Tombstone – Newspaper, Letters, & Book Excerpts

Note: Our collection of historic text involving Tombstone covers the lead up to the gunfight of the O.K. Corral, as well as the aftermath, including testimony, sworn statements, letters, book excerpts, etc. Also includes text regarding the Bisbee Massacre and lynching of John Heath in Tombstone. These are not always exact quotes, as spelling errors and minor grammatical changes have been corrected.

December 14, 1879, Arizona Daily Star

“Last Tuesday night a shooting affair took place at Safford in which Louis Hancock was shot by John Ringo. It appears Ringo wanted Hancock to take a drink of whiskey, and he refused saying he would prefer beer. Ringo struck him over the head with his pistol and then fired, the ball taking effect in the lower end of the left ear, and passing through the fleshy part of the neck, half inch more in the neck, would have killed him. Ringo is under arrest. ….  Moral — when you drink with a man that is on a shoot, and he says ‘whiskey,’ don’t you say ‘beer.'”

Tombstone Epitaph, 1940

Tombstone Epitaph, the oldest continuously published newspaper in Arizona, photo by Lee Russell,1940.

July 25, 1880, A Fatal Garment, Tombstone Epitaph

“About 7 o’clock last evening the pistol was used with fatal effect on Allen Street, resulting in the death of T.J. Waters from gunshot wounds from a weapon in the hand of E.L. Bradshaw.

The causes which led to this unfortunate tragedy are brief. Waters was what is considered a sporting man, and has been in Tombstone several months. He was about forty years of age, powerful build, stood over six feet in height and weighed about 190 pounds. When sober he was a clever sort of man but quite the opposite when under the influence of liquor. Yesterday he won considerable money and had been drinking a great deal, hence was in a mood to be easily irritated. Bradshaw was an intimate friend of Waters but a very different character, being a man of medium size, over fifty years of age and very reserved and peaceable in his disposition. We understand that these two men had prospected together and when Waters first came to Tombstone he lived in Bradshaw’s cabin.

Yesterday morning Waters purchased a blue and black plaid shirt, little dreaming that the fated garment would hurl his soul into eternity before the sun had set. It so happened that several good-natured remarks were made about the new shirt during the day until Waters had taken sufficient liquor to make the joking obnoxious to him, and he began to show an ugly resentment and was very abusive, concluding with, “Now, if anyone don’t like what I’ve said let him get up, G-d d-n him. I’m chief. I’m boss. I’ll knock the first s— of a b— down that days anything about my shirt again.” This happened in the back room at Corrigan’s saloon and as Waters stepped into the front room Bradshaw happened in, and seeing what his friend was wearing made some pleasant remark about it, whereupon Waters, without a word, struck Bradshaw a powerful blow over the left eye which sent him senseless to the floor. Waters then walked over to Vogan & Flynn’s, to see, as he said, “if any s— of a b— there didn’t like this shirt.” He had just entered the street when Ed Ferris made some remark about the new shirt, which Waters promptly resented in his pugilistic style.

After some more rowing Waters went back to Corrigan’s Saloon. As soon as Bradshaw recovered from the knockdown he went into the backroom, washed off the blood, went down to his cabin, put a bandage on his eye and his pistol in his pocket. He then came up to Allen Street and took his seat in front of Vogan & Flynn’s saloon. Seeing Waters in Corrigan’s door, Bradshaw crossed towards the Eagle Brewery, and walking down the sidewalk until within a few feet of Waters, said: “Why did you do that?” Waters said something whereupon Bradshaw drew his pistol and fired four shots, all taking effect, one under the left arm probably pierced the heart, two entered above the center of the back between the shoulders and one in the top of the head ranged downward toward the neck, any one of which would probably have resulted fatally. Waters fell at the second shot and soon expired. Bradshaw was promptly arrested and examination will be had in the morning before Justice Gray.”

Wyatt Earp

Wyatt Earp

July 29, 1880, Tombstone Epitaph

“The appointment of Wyatt Earp as Deputy Sheriff, by Sheriff Shibell, is an eminently proper one, and we, in common with the citizens generally, congratulate the latter on his election. Wyatt has filled various positions in which bravery and determination were requisites, and in every instance proved himself the right man in the right place. He is a present filling the position of shotgun messenger for Wells, Fargo & Co., which he will resign to accept the later appointment.”

July 29, 1880, Tombstone Epitaph

Morgan Earp succeeds his brother Wyatt as shotgun messenger for Wells, Fargo & Co.”

August 6, 1880, Tombstone Epitaph

Ike Clanton

Ike Clanton

“From New Mexico: From Mr. I. Clanton, who arrived in Tombstone yesterday from New Mexico, we learn that emigrants from ColoradoTexas, and Kansas are rapidly coming into the territory. The mines in the Victorio District are looking exceedingly well. A short time since a new camp, known as San Simon, was opened and from present indications, will soon eclipse any other in the territory. The leads are large, averaging 125 ounces to the ton. The camp is located about eighty miles east of Tombstone. While at Fort Bowie, Mr. Clanton was informed, on what he considered a reliable authority, that a portion of Victorio’s band had returned to Nex Mexico and were at present in the Black Range. He brought through with him fifty head of cattle for the Tombstone market, being five days on the road from San Simon.”

October 12, 1880, Tombstone Nugget

“A dispute arose in the Oriental Saloon between John Tyler and Doc Holliday. Mutual friends disarmed both, and Tyler went away, Holliday remaining [and later] being bodily fired out by Joyce. Holliday returned and turned loose with a self-cocker. Joyce jumped his assailant and struck him over the head with a six-shooter, felling him to the floor and lighting on top of him. Officers White and Bennett were near at hand and separated them, taking the pistols from each. Joyce was found to be shot through the hand, his partner, Mr. Parker, who was behind the bar, shot through the big toe of the left foot, and Holliday with a blow of the pistol in Joyce’s hands.”

Wyatt expects to become a candidate for sheriff of Cochise county this fall, and as he stands very near to the Governor and all the good citizens of Tombstone and other camps in Cochise county he will, without doubt, be elected. The office is said to be worth $25,000 per annum and will not be bad to take.”

The Killing of Marshal Fred White:

October 28, 1880, Tombstone Epitaph

Allen Street, Tombstone, Arizona, 1882

Allen Street, Tombstone, Arizona, 1882

“About 12:30 last night a series of pistol shots startled the late goers on the streets, and visions of funerals, etc., flitted through the brain of the Epitaph local, and the result proved that his surmises were correct. The result in a few words is as follows:

A lot of Texas cowboys, as they are called, began firing at the moon and stars on Allen street near Sixth. City Marshal White, who happened to be in the neighborhood, interfered to prevent violation of the city ordinance and was ruthlessly shot by one of the number. Deputy Sheriff Earp, who is ever to the front when duty calls, arrived just in the nick of time.

Seeing the Marshal fall, he promptly knocked his assailant down with a six-shooter and as promptly locked him up; and with the assistance of his brothers, Virgil and Morgan went in pursuit of the others. That he found them, an inventory of the City Prison this mourning will testify. Marshal White was shot in the left groin, the ball passing nearly through, and being cut from the buttock by Dr. Matthews.  The wound is a serious, though not fatal one. Too much praise cannot be given to the Marshal for his gallant attempt to arrest the violators of the ordinance, nor to Deputy Sheriff Earp and his brothers for the energy displayed in bringing in the malefactors to arrest.  At last accounts, 3 p.m., Marshal White was sleeping, and strong hopes of his ultimate recovery were expected.”

October 28, 1880, Tombstone Epitaph

“Edward Collins, A. Ames, R. Loyd, Frank Patterson, and James Johnson were brought before Judge Gray yesterday morning on a charge of violating city ordinances. A. Ames plead guilty to carrying concealed weapons and discharging the same on public streets. He was fined $40, which he paid. Edward Collins, R.Loyd, and James Johnson plead guilty to carrying concealed weapons and were fined $10 each, which was paid. Frank Patterson was discharged, it being made apparent to his Honor that he had used every effort to prevent the disturbance by his companions.”

Curly Bill Brocius

Curly Bill Brocius

October 29, 1880, Tombstone Epitaph

“The party who shot Marshal White was brought before Judge Gray on a warrant charging him with assault to murder. The complaint was made by Deputy Sheriff Earp. The prisoner, in company with his counsel, Judge Haynes, of Tucson, and waiving examination, was committed to jail to await the next meeting of the Grand Jury. He gave the name William Brocius and claimed to hail from San Simon country. [A] Vigilance committee was organizing to hang the prisoner, [when] it was deemed best to take him at once to Tucson. Deputy Sheriff Earp, accompanied by George Collins, guarded for several miles out of town by Messrs. Virgil and Morgan Earp, and others.

October 31, 1880, Tombstone Epitaph

“From Deputy Sheriff Earp we learn that the man who killed Marshal White is an old offender against the law. Within the past few years, he stopped a stage in El Paso County, Texas, killing one man and dangerously wounding another. He was tried and sentenced to ten years in the penitentiary, but managed to make his escape shortly after being incarcerated. The facts leaked out in this way: On the road to Tucson, Brocius asked Earp where he could get a good lawyer. Earp suggested that Hereford & Zabriske were considered a good firm. Brocius said that he didn’t want Zabriskie, as he had prosecuted him once in Texas. Inquiry on the part of Earp developed the above state of facts.”

November 13, 1880, Arizona Daily Star

“Our special election to fill the vacancy for City Marshal, caused by the death of Fred White, is over and has been hotly contested. Virgil Earp made a desperate fight, but his opponent, Ben Sippy, has beaten him by 52 majority. The ‘Earp‘ family flopped for ‘Paul’ on election day, thinking that he was a dead winner, and went against ‘little Charlie'” but they failed to connect. Their ingratitude to one who had always been their friend has been marked by his many friends in Tombstone, and retribution politically has already reached one. Honest Abe Lincoln was right. ‘Never swap horses crossing a stream.’ Yours, Hawkeye.”

December 27, 1880, Arizona Daily Citizen

Wyatt S. Earp, was called for the territory, testified:

On the 27th of last October [I] was Deputy Sheriff; resided at Tombstone; saw defendant that night at the time Marshal White was shot; was present at the time the fatal shot fired; saw Mr. Johnson there at that time; my brother came up immediately after; this affair occurred back of a building in a vacant lot between Allen and Tough Nut streets; I was in Billy Owen’s saloon and heard three or four shots fired; upon hearing the first shot I ran out in the street and I saw the flash of a pistol up the street about a block from where I was; several shots were fired in quick succession; ran up as quick as I could, and when I got there I met my brother, Morgan Earp, and a man by the name of [Fred] Dodge; I asked my brother who it was that did the shooting; he said he didn’t know – some fellows who run behind that building; I asked him for his six shooter and he sent me to Dodge; after I got the pistol, I run around the building, and as I turned the corner I ran past this man Johnson, who was standing near the corner of the building; I ran between him and the corner of the building; but before I got there I heard White say: “I am an officer; give me your pistol;” and just as I was almost there I saw the defendant pull his pistol out of his scabbard and Marshal White grabbed hold of the barrel of it; the parties were not more than two feet apart facing each other; both had hold of the pistol, and just then I threw my arms around the defendant, to see if he had any other weapons, and looked over his shoulder, and White saw me and said: “Now, you G- d- d- of a bitch give up that pistol;” and he gave a quick jerk and the pistol went off; White had it in his hands, and when he fell to the ground, shot, the pistol dropped and I picked it up; as he fell, he said, “I am shot.” The defendant stood still from the time I first saw him until the pistol went off; when I took defendant in charge he said, “what have I done? I have not done anything to be arrested for.”

When the pistol exploded I knocked the defendant down with my six-shooter; he did not get up until I stepped over and picked up the pistol, which had fallen out of White’s hands as he fell.  I then walked up to the defendant, caught him by the collar, and told him to get up.  I did not notice that he was drunk; if he was I did not notice it. When I turned the corner he was in the act of taking his pistol out of his scabbard. I examined the pistol afterward and found only one cartridge discharged, five remaining. The pistol was a Colt’s 45 caliber.”

