still a lawman, and his rhetoric here was a more extreme than his actions.
Johnny hadn't quite given up, though. After all, he was the sheriff. Since he was more friendly with the McLaurys and Clantons than the Earps, he thought maybe he could make things simmer down if he talked to them alone. So he headed off to find the cowboys.
But Virgil had finally decided enough was enough. He managed to collect Morgan and Wyatt and decided to go arrest the Clantons and McLaurys. He probably wouldn't have been too sorry to throw in a few more buffaloings either.
As luck would have it after they started down the street Doc came up. With the weather so cold and windy, his tuberculosis was acting up and he was walking with a cane.
"Doc, this is our fight," Virgil said. Doc really had no business mixing in here but as usual he managed to make trouble.
"That's a [heck] of a thing to say to me," Doc grumbled.
Virgil later claimed he deputized Doc on the spot. This wasn't a smart move on Virgil's part, but maybe he just realized that Doc, being Doc, wasn't going to go away if asked. However it was done, Virgil let Doc come along. He handed his shotgun to Doc and took Doc's cane. Doc stuck the gun under his overcoat.
The Earps headed up Fourth Street and turned the corner at Fremont. There they saw Johnny with the cowboys. They headed on down the street.
Back by Fly's boarding house, Johnny had been trying rather ineffectually to arrest the whole bunch. He told Tom and Frank they had to give up their arms or get out of town. Tom said he was unarmed. Johnny checked him out (but not thoroughly he would later admit) and found nothing. Well, he couldn't very well arrest a man for carrying arms when he wasn't carrying any, could he? Chalk up this victory to Tom.
He said the same thing to Billy Clanton. Billy said he was just leaving town.
Dang! That really threw a monkey wrench into things. You were allowed to carry guns if "in good faith" you were entering or leaving town. So what could Johnny do?
"Well, if your leaving town, all right," said the ever firm and in command Johnny.
He told Ike to give up his guns. Ike also said he was unarmed. Johnny checked out Ike. Again, no guns.
Frank was still talking to James Kehoe in front of Bauer's Meat Market.
"Frank, I want you to lay off your arms while you're in town," Johnny said.
"Johnny," Frank replied, "as long as people in town act so, I will not give up my arms."
"Well, I want you to go up to the Sheriff's Office and lay off your arms."
"You need not take me," said Frank, "I'll go." Johnny was probably surprised at his effectiveness.
Just then someone called out, "Here comes the Earp boys!" Johnny turned and saw them heading his way. He told Frank and his friends to stay put.
He headed on to meet the Earps.
In Bauer's Market at this time, Martha King had been trying to get the clerk to wait on her but everyone was standing looking out the windows. She didn't know the Earps but she did know Doc (whom she called Mr. Holliday). As the group walked by on the sidewalk she heard one of the Earps (Morgan, actually) speak to Doc.
"Let them have it," Morgan said.
"All right," answered Doc.
Mrs. King, showing quite a bit more sense than the men, hurried toward the back of the store.
Johnny had now walked up to meet the Earps and told them not to go any further. That he was there for disarming the group. Fed up with Johnny as well, Virgil didn't say anything and just kept going.
Both Wyatt and Virgil would remember that Johnny had said he had ALREADY disarmed everyone. So Wyatt putt his gun back in his pocket. Virgil's gun was also out of sight and he only held Doc's cane.
Morgan though had his gun in his hand and Doc was holding Virgil's shotgun under his coat.
Johnny Behan was no Wyatt Earp. If it had been Wyatt trying to handle things, everyone would have been lying with sore noggins on the streets or would have been hauled off to jail by the scruff of the neck . As it is Johnny just called out:
"For [gosh] sake, don't go down there or you will be killed!"
The Earps moved on. Johnny kept following telling them to stop. "Expostulating" with them, was the way Johnny put it.
Whatever Johnny did say, both Virgil and Wyatt were expecting to see the cowboys without guns. But instead when they got to the vacant lot, Frank and Billy still had their pistols and Frank and Tom had rifles in the scabbards of their saddles.
Doc walked up to Frank and put his gun to Frank's stomach. He then stepped back a foot or two.
Wyatt looked at the group and shouted, "You sons-of-[guns] have been looking for a fight and now you shall have it."
Virgil called out, "I have come to arrest and disarm you!"
Then finally, at last, something happened that everyone present would all swear actually happened: Virgil barked out one final command.
"Throw up your hands!"
A historian once remarked that "The Gunfight at the OK Corral" sounds a lot better than "The Gunfight on the Vacant Half of Lot 2 of Tombstone City Block 17 Between Camillus Fly's Boarding House and Photography Shop and the House Owned by William Harwood." It fits the movie marquees a lot better too.
But that's where it really happened.
Of course all the western writers and historians know the Gunfight at the OK Corral didn't happen at the OK Corral. And it's actually an indication that you're among the Western intellegenisia if you know that.
Some historians have even been known to try to impress members of the opposite sex with this. In a singles bar, they'll walk up, and say, "Hey, babe, did you know the Gunfight at the OK Corral really didn't happen at the OK Corral? It was on the Vacant Half of Lot 2 of Tombstone City Block 17 Between Camillus Fly's Boarding House and Photography Shop and the House Owned by William Harwood." A lot of historians go home alone, too.
And in their books they always explain it didn't happen there. Then they go ahead and call it the Gunfight at the OK Corral.
Actually one writer had a neat way around this. He called it the Gunfight NEAR the OK Corral.
Of course, the whole point of writing (and reading) a 600 page history book is you hope to find out what really happened. And so it can come as a surprise to find out that, nobody, but nobody really knows what happened at (or near or close to) the OK Corral. And that includes the guys who were there.
But it's still fun trying to figure it all out.
And to do that, professional historians will tell us, you need to go to "contemporary sources". None of that "oral history" jazz where someone tells what happened fifty years after the event. And no "secondary sources" (which are books written by other writers). Nope, you need to know what the people said right then and there.
So what you do is read everything that was written at the time, be it newspapers, court records, letters, and diaries. Then toss out (or at least "reconcile") the parts that don't agree with each other. Then what's left over will most likely be reasonably close to what happened.
The trouble with the Gunfight at [sort of] the OK Corral is that other than Virgil calling out "Throw up your hands!", nobody can really agree on anything. Still all is not lost. If you DO wade through all that stuff, what you get is better than the truth. You end up with TWO accounts: one tailor made for the Earp Champions and the other for the Earp Detractors. And then you can spend the next hundred or so years arguing about it.
Which is really a lot more fun than finding out what really happened.
So first let's look at Version 1. In a nutshell it's this:
When Virgil told the Clantons and McLaurys to "Throw up your hands!" the cowboys did as they were told. Then the Earps blew them away.
Naturally this is preferred by the Earp Detractors.
Now on to Version 2.
When Virgil told the Clantons and McLaurys to "Throw up your hands!" the cowboys drew their guns and began to shoot. Then the Earps, in self-defense, blew them away.
And is what happened according to the Earp Champions.
Now let's check out Version 1 in more detail. This comes to you courtesy of Johnny Behan, Ike Clanton, and their friends with a little help from some of the by-standers.
When the Earps pushed on by Johnny Behan, all the Clantons and McLaurys were wanting to do was leave town. But when Virgil walked up and called out for the cowboys to throw up their hands, they, honest and law abiding stockmen and ranchers, did so. They put up no resistance and all were willing to do as the city marshal commanded.
And young Billy Clanton, a lad of a scant nineteen summers who had never been in any difficulties (other than trying to put the moves on Josie a few times), not only raised his hands but also called out to the Earp party that he did not intend to resist.
"Don't shoot me!" he said. "I don't want to fight!"
