Events, a piece at a time, now moved rapidly toward a final showdown. Old Man Clanton was shot and killed by a band of vaqueros during a rustling attempt below the border; his eldest son
Ike, whose rushed judgments would prove fatal, took the family reins. Also, in the heat of summer, 1881, a fire swept the business district of Tombstone and the citizens blamed Marshall Ben Sippy for not controlling the looting that followed;
Virgil Earp, the senior deputy, was appointed marshal, a move that antagonized the already-hostile
Clantons. And, of course, there was Josie who continued to see Wyatt. While she made all effort to remain apart from the bad blood churning between the factions, the sight of her riled Behan all over again. Throughout the lazy summer season of 1881, threats against the Earp
Brothers increased. Ike Clanton,
"Curly Bill" Brocius and others of their ilk would often be heard telling a barroom-full how they were going to send Wyatt Earp to Boot Hill.
Gunfight at the OK Corral
On Tuesday, October 25th, Ike Clanton spent the day getting drunk, moving from one saloon to the next, and making threats against the Earps and Holliday to any who would listen. That night, he made his way to the Occidental Saloon for a card game with Tom McLaury.
An angry Doc Holliday, who had heard of the boasts, confronted him. "I heard you’re going to kill me,
Ike," he said. "Get out your gun and commence."
U.S. Deputy Marshal, Wyatt, and an appointed an acting city marshal by
Virgil, and Morgan, also a sworn officer, were present during this confrontation. Virgil told Doc and
Ike that he would arrest both of them if they
continued the argument.
Though boasting violence throughout the day,
Clanton was unarmed and finally,
Virgil drew Holliday away. But
Clanton followed, promising "to kill you tomorrow when the others come to town."
Spotting Wyatt on the streets, the fired-up
Clanton continued. "Tell your consumptive friend, your Arizona nightin’gale, he’s a dead man tomorrow!" To which, Wyatt just turned and replied "Don’t you tangle with Doc Holliday -- he’ll kill you before you’ve begun."
Ike's parting shot was "Get ready for a showdown!"
Wednesday, October 26, 1881 was an overcast windy day. The Earps, in anticipation of trouble, woke early. As
Virgil watched from his hotel window, he saw Billy Clanton ride into town, accompanied by friend Billy Claiborne. They met the McLaury brothers and Ike Clanton on Allen Street.
Ike was looking for Holliday but before he could find him,
Virgil and Morgan
Ike, bracing a shotgun, exchanged words with the two but when
Clanton raised his rifle. Virgil subdued him, impounded his rifle, and dragged him before Justice of the Peace Wallace, who fined
Ike $27.50 for carrying firearms in the city.
Wyatt and Tom McLaury, both hearing what had happened, met at the judge’s door at the same time, literally bumping into each other. Though Wyatt apologized, McLaury insulted him and, in return, Wyatt brought his gun down on McLaury's
Later that morning, the
cowboys met at Spangenbergs, a gunsmith shop. Then Frank McLaury
rode his horse onto the boardwalk, frightening pedestrians off its path outside
the gunsmith shop. Wyatt grabbed the reins of the horse, leading it to the streets as McLaury yelled profanities. After this latest confrontation, the outlaws retreated in a group around the corner off Allen Street. With all of the tension, there was bound to be a fight. Several members of the town’s Citizens’ Committee offered their assistance to the Earp brothers, but thanking them, Wyatt said it was his and his brothers’ responsibility as law officers.
Then John Behan, the County Sheriff, appeared pronouncing, "Ike Clanton and his crew are on Fremont Street talking gun-talk." Evidently, Ike Clanton, the two
Billy Clanton and
Billy Claiborne were meeting in a vacant lot planning to bushwhack Doc Holliday,
who passed that way every morning.
Virgil, as Chief Marshal, agreed to go down there to break them up, but contended that Behan should accompany him. Behan only laughed. "Hell, this is your fight, not mine."