December 7, 1880, Arizona Daily Star

“The rumor reaches us that the ‘cowboy‘ friends of ‘Curly‘ the ‘cowboy,’ who shot and killed Marshal White, at Tombstone, some time ago, say, in case he is tried and not acquitted they will come to Tucson in force and take him from the jail.”

Judge Wells Spicer

Wells Spicer

1881 – Wells Spicer, District Attorney, in a letter

Tombstone has two dance halls, a dozen gambling places, and more than 20 saloons. Still, there is hope, for I know of two Bibles in town.”

January 17, 1881, Tombstone Epitaph

“Brutal Murder of an Upright Citizen at Charleston By a Desperado: Again, the bloody hand of a murderer has been raised against a peaceable citizen; again the law is scoffed at and Justice derided. Yesterday’s sun rose bright and cheerful over our neighboring village of Charleston, mellowing the crisp night air with its rays. Once more her toilers began their daily avocations with renewed energy, little dreaming of the damnable deed that, in the glowing light of noonday, was to await one of their number.

Sometime since the cabin of Mr. W.P. Schneider, chief engineer of the Corbin Mill, was entered and robbed of several articles including some clothing. Circumstances pointed very strongly to two parties, one of whom is so well known by the cognomen of “Johnny-Behind-the-Deuce” that we were unable last night to obtain his real name, but direct proof not being sufficient, no arrest was made. Yesterday at noon Mr. Schneider left his duties and went to a restaurant where he was accustomed to taking his meals, and on entering approached the stove and, noticing a friend standing by, entered into conversation. Having just left the heated engine room the air without felt cool which brought from Mr. S. a remark to that effect. “Johnny-Behind-the-Deuce” who was also in the room. Then said, “I thought you never got cold.” Not desiring to have anything to do with one of his character, Mr. Schneider turned and said, “I was not talking to you, sir.” This raised the lurking devil in the diminutive heart of “J-B-the-D,” who blurted out, “G-d d-n you I’ll shoot you when you come out,” and left the room. After eating his dinner Mr. Schneider passed out the door and was proceeding to the mill, when, true to his promise, the lurking fiend, who had secreted himself with hell in his heart and death in his mind, drew deadly aim and dropped his victim dead in his tracks.

Immediately after the shooting the following telegrams were sent to Mr. Richard Gird, the superintendent, who was in the mine here at the time:

Charleston, Jan. 14, 1:30 p.m. To Richard Gird: Schneider has just been killed by a gambler; no provocation. Cowboys are preparing to take him out of custody. We need fifty well-armed men.

Charleston, Jan. 14, 1:35 p.m. To Richard Gird: Prisoner has just gone to Tombstone. Try and head him off and bring him back.

Charleston, Jan. 14, 1:50 p.m. To Richard Gird: Burnett has telegraphed to the officers who have the murderer in charge to bring him back to appear at the inquest. See that he is brought back.

Sheriff Johnny Behan

Sheriff Johnny Behan

Considerable delay occurred in getting these dispatches to Mr. Gird, who at the time was in the mine, and just where was not known; but as soon as he received it, prompt action was taken, and a number of the miners were ordered to report to the officers, to resist any attempted rescue of the prisoner. Owing to some delay in delivery at the office of the company, and during this time the murderer was flying over the road toward the city, reaching the corner of Fifth and Allen a few minutes after the dispatches had beer read. It is asserted that the officers, fearing pursuit, sent the murderer, who was on horseback, on ahead. However, this may be, it is certain that he came in ahead, his horse reeking with sweat, and, dismounting in front of Vogan’s saloon asked for protection, acknowledging that he had killed his man. In a few minutes, Allen street was jammed with an excited crowd, rapidly augmented by scores from all directions. By this time Marshal Sippy, realizing the situation at once, in the light of the repeated murders that have been committed and the ultimate liberty of the offenders, had attempt on the part of the crowd to lynch the prisoner; but feeling that no guard would be strong enough to resist a justly enraged public long, procured a light wagon in which the prisoner was placed, guarded by himself, Virgil Earp and Deputy Sheriff Behan, assisted by a strong posse will armed. Moved down the street, closely followed by the throng, a halt was made and rifles leveled on the advancing citizens, several of whom were armed with rifles and shotguns. At this juncture, a well know individual with more avoirdupois than brains, called to the officers to turn loose and fire in the crowd. But Marshal Sippy’s sound judgment prevented any such outbreak as would have been the certain result, and cool as an iceberg he held the crowd in check. No one who was a witness of yesterday’s proceedings can doubt that but for his presence, blood would have flown freely. The posse following would not have been considered; but, bowing to the majesty of the law, the crowd subsided and the wagon proceeded on its way to Benson with the prisoner, who by daylight this morning was lodged in the Tucson jail.”

May 26, 1881, Arizona Daily Star

William M. Breckenridge

William M. Breckenridge

“Desperado Gets it in the Neck at Galeyville: The notorious Curly Bill, the man who murdered Marshal White at Tombstone last fall and who has been concerned in several other desperate and lawless affrays in South Eastern Arizona, has at last been brought to grief and there is likely to be a vacancy in the ranks of out border desperados. The affair occurred at Galeyville Thursday. A party of 8 or 9 cowboys, Curly Bill and his partner Jim Wallace among the number, were enjoying themselves in their usual manner, when deputy Sheriff Breakenridge of Tombstone, who was at Galeyville on business, happened along.

Wallace made some insulting remark to the deputy at the same time flourishing his revolver in an aggressive manner. Breakenridge did not pay much attention to this “break” of Wallace but quietly turned around and left the party. Shortly after this, Curly Bill, who it would seem had a friendly feeling for Breakenridge, insisted that Wallace should go and find him and apologize for the insult given.

This Wallace was induced to do after finding Breakenridge he made the apology and the latter accompanied him back to the saloon where the cowboys were drinking. By this time Curly Bill who had drank just enough to make him quarrelsome, was in one of his most dangerous moods and evidently desirous of increasing his record as a man killer. He commenced to abuse Wallace, who, by the way, had some pretensions himself as a desperado and bad man generally and finally said, “You d-d Lincoln county s-of a b—, I’ll kill you anyhow.” Wallace immediately went outside the door of the saloon, Curly Bill following close behind him. Just as the latter stepped outside, Wallace, who had meanwhile drawn his revolver, fired, the ball entering penetrating the left side of Curly Bill’s neck and passing through, came out the right cheek, not breaking the jawbone. A scene of the wildest excitement ensued in the town.

The other members of the cowboy party surrounded Wallace and threats of lynching him were made. The law-abiding citizens were in doubt what course to pursue. They did not wish any more bloodshed but were in favor of allowing the lawless element to “have it out” among themselves. But Deputy Breakenridge decided to arrest Wallace, which he succeeded in doing without meeting any resistance. The prisoner was taken before Justice Ellinwood and after examination into the facts of the shooting he was discharged.

The wounded and apparently dying desperado was taken into an adjoining building, and a doctor summoned to dress his wounds. After examining the course of the bullet, the doctor pronounced the wound dangerous but not necessarily fatal, the chances for and against recovery being about equal. Wallace and Curly Bill have been Partners and fast friends for the past 4 or 6 months and so far is known, there was no cause for the quarrel, it being simply a drunken brawl.”

June 9, 1881, Tombstone Epitaph

Virgil Earp

Virgil Earp

“What came very near being a serious shooting affray was prevented yesterday morning by the coolness and intrepidity of Virgil Earp, acting City Marshal. Ike Clanton, well-known in the San Simon and San Pedro valleys, and “Denny” McCann, a sporting man, had a difficulty in an Allen street saloon when the latter slapped the face of the former. Clanton went out and heeled himself, and “Denny” did the same. They met in front of Wells, Fargo’s office about 9 o’clock and both drew their guns about the same time, when Earp stepped between them and spoiled a good local item. They are both determined men, and but for the interference of the officer, there would doubtless have been a funeral, perhaps two.”

September, 1881 – John Gosper, U.S. Secretary of State

“The cowboy element at times very fully predominates, and the officers of the law are either unable or unwilling to control this class of outlaws, sometimes being governed by fear, at other times by a hope of reward. At Tombstone, the county seat of Cochise County, I conferred with the Sheriff upon the subject of breaking up these bands of outlaws, and I am sorry to say he gave me but little hope of being able in his department to cope with the power of the cowboys. He represented to me that the Deputy U.S. Marshal, resident of Tombstone, and the city Marshal for the same, seemed unwilling to heartily cooperate with him in capturing and bringing to justice these outlaws.

In conversation with the Deputy US Marshal, Mr. Earp, I found precisely the same spirit of complaint existing against Mr. Behan and his deputies. Many of the very best law-abiding and peace-loving citizens have no confidence in the willingness of the civil officers to pursue and bring to justice that element of outlawry so largely disturbing the sense of security, and so often committing highway robbery and smaller thefts. The opinion in Tombstone and elsewhere in that part of the Territory is quite prevalent that the civil officers are quite largely in league with the leaders of this disturbing and dangerous element.

Something must be done, and that right early, or very grave results will follow. If is an open disgrace to American liberty and the peace and security of her citizens, that such a slate of affairs should exist.”

October, 1881 – Tombstone Nugget

“We live mostly in canvas houses up here and when lunatics like those who fired so promiscuously the other night are on the rampage, it ain’t safe, anyhow!”

Aftermath of the O.K. Corral Gunfight

Re-creation of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral

Re-creation of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral

October 26, 1881, Coroner’s Inquest on the bodies of  William Clanton, Frank McLaury and Thomas McLaury, deceased.

“Document 48: C.H. Light


I heard two shots as quick as I could count, “One, Two,” I jumped to the window on Third Street, looked up Fremont Street, I saw several men in the act of shooting. At the instant I saw a man [Tom McLaury] reel and fall on the corner of Fremont and Third Streets on the Southside, right directly on the corner of the house. I do not know who that man was. I looked up the street again [and] I saw three men standing at an angle about 10 or 15 feet apart [Wyatt and Virgil Earp and Doc Holliday,] about the center of the street, facing Fly’s gallery and the house below. I saw another man standing, leaning, against a building joining the vacant lot [Billy Clanton]. There appeared to be two men firing at the man standing beside the house [Wyatt and Virgil Earp.]

That man appeared to be struck from the motions he made. Then he fired one shot at the lower man, at the northwesterly man, which I afterward understood was Holliday. The shot appeared to take effect, which was fired by the man with the horse, for the other man turned partly around. I then looked at the man against the house expecting every moment to see some on of them fall, and he was in the act of sliding down on the ground, apparently wounded. At that instant, the horse vanished. I do not know where he went to. This lower man was firing apparently up the street. He fired one or two shots. I then saw the man who slid down the side of the house lying with his head and shoulders against the house, place a pistol on his leg and fired two shots. He tried to fire a third shot but he apparently was too weak. The shot went into the air. At the same time there was a tall man with gray clothes [Doc Holliday] and a broad hat standing about the middle of the street, [who] fired two [shots] apparently in the direction of the man who had been leaning against the house. Then there appeared to be one party in the middle of the street firing down the street. This man who laid on the ground near the corner of the house never fired but three shots. He appeared to be disabled. Then there was a few more shots fired by parties on the north side of the street [who] had passed from my view and I was not able to see them. The next thing I observed was two men standing beside the man that slid down on the south side of the street near the corner of the building. A tall man dressed in black appeared on the scene with a rifle in his hand and said, “Take that pistol away from that man or he will kill him!” At this time the shooting was all over, and I do not think the whole of it occupied over 10 or 15 seconds. The tall man dressed in black was not a participant in the affray.

There seemed to be six parties firing, four in the middle of the street and one on the south side of the street, and the one with the horse. Afterward, I recognized the man with the gray clothes to be Doc Holliday. I think there were about 25 or 30 shots fired altogether. I did not see any of the parties have a shotgun. The fight occurred about 130 or 140 feet away from where I was. I think, from the report, that the first two were pistol shots. I think that there was one report from a shotgun.