And Tom, the stalwart citizen who had willingly checked his gun when he came into town (remember Frank was the one who stole the government mules), opened his coat to show he was unarmed.
"I haven't got anything, boys!" he called. "I am disarmed!"
So with a group of men standing before him, either unarmed or with their hands raised and begging for their lives, Doc Holliday, ever the gambler, suddenly liked the odds.
So he shot Frank in the belly.
The next shot - which occurred almost at the same time - was from Morgan. It hit Billy in the chest.
Keeping tabs of who shot who in a gunfight can not only be difficult but also hazardous to your health. But Ike swore Morgan shot at Billy. He knew this, he later said, because he saw Morgan's pistol pointed within two to three feet of Billy's "bosom" (Ike really did seem to have a thing about bosoms) and he saw the gun go off.
At this point, as Johnny Behan later said, the fighting became "general."
Frank, in a move that could have gotten him in trouble with the local chapter of the SPCA if he had lived longer, tried to take cover behind his horse. Frank's horse, being no fool, got the heck out of there. So Frank soon found himself looking down the business end of Doc's forty-five.
Tom decided to follow the lead of his older brother and tried to keep Billy's horse between him and the bullets. And Billy's horse, like Frank's, wasn't having any of it. The horse skedaddled out of there, leaving Tom along with Frank standing in front of the three Earps and Doc.
Although unarmed, Ike was determined to stop the fight. So after the first shots had been fired, he ran up and grabbed Wyatt. After a bit of a tussle, (where according to Ike, Wyatt tried to plug him) Ike took off and ran off toward the OK Corral. No one saw him for a while after this.
After Doc's bullet hit Billy in the "bosom" (to use Ike's word), he drew his gun and was immediately hit in the wrist. He switched the gun to his left hand and started to shoot. According to Johnny this was after eight or ten shots had been fired by the Earps and Doc. As Billy slid to the ground he kept shooting.
Johnny Behan, unlike Tom or Ike, was armed. And he acted exactly as you might expect. He and a young friend of the cowboys, Billy Clairborne, ran for cover.
Frank had by now moved out into the street. Although acting confused and disoriented (it's hard to concentrate with a bullet in your guts), he was able to draw his gun and take a shot at Doc. The bullet skinned Doc's hip.
"I have got you now!" Frank called.
'Your a good one if you have!" Doc replied, who decided that even during a gunfight it was a gentlemanly courtesy to pay a man a compliment.
One of the bystanders, R. F. Coleman saw that Doc had been grazed.
"You have got it now!" he called.
For a man who was known to be quarrelsome, Doc seemed to be able to find plenty of time to make polite conversation during his gunfights.
"I am shot right through!" he shouted back.
Morgan had been shooting at Frank and Billy and likely hit one or both. But then a bullet struck his right shoulder and ripped along his back. He fell down but got back up and continued shooting.
Wyatt and Virgil also had gotten their guns into action. Virgil fired (so he said) once at Frank and three times at Billy. Then Virgil got hit in the calf, probably by Billy. Virgil, like Morgan, was able to get back up and keep on fighting.
By this time Doc had pretty near emptied his pistol at Billy and Frank. Doc was a man who never liked to leave a job half finished so he took Virgil's shotgun and blasted Tom in the side. Tom staggered out in the street and then a bullet from Morgan hit him in the head. He managed to make it to the corner of Third and Fremont.
At least Frank was no longer acting dizzy and confused. Actually he wasn't doing much of anything except laying on the other side of the street. Like his brother, he had a bullet in his head.
But Billy still kept firing from the ground with his back propped up against the Harwood House. Then too weak to hold his gun, he fell back.
The gunfight was over. Three law abiding and hard working ranchers had been brutally murdered by a bunch of opportunistic tin-horn gamblers.
So said Johnny, Ike, and their friends.
Now on to Version 2. Courtesy of the Earps and Company.
After being told by Johnny that he had disarmed the Clantons and McLaurys, Virgil and Wyatt put their guns away. Being conscientious law officers, they would only use "minimum force" even when trying to subdue a treacherous gang of murderous thugs bent on mayhem.
So they were mighty surprised when they saw the cowboys still had their guns. Virgil, acting judiciously and with he full authority of the law, lifted up Doc's cane.
"Throw up your hands," he said. "I have come to disarm you. I want your guns."
Seeing that Virgil and Wyatt didn't have their guns in hand, Billy and Frank, those dastardly cow thieves, went for theirs. Virgil claimed he heard the clicks as they drew back the hammers.
But even now, the Responsible Virgil was still trying to avoid a fight.
"Hold on! " he called. "I don't want that!"
But it was too late. Billy and Frank, criminals to the core, were drawing their guns against the city marshal and his deputies.
Wyatt, veteran of a thousand brawls and faro games, thought fast. Knowing that Frank was a better shot than Billy, he drew his gun and shot at Frank, finding his mark. At almost the same time, Billy fired at Wyatt and missed.
So the first two shots were fired by Wyatt Earp, a fully authorized lawman, and Billy Clanton, who was as one Earp Champion called him "a hardened young fighter" who would never beg for his life.
Ike ran up to Wyatt and grabbed him. And Wyatt could be as loquacious as Doc while bullets were whizzing around his head.
"The fight has commenced," he said. "Go to fighting or get away."
He then pushed Ike away and Ike took off.
Tom was trying to grab the rifle in Billy's saddle, but couldn't reach it. Using the horse as a shield he moved toward the street while he fired his pistol (!) twice at Virgil.
Yep, according to Virgil and Wyatt, Tom had a gun. It could have been one of his bullets that hit Morgan.
At this point the two versions begin to agree. Both sides were now shooting at each other, the horses were taking off down the street, and the by-standers and the county sheriff were scattering for cover. And after anywhere from 10 to 30 seconds (depending on how you count), Tom and Frank ended up with bullets in their heads and Billy was lying on the ground shot in the guts.
But the forces of justice and righteousness had finally triumphed. And one of the worst criminal gangs in the history of the nation had been worsted.
At least that's how the Earps told it.
Once the shooting was over, though, the townspeople began to take over. A group of men ran up to Frank who was lying in Fremont Street. Doc Holliday was one of them.
"That son of a [gun] has shot me," Doc said, "and I mean to kill him." Since Frank already had a bullet in his brain, the other men were able to reason with Doc that it wasn't really necessary.
A group of men also gathered around Tom. One of them, Tom Keefe, a carpenter who had earlier seen Wyatt buffalo Tom, spoke to the rest.
"Let's pick this man up and take him in the house before he dies," he said. So they took him to the house on the corner. For all practical purposes Tom was done in. In a few more minutes, he WAS done in. Frank too was carried in the house. He didn't have to wait a few minutes.
Billy however was still conscious. And he still had his gun.
Camillus Fly, the photographer, came out of his house with a rifle. He called to Robert Hatch who earlier had warned Virgil when Wyatt was at the gunshop.
"Take than man's pistol or I will kill him," Fly said.
Hatch saw Billy was still trying to cock his gun.
"Go and get it yourself if you want it," he called. Fly went over and took the gun from Billy.
"Give me some more cartridges" Billy muttered.
Once the shooting was over, Johnny came out of Fly's gallery. By golly, he was sheriff and had to do his duty. And he did it as effectively as ever.
He went up to Wyatt.
"I will have to arrest you," he said.
"No one could arrest me now," Wyatt said. Then he decided it was all Johnny's fault.
"You threw me off my guard," he said. "You have deceived me. You told me that you had disarmed them."
After a bit of a "Did not!/Did too!" conversation, Johnny let Wyatt go on about his business. Which was helping Virgil and Morgan.
Both were wounded pretty seriously. Virgil was shot in the calf and Morgan's shoulder wound resulted in a chipped vertebrae. Now in the movies leg or shoulder wounds are mere annoyances. The hero wraps a hankie around his leg or puts his arm in a sling and gets along hale and hearty as ever. But in 1881, when the most potent antibiotic was whiskey, a lot of men died from shoulder and leg wounds. Virgil and Morgan were loaded up into wagons and taken to their homes.
Billy had been carried into the house where Tom and Frank were stretched out. Billy though was still kicking. Literally.
Again when a guy gets plugged in the movies and "isn't going to make it", he'll still have plenty of time to deliver his lines. Oh, he may cough and gasp a bit, but he'll still say he's sorry for what he did and how he hopes his mother won't find out about what happened and to tell Nellie he won't be around to help on the ranch. And usually he asks to have his boots taken off. Then he lifts his head high enough so it can dramatically fall back to let the audience know he's finally dead.
But since the first Western movie was still twenty years in the future, and the first one about Wyatt Earp was over fifty years off, Billy didn't know the script. He just played it by ear.
So rather than giving long teary speeches, Billy was "hallooing" with the pain and "turning and twisting and kicking in every manner." You never see this in the movies, but you do see it if someone really gets gut shot.
One of the men told Billy he couldn't live.
"They have murdered me," Billy said. "I've been murdered. Chase the crowd away from the door and give me some air."
A doctor was called and Billy was given two doses of morphine. He lived less than fifteen minutes.
"Drive the crowd away," he said at the end.
One of the reasons Westerns have been so popular is they always give you a lot of action. The good guy rolls into town, blasts the bad guys, and rides off into the sunset. But in Arizona in 1881 (and now) if three people got gunned down on a city street you had to divert at least some attention to things like statutes, judicial proceedings, and inquiries.
So if you ignore Johnny's attempt to arrest Wyatt (and you might as well), the first cog in the judicial wheel began to turn. Dr. Harry M. Matthews, the county coroner, called an inquiry as the law required.
Eight witnesses testified. And although some were pretty impartial you have to admit it seemed a bit slanted in favor of the Clantons and McLaurys. The two main witnesses were Johnny Behan (who had jumped into Fly's Gallery once the shooting started) and Ike Clanton (who wasn't even there for most of the fight). Also called was Billy Clairborne who according to those in the know was a cowboy partisan.
They all agreed with Version 1. The Earps shot down unarmed men who were in the act of surrendering.
But none of the somewhat more impartial witness could tell who shot first. Either they weren't around when the first shots were fired or they were trying to get the heck out of there when things started to look nasty. And none heard Billy say he didn't want to fight or Tom say he was disarmed.
Evidently Dr. Matthews thought it a bit unusual that it was only the witnesses with an Earp ax to grind that were brave enough to stick around and take down verbatim dialog. So in the end he didn't pass judgment on whether the killings were justified or not. He simply reported that Billy Clanton and Tom and Frank McLaury had died of gunshot wounds. And the shots were fired by Wyatt, Virgil, and Morgan Earp and by John Henry "Doc" Holliday.
The Tombstone Nugget (which didn't like the Earps) said they were pleased to learn that. After all people may have thought the cowboys had been struck by lightning or stung to death by hornets.
Opinion was decided mixed. If you listened to Wyatt talk about it a decade or so later, once the fight was over he was surrounded by a whooping, hollering, cheering crowd of well wishers who were glad to see the forces of good had triumphed over those of evil. But no one else at the time noticed that.
And dissenting opinions weren't just from "the cowboy" faction and anti-Earp newspapers. In keeping with the custom of the times Billy, Frank and Tom were put on display in the hardware store. The sentiments of the owner there were scarcely pro-Earp. Instead a sign was hung up with the huge letters that blared out "Murdered in the Streets of Tombstone.
So was born the first Chapter of Honorable Earp Detractors. And it's been going strong ever since.
But when you look back at it, there was at least one verifiable, documented, and positive milestone to come out of the whole affair. And it was a big one. Virtually unheard of at the time and whether due to through luck, fortitude, sunspots, or a shift in the earth's electromagnetic field is anyone's guess.
But Johnny Behan, yes Johnny Behan, Sheriff of Cochise County, Good Old ("I am in charge") Johnny, had finally gone out and, by golly, actually made an genuine, bonafide arrest. Not only one but two.
With Johnny, of course, you might expect him to have hauled in a couple of Sunday School marms or maybe some denizens of Tombstone's elementary school.
Nope, actually it was a bit more substantial than that: Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday were now sitting in the Tombstone city jail. And charged with murder.
It was a big day for Johnny.
Let's repeat it once more, all together.
When there was a gunfight back in the days of the Old West, the winner did NOT, repeat, did NOT simply holster his gun, hop onto his horse, and ride off into the sunset. Then as now there were these pesky little things called laws, courts, and judicial proceedings.
And the law covered everyone. And that included law officers and their deputies.
In some ways it was even more stringent than today. Nowadays if a policeman fires his gun and plugs someone, there will be an inquiry. But if it is clear the assailant was armed and was likely to shoot, the matter will usually proceed no further than an internal police investigation.
Not so in the late 1800's. Without internal investigation departments or citizen review committees, an officer was likely to be arrested - often by one of his own deputies - and held for trial.
It's particularly instructive to consider the case of John Selman. Around 1890, John was constable in El Paso. In the late 1870's he had also been a cold blooded murderer during the Lincoln County War where he had once killed an unarmed fourteen year old boy so he could take the kid's horses. And like many cold blooded murderers of the old West, he naturally turned to law enforcement in his mature years.
One night while John was walking his beat, a former Texas Ranger named Bass Outlaw (that was his real name) got tanked up and decided to have some fun shooting up one of El Paso's many sporting houses. When John tried to make him stop, Bass pulled a gun and took a shot at John's head. Although temporarily blinded by the flash, John managed to return the fire, killing Bass.
Today this would almost certainly never have gone beyond an internal inquiry. But here John was arrested. The facts were pretty clear though, and the judge instructed the jury there was no evidence to convict. So John got off. But the point is he was arrested FIRST. THEN he got off.
And this wasn't the last time Old John would face trial - and as a law officer. A little later John was again on his beat and he walked into the Acme Saloon where John Wesley Hardin was playing poker dice. John pulled his gun and shot Wes in the back of the head, swearing it was self defense. After Wes was on the floor, John pumped a few more slugs into him for good measure. Of course, you just can't be too careful when it comes to self defense.
Again he was arrested, this time by his own son, John Jr. who was also a city policeman. The facts being a bit ambiguous, the jury was deadlocked on the verdict. Before he could be retried, though, John Sr. was killed by ANOTHER law officer, George Scarborough several months later. As you guess by now, George was arrested and found not guilty. And yes, George was later gunned down himself. This time (at least) it wasn't by a fellow policeman, but by an actual bonafide bad guy.
So when Wyatt and Doc were the only ones standing after the Gunfight at the OK Corral, it's not surprising that they were arrested. What is surprising that it took as long as it did.
Well, maybe not. Johnny Behan was the sheriff.
How Johnny hauled Wyatt in is anybody's guess. You'll remember that Johnny tried to detain Wyatt once before and didn't have much luck. So when he did finally arrest Wyatt (and Doc, too) it's a sure bet he had some help.
Now the court system in Arizona at that time was actually pretty sophisticated and more or less followed the modern procedures. If an arrest was made, the accused were taken to a judge, who could either allowed or deny bail. Then there would be a preliminary hearing. The judge would then either remand the case to trial or rule there was insufficient evidence for further proceedings. Also grand juries convened from time to time to go over the docket, and they could issue indictments. If they wanted to, they could even overrule a judge's earlier dismissal.