I saw the man who fell at the corner of the street lying there all the time of the fight, I did not see him shoot. He seemed to me to be the first man shot. There was not time enough for a man to draw a pistol to fire a shot, between the first two shots. They must have been from two pistols. The man who fired the second shot must have been prepared to fire when the first shot was fired. These two shots I heard were fired before I went to the window, but it did not take me a second to get there.”

October 27, 1881 – Ford County [Kansas] Globe

Tombstone, Arizona today

Tombstone, Arizona today

“A Tombstone, Arizona, dispatch says: Four cowboys, Ike and Billy Clanton and Frank and Tom McLaury, have been parading the town for several days drinking heavily and making themselves obnoxious. On Wednesday last the city marshal Virgil Earp arrested Ike Clanton. Soon after his release the four met the marshal, his brother Morgan and Wyatt Earp, and a citizen named Holliday. The marshal ordered them to give up their weapons, when a fight commenced. About thirty shots were fired rapidly. Both the  McLaury boys were killed. Bill Clanton was mortally wounded, dying soon after. Ike was slightly wounded in the shoulder. Wyatt Earp was slightly wounded, and the others were unhurt. ”

October 27, 1881, Yesterday’s Tragedy, Tombstone Epitaph

“Three Men Hurled Into Eternity in the Duration of a Moment”

The McLaurys and Clanton Dead

The McLaurys and Clanton Dead

Stormy as were the early days of Tombstone nothing ever occurred equal to the event of yesterday. Since the retirement of Ben Sippy as marshal and the appointment of V.W. Earp to fill the vacancy the town has been noted for its quietness and good order. The fractious and much-dreaded cowboys when they came to town were upon their good behavior and no unseemly brawls were indulged in, and it was hoped by our citizens that no more such deeds would occur as led to the killing of Marshal White one year ago.

It seems that this quiet state of affairs was but the calm that precedes the storm that burst in all its fury yesterday, with this difference in results, that the lightning bolt struck in a different quarter from the one that fell a year ago. This time it struck with its full and awful force upon those who, heretofore, have made the good name of this county a byword and a reproach, instead of upon some officer in discharge of his duty or a peaceable and unoffending citizen.

Since the arrest of Stillwell and Spence for the robbery of the Bisbee stage, there have been oft-repeated threats conveyed to the Earp brothers — Virgil, Morgan, and Wyatt — that the friends of the accused, or in other words the cowboys, would get even with them for the part they had taken in the pursuit and arrest of Stillwell and Spence. The active part of the Earps in going after stage robbers, beginning with the one last spring where Budd Philpot lost his life, and the more recent one near Contention, has made them exceedingly obnoxious to the bad element of this county and put their lives in jeopardy every month.

Sometime Tuesday Ike Clanton came into town and during the evening had some little talk with Doc Holliday and Marshal Earp but nothing to cause either to suspect, further than their general knowledge of the man and the threats that had previously been conveyed to the Marshal, that the gang intended to clean out the Earps, that he was thirsting for blood at this time with one exception and that was that Clanton told the Marshal, in answer to a question, that the McLaurys were in Sonora. Shortly after this occurrence someone came to the Marshal and told him that the McLaurys had been seen a short time before just below town. Marshal Earp, now knowing what might happen and feeling his responsibility for the peace and order of the city, stayed on duty all night and added to the police force his brother Morgan and Holliday. The night passed without any disturbance whatever and at sunrise, he went home to rest and sleep. A short time afterward one of his brothers came to his house and told him that Clanton was hunting him with threats of shooting him on sight. He discredited the report and did not get out of bed. It was not long before another of his brothers came down, and told him the same thing, whereupon he got up, dressed, and went with his brother Morgan uptown. They walked up Allen Street to Fifth, crossed over to Fremont, and down to Fourth, where, upon turning up Fourth toward Allen, they came upon Clanton with a Winchester rifle in his hand and a revolver on his hip. The Marshal walked up to him, grabbed the rifle, and hit him a blow on the head at the same time, stunning him so that he was able to disarm him without further trouble. He marched Clanton off to the police court where he entered a complaint against him for carrying deadly weapons, and the court fined Clanton $25 and costs, making $27.50 altogether. This occurrence must have been about 1 o’clock in the afternoon.

The After-Occurrence

Close upon the heels of this came the finale, which is best told in the words of R.F. Coleman who was an eye-witness from the beginning to the end. Mr. Coleman says: I was in the O.K. Corral at 2:30 p.m. when I saw the two Clantons and the two McLaurys in an earnest conversation across the street in Dunbar’s corral. I went up the street and notified Sheriff Behan and told him it was my opinion they meant trouble, and it was his duty, as sheriff, to go and disarm them. I told him they had gone to the West End Corral. I then went and saw Marshal Virgil Earp and notified him to the same effect. I then met Billy Allen and we walked through the O.K. Corral, about fifty yards behind the sheriff. On reaching Fremont street I saw Virgil Earp, Wyatt Earp, Morgan Earp, and Doc Holliday, in the center of the street, all armed. I had reached Bauer’s meat market. Johnny Behan had just left the cowboys, after having a conversation with them. I went along to Fly’s photograph gallery when I heard Virgil Earp say, “Give up your arms or throw up your arms.” There was some reply made by Frank McLaury, when firing became general, over thirty shots being fired. Tom McLaury fell first but raised and fired again before he died. Bill Clanton fell next, and raised to fire again when Mr. Fly took his revolver from him. Frank McLaury ran a few rods and fell. Morgan Earp was shot through and fell. Doc Holliday was hit in the left hip but kept on firing.  Virgil Earp was hit in the third or fourth fire, in the leg which staggered him but he kept up his effective work. Wyatt Earp stood up and fired in rapid succession, as cool as a cucumber, and was not hit. Doc Holliday was as calm as though at target practice and fired rapidly. After the firing was over, Sheriff Behan went up to Wyatt Earp.

Custom Wanted Poster

Personalized Wanted Poster, at Legends’ General Store.

This ends Mr. Coleman’s story which in the most essential particulars has been confirmed by others. Marshal Earp says that he and his party met the Clantons and the McLaurys in the alleyway by the McDonald place; he called to them to throw up their hands, that he had come to disarm them. Instantaneously Bill Clanton and one of the McLaurys fired, and then it became general. Mr. Earp says it was the first shot from Frank McLaury that hit him. In other particulars his statement does not materially differ from the statement above given. Ike Clanton was not armed and ran across to Allen street and took refuge in the dance hall there. The two McLaurys and Bill Clanton all died within a few minutes after being shot. The Marshal was shot through the calf of the right leg, the ball going clear through. His brother, Morgan, was shot through the shoulders, the ball entering the point of the right shoulder blade, following across the back, shattering off a piece of one vertebra and passing out the left shoulder in about the same position that it entered the right. The wound is dangerous but not necessarily fatal, and Virgil’s is far more painful than dangerous. Doc Holliday was hit upon the scabbard of his pistol, the leather breaking the force of the ball so that no material damage was done other than to make him limp a little in his walk.

Dr. Matthews impaneled a coroner’s jury, who went and viewed the bodies as they lay in the cabin in the rear of Dunbar’s stables on Fifth street, and then adjourned until 10 o’clock this morning.

The Alarm Given

The moment the word of the shooting reached the Vizina and Tough Nut mines the whistles blew a shrill signal, and the miners came to the surface, armed themselves, and poured into the town like an invading army. A few moments served to bring out all the better portions of the citizens, thoroughly armed and ready for any emergency. Precautions were immediately taken to preserve law and order, even if they had to fight for it. A guard of ten men were stationed around the county jail, and extra policemen put on for the night.

Earp brothers Justified

The feeling among the best class of our citizens is that the Marshal was entirely justified in his efforts to disarm these men, and that being fired upon they had to defend themselves, which they did most bravely. So long as our peace officers make an effort to preserve the peace and put down highway robbery — which the Earp brothers have done, having engaged in the pursuit and capture, where captures have been made of every gang of stage robbers in the county — they will have the support of all good citizens.  If the present lesson is not sufficient to teach the cow-boy element that they cannot come into the streets of Tombstone, in broad daylight, armed with six-shooters and Henry rifles to hunt down their victims, then the citizens will most assuredly take such steps to preserve the peace as will be forever a bar to such raids.”

October 28, 1881, Tombstone Epitaph

“The funeral of the McLaury brothers and Clanton yesterday was numerically one of the largest ever witnessed in Tombstone. It took place at 3:30 from the undertaking rooms of Messrs. Ritter and Eyan. The procession headed by the Tombstone brass band moved down Allen street and thence to the cemetery. The sidewalks were densely packed for three or four blocks. The body of Clanton was in the first hearse and those of the two McLaury brothers in the second, side by side, and were interred in the same grave. It was a most impressive and saddening sight and such a one as it is to be hoped may never occur again in this community.”

October 29, 1881, Coroner’s Inquest, Testimony of Sheriff Behan, published in the Tombstone Epitaph

Sheriff Johnny Behan

Sheriff Johnny Behan

“Investigation into the Cause of the Recent Killing”

Following is a verbatim copy of the testimony given before the Coroner’s Jury in relation to the killing of the McLaury brothers and Clanton, up to the time of adjournment, last evening. At the rate of progress made yesterday, the investigation is liable to last for a week.

The Coroner’s Jury was composed of the following: T.P. Hudson, D. Calisher, M. Garrett, S.B. Comstock, J.C. Davis, Thomas Moses, C.D. Reppy, F. Hafford, George H. Haskell, M. S. Goodrich.

John H. Behan, being sworn says; I am Sheriff, and reside in Tombstone, Cochise County, Arizona; I know the defendants Wyatt Earp, and John H. Holliday; I know Virg and Morg Earp; I knew Thomas McLaury, Frank McLaury, and William Clanton; I was in Tombstone October 26, when a difficulty, or shooting affray took place between the parties named.

The first I knew that there was likely to be any trouble, I was sitting in a chair getting shaved in a barber shop; it was about half past one or two, it may have been later, but not much; saw a crowd gathering on the corner of Fourth and Allen Streets; someone in the shop said there was liable to be trouble between Clantons and the Earps; there was considerable said about it in the shop and I asked the barber to hurry up and get through, as I intended to go out and disarm and arrest the parties; after I had finished in the barber shop I crossed over to Hafford’s corner; saw Marshal Earp standing there and asked what was the excitement; Marshal Earp is Virgil Earp; he said there [were] a lot of s—s of b—s in town looking for a fight; he did not mention any names; I said to Earp you had better disarm the crowd; he said he would not, he would give them a chance to make the fight; I said to him: It is your duty as a Peace Officer to disarm them rather than encourage the fight; don’t remember what reply he gave me, but I said I was going down to disarm the boys

I meant any parties connected with the cowboys who had arms; Marshal Earp at that time was standing in Hafford’s door; several people were around him; I don’t know who; Morgan Earp and Doc Holliday were then standing out near the middle of the street, at or near the intersection of Allen and Fourth Streets; I saw none other of the defendants there; Virgil Earp had a shotgun; with the muzzle touching the door-sill, down at his side; I did not see arms on the others at the time; I then went down Fourth Street to the corner of Fremont, and I met there Frank McLaury holding a horse and talking to somebody; I greeted him; I said to him: I told McLaury that I would have to disarm him, as there was likely to be trouble in town and I propose to disarm everybody in town that had arms. He said he would not give up his arms as he did not intend to have trouble; I told him that he would have to give up his pistol, all the same; I may have said gun, as gun and pistol are synonymous terms; about that time I saw Ike Clanton and Tom McLaury down the street below Fly’s Photography Gallery; I said to Frank, ‘Come with me;’ we went down to where Ike Clanton and Tom were standing; I said to the boys, ‘You must give up your arms!’  Billy Clanton and Will Claiborne; I said to them, ‘Boys you have got to give up your arms.’ Frank McLaury demurred; I don’t know exact language; he did not seem inclined, at first, to give up his arms. Ike told me he did not have any arms.