So Johnny finally arrested Wyatt and Doc. They appeared before Judge Wells Spicer, who was the Justice of the Peace. Virgil and Morgan were too seriously wounded, although in a surprisingly modern move, Virgil was suspended as city marshal. The judge listened to the prosecutors and defense attorneys and set bond. Both Wyatt and Doc had no problem raising the money and were set free.
The Earp Detractors say they should have stayed in jail. After all, there was considerable testimony that Wyatt, Doc, and the rest had just gunned down three men who were in the act of surrendering. But of course, they say, the judge was Wyatt's buddy.
Well, maybe, but the bonds posted were pretty steep: $10,000 in 1881 currency. We're talking big bucks there. And it was pretty certain that Wyatt and the rest weren't going to run off.
Now the next step was to check on the evidence. Although Judge Spicer didn't have the authority to preside at a full trial, he could rule whether there was enough evidence to proceed further. Which he did.
In looking at the court records of the days of the old West, it's sometimes hard to tell if a proceeding was actually a trial or just the first pass hearing. Modern attorneys like to say that's because the "layman" (which includes most historians and humorous writers) can't tell the difference. No doubt there is some truth to this, but it's also true that the judges back then might have been a little vague on the matter too.
But what is clear is that the proceedings that began on October 31, 1881 in the case of Arizona vs. Wyatt, Doc, Virgil, and Morgan were a hearing and not a trial. But it had pretty much everything you want: a judge, prosecutors, defense attorneys, defendants, witnesses, inconsistent testimony, faulty memories, evasive answers, and out and out perjury. And you can add sex if you count Ike talking about all the "bosoms".
Now Judge Spicer WAS a friend of Wyatt's and Virgil's, no doubt about it. But it also appears he was a man of pretty high integrity and knew the laws. And he could put personal feelings aside. Once the honorable Alder Randall, one of Tombstone's sleazier mayors (whom Judge Spicer couldn't stand) was charged with malfeasance. There's no doubt the mayor was involved in shady deals and abusing his office, but Judge Spicer pointed out what was done was not a malfeasance but a nonfeasance. And furthermore the territorial legislature had forgotten to make either one of them a crime. So somewhat bitterly Judge Spicer let the mayor go.
But it's also clear that when the issues were cloudy he'd give the benefit of doubt to the elements of law and order. Usually that meant those-who-are-not-the-cowboys. And since he was a city judge (not county) he could give a wee bit more benefit of the doubt to the city officers. Which happened to be Virgil, Morgan, Wyatt, and (arguably) Doc.
One of the first witnesses called was Billy Allen, the same fellow who told Frank McLaury about Tom getting buffaloed by Wyatt. He said he saw how the Earps and Doc walked up to the Clantons and McLaurys and blew them away in a cold blooded act of murder. He was followed by Billy Clairborne, Wes Fuller, and later in the trial by Johnny Behan, who all said the same thing.
The defense attorneys were allowed to cross examine the witnesses. And as modern lawyers do, they spent a fair amount of time attacking the credibility of the witnesses rather than dealing with the facts. They'd ask how much the witness had been drinking, had they ever been arrested, and how the heck if they were so smart they stood literally counting the shots while the bullets were flying around their heads. They even asked Billy Clairbone how much taller he had grown in the last year. Billy said nearly two feet.
The lawyers also liked to lay in loaded questions of the "have you stopped beating your wife" genre. Did you see Tom McLaury with a gun, one might ask. No, the witness would respond, he did not. Well, do you know where he got the gun? This sort of thing.
Usually they didn't get very far with that. There was a lot of objecting by the opposing attorneys on the grounds that a question "assumed facts not yet established or statements not testified to by the witness". Judge Spicer usually sustained such objections whatever side tried it. When he did overrule an objection (which he also did frequently) the attorneys would ask for his reasons. Judge Spicer, citing the law in polite legal language, would tell them to take a hike.
Thirty witnesses were called. But when you get down to it, four were pretty much what decided the case: Ike Clanton, H. F. Sills (the railroad engineer), Addie Bourland (a dressmaker), and Wyatt Earp.
The attorneys for the prosecution figured their star witness would be Ike Clanton. After all, he had been there (sort of) and he had seen (and participated) in most of what led up to the fight.
But that was a pretty bad move. Ike didn't come off too well. For one thing he swore on the Bible (literally) that he had NOT been out gunning for the Earps. Now the whole town, for crying out loud, had SEEN him wandering the streets for six or more hours toting his rifle and telling everyone he was going to have it out with the Earps and Doc. But good old Ike steadfastly maintained the contrary. Not only did he contradict virtually ever witness who had seen him out and packing his guns, it went against what Ike testified himself at the coroner's inquiry. There he had said he hadn't made any worse threats against the Earps than they made against him. Which was the one of the few true statements made by either side.
As far as what happened at the gunfight, Ike stuck by the claim Billy and Tom and Frank were trying to surrender. As usual he did mention a "bosom" when he described Morgan shooting at Billy.
But where Ike really ran into trouble is when he gave his version of the stage hold up. This was deemed relevant since it's what precipitated Doc's and Ike's quarrel. Which was, after all, what caused the gunfight in the first place.
Well, Ike said, he knew the whole story about that. He didn't want to tell it, but by golly, here he was under oath. And as a loyal American he had sworn to tell the truth. So be it!
So with an enthusiasm that belied his stated reluctance, Ike then detailed how the stage robbery had been engineered by none other than (you guessed it) - Wyatt Berry Stapp Earp. Oh, his brothers and Doc were involved too, but that ne'er-do-well Wyatt was the brains behind it all.
But what about Leonard, Crane, and Head? And Wyatt's attempts to capture them?
Oh, that was nothing more than a ruse, Ike said. You see, Wyatt had "piped off" a thousand or so dollars from the strong box BEFORE the stage made its run. So the stage robbery itself was really just a diversion to cover up the theft. Yep, Wyatt was in cahoots with the stage robbers.
So how did Ike know all this?
Why, Wyatt told him, of course. The "deal" between him and Wyatt to capture the stage robbers was really an attempt to get them to some secluded area where Wyatt could murder them so they couldn't squeal. Naturally, Ike said, he would have nothing to do with such a dastardly cowardly deed. But rest assured, the stage robbery was all due to Wyatt Earp.
So swore Ike Clanton, and some people believe it to this day.
The defense attorneys had a field day during cross examination. For one thing there the little discrepancy that none of the money was missing from the strong box (remember the stage never stopped). How could Wyatt have piped off the money and all the money still be there? Maybe the stage stopped on the way to Tombstone and the Earps slipped the money back without the (surviving) driver and (surviving) passengers noticing it?
Even more dubious was Ike's claim that Wyatt would have confessed all this to him. Well, said the defense, why stop there? Maybe others had confessed to Ike that they were murderers and stage robbers too. How about James Earp who spent most of his time tending bar? No? Well, maybe Marshal Williams had confessed he was a murderer and stage robber too? Hm? Judge Spicer overruled those questions, but then the defense really hadn't expected Ike to answer them anyway. When Ike left the stand he did so with dignity, but not much more.
After a few more witnesses, some who supported the Earps, some the Clantons and McLaurys, some neither, and some both, Wyatt Earp took the stand. After giving his occupation as "saloon keeper at present," he was asked to state any facts that would tend to his exculpation.
Obviously that was quite a lot. So Wyatt pulled out a sheaf of paper and began to read.
Naturally the prosecution objected. He shouldn't be allowed to give testimony from a manuscript "without limits to its relevancy" or being "subject to cross examination".
Judge Spicer overruled them and Wyatt began to read. And read. And read. And read.
A lot has been made about this. To some this is proof that Judge Spicer was totally biased in favor of the Earps. To others (and some lawyers) all this means is that the proceedings were NOT a trial, but just a preliminary hearing. And that there was nothing in the statutes that prevented this type of stuff.
That Wyatt gave a long winded speech is not in dispute. Why he escaped cross examination isn't so clear. There's nothing in the record, though, to show that the opposing attorneys went much beyond their first objection. And there's no indication that they asked for cross examination after the statement was finished.
Wyatt's version differed a bit from Ike's of course. He said (among other things) that Frank and Tom had sworn earlier they were out to kill him (unlikely), Ike had been threatening him and he was tired of it (probably true), and that it was well known to those in law enforcement that Ike was "sort of" the head of an outlaw gang (whatever that means).
As far as the stage hold up went, he took the high road and didn't even dignify Ike's claims with a comment. What he did was imply that one of those involved in the hold up was none other than - (drumroll, maestro!) - Joseph Ike Clanton!
How would Wyatt know this? Well, they often stopped at his ranch, didn't they. Even Ike admitted that, so what more proof do you need? And that was his undoing. Since Ike was "sort of" the leader of an outlaw gang, he was the perfect man to betray his comrades for a greasy, sleazy buck. And THAT's why Wyatt struck the deal with Ike to capture Leonard and his friends.
And of course no one at the hearing - not Ike, Wyatt, Johnny, or anyone else - mentioned the obvious fact that if anyone sitting in the courtroom was a friend of Billy Leonard and was tied in with the hold-up, it was Doc.
When it came to the actual gunfight, Wyatt swore that after Virgil said "Throw up your hands" Billy and Frank drew their guns and started shooting. The first two near-simultaneous shots, said Wyatt, were Billy shooting at him and he shooting at Frank. He said he believed Tom was armed and shot over the horse's back. But he seemed less sure of this and conceded Tom might not have been armed.
After ending up by handing over a written testimonial from some of the outstanding citizens of Dodge City (even if they did say so themselves), Wyatt left the stand.
By this time, though, a new member of the prosecution team signed up. And one that must have made the Earps and Doc a bit nervous. It was Will McLaury, the brother of Tom and Frank, fresh from Fort Worth where he practiced as an attorney.
Will wasn't there to handle the civil aspects of disposing of Tom and Frank's estate either. A recent widower, he had left his small children with friends and had come to Tombstone for one reason and one reason only: To make sure Wyatt, Virgil, Morgan, and Doc got strung up. "I think we can hang them," he cheerfully wrote back to his family.
Now after living a good part of his life in the big city, there was probably a lot he didn't care for when he got into Tombstone. It was pretty rustic to be sure and like in most mining towns the hotel charges and cost of living were pretty high. But at that time Fort Worth had some pretty rough places too and living there probably cost more than residing in Judge Roy Bean's hometown of Langtry.
But what Will REALLY didn't like was seeing Wyatt and Doc wandering about the streets. That the cold blooded killers of his brothers had the run of the town was too much. So using his not inconsiderable skills as an attorney (and probably his not inconsiderable bank account as well), Will put on a few legal moves that sent Doc and Wyatt back to the slammer.
Back at the hearing, one of the more important witnesses was testifying. This was Addie Bourland, a dressmaker, whose shop was across the street from the gunfight. She was pretty unbiased, but like most of the other witnesses that didn't have a particular ax to grind, she wasn't too definite about what happened. What she did say was that no one had their hands in the air when the shooting started. Judge Spicer later stopped by her house and asked her for more details. Then he recalled her to the stand and questioned her again whether she would have been able to tell if the cowboys had raised their hands. About all she could add was that she thought she would. Despite the vagueness of her answers, Judge Spicer seemed to give a lot of weight to what she said.
But it was H. F. Sills that really saved the day for Wyatt, Virgil, Morgan, and Doc. When put on the stand he told how he heard the Clantons and McLaurys threaten to kill Virgil and shoot them "all" on sight and how he warned Virgil. More to the point he testified that it really was Wyatt and Billy who fired the first shots. And keep in mind that Mr. Sills testified AFTER Wyatt.
The last point says it all for some of the Earp Champions. I mean if the most unbiased disinterested witness testified under oath that he saw Wyatt and Billy fire the first shots and that's what Wyatt had said earlier, then what's to dispute?
Actually, quite a lot. More on that later.
The prosecution tried to discredit Mr. Sills but didn't have much luck. He had never met anyone involved until he spoke to Virgil and had no ax to grind one way or another. The prosecution didn't have much dirt on him, either, and had no idea of how much he had been drinkin', cussin', belchin', and spittin' the day before.
But what made Mr. Sills testimony stand out was that he was sure of his facts. He didn't hem and haw about what happened and showed a confidence that many other bystanders lacked.
At one point, though, the prosecutors did ask him if he had talked to anyone about the case.
"I haven't told anyone direct what I know of the difficulty," he said, not saying if he had told someone indirect. "The first word I spoke of it to anybody was to Jim Earp I believe."
What? Jim Earp? Mr. Sills talked to Jim Earp? Well, you can be sure, the prosecution would have pounced on this and ask him what he told Jim Earp.
But they didn't. Which makes you think the lawyers were pretty much nincompoops. But that's not the case. They were (really) some of the finest there were. Not only in the West but in the country. But it still looks like they screwed up royally or had their heads up their legal backsides.
Now whenever someone points out that what a lawyer does doesn't make sense or it looks like they screwed up, other attorneys will put on their lawyer's hats and gleefully point out that it only SEEMS that way because, by golly, you ain't a lawyer. Now if you HAD a law degree, you uneducated moron, you'd KNOW that it was just your ignorance of legal technicalities and judicial proceeding that made it look that way. Lawyers not make sense? Lawyers make mistakes? Nonsense.
But still to the "uneducated laymen", it seems they should have followed that question up a bit. Just a wee bit .
Toward the end of the hearing, Virgil had recovered enough to take the stand. His testimony was pretty brief, though. He said he didn't know who fired the first shots but he was definite that Tom McLaury had a gun. At the time of the opening volley, he said, he held nothing but Doc's cane, and drew his gun only after the shooting started.
And a few more relatively ineffectual witnesses and thirty days, the hearing was over. Judge Spicer retired to review the more than ample evidence, facts, and more than obvious perjury.
Finally on November 30, 1881, he sat down to read. Depending on whether you're an Earp Champion or an Earp Detractor, it was either a carefully reasoned and skillfully crafted legal opinion or a blatant and shameless whitewash of an open and shut murder case.
Judge Spicer first pointed out that there was a lot of contradictory testimony which came from witnesses of credibility (you wonder if he smiled when he read this). So he had to go on the testimony of the witnesses who were not involved in the fracas or where there was (to use the high falootin' legalism) a large "preponderance of evidence."
First, he said, it was without doubt that Ike was wandering around town, armed and looking for the Earps and Doc. He seemed to blow off the fact that Doc started it all and didn't seem to think Ike's toting the guns around was legitimate self defense.
But he did call Virgil to task of calling in Doc to help him. Not many people disagree with that. After all Doc really started the whole thing, and an officer really shouldn't call in a man who threatened to kill someone he's trying to arrest. Then Judge Spicer blew off his criticism by saying, well, Virgil needed some help, after all, and there was no "criminality" in this "unwise act" anyway
What seems to get glossed over by a lot of Earp Champions (and everyone else), though, is that Judge Spicer also trashed Virgil for asking help from Wyatt (!). Again a responsible law officer doesn't ask assistance from someone who had assaulted a man you want to detain. The judge at least seemed to remember that Wyatt did NOT, repeat DID NOT, at that time hold any official law enforcement position outside of his "special" appointment in a bar room. Now if this had been "The Gunfight at Wyatt's Faro Table in the Oriental Saloon" maybe that would have been OK.
He also addressed the issue of whether Tom was unarmed by saying it didn't matter. If Tom didn't have a gun, he WAS one of a party of men who did. And you ain't supposed to carry guns in town. So tough luck, Tom.