Tom McLaury

I put my arm around his waist to see if he was armed, and found he was not; Tom McLaury showed me by pulling his coat open, that he was not armed, I saw five standing there and asked them how many there were of them; they said four of us; this young man, Claiborne said he was not one of the party; he wanted them to leave town; I said boys you must go up to the Sheriff’s office and take off your arms and stay there until I get back; I told them I was going to disarm the other party; at that time I saw [the] Earps and Holliday coming down the sidewalk, on the south side of Fremont Street; they were a little below the post office; Virgil, Morgan and Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday were the ones; I said to the Clantons wait there for awhile, I see them coming down, I will go and stop them; I walked up the street twenty-two or twenty-three steps and met them at Bauer’s Butcher Shop, under the awning, in front, and told them not to go any farther, that I was down there for the purpose of arresting and disarming the McLaurys and Clantons; they did not heed me and I threw up my hands and said go back, I’m the Sheriff of this county and am not going to allow any trouble if I can help it; they brushed past me and I turned and went with them, or followed them two steps or so in the rear as they went down the street, expostulating with them all the time; when they arrived within a very few feet of the Clantons and McLaurys I heard one of them say I think it was Wyatt Earp. “You s—s of b—s you have been looking for a fight and now you can have it,’ about that time I heard a voice say ‘Throw up your hands;’ during this time I saw a nickel-plated pistol pointed at one of the Clanton party – I think Billy – My impression at the time was that Doc Holliday had a nickel-plated pistol; I will not say for certain that Holliday had it; these pistols I speak of were in the hands of the Earp party; when the order was given, ‘Throw up your hands,’ I heard Billy Clanton say. ‘Don’t shoot me, I don’t want to fight,’ Tom McLaury at the same time threw open his coat and said, ‘I have nothing,’ or ‘I am not armed;’ he made the same remark and the same gesture that he made to me when he first told me he was not armed; I can’t tell the position of Billy Clanton’s hands at the time he said, ‘ I don’t want to fight,’ my attention was directed just at that moment to the nickel-plated pistol; the nickel-plated pistol was the first to fire, and another followed instantly; these two shots were not from the same pistol, they were too nearly instantaneous to be fired from the same pistol; the nickel-plated pistol was fired by the second man from the right; the second shot came from the third man from the right. The fight became general.

Two of the three fired shots were very rapid after the first shop; by whom I Do not Know; the first two shots fired by the Earp party; I could not say by whom; the next three shots I thought at the time came from the Earp party; this was my impression at the time from being on the ground and seeing them; after the party said, ‘Throw up your hands;’ the nickel-plated pistol went off immediately; I think V.W. Earp said, ‘Throw up your hands;’ there was a good deal of fighting and shouting going on.

Frank McLaury

Frank McLaury

I saw Frank McLaury staggering on the street with one hand on his belly and his pistol in his right; I saw him shoot at Morgan Earp, and from the direction of his pistol should judge that the shot went in the ground; he shot twice there in towards Fly’s Building at Morgan Earp, and he started across the street; heard a couple of shots from that direction; did not see him after he got about halfway across the street; then heard a couple of shots from his direction; looked and saw McLaury running and a shot was fired and he fell on his head; heard Morg say, ‘I got him;’ there might have been a couple of shots afterward; but that was about the end of the fight; I can’t say I knew the effect of the first two shots; the only parties I saw fall were Morgan Earp and Frank McLaury. My impression was that the nickel-plated pistol was pointed at Billy Clanton; the first man that I was certain that was hit was Frank McLaury, as I saw him staggering and bewildered and knew he was hit; this shortly after the first five shots; I never saw any arms in the hands of any of the McLaury party except Frank McLaury and Billy Clanton; saw Frank McLaury on the sidewalk, within a very few feet of the inside line of the street; did not see a pistol in the hands of any of the McLaury party until 8 or 10 shots had been fired; Frank was the first of the party in whose hands I saw a pistol; Ike Clanton broke and ran after the first few shots were fired; Ike, I think, went through Fly’s Building; the last I saw of him he was running through the back of Fly’s Building towards Allen Street.’

At the conclusion of the above testimony the court adjourned until 9 o’clock this morning.

October 28, 1881 – Tombstone Nugget

“An Imposing Funeral: While it was not entirely expected, the funeral of Billy Clanton and Thomas and Frank McLaury, yesterday, was the largest ever witnessed in Tombstone. It was advertised to take place at 3 o’clock, but it was about 4 o’clock before the cortege moved, yet a large number had gathered at the undertaker’s long before the first time mentioned. The bodies of the three men, neatly and tastefully dressed, were placed in handsome caskets with heavy silver trimmings. Upon each was a silver plate bearing the name, age, birthplace and date of the death of each. A short time before the funeral, photographs were taken of the dead. The procession was headed by the Tombstone brass band playing the solemn and touching march of the dead. The first wagon contained the body of Billy Clanton, followed by those of the McLaury Boys. A few carriages came next in which were friends and relatives of the deceased, among whom were Ike and Finn Clanton. After these were about three hundred persons on foot, twenty-two carriages and buggies and one four horse stage, and the horsemen, making a line nearly two blocks in length. The two brothers were buried in one grave, and the young Clanton close by those who were his friends in life and companions in death. The inscription upon the plates of the casket-s stated that Thomas McLaury was 25 years of age, Frank McLaury 29 years of age, both natives of Mississippi, and that William H. Clanton was 19 years of age and a native of Texas. “Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep.”

October 30, 1881, Tombstone Nugget

Doc Holliday in 1879

Doc Holliday in 1879

“We, the undersigned, a jury of inquest, after viewing the body and hearing such testimony as has been submitted to us, find that the person was Frank McLaury, 29 years of age came to his death in the town of Tombstone on the 26th day of October 1881, from gunshot wounds inflicted by Virgil Earp, Morgan Earp, Wyatt Earp and one Holliday commonly known as Doc Holliday. The verdict rendered in the case of Wm. Clanton Thomas McLaury was the same as the above.”

October 30, 1881, Tombstone Nugget, Additional Statements at the Coroner’s Inquest

“Further Testimony Regarding The Late Tragedy.

The coroner’s jury, summoned for the purpose of inquiring into the causes of the death of Thomas and Frank McLaury, met at 10 o’clock yesterday and continued the examination by taking the testimony of the following witnesses:

B.H. Fellehy, sworn and testifies.

‘I heard some stranger ask Ike Clanton what is the trouble; he said there would be no trouble; then Ike Clanton went over to Dolan’s saloon; I then looked over and saw the Marshal standing at Hafford’s doorway.

Then saw the Sheriff going over to where the Marshal and Sheriff were talking; the Sheriff says, “What’s the trouble,” the Marshal says, “Those men have made their threats; I will not arrest them but will kill them on sight.

Virgil Earp said this; the Sheriff asked the Marshal in to take a drink; did not see them afterward as I crossed over the street to the other side; when I got over there I saw one of the Earp brothers, the youngest one, talking to Doc Holliday; looked across the street; saw the Marshal again; some one came up to him and called him aside; when this gentleman got through talking with the Earps; saw three of the Earps and Holliday go down the street together; they kept on the left of the street on Fourth; I was on the right side; when I got to the corner of Fremont and Fourth I started to go across to the southwest corner of Fremont; when I got midway between in the street I saw the firing had commenced; I kept my eye on the Earps and Holliday until the shooting commenced; I saw Doc Holliday in the middle of the street; the youngest of the Earp brothers was about three feet from the sidewalk; he was firing at a man behind a horse; Doc Holliday also fired at the man behind the horse, and firing at a man who ran by him on the opposite side of the street; then I saw the man who had the horse let go, and was staggering all the time until he fell; he had his pistol still when he fell; I never saw the two elder Earps; I did not know where they were situated; I then went to the young man [Frank McLaury] lying on the sidewalk and offered to pick him up; he never spoke except the movement of the lips; I picked up a revolver lying five feet from him; then I saw Doc Holliday running towards where the young man was lying, still having a revolver in his hand, making the remark, ‘the s— of a b— has shot me and I mean to kill him;’ could not say who fired the first shots; I didn’t see a shotgun go off; I didn’t see a shotgun after I walked down the street; I didn’t see any one with their hands up, I was too far away to see that.’

Ike Clanton

Ike Clanton

Ike Clanton, sworn:

‘Am a cattle dealer; was present on the 26th of the month, and am a brother of William Clanton who was killed on that day, saw the whole transaction, the killing; well, the night before the killing went into the Occidental lunch saloon for a lunch; while in there Doc Holliday came in and raised a row with me; was abusing me; he had his hand on his pistol; called me a s— of a b—; he told me to get my gun out; I told him I had no gun; I looked around and saw Morgan Earp behind him, they began to abuse me, when I turned and got out doors; Virgil Earp, Wyatt and Morgan were all up there, Morgan Earp told me if I wanted to fight to turn myself loose; they all had their hands; I told them again that I was not armed; Doc Holliday said, ‘You s— of a b—, go and arm yourself; I did then go and arm myself; I went back, saw Virgil Earp and T. McLaury; Virgil Earp was playing poker with his pistol in his lap; we were playing poker, we quit at daylight; I followed him and said, ‘I was abused the night before, and was still in town,’ he said he was going to bed; the reason I followed him up was I saw him take his pistol out of his lap and stick it in his pants; I came back and passed in my chips; staid around until about 8 or 9 o’clock.

I stayed to meet Doc Holliday. The next thing they, Virgil and Morgan Earp, slipped up and disarmed me; shortly after I met my brother; he asked me to go out of town; just then I met the man that had our team; I told him to harness up; then I went to get something left by my brother. We then went to where our team was; met the sheriff there; he told us that he would have to arrest us and take our arms off. I told him that we were just going to leave town; that I had no arms on me; he then told Billy, my brother, to take his arms up to his office, Billy told him he was just leaving the town; the sheriff then told Frank and Tom McLaury to take their arms off.

Tom McLaury then opened his coat and said, ‘Johnny, I have nothing.’ Frank said that he was leaving town, and that he would disarm if the Earps would; that he had business that he would like to do before he left town. Just at that time Doc Holliday and the Earps appeared on the sidewalk; the sheriff stepped out to meet them; he told them that he had this party in charge; they walked right by him. I stepped out and met Wyatt Earp; he stuck his – six shooter at me and said, ‘Throw up your hands!’ The marshal also told the other boys to throw up their hands; Frank McLaury and Billy Clanton threw up; Tom McLaury threw open his coat and said he had nothing; they said you’s s— of b—s came here to make a fight; at the same instant Doc Holliday and Morgan Earp shot; Morgan shot Billy Clanton, and I don’t know which of the boys he shot; I saw Virg shooting at the same time; I grabbed Wyatt Earp and pushed him around the corner and then ran through the photograph gallery; at the same time I saw Billy Clanton fall; when I got away.

All of us threw up our hands except Frank McLaury, who threw open his coat saying that he had nothing. There was some trouble between myself and the Earps prior to this; there was nothing between the other boys and the Earps; Doc Holliday said I had used his name; I said I hadn’t; I never had trouble with the Earps; they don’t like me; we once had a transaction, myself and the Earps; I know of no threats made by the Clantons and McLaurys that day; I made no threats, only as I formerly said; they, the Earps, met Billy Clanton 15 minutes before they killed him and shook hands with him and said they were glad to meet him; Billy Clanton and Frank McLaury were only a half an hour in town; I might have made threats as said, as I felt that way; I made no worse threats at them than they did with me; I didn’t expect Wyatt, I expected Morgan and Doc Holliday to attack me.

Our crowd did not expect an attack until someone told us; at the time they made the attack I had no arms; the Earp brothers had my arms; Virgil Earp had them; it was a six-shooter; It was two days prior since I saw Billy or Frank McLaury until that morning; had never had a word of conversation with either of them in my life; I don’t know whether the party had a shotgun; Virgil was about six feet from me; they were three or four feet distant when they fired; I did not see my brother or either of the McLaurys fire a shot. There were four or five shots fired before I left the ground; at the time the Sheriff was talking to us; Billy Clanton and Billy Claibourne were standing together; the McLaurys and myself were standing five or six feet to the left; the Clantons came up from Antelope Springs for a load of freight, that is, the McLaurys; I don’t know how near Claiborne was to me at the time of the shooting; I don’t know whether Morgan Earp or Doc Holliday fired first; It was a nickel-plated pistol by one of them; their weapons were down when they came up; the Sheriff, after he had ordered us to give up our arms I did not think we were under arrest; he said it was all right if we left town; Behan had a conversation with Frank McLaury; I know where the Sheriff’s office is, we could not have gone up to the Sheriff’s office after he left us before the Earps came up; the Sheriff told us to stay where we were until he came back; I would not have staid there had I not orders from the Sheriff; after I saw the Earps armed; the Sheriff was with us about four, five or six minutes.’

Mrs. M.J. King, sworn:

O.K. Corral

The O.K.Corral, Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

‘Reside at Tombstone; occupation housekeeping. I was coming from my home to the meat market, Mr. Beuer’s to get some meat for dinner; I saw quite a group of men standing on the sidewalk with two horses, near the market; I passed into the shop; the parties inside seemed quite excited; did not seem to wait on me; I inquired what was the matter, and they said there was going to be a fuss between the Earp boys and cowboys; then I stepped to the door; I heard some talking then; but did not understand at first what was said, then three parties seemed to separate, and the man with the horse seemed to be leading, as the man that was talking with them turned from them; one of them said, “If you wish to find us, you will find us down here;” then the man went up town toward the post office; he was, I think, a tall man; then I stepped into the market; the butcher was in the act of cutting the meat, when some one said, “There they come;” then I stepped to the door and looked up the sidewalk, when I saw four men coming down the street; I saw and know one of the party; it was Doc Holliday; there were three others of the party which were pointed out to me as the Earp brothers; Mr. Holliday was next to the building on the inside; he had a gun under his coat; I stood in the door till these men passed; till they got to the second door; what frightened me and made me run back? I heard the man on the outside kind of stop or looked at Holliday. And said, “Let them have it.” Holliday said “all right.” Then I thought there would be shooting; from what these parties said, and ran for the back of the shop, but before I reached the middle of the shop I heard shots, and don’t know what happened afterwards.’

R.J. Coleman, being sworn, testified:

‘I saw the arrest of Ike Clanton the morning before the shooting took place; Marshal Earp went up behind him and grabbed his gun, then there was a scuffle and Clanton fell; didn’t see Earp hit him, but saw Earp have a six-shooter, but don’t know whether he had taken it from Clanton or not; Clanton was taken to the police station. And after the trial was over Marshal Earp offered him his rifle, but Clanton would not take it, they had some words, during which I heard Clanton say, “All I want if four feet of ground;” soon after I was standing in front of the O.K. Corral and saw the two Clantons and McLaurys standing and talking in a stall in Dunbar’s corral; in a few minutes they came out and crossed the street into the O.K. Corral; Billy Clanton was riding his horse and Frank McLaury was leading his; as they passed, Billy Clanton said to me, ‘Where is the West End corral.’ I told him where it was and they passed on into the corral and I went on up Allen street; when opposite the Headquarters saloon I met Sheriff Behan; told him he should go and disarm the men, that I thought they meant mischief; I soon after met Marshal Earp and told him the same thing, I then walked down Allen street again and passed through the O.K. Corral; where I saw the Clantons and the McLaurys talking with Sheriff Behan, and heard one of them say, ‘You need not be afraid of us Johnny, we will not make any trouble.’ Billy Clanton had his horse with him; I then turned and went up Fremont street; when I got as far as Bauer’s butcher shop, I net Wyatt, Morgan and Virgil Earp and Doc Holliday walking down the center of the street; Sheriff Behan walked up to them and said, ‘I don’t want you to go any further.; I don’t think they made any reply, but passed on down the street until they came opposite the Clanton party. The Earp party addressed them; I heard s— of b—‘s but don’t know which party spoke. Someone in the Earp party then said; “Throw up your hands” or or “Give up your arms.” I thought I was too close, and as I turned around I heard two shots, then the firing became general. After a few shots, Ike Clanton ran up the street and through Fly’s gallery; think there were two shots fired; fired at him; after the first twoTom McLaury ran down Fremont street and fell; Billy Clanton stood in the same position as when I first saw him; saw him fire two or three shots in a crouched position; one of them hit Morgan Earp, who stumbled or fell, he jumped up again and commenced shooting; about that time, Frank McLaury came out in the street toward Holliday, some words passed between them; Frank said, “I’ve got you now,” firing a shot at the same time, which struck Holliday on the hip or his scabbard; I hollered to Holliday, saying, “You’ve got it now;” he answered, “Yes, I’m shot right through.” Frank then passed across the street and fell; I think Billy Clanton must have been struck, but was down in a crouching position, and using the pistol across his knee and fired two shots, one of which hit Marshal Earp; Wyatt and Morgan were still firing at him, when he raised himself up and then fell, still holding his pistol in his hand; after the shooting saw Sheriff Behan and Wyatt Earp talking; Behand said, “I ought to arrest you.” Wyatt said, “I won’t be arrested; you deceived me Johnny when you said they were not armed,” and repeated again, “I won’t be arrested, but am here to answer for what I have done; I am not going to leave town.” Couldn’t tell where I was whether they threw up their hands or not, except Billy Clanton, he had his hand on his pistol, which was in the scabbard, his right hand on his left hip; this was after the first two shots; can’t swear how many of the Clantons were armed; Don’t think Ike was; can’t say that I saw a shotgun; don’t think Billy Clanton was shot until after the first two shots; don’t think he was hit until after he shot; did not see Tom McLaury have a pistol; my impression is that he started to run to get away from the shooting; I didn’t see Behan or hear him say anything.’

At the conclusion of the evidence given by the witness, the jury decided that no further testimony was necessary, and a few minutes after retiring, returned with the following verdict:

Tombstone, Territory of Arizona, County of Cochise October 29, 1881.

We the undersigned, a jury of inquest, summoned by the coroner of the court of Cochise to determine whose the body is submitted to our inspection; when, where, and under what circumstances the person came to his death. After viewing the body and hearing such testimony as had been submitted to us, find that the person was Frank McLaury, 29 years of age and a native of Mississippi and that he came to his death in the town of Tombstone in said county, and on the 26th day of October, 1881, from the effects of pistol and gunshot wounds inflicted by Virgil Earp, Morgan Earp, Wyatt Earp, and one Holliday, commonly called Doc Holliday.

Thomas Moses; R.F. Hafford, D. Calisher, T.F. Hudson, M. Garrett, S.B. Comstock.

The verdict in the case of  Wm. Clanton and Thomas McLaury was the same as the above, excepting as to their names and ages, which were inserted in the body of the document.

November 8, 1881 – Ford County [Kansas] Globe

“The Earp boys, who had the fight with the cowboys, at Tombstone, Arizona, which resulted in the killing of three cowboys, have been arrested by the friends of the men who were killed. The Earp boys were acting as peace officers, and from all reports were justified in doing what they did. Wyatt Earp was formerly city marshal of Dodge City, and a paper setting forth his good qualities was circulated last week and signed by all the prominent citizens.”

November 8, 1881, Tombstone Nugget

W. Earp and John Holliday were brought before this court [Judge Lucas’ Probate Court] on a writ of habeas corpus, claiming that having been out on bail, Justice Spicer had no power to order them in custody. After argument the writ was dismissed and Earp and Holliday remanded into the custody of the Sheriff.”

November 17, 1881, Statement of Wyatt Earp published in the Tombstone Epitaph

Wyatt Earp

Wyatt Earp

“The Statement of Wyatt Earp

Q. What is your name and age?

A. Wyatt S. Earp; age 32 last March.

Q. Where were you born?

A. Monmouth, Warren county, Illinois.

Q. Where do you reside and how long have you resided there?

A. Tombstone; since Dec. 1st, 1881. [should be 1879]

Q. What is your business or profession?

A. Saloon keeper; have also been employed as a deputy sheriff, and also as a detective.

Q. Give any explanation you may think proper of the circumstances appearing in the testimony
against you, and state any facts which you think will tend to your exculpation.

A. The difficulty between deceased and myself originated first when I followed Tom McLaury and Frank McLaury, with Virgil and Morgan Earp and Captain Hearst and four soldiers to look for six government mules which were stolen. A man named Estes told us at Charleston, that we would find the mules at McLaury’s ranch, that the McLaurys were branding “D. S.” over “U. S.” We tracked the mules to McLaury’s ranch, where we also found the brand. Afterwards some of those mules were found with the same brand. After we arrived at McLaury’s ranch there was a man named Frank Patterson who made some kind of a compromise with Captain Hearst. Captain Hearst came to us boys and told us he had made this compromise and by so doing he would get the mules back. We insisted on following them up. Hearst prevailed upon us to go back to Tombstone, and so we came back. Hearst told us two or three weeks afterwards that they would not give up the mules to him after we left, saying they only wanted to get us away: that they could stand the soldiers off. Captain Hearst cautioned me and Virgil and Morgan to look out for those men; that they had made some hard threats against the lives. About one month after that, after those mules had been taken, I met Frank and Tom McLaury in Charleston. They tried to pick a fuss out of me, and told me that if I ever followed them up again as close as I did before that they would kill me.

Shortly after the time Budd Philpot was killed by those men who tried to rob the Benson stage, as a detective I helped trace the matter up, and I was satisfied that three men, named Billy Leonard, Harry Head and Jim Crane were in that robbery. I know that Leonard, Head, and Crane were friends and associates of the Clantons and McLaurys and often stopped at their ranches. It was generally understood among officers, and those who have information about criminals, that Ike Clanton was a sort of chief among the cowboys; that the Clantons and McLaurys were cattle thieves, and generally in the secrets of the stage robbers; and that the Clantons and McLaurys ranches were the meeting place, and place of shelter for the gang.

I had an ambition to be sheriff of this county next election, and I thought it would be a great help to me with the people and the businessmen if I could capture the men who killed Philpot. There were rewards offered of about $1,200 each for the robbers. Altogether there was about $3,600 offered for their capture. I thought that this amount might tempt Ike Clanton and Frank McLaury to give away Leonard, Head, and Crane; so I went to Ike Clanton and Frank McLaury when they came in town.

Oriental Saloon, Tombstone, Arizona

Oriental Saloon, Tombstone, Arizona

I had an interview with them in the backyard of the Oriental Saloon. I told them what I wanted. I told them I wanted the glory of capturing Leonard, Head and Crane; if I could do so, it would help me make the race for sheriff next election. I told them if they would put on the track of Leonard, Head and Crane— tell me where those men were hid—I would give them all the reward, and would never let anybody know where I got the information. Ike Clanton said that he would be glad to have Leonard captured, that Leonard claimed a ranch that he claimed, and if he could gel him out of the way he would have no opposition about the ranch. Ike Clanton said that Leonard, Head, and Crane would make a fight, that they would never be taken alive, and that I must first find out if the reward would be paid for the capture of the robbers dead or alive. I then went to Marshall Williams, the agent of Wells, Fargo & Co., in this town, and at my request he telegraphed to the agent of Wells, Fargo & Co., at San Francisco to find out if the reward would be paid for the robbers dead or alive. He received in June 1881 a telegram which he gave me, promising that the reward should be paid dead or alive. I showed this telegram soon after I got it to Ike Clanton in front of the Alhambra and afterward told Frank McLaury of its contents. It was then agreed between us that they should have all the $3.600 reward outside of necessary expenses for horses in going after them and Joe Hill should go to where Leonard, Head, and Crane were hid, over near Eureka, in New Mexico, and lure them in near Frank and Tom McLaury’s ranch near Soldier Holes, 30 miles from here, and I would be on hand with a posse and capture them. I asked Joe Hill, Ike Clanton, and Frank McLaury what tale they would make to them to get them over here. They said they had agreed upon a plan to tell them that there would be a paymaster going from Tombstone to Bisbee shortly to pay off the miners and that they wanted them to come in and take them; Ike Clanton then sent Joe Hill to bring them in; before starting Joe Hill took on his watch and chain and between two and three hundred dollars in money, and gave it to Virgil Earp to keep for him until he got back. He was gone about ten days and returned with the word that he had got there a day too late; that Leonard and Harry Head had been killed the day before he got there by horse thieves. I learned afterward that the thieves had been killed subsequently by members of the Clanton and McLaury gang.