As the judge read on he gave a lot of weight to Mr. Sills' testimony and he accepted his and Wyatt's version of who shot first. And he bought Addie Bourland's story about no one having their hands in the air. Both of these people were unbiased, and they pretty much supported the Earps.
So the long and short of it was Wyatt, Virgil, Morgan, and Doc got off. And at the end Judge Spicer passed the buck a bit by saying if the current grand jury that was in session disagreed with his findings they could, after all, return indictments on their own authority.
Ike decided to take up Judge Spicer's advice before the grand jury did and immediately refiled murder charges before Judge Williams - not in Tombstone but in Contention City. Judge Williams just as promptly told Ike not to waste his time without new evidence. Then Ike tried AGAIN (back in Tombstone) and filed charges before Judge J. H. Lucas, who ironically had been one of the last witnesses at the Spicer hearing (he saw the shootout from his office). But the third time was NOT the charm, and Judge Lucas told Ike to forget it.
So that would be that, except for a few more murders, ambushes, revenge killings, and a writer who could spin a pretty good yarn about a former frontier lawman as long as he kept away from the facts.
But first, wouldn't you REALLY like to know what happened at the OK Corral?
Actually, no one knows for sure. Not even the guys who were there. So how can you expect historians, film makers, television producers, and humorous writers to know what happened?
But that's not the point. What you want to do is to make people THINK you know what happened. That way you can write articles, books, screenplays, and television scripts about it. Then you can say you've "reconstructed" history.
So let do a "reconstruction." This one's probably as good as any and better than some.
First, let's realize some things. There's no reason to think that as they walked down Fremont Street Virgil, Wyatt, Morgan, and Doc all had the same intentions. The same can be said for the Clantons and McLaurys.
Despite Virgil's harsh rhetoric to Johnny, all he wanted to do was arrest and disarm the cowboys. Sure he may have wanted to rough them up a bit and throw in an odd buffaloing or two. But what he really wanted was to reassert his authority as city marshal.
Morgan and Doc? They wanted to blow the cowboys away.
Wyatt position is a bit more problematic. In the years immediately following the fight he always stuck to his law-and-order story. But one historian has a letter that Wyatt wrote as an old man. There Wyatt said he was surprised when Virgil told the cowboys to throw up their hands. And he said that when he began to grapple with Ike, he was really trying to gut-shoot him. So maybe he was with Doc and Morgan after all.
But for now we'll give Wyatt the benefit of the doubt. We'll say he was with Virgil on this one.
Virgil was after all the man in charge. HE was the city marshal. HE had the authority to make arrests. And HE was one that walked up to the Clantons and McLaurys and told them to throw up their hands.
Did they put up their hands? Addie Bourland said she didn't think so, and that's what Judge Spicer went by. But in later years a newspaper in Kansas City interviewed a man who witnessed the fight with his father. He claimed they saw the cowboys put up hands and they were shot down in cold blood. Of course, he never testified. But Addie's unbiased but vague and uncertain vindication is canceled out by an equally unbiased but firm assertion to the contrary.
So we'll "reconstruct" a bit and say maybe one or two of the cowboys raised their hands. Or started to. The best bet is Billy Clanton.
But remember Virgil then gave another order. And according to some witnesses he also ordered them to give up their arms.
And THAT's what caused all the problems.
OK, you're a 19 year old teenager and the marshal and his deputies (including a drunken, murderous, former dentist) come up and order to you throw up your hands AND give up your arms.
How do you do that?
Well, you could raise your hands first and let the marshal take the gun. That would be the smartest way to do it.
Or you could raise your hands, do a front forward flip, and let the gun fall out of the holster. Or maybe you just raise your hands and do side cartwheels down Fremont Street which would accomplish the same thing.
Or you might think, "Well, I'll hand my gun to the marshal, THEN I'll raise my hands." Which is about the LAST option you should try.
But if you were REALLY nervous - as you might be if the drunken, trigger-happy dentist just stuck a gun in your friend's belly - you'd probably - unwisely - do just that.
And that's what Billy did.
Now Virgil realized that Billy was going to surrender. So he kept his head together and his gun in his belt. Maybe Wyatt realized that too and kept his gun out of sight.
But Morgan and Doc - that's a different story.
Remember: Doc Holliday was a gunfighter. A real gunfighter. Maybe with an overblown inflated reputation, but a real gunfighter, nonetheless. And Morgan - affable enough at his best, but hotheaded - didn't think too much different.
Now the hallmark of a western gunfighter was he shot first and used his head later. If at all. And forget abut two guys squaring off on Main Street. If you think that happened - especially where the "good guy" let the "bad guy" draw first - you might want to disconnect your cable TV for about six months and try reading a few books. Oh, sure, Marshal Dillon would do it. Pa Cartwright and his brood would do it. Jim West would do it.
But let's think about a REAL gunfighter for a minute. Even one who was (nominally at least) on the side of the law.
As Henny Youngman would have said, take James Butler Hickock. Please.
By that time Wild Bill was hired as marshal of Abilene, he already had a reputation as a deadly gunman. This was due to merit. After all, he WAS a deadly gunman.
But his reputation was also partly due to an newspaper interview with Henry Morton Stanley years earlier. That was, by the way, the same Henry Morton Stanley who years later presumed he had found Dr. Livingston.
One of the things Wild Bill told Henry that he reckoned he had killed nigh on a hundred men. And Henry presumed it was true and dutifully wrote it down. After that not many people cared to mess with Wild Bill.
But that didn't always keep the unruly in line. In 1871 Marshal Hickock found himself confronting a bunch of rambunctious cowboys on Main Street in Abilene. Here his interview with Henry didn't help.
In some ways it wasn't really that smart to have former Union soldiers as cowtown marshals. No Texan wanted it known that he let a northern carpetbagger take his gun. As one old time cowpuncher said "Back home, one Texas ranger could arrest the lot of them. But up north you'd have to kill them."
So a bunch of cowboys just off from a trail drive wouldn't have cared less what a [darn] Yankee told them to do. And a reputation built on what he told an Englishman whose idea of a good time was hunting missionaries would count for even less. So Wild Bill or no, the drovers decided they would parade around town with their pistols, brandished and prominent. And just as naturally Wild Bill told them to put them up while they were in town.
So with a long haired perfumed former scout for the Union Army with a high pitched voice telling them to simmer down, the Texans were equally determined to rowdy it up. The odd were stacked against Wild Bill and he knew it.
As things began to look really nasty, Wild Bill heard foot steps approaching from behind. So he whirled and fired. And killed his own deputy who was running up to help.
That's the way the real western gunfighters acted. Or they did if they wanted to stay alive.
So back at Tombstone, Doc and Morgan didn't stop to think. Their instincts said Billy was going for his gun. So they cocked their single action revolvers and began to draw.
Virgil heard the clicks and saw what was happening. So he called out - not to Billy and Frank - but to Doc and Morgan.
"Hold on! I don't want that!"
Too late. Doc and Morgan fired almost together. Morgan at Billy and Doc at Frank.
Frank MAY have been surrendering too. Or he may really have made a move for his gun. After all, there's no reason to believe that all the Clantons and McLaurys acted the same way to Virgil's order. Frank was clearly the one more likely to resist so it's about fifty-fifty that he was going for his gun.
But going back to Billy. Although he had been willing to give up his gun and was doing just that, Morgan's bullet in his guts probably changed his mind. Instead of handing over the weapon, Billy now changed his action from giving up his gun to drawing his gun. And he began to shoot.
Now if you were a bystander, like H. F. Sills, what would you think? You heard Virgil order "Throw up your hands" and saw Billy draw his his gun and begin to shoot. You could easily have thought that Billy had intended to fight from the first.
But wait a minute, you might say. Mr. Sills said Wyatt and Billy shot first. Not Morgan and Doc. How about that?
Well, for one thing, Mr. Sills had never seen either Morgan or Wyatt before the gunfight. So there's no way at the time he could have known who was who once the bullets began to fly.
Next, Mr. Sills was standing 200 feet away. And the Earps were facing AWAY from him.
And the Earp brothers looked a lot alike anyway. So much that even people who knew them would sometimes confuse them. One night (and admittedly it was dark) Johnny Behan spent a few minutes talking to one of the Earps. He thought it was Virgil and only later did he find out it was Wyatt.
But here's the real kicker. Mr. Sills could not even have SEEN Wyatt.
Historians usually have Wyatt standing inside the lot with his back to Fly's boarding house. With Mr. Sills standing down at the corner of Fremont and Fourth, he would have seen Morgan, Doc and (maybe) Virgil. But not Wyatt.
Now if you take Mr. Sills vantage point, you'll see that the smoke from Doc's gun would have billowed out right in front of Billy. So with Billy drawing his gun (so Mr. Sills thought) and the smoke from Doc's (and Morgan's) gun puffing out at about the same time, Mr. Sills thought the first shots were from Wyatt (really Morgan) and Billy (really Doc).
And after the gunfight who would he have seen? Wyatt, of course, since he was the only one left on his feet. A bystander would have identified him and, lo and behold, you have Mr. Sills ready to swear Wyatt Earp and Billy Clanton fired the first shots.
But hold on one more time there, you say. Wyatt ALSO said he and Billy shot first. And since he testified before Mr. Sills, so how could Wyatt have known what Mr. Sills was going to say?
His brother, Jim, told him.
Remember the one cryptic comment that Mr. Sills made at the hearing? When he said he had not talked to anyone "direct?" But he did speak to Jim Earp?
And no one asked him what he said to Jim?
Well, what WOULD you have said to Jim if you had been Mr. Sills?
For one thing you would have told him what happened.
"You know, Mr. Earp," Mr. Sills would have said, speaking indirect. "I saw it all. Wyatt and Billy drew their guns at the same time and fired the first shots. I'd swear to it."
So off Jim skedaddled to Wyatt and spilled the whole story. There would be one completely unbiased witness who was prepared to swear he and Billy fired the first shots.
If you didn't mind a little perjury (and that was the least of Wyatt's worries), you could now testify that you, Wyatt, - an honorable faro dealer and saloon keeper at present - shot at Frank and Billy shot at you. AND best of all, you could say Billy was drawing his gun from the first.
And have everything backed up by an unbiased and impartial witness.
Beautiful. So the cowboys were resisting arrest and Doc and Morgan were off the hook.
From then on the fight played itself out.
You might think that most Earp Champions would believe Wyatt's story about him and Billy shooting first. That's not the case. Sure, some do, but not all that many. Most seem to think that Doc and Morgan really fired first, and a majority actually put Doc as the real culprit. Even Josie believed Doc fired first.
But the first two shots were fired almost at the same time and no by-stander could really tell which was first. So all in all, this "reconstruction" (sc. guess) of what happened seems pretty good.
And after all this, who do the Earp Champions blame for the fight? Even those who think Doc and Morgan fired first?
You guessed it. Joseph Ike Clanton.
I mean, they say, Ike - that big, fat, slob of a blowhard - had wandered around town for five or six hours trying to start a gunfight. And when it finally happens, what does he do? He runs away and leaves his younger brother to die on the field of battle. Yep, it's all Ike's fault.
But let's be honest. It was DOC who started the fight for crying out loud. Doc. John Henry Holliday, DDS, 1872, Philadelphia College of Dental Surgery. It was DOC who threatened Ike the night before and it was DOC (with Morgan) that fired the first shots. Saying Ike started the fight is stretching it. REALLY stretching it.
But what about Virgil? HE was the man in charge. HE deputized Doc. So, despite Spicer's waffling on the subject, was Virgil really to blame? That's a subjective judgment, but you can ask another, better question. Should Virgil have been held criminally liable? Maybe even as an accessory to murder?
To answer this question, a legal opinion was sought from a licensed practicing attorney. Since it was provided free of charge, the counsel wishes to remain anonymous, lest he be ostracized from the ranks of reputable members of the bar.
All right, then. Was Virgil guilty?
Even by today's standards, probably not. Virgil's intents were, after all, within the scope of his authority. He DID have authority to appoint deputies. And he WAS charged with disarming men who were carrying firearms within the city. If that's all he intended and he acted in good faith, then even if things went haywire, he had (or could claim) what is known as "sovereign immunity." That would probably hold today, and it certainly would have held in the nineteenth century west.
Finally, what about the biggest mystery in the universe? WAS Tom McLaury armed?
This is split down party lines: the Earp/Doc Party and the Clanton/McLaury Party. Based on the evidence alone, you can take your pick.
And what's really strange here is that both sides are willing to give in a bit to the other. Some Earp Champions concede the possibility that Tom wasn't armed. Even Wyatt seemed to hedge a bit on this. And there are some Earp Detractors admit he possibly was. After all Johnny Behan himself conceded he hadn't searched Tom all that thoroughly, leaving open the possibility that Tom had a gun.
There WERE some impartial witnesses who that said they saw Tom fire a pistol. Of course, they didn't testify at the inquest, but they did speak about it later Doesn't this mean Tom had a gun?
Not really. With the bullets flying, black-powder smoke billowing, horses panicking, and by-standers scrambling , it would be easy - all too easy - for anyone to confuse Frank (who everyone agree did fire) with Tom. So eyewitness testimony here really doesn't mean that much.
And more to the point, the Earp Detractors say, Tom had actually checked his gun before the fight. The saloon keeper swore to that and the gun was picked up at his bar after the fight.
Of course, Earp Champions say this was a ruse and that Tom got another gun.
To bolster their claim, they cite one witness who said he saw Tom go into a butcher shop and come out with a bulge in his pocket "like he had a gun." Actually a butcher shop is a funny place to buy a gun. And for some reasons the Earp Champions don't want to accept the obvious interpretation that Tom bought a steak.
But for Tom to have checked his gun and then picked up another one would mean that Tom would have to have an incredible amount of telepathic prescience. He would have to know there was going to be a gunfight and it would later be debated by historians if he was armed or not. This would also suggest he knew he was going to get killed.
Anyway, if he had a gun, the Earp Detractors say, where did it go? How can you answer that?
Easy, say the Champions, Johnny Behan snuck it out. He picked it up after the fight and hid it knowing this would make the Earps look like cold blooded murderers.
But there's a few things wrong with this picture, too.
First hiding a gun was risky. Johnny had no idea who had seen the fight or what they would testify to. At the time he had no idea if one or a hundred people would swear they had seen Tom shoot a gun.
And remember there were scads of people around. Although most had ducked for cover, others had come running down the street once they heard the shots. If you time the 50 yard Fremont Street Dash, you have a some fellows arriving about the time Tom went down for the count. Would Johnny Behan have had the presence of mind (not to mention quickness of hand and sheer guts) to conceal an Army Colt revolver as everyone and his brother ran up?
Not the Johnny Behan we've come to know and love.
So you can take your pick here. But there's less problems with thinking Tom wasn't armed.
So that's the story (maybe) of the Gunfight at the OK Corral.
So now we can begin. Yes?
After the Gunfight at the OK Corral and the Spicer Hearing, it would have been nice if everyone could have just holstered their guns, let by-gones be by-gones and settled down and lived happily ever after. Sure, there had been a gun battle prompted by questionable motives and with a tragic outcome. But arrests had been made, the legal wheels had turned, and the judge had spoken.