Doc Holliday

Doc Holliday

After that Ike Clanton and Frank McLaury said I had given them away to Marshal Williams and Doc Holliday, and when they came in town they shunned us, and Morgan and Virgil Earp and Doc Holliday and myself began to hear of their threats against us. I am a friend of Doc Holliday, because when I was city marshal of Dodge City, Kansas, he came to my rescue and saved my life when I was surrounded by desperadoes. A month or so ago Morgan and I assisted to arrest Stillwell and Spence on the charge of robbing the Bisbee stage. The McLaurys and Clantons have always been friendly with Spence and Stillwell, and they laid the whole blame of their arrest on us, though the fact is, we only went as a sheriff’s posse. After we got in town with Spence and Stillwell, Ike Clanton and Frank McLaury came in. Frank McLaury took Morgan into the middle of the street, where John Ringgold, Ike Clanton and the Hicks boys were standing, and commenced to abuse Morgan Earp for going after Spence and Stillwell. Frank McLaury said he would never speak to Spence again for being arrested by us. He said to Morgan, “If ever you come after me you will never take me.” Morgan replied that if he ever had occasion to go after him he would arrest him. Frank McLaury then said to him, “I have threatened you boys’ lives, and a few days ago I had taken it back, but since this arrest it now goes.” Morgan made no reply, and walked off.

Before this and after this, Marshal Williams and Farmer Daly, and Ed Burns and three or four others, told us at different times of threats made to kill us, by Ike Clanton, Frank McLaury,Tom McLaury, Joe Hill and John Ringgold. I knew that all these men were desperate and dangerous, cattle thieves, robbers and murderers. I knew of the Clantons and McLaurys stealing six government mules. I heard of Ringgold shooting a man down in cold blood near Camp Thomas. I was satisfied that Frank and Tom McLaury killed and robbed Mexican in the Skeleton canyon two or three months ago, and I naturally keep my eyes open, and I did not intend that any of the gang should get the drop on me if I could help it.

Three or four weeks ago Ike Clanton met me at the Alhambra, and told me that I had told Holliday about this transaction, concerning the capture of Head and Leonard. I told him I never told Holliday anything. I told him when Holliday came up from Tucson I would prove it. Ike Clanton said that Holliday had told him so; when Holliday came I asked him and he said no; I told him that Ike Clanton had said so.

On the 25th of October Holliday met Ike Clanton in the Alhambra Saloonand asked him about it. Clanton denied it, and they quarreled for three or four minutes. Holliday told Ike Clanton he was a d-d liar, if he said so. I was sitting eating lunch at the time. They got up and walked out on the street. I got through and walked out, and they were still talking about it. I then went to Holliday, who was pretty tight, and took him away. Then I came back alone and met Ike Clanton. He called me outside and said his gun was on the other side of the street at the hotel. I told him to leave it there. He said he would make a fight with Holliday any time he wanted to. I told him Holliday did not want to fight, but only to satisfy him this talk had not been made. I then went away and went to the Oriental, and in a few minutes Ike Clanton came over with his six shooter on. He said he was not fixed right; that in the morning he would have man for man that this fighting talk had been going on for a long time, and it was about time to fetch it to a close. I told him that I wouldn’t fight no one if I could get away from it. He walked off and left me, saying, “I will be ready for all of you in the morning.” He followed me into the Oriental, having his six shooter in plain sight. He said, “You mustn’t think 1 won’t be after you all in the morning.” Myself and Holliday walked away and went to our rooms.

I got up next day, October 26, about noon. Before I got up, Ned Boyle came to me and told me that he met Ike Clanton on Allen street, near the telegraph office that morning; that Ike was armed; that he said “As soon as those d-d Earps make their appearance on the street to day the battle will open,” That Ike said, “We are here to make a fight, we are looking for the sons of b–s.” Jones came to me after I got up and went to the saloon, and said, “What does all this mean?” I asked what he meant. He says, ” Ike Clanton is hunting you Earp boys with a Winchester rifle and a six shooter. “I said, I will go down and find him and see what he wants.” I went out, and on the corner of Fourth and Allen streets I met Virgil Earp, the marshal. He told me how he had heard that Ike Clanton was hunting us. I went up Allen street, and Virgil went down Fifth street and then Fremont street. Virgil found Ike Clanton on Fourth street in an alley. He walked up to him and said, “I hear you are hunting for some of us.” Ike Clanton then threw his Winchester rifle around towards Virgil. Virgil grabbed it and hit Clanton with his six shooter and knocked him down. Clanton had his rifle, and his six shooter was exposed in his pants. By that time I came up, and Virgil and Morgan took his rifle and six shooter away and took them to the Grand Hotel after the examination, and took Ike Clanton before Justice Wallace. Before the investigation Morgan Earp had Ike Clanton in charge, as Virgil Earp was out. A short time after I went into Wallace’s court and sat down on a bench.

Ike Clanton looked over to me and says, “I will get even with all of you for this. If I had a six shooter I would make a fight with all of you.” Morgan then said to him, “If you want to make a fight right bad I will give you this one.” At the same time offering Ike Clanton his own six shooter. Ike Clanton started to get up to take it, when Campbell, the deputy sheriff, pushed him back on his seat, saying he wouldn’t allow any fuse. I never had Ike Clanton’s arms at any time as he has stated.

I would like to describe the position we occupied in the courtroom at that time. Ike Clanton sat down on a bench, with his face fronting to the north wall of the building. I myself sat down on a bench that was against the north wall right in front of Ike. Morgan Earp stood up against the north wall with his back against the north wall, two or three feet to my right. Morgan Earp had Ike Clanton’s Winchester in his left hand and his six shooter in his right hand, one end of the rifle was on the floor. Virgil Earp was not in the court room any of the time, and Virgil Earp came there after I walked out.

Doc Holliday T-shirt, from Legends’ General Store

I was tired of being threatened by Ike Clanton and his gang. I believed from what they had said to others and to me, and from their movements, that they intended to assassinate me the first chance they had, and I thought if I had to fight for my life against them, I had better make them face me in an open fight. So I said to Ike Clanton, who was then sitting about eight feet away from me, “you d–d dirty cur thief, you have been threatening our lives, and I know it. I think I should be justified shooting you down any place I should meet you, but if you are anxious to make a fight, I will go anywhere on earth to make a fight with you, even over to the San Simon among your own crowd.” He replied, “all right, I will see you after I get through here. I only want four feet of ground to fight on.” I walked out and just then outside the courtroom, near the justice’s office, I met Tom McLaury. He came up to me and said to me, “If you want to make a fight I will make a fight with you anywhere.” I supposed at the time he had heard what had first transpired between Ike Clanton and me. I knew of his having threatened me and I felt just as I did about Ike Clanton, that if the fight had to come, I had better have it come when I had an even show to defend myself, so I said to him all right “make a fight right here,” and at the same time I slapped him in the face with my left hand, and drew my pistol with my right.


He had a pistol in plain sight on his right hip, but made no move to draw it. I said to him, “Jerk your gun use it.” He made no reply and I hit him on the head with my six-shooter and walked away down to Hafford’s corner. I went into Hafford’s and got a cigar, and came out and stood by the door. Pretty soon after I saw Tom McLaury, Frank McLaury, and  William Clanton. They passed me and went down Fourth street to the gunsmith shop. I followed down to see what they were going to do. When I got there Frank McLaury’s horse was standing on the sidewalk with his head in the door of the gun shop. I took the horse by the bit, as I was deputy city marshal, and commenced to back him off the sidewalk. Frank and Tom McLaury and  Billy Clanton came to the door, Billy Clanton had his hand on his six shooter. Frank McLaury took hold of the horse’s bridle. I said “you will have to get this horse off the sidewalk.” He backed him off on the street Ike Clanton came up about that time and they all walked into the gunsmith’s shop. I saw them in the shop changing cartridges into their belts. They came out of the shop and walked along Fourth street to the corner of Allen street. I followed them as far as the corner of Fourth and Allen streets, and then they went down Allen street and over to Dunbar’s corral. Virgil Earp was then city marshal; Morgan Earp was a special policeman for six weeks, wore a badge and drew pay. I had been sworn in Virgil’s place to act for him while Virgil was gone to Tucson on Stillwell and Spence, on the charge of robbing the Bisbee stage trial. Virgil had been back several days, but I was still acting. I know it was Virgil’s duty to disarm those men. He suspected he would have trouble in doing so; and I followed up to give assistance if necessary, especially as they had been threatening us, as I have already stated.

About ten minutes afterward, and while Virgil, Morgan, Doc Holliday and myself were standing in the center of Fourth and Allen streets several persons said, “there is going to be trouble with those fellows,” and one man named Coleman said to Virgil Earp, “they mean trouble. They have just gone from Dunbar’s corral into the O.K. Corral, all armed. I think you had better go and disarm them.” Virgil turned around to Doc Holliday, Morgan Earp and myself and told us to come and assist him in disarming them. Morgan Earp said to me, “they have horses; had we not better get some horses ourselves, so that if they make a running fight we can catch them?” I said, “No, if they try to make a running fight we can kill their horses, and then capture them.” We four then started through Fourth to Fremont street. When we turned the corner of Fourth and Fremont streets we could see them standing near or about the vacant space between Fly’s photograph gallery and the next building west. I first saw Frank McLaury, Tom McLaury, Billy Clanton, and Sheriff Behan standing there. We went down the left hand side of Fremont street. When I got within about 150 feet of them I saw Ike Clanton,  Billy Claiborne and another party. We had walked a few steps further when I saw Behan leave the party and come towards us, every few steps he would look back as if he apprehended danger.

Sheriff Johnny Behan

Sheriff Johnny Behan

I heard Behan say to Virgil Earp, “For God’s sake don’t go down there or you will get murdered.” Virgil replied, “I am going to disarm them”– he, Virgil Earp, being in the lead. When I and Morgan came up to Behan he said, “I have disarmed them.” When he said this I took my pistol, which I had in my hand, under my coat, and put it in my overcoat pocket. Behan then passed up the street, and we walked on down. We came up on them close — Frank McLaury, Tom McLaury and Billy Clanton standing all in a row against the east side of the building on the opposite side of the vacant space west of Fly`s photography gallery. Ike Clanton and  Billy Claiborne and a man I did not know were standing in the vacant space about halfway between the photograph gallery and the next building west. I saw that Billy Clanton and Frank McLaury and Tom McLaury had their hands by their sides and Frank McLaury’s and Billy Clanton’s six-shooters were in plain sight. Virgil said, “Throw up your hands. I have come to disarm you.” Billy Clanton and Frank McLaury had their hands on their six-shooters. Virgil said, “Hold I don’t mean that; I have come to disarm you.” They—–Billy Clanton and Frank McLaury—commenced to draw their pistols, at the same time Tom McLaury threw his hand to his right hip and jumped behind a horse. I had my pistol in my overcoat pocket where I had put it when Behan told us he had disarmed the other party. When I saw Billy and Frank draw their pistols I drew my pistol. Billy Clanton leveled his pistol at me but I did not aim at him.

I knew that Frank McLaury had the reputation of being a good shot and a dangerous man, and I aimed at Frank McLaury. The two first shots which were fired were fired by Billy Clanton and myself he; shot at me, and I shot at Frank McLaury. I do not know which shot was first; we fired almost together. The fight then became general. After about four shots were fired Ike Clanton ran up and grabbed my arm. I could see no weapon in his hand and thought at the time he had none, and so I said to him, “The fight has now commenced go to fighting or get away.” At the same time I pushed him off with my left hand. He started and ran down the side of the building and disappeared between the lodging house and the photograph gallery. My first shot struck Frank McLaury in the belly. He staggered off on the sidewalk but first fired one shot at me. When we told them to throw up their hands Claiborne held up his left hand, and then broke and ran. I never saw him afterwards until later in the afternoon, after the fight. I never drew my pistol or made a motion to shoot until after Billy Clanton and Frank McLaury drew their pistols. If Tom McLaury was unarmed I did not know it. I believe he was armed and that he fired two shots at our party before Holliday who had the shotgun, fired at and killed him. If he was unarmed there was nothing to the circumstances or in what had been communicated to me, or in his acts or threats, that would have led me even to suspect his being unarmed.

I never fired at Ike Clanton, even after the shooting commenced, because I thought he was unarmed and I believed then, and believe now, from the acts I have stated, and the threats I have related, and other threats communicated to me by different persons, as having been made by Tom McLaury, Frank McLaury, and Isaac Clanton, that these men, last named, had formed a conspiracy to murder my brothers Morgan and Virgil, and Doc Holliday and myself. I believe I would have been legally and morally justified in shooting any of them on sight, but I did not do so or attempt to do so; I sought no advantage. When I went as deputy marshal to help disarm them and arrest them, I went as a part of my duty and under the direction of my brother the marshal. I did not intend to fight unless it became necessary in self-defense, and in the performance of official duty. When Billy Clanton and Frank McLaury drew their pistols I knew it was a fight for life, and I drew and fired in defense of my own life and the lives of my brothers and Doc Holliday.

Dodge City, Kansas about 1875

Dodge City, Kansas about 1875

I have been in Tombstone since December 1, 1879. I came here from Dodge City, Kansas, where, against the protest of businessmen and officials, I resigned the office of City Marshal, which I held from 1876. I came to Dodge City from Wichita, Kansas. I was on the police force in Wichita, from 1874 until I went to Dodge City.

The testimony of Isaac Clanton that I had anything to do with any stage robbery or any criminal enterprise, is a tissue of lies from beginning to end. Sheriff Behan made me an offer in his office on Allen street, and in the back room of the cigar store, that if I would withdraw and not try to get appointed sheriff of Cochise county, that we would hire a clerk and divide the profits. I done so, and he never said another word to me afterward in regard to it. The reasons given by him here for not complying with his contract, are false.

I give here as a part of this statement, a document sent me from Dodge City, since my arrest, and marked Exhibit “A”, and another document sent me from Wichita, since this arrest, which I wish attached to this statement, and marked Exhibit “B”.

Myself and Doc Holliday happened to go to Charleston the night that Behan happened to go down to subpoena Ike Clanton. We went there for the purpose of getting a horse that had been stolen from us a few days after I came to Tombstone. I had heard several times that the Clantons had him. When I got there that night I was told by a friend of mine that the man that carried the dispatch from Charleston to Ike Clanton’s ranch had my horse. At this time I did not know where Ike Clanton’s ranch was. A short time afterward I was in the Huachucas, locating some water rights. I had started home to Tombstone, and had got within twelve or fifteen miles of Charleston, when I met a man named McMasters. He told me if I would hurry up I would find my horse in Charleston. I drove to Charleston, and saw my horse going through the streets toward the corral. I put up for the night at another corral. I went to Barnett’s office, to get out papers to recover the horse. He was not at home, having gone to Sonora to see some coal fields that had been discovered. I telegraphed to Tombstone, to James Earp, and papers were made out and sent to Charleston, that night. While I was in town, waiting for the papers, Billy Clanton found out I was there. He went and tried to take the horse out of the corral. I told him that he could not take him out, that it was my horse. After the papers came he gave the horse up without the papers being served, and asked me “if I had any more horses to lose.” I told him I would keep them in the stable after this, and not give him a chance to steal them.

In one of the conversations I had with Ike Clanton about giving away Leonard, Head and Crane, I told him one reason why I wanted to catch them was to prove to the citizens of Tombstone that Doc Holliday had nothing to do with it, as there were some false statements circulated to that effect. In following the trail of Leonard, Head and Crane, we struck it at the scene of the attempted robbery, and never lost the trail or hardly a footprint from the time that we started from Drew’s ranch, on the San Pedro, until we got to Helm’s ranch, in the Dragoons. After following about eight miles down the San Pedro river and capturing one of the men, named King that was supposed to be in with them, we then crossed the Catalina mountains within fifteen miles of Tucson, following their trail around the front of the mountain after they had crossed over to Tres Alamos, on the San Pedro river. We then started out from Helm’s ranch and got on their trail. They had stolen fifteen or twenty head of stock so as to cover their trail. Wyatt Earp, Morgan Earp, R.H. Paul, Breckenridge, Johnny Behan and one or two others still followed the trail up into New Mexico. Their trail never led south from Helm’s ranch, as Ike Clanton has stated. We used every effort we could to capture these men. I was out ten days. Virgil Earp and Morgan Earp were out sixteen days, and we done all we could to capture these men, and I safely say if it had not been for myself and Morgan Earp, they would not have got King, as he started to run when we rode up to his hiding place, and was making for a big patch of brush on the river, and would have got in it if it had not been for us.

Defense Exhibit “A”

Dodge City Peace Commission

Dodge City Peace Commission

To All Whom It May Concern, Greetings:

We, the undersigned citizens of Dodge City, Ford County, Kansas, and vicinity do by these present certify that we are personally acquainted with Wyatt Earp, late of this city; that he came here in the year 1876; that during the years of 1877, 1878, and 1879 he was Marshal of our city; that he left our place in the fall of 1879; that during his whole stay here he occupied a place of high social position and was regarded and looked upon as a high-minded, honorable citizen; that as Marshal of our city he was ever vigilant in the discharge of his duties, and while kind and courteous to all, he was brave, unflinching, and on all occasions proved himself the right man in the right place.

Hearing that he is now under arrest, charged with complicity in the killing of those men termed “Cowboys.” From our knowledge of him we do not believe that he would wantonly take the life of his fellow man, and that if he was implicated, he only took life in the discharge of his sacred trust to the people; and earnestly appeal to the citizens of Tombstone, Arizona, to use all means to secure him a fair and impartial trial, fully confident that when tried he will be fully vindicated and exonerated of any crime.

R.M. Wright, Representative, Ford County
Lloyd Shinn,  Probate Judge, Ford County, Kansas
M.W. Sutton,  County Attorney, Ford County
George F. Hinkle,  Sheriff, Ford County, Kansas
J.W. Liellow,  Ford County Commissioner
F.C. Zimmerman,  Ford County, Treasurer and Tax Collector
G.W. Potter,  Clerk of Ford County
Thomas S. Jones,  Police Judge and Attorney at Law
A.B. Weber,  Mayor, Dodge City, Kansas
C.M. Beeson,  City Council, Dodge City, Kansas
Geo. Emerson,  City Council, Dodge City, Kansas
A.H. Boyd,  City Council, Dodge City, Kansas
J.H. Philips,  Deputy County Treasurer, Ford County
R.G. Cook,  U.S. Commissioner
Wright, Beverly & Co.,  Dodge City Merchants
Herman F. Fringey,  Postmaster, Dodge City, Kansas
O.W. Wright,  Pastor, Presbyterian Church
March and Son,  Merchants
W.W. Robins,  Groceries
H.P. Weiss,  Shoemaker
Fred T. M. Wenir,  Notary Public and Insurance Agent
R.C. Burns,  Attorney
H.M. Bell,  Deputy United States Marshal
T.L. McCarty,  M.D.
D.E. Frost,  Ex-Police Judge
Beeson and Harris,  Liquor Dealers

(35 other citizens signed the document)

November 29, 1881, Judge Wells Spicer’s conclusions after the pre-trail of the Earps and Doc Holliday

Judge Wells Spicer

Judge Wells Spicer

“In view of all the facts and circumstances of the case; considering the threats made the character and position of the parties, and the tragic results accomplished, in manner and form as they were, with all the surrounding influences bearing upon the result of the affair, I cannot resist the conclusion that the defendants were fully justified in committing these homicides that it was a necessary act done in the discharge of official duty.”

December 8, 1881 – Dodge City Times

“Wyatt Earp, formerly a city marshal in this city, was recently under trial before a magistrate in Tombstone, Arizona, charged with homicide. Great interest was taken in trial which lasted four weeks. From the voluminous testimony taken the Justice makes a long review of the case and discharges the defendant. The following is an extract from his decision: “In view of all the facts and circumstances of the case; considering the threats made the character and position of the parties, and the tragic results accomplished in manner and form as they were, with all surrounding influences bearing upon the res gestae of the affair, I cannot resist the conclusion that the defendants were fully justified in committing these homicides; that it was a necessary act done m the discharge of an official duty.”

November 29, 1881, Judge Wells Spicer’s conclusions after the pre-trail of the Earps and Doc Holliday

“In view of all the facts and circumstances of the case; considering the threats made the character and position of the parties, and the tragic results accomplished, in manner and form as they were, with all the surrounding influences bearing upon the result of the affair, I cannot resist the conclusion that the defendants were fully justified in committing these homicides that it was a necessary act done in the discharge of official duty.”

December 8, 1881 – Dodge City Times

Wyatt Earp, formerly a city marshal in this city, was recently under trial before a magistrate in Tombstone, Arizona, charged with homicide. Great interest was taken in trial which lasted four weeks. From the voluminous testimony taken the Justice makes a long review of the case and discharges the defendant. The following is an extract from his decision: “In view of all the facts and circumstances of the case; considering the threats made the character and position of the parties, and the tragic results accomplished in manner and form as they were, with all surrounding influences bearing upon the res gestae of the affair, I cannot resist the conclusion that the defendants were fully justified in committing these homicides; that it was a necessary act done m the discharge of an official duty.”

James Earp

James Earp

December, 1881 – Judge Wells Spicer, statement at the trial of Wyatt Earp, Morgan EarpJames Earp and Doc Holliday

“When we consider the condition of affairs incidental to a frontier country, the lawlessness and disregard for human life; the existence of a law-defying element in our midst; the fear and feeling of insecurity that has existed; the supposed prevalence of bad, desperate and reckless men who have been a terror to the country, and kept away capital and enterprise, and considering the many threats that have been made against the Earps. I can attach no criminality to his unwise act.”

January 5, 1882 – Dodge City Times

“A Tombstone, Arizona, dispatch of Dec. 29, to the St. Louis Globe-Democrat says when the Clanton and McClary gang were shot by the Earps and Doc Holliday, about six weeks ago, the friends of the cowboys vowed they would have revenge for what they called the cold-blooded murder of their friends. Only a fortnight ago, Mayor John P. Clum, of Tombstone, was shot at in a stage near the city and one bullet grazed his head. Clum was a warm sympathizer with the Earps and did much to secure their acquittal at the preliminary examination. Wednesday night, just before midnight, an attempt was made on the life of United States Deputy Marshal Earp, as he was crossing the street, between the Oriental Saloon and the Eagle Brewery.

When in the middle of the street he was fired upon with double-barreled shotguns, loaded with buckshot, by three men concealed in an unfinished building diagonally across on Alien street. Five shots were fired in rapid succession. Earp was wounded in the left arm just above the elbow, producing a longitudinal fracture of the bone. One shot struck him above the groin, coming out near the spine. The wounds are very dangerous and possibly fatal. The men ran through the rear of the building and escaped in the darkness.

Nineteen shots struck the side of the Eagle Brewery, three going through the window and one passing about a foot over the heads of some men standing by a faro-table. The shooting caused the wildest excitement in the town where the feeling between the two factions runs high.”

December 16, 1881, Tombstone Nugget

“An altercation occurred in the Oriental Saloon yesterday. M.E. Joyce was conversing with Virgil Earp [about] the attempted stage robbery of the evening previous. Joyce laughingly remarked to Earp that he had been expecting something of the sort ever since they [Earps and Holliday] had been liberated from jail. Earp became angry at the remark and immediately struck Joyce with his open hand in the face. The parties were surrounded at the time by four or five of Earps’ warmest partisans, all heavily armed. Joyce remarked, that a man would have to be a fool to make a fight single-handed against that crowd.”

January 26, 1882, Los Angeles Times

Johnny Ringo

Johnny Ringo

“Reports from Tombstone, A.T., are to the effect that the Earp party were all commissioned as Deputy Unites States Deputy Marshals, and went out to arrest a desperate character named Ringo, who is suspected of being one of the party who lately robbed the stage near Bisbee. He is one of the ringleaders of the cowboys. A few hours after the Earp party left, Ringo came in and delivered himself up to the authorities.”