So all loyal American should have happily bowed to the judicial decision in a country where justice is dicated by laws, not men.
But that would have made an awfully dull story for movies, TV, historians, and humorous writers. So to make it exciting for everyone, things actually got much worse.
This wasn't completely evident at first, mind you, but there were hints that things might not quite return to the happy days of yesteryear where the Earps could cash in with relatively little work. Certainly law enforcement fees weren't going to keep rolling in. That became clear when Virgil got fired as city marshal.
Naturally the Earp Champions are aggrieved by this. After all, Virgil WAS the city marshal, and the cowboys WERE violating the law by making threats and refusing to give up their guns. And even if Doc opened the ball first, why should Virgil get the axe? Just for a few rustlers?
Well, there were several reasons. First, the judge himself said by making deputies out of Doc and Wyatt (and don't forget the judge mentioned Wyatt here) Virgil committed an unwise and censurable act. And there were a lot of people who agreed with that, especially those who thought Doc was a jerk.
Next, despite what Wyatt said, most of the evidence suggested that at least Billy Clanton and Tom McClaury were not looking for trouble. Only Frank had been giving Johnny a tough time, and even he had agreed to go to the sheriff's office. A little more restraint on the Earps' part and the matter would have sorted itself out at least for the time being.
Finally, there was Will McLaury. He was still in town and him just being there kept the anti-Earp flames fanned up a bit. He wasn't satisfied with the judges ruling, and he let people know it. All in all, the people felt sorry for him.
So bit by bit the opinion began to shift against the Earps. Oh, they still had their friends and supporters but a sizeable chunk of the population began to think they might have been just a wee bit quick on the trigger. So the city council asked Virgil to turn in his badge.
But there was no real reason for the Earps to clear out of Tombstone just yet. Virgil still had his federal deputy commision (which wasn't all that lucrative though), and Wyatt still had his faro table. Although other opportunities weren't as plentiful and mining speculation was drying up, there were other business ventures around, and Wyatt was also thinking about running for sheriff again. Who knows? In time, maybe things COULD have returned to normal.
But that all changed when Virgil got blasted by a shotgun as he crossed the street in front of the Oriental Saloon. It was night and no one saw who did it. But it appeared to come from a building across the street. According to the story, Wyatt was around and he gave vigorous chase to the miscreants.
And gosh darn it, can you imagine what he just happened to find? By golly, there in a back alley jest sittin' there big as life was a hat belonging to none other than Joseph Ike Clanton. How about that? Looks like just before he went out for a little fun-and-murder, Old Ike asked his mother to stitch his name on his hat just like it was a pair of underwear intended for summer camp. Of course, the hat somehow disappeared and no one but Wyatt saw it.
At least Wyatt now knew who he should go after. For the moment, though, he had a bit more to worry about. Like Virgil.
Even if there had modern medicine with its arsenal of antibiotics, antiseptics, and pain killers, Virgil would still have been in pretty bad shape. The buckshot had shattered his upper arm and caught him in the back. Not too many people expected him to live, including himself.
In that day and age and at that place, the remedy for a severe arm or leg wound was to cut off the offending appendage and hope that the amputation wouldn't kill the patient. So Virgil's main concern was the impression he would make at his impending funeral. He told Wyatt if he was going to be buried he wanted to be buried with both arms attached.
The doctor did his best although he did have to remove most of the bone in Virgil's upper arm. After that it was pretty much useless for anything other than cosmetic appearances. But Virgil did keep both arms, and to everyone's surprise, he did pull through.
But he wouldn't be able to act as a federal deputy marshal, at least not for a while. So Wyatt telegraphed the head marshal up in Prescott, Crawley Dake (that was his real name, not a double misprint) and told him about Virgil's condition. He was careful to say that Virgil wasn't expected to live, and asked that the federal deputy position be transferred to him, Wyatt. Dake (who is generally recognized as a major sleezebag who had no hesitation in lining his pockets) acquiesed. So finally Wyatt had a federal deputy marshal's commission. Repeat: that's a federal DEPUTY marshal's commission.
That's as high as Wyatt went in law enforcement. A substitute deputy for his brother. But even here his tenure was pretty brief. Murder indictments tend to shorten federal appointments. But we're getting a bit ahead of the story here.
But as far as Wyatt was concerned, he had the authority to go after Virgil's would-be assasins. And he did this in fine Earp style. Like a kid with a new toy, he brandished his badge and got together Doc Holliday and a bunch of their more disreputable buddies, some of whom had criminal charges pending against them. He courteouly dubbed this group a posse and started out.
He knew who he was looking for too. Ike Clanton and any of Ike's cohorts who happened to be with him. There was one in particular who Wyatt thought was involved: Frank Stillwell. Frank, by the way, was a former deputy under Johnny Behan and was currently under indictment for stage robbery.
At this point it's useful to get out a piece of paper and pencil and start keeping track of who arrested who, who got charged with what, which charges were dismissed, and who got jailed. Because it turns out that about the time that Wyatt and his buddies were out looking for Ike, Ike had refiled murder charges against the Earps and Doc before Judge Smith in Contention City. So it fell to Johnny Behan to convene a posse to get the Earps. He did so, and to help him out he deputized - who else? - Ike Clanton , Frank Stilwell, and a bunch of THEIR buddies.
So now Cochise County had two sets of lawmen each out trying to arrest the other.
In his new capacity as federal deputy marshal, Wyatt didn't cut too dashing a figure. In fact, him barging into the various towns with a band of armed thugs trying to arrest people who weren't even there made such a stir that some of the citizens complained so loud the governor got wind of it. And with Johnny's posse doing the same, the news eventually went as far as Chester Arthur, then the President of the United States. Chet decided to bide his time and see if things would quieten down. But he did give serious consideration to revising the Posse Commitatus Act ,which then (as it does now) allow law enforcement officers to form posses.
Eventually Johnny managed to haul in Wyatt. Wyatt put up bail, had his lawyer file a writ of habeus corpus, and got out of jail. And with no new evidence the charges were dismissed. But before he could get back after Ike, Wyatt was again hauled in and recharged before Judge Lucas, this time back in Tombstone. Same story. No new evidence, no indictment.
Now it was Wyatt's turn. He hauled in Ike and HIS friends and charged them with Virgil's shooting. But since the only evidence was a hat which may or may not have even existed, the judge threw this case out, too. Somehow in all this ruckus, Johnny Behan even ended up getting charged with perjury. The charges here were also dropped.
The actual chain of events was actually much more complicated and confusing than sketched out above. But the long and short of it was that after about a year of rather sleezy sordid dealings between the Earps, Clantons, and the rest, it seems that everyone had shot their bolt, leaving few legal recourses for revenge.
That's few LEGAL recourses.
On the night of March 18, 1882, Wyatt and Morgan had attended the theater with their significant others. Being manly men, they ditched their wives and repaired to Bob Hatch's saloon to quaff a few brews.
At 10:30 p. m. Morgan and Bob Hatch were playing a game of billiards while Wyatt and other patrons looked on. As Bob bent down for his shot there was a roar from the back door as a shotgun blast ripped into Morgan's back, shattering his spine. A few pistol shots came through the window too, and the kibitzers scrambled for cover.
Wyatt (who was nearly hit) ran out the back alley and gave chase. Although everyone expected Wyatt to come back saying he had found a suit of clothes with Ike's name on it, this time he returned empty handed.
Virgil had survived his ambush, but Morgan wasn't so lucky. He was carried to a sofa and died less than an hour later.
So here you are. Virgil's out of commission (legally and literally), Morgan is dead, and someone is out to kill them all. And Wyatt now has the badge of a deputy US federal marshal.
Now if you were in Wyatt's shoes, what would YOU do?
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