February 2, 1882, Resignation of Virgil W. and Wyatt S. Earp as Deputy Marshals, published in the Tombstone Epitaph

Tombstone, February 1, 1882

Major C. P. Dake, United States Marshal, Grand Hotel, Tombstone

Dear Sir:

In exercising out official functions as Deputy United States Marshals in this territory, we have endeavored always unflinchingly to perform the duties entrusted to us. These duties have been exacting and perilous in their character, having to be performed in a community where turbulence and violence could almost any moment be organized to thwart and resist the enforcement of the process of the court issued to bring criminals to justice. And while we have a deep sense of obligation to many of the citizens for their hearty cooperation in aiding us to suppress lawlessness, and their faith in our honesty of purpose, we realize that, notwithstanding out best efforts and judgment in everything which we have been required to perform, there has arisen so much harsh criticism in relation to our operations, and such a persistent effort having been made to misrepresent and misinterpret out acts, we are led to the conclusion that, in order to convince the public that it is our sincere purpose to promote the public welfare, independent of any personal emolument or advantages to ourselves, it is our duty to place our resignations as Deputy United States Marshals in your hands, which we now do, thanking you for your continued courtesy and confidence in our integrity, and shall remain subject to your orders in the performance of any duties which may be assigned to us, only until our successors are appointed.

Very respectfully yours,

Virgil W. Earp

Wyatt S. Earp

February 3, 1882, Tombstone Epitaph

“The trial of Ike Clanton and P. Clanton, charged with shooting Virgil Earp was held before Judge Stillwell last evening. Dr. Geo. E. Goodfellow testified [that he] dressed the wound. Dr. Matthews testified to assisting [the] wounded man. J. W. Bennett found a hat in a building — the new drug store-immediately after the shooting. [The] hat [was] produced in court.Sherman McMasters . . . asked Clanton about the shooting, at which Clanton replied that he ‘would have to go back and do the job over.’ [Seven men] testified that defendants were in Charleston at the time the marshal was shot, thereby proving an alibi. Upon the testimony given the court discharged the prisoners.”

February 18, 1882, Tombstone Nugget

“Wyatt and Morgan Earp, Doc Holliday, ‘Texas Jack,” Smith, McMasters, and one or two others left the city yesterday afternoon for where, no one apparently knows, but when in the vicinity of Waterville, they separated, four of the party going in the direction of San Simon Valley, to arrest, it is claimed, Pony Deal and one or two other well known characters, and the remainder to Charleston. It is supposed they are acting in the capacity of U.S. Deputy Marshals, their resignations not having been accepted or their appointments revoked by U.S. Marshal Dake, as was generally supposed some time ago.”

March 20, 1882 – Morgan Earp Shot Down and Killed, Tombstone Epitaph

Morgan Earp

Morgan Earp

“At 10:00 Saturday night while engaged in playing a game of billiards in Campbell & Hatch’s Billiard parlor, on Allen between Fourth and Fifth, Morgan Earp was shot through the body by an unknown assassin. At the time the shot was fired he was playing a game with Bob Hatch, one of the proprietors of the house and was standing with his back to the glass door in the rear of the room that opens out upon the alley that leads straight through the block along the west side of A.D. Otis & Co.’s store to Fremont Street. This door is the ordinary glass door with four panes in the top in place of panels. The two lower panes are painted, the upper ones being clear. Anyone standing outside can look over the painted glass and see anything going on in the room just as well as though standing in the open door.

At the time the shot was fired the deceased must have been standing within ten feet of the door, and the assassin standing near enough to see his position, took aim for about the middle of his person, shooting through the upper portion of the whitened glass.

The bullet entered the right side of the abdomen, passing through the spinal column, completely shattering it, emerging on the left side, passing the length of the room and lodging in the thigh of Geo. A.B. Berry, who was standing by the stove, inflicting a painful flesh wound. Instantly after the first shot a second was fired through the top of the upper glass which passed across the room and lodged in the wall near the ceiling over the head of Wyatt Earp, who was sitting as a spectator of the game.

Morgan fell instantly upon the first fire and lived only about one hour. His brother Wyatt, Tipton, and McMasters rushed to the side of the wounded man and tenderly picked him up and moved him some ten feet away near the door of the card room, where Drs. Matthews, Goodfellow and Millar, who were called, examined him and, after a brief consultation, pronounced the wound mortal. He was then moved into the card room and placed on the lounge where in a few brief moments he breathed his last, surrounded by his brothers, Wyatt, VirgilJames and Warren with the wives of Virgil and James and a few of his most intimate friends. Notwithstanding the intensity of his mortal agony, not a word of complaint escaped his lips, and all that were heard, except those whispered into the ear of his brother and known only to him were, “Don’t, I can’t stand it. This is the last game of pool I’ll ever play.” The first part of the sentence being wrung from him by an attempt to place him upon his feet.

The funeral cortege started away from the Cosmopolitan hotel about 12:30 yesterday with the fire bell tolling its solemn peals of “Earth to earth, dust to dust.”

March 25, 1882,  Arizona Daily Star

Frank Stillwell

Frank Stillwell

“Following is the verdict of the Coroner’s jury in the case of the assassination of Frank Stillwell, found lying dead north of the Southern Pacific Railroad depot. The deceased was a native of Texas, aged about 27 years; that he came to his death on the 20th day of March, 1882, in the city of Tucson, at 7:15 p.m. of that day, by gunshot wounds inflicted by Wyatt Earp, Warren EarpSherman McMastersJ. H. Holliday, and one Johnson.”

May 23, 1882 – Ed Colborn, Dodge City Times

“Wyatt Earp arrived here some days ago and will remain awhile. Wyatt is more robust than when a resident of Dodge, but in other respects is unchanged. His story of the long contest with the cowboys of Arizona is of absorbing interest. Of the five brothers four yet live, and in return for the assassination of Morgan Earp they have handed seven cowboys “over to the majority.”

Of the six who actually participated in the assassination, they have killed three – among them. Curly Bill, whom Wyatt believes killed Mike Meagher, at Caldwell, last summer. Frank Stillwell, Curly Bill, and party ambuscaded the Earp party and poured a deadly fire into them, Wyatt receiving a charge of buckshot through his overcoat on each side of his body and having the horn of his saddle shot off. Wyatt says after the first shock he could distinguish David Rudabaugh and Curly Bill, the latter’s body showing well among the bushes. Wyatt lost no time in taking him in, and will receive the reward of $1,000 offered. From what I could learn, the Earps have killed all, or nearly all of the leaders of the element of cowboys, who number in all about 150, and the troubles in Arizona will, so far as they are concerned, be over.

Wyatt expects to become a candidate for sheriff of Cochise county this fall, and as he stands very near to the Governor and all the good citizens of Tombstone and other camps in Cochise county he will, without doubt, be elected. The office is said to be worth $25,000 per annum and will not be bad to take.”

July 18, 1882, Arizona Daily Star

Johnny Ringo

Johnny Ringo

“Tombstone, July 17.- John Ringgold, one of the best-known men in southwestern Arizona, was found dead in Morse’s canyon, in the Chiricahua mountains last Friday. He evidently committed suicide. He was known in this section as “King of the Cowboys,” and was fearless in the extreme. He had many staunch friends and bitter enemies. The pistol. with one chamber emptied, was found in his clenched fist. He shot himself in the head, the bullet entering the right side, between the eye and ear, and coming out on top of the head. Some members of the family reside in San Jose, California.”

July 30, 1882, Tucson Citizen

“A son of B.F. Smith, says the Tombstone Independent, found John Ringo’s horse on Tuesday last, about two miles from where deceased was found.

His saddle was still upon him with Ringo’s coat upon the back of it. In one of the coat pockets where three photographs and a card bearing the name of “Mrs. Jackson.” It seems strange that the horse should have wandered about all this time without having been discovered before. Mr. Smith brought the horse into town with him. It is a bay, weighing about 1,000 pounds.”

November 14, 1882, James Coyle testifying at the inquest into Billy Claibourne’s death

“My back was toward the Oriental Saloon. I heard a shot fired and turned. I saw Frank Leslie close to the sidewalk with a pistol in his hand. He fired and I ran towards him. Before I got to him he fired again. He was standing on the sidewalk when I came up to him. He said, “Jimmy, here is my pistol; be careful, it is cocked.’ He laid the hammer down and gave it to me. He said, ‘I will go with you.’ He said, ‘Jimmy, I could have done more, but could not have done less. I did not want to kill him. He was laying to kill me.’ I picked up a rifle that was lying on Claibourne’s knees across his thighs. I took Leslie as far as the police courtroom.”

November 18, 1882,  Statement of Frank Leslie regarding the killing of Billy Claibourne

Buckskin Frank Leslie

Buckskin Frank Leslie

“I was talking with some friends in the Oriental Saloon when Claibourne pushed his way in among us and began using very insulting language. I took him to one side and said, “Billy, don’t interfere, those people are friends among themselves and are not talking about politics at all, and don’t want you about.” He appeared quite put out and used rather bad and certainly very nasty language towards me. I told him there was no use of his fighting with me, that there was no occasion for it, and leaving him I joined my friends. He came back again and began using exceedingly abusive language, when I took him by the collar of his coat and led him away, telling him not to get mad, that it was for his own good, that if he acted in that manner he was liable to get in trouble. He pushed away from me, using very hard language, and as he started away from me, shook a finger at me and said, “That’s all right Leslie, I’ll get even on you,” and went out of the saloon. In a short time a man came in and said there was a man waiting outside to shoot me, but I didn’t pay much attention to it. A few minutes later another man came in looking quite white and said Claibourne was waiting outside with a rifle.

I then went out, and as I stepped on the sidewalk, saw about a foot of rifle barrel protruding from the end of the fruit stand. I stepped out in the street and saw it was Claibourne, and said, “Billy, don’t shoot, I don’t want you to kill me, nor do I want to have to shoot you.” Almost before I finished he raised the gun and shot, and I returned the fire from my pistol, aiming at his breast. As soon as I shot I saw him double up and had my pistol cocked and aimed at him again, when I saw, or thought I saw, another man by him putting his arms around him, and lowered the pistol, and when it was discharged the bullet went in the sidewalk.

After I fired, I advanced upon him, but did not shoot, when he said, “Don’t shoot again, I am killed,” which I didn’t but watched him, with my pistol at full cock, as I didn’t know what game he might play to get me off guard. At that moment Officer Coyle came up and took hold of my pistol hand. I told him to be careful as it was at full cock. I then uncocked it and gave it to him, and said I would go with him. I told him I was sorry; that I might have done more, but I couldn’t do less. He then placed me under arrest.”

The Bisbee Murders

February 24, 1884, New York Times

John Heath lynched in Arizona

John Heath lynched in Arizona

How An Arizona Mob Disposed Of One Of The Bisbee Murderers:  TombstoneArizona, Feb. 23. — At 9 o’clock on Thursday morning, Judge Pinney sentenced John Heath to confinement in Yuma Penitentiary for life for complicity in the Bisbee murders. Twenty-four hours later the dead body of Heath dangled from the crossbar of a telegraph pole near the foot of Toughnut Street, where it was suspended by a rope. The following are the particulars of the occurrence as near as can be gathered: About 8:30 yesterday morning a crowd of men, mostly miners, numbering about 150, proceeded to the Courthouse.

Arriving there they detailed seven of their number from Bisbee, who entered and demanded that John Heath be turned over to them. The seven men approached the door leading to the corridor of the jail and one of them knocked. Being about time for the Chinaman who brings food for the prisoners to arrive, Jailer Ward opened the door unsuspiciously, and was immediately covered by weapons and told to give up the keys of the jail.

Seeing any attempt at resistance would be useless he did as requested, and in a few minutes, the deputation was in the presence of the sought-for man. The crowd, which by this time had filled the spacious hall, started for the street. At the door they were met by Sheriff Ward, who called on them in the name of the law to desist. The Sheriff was picked up and gently removed down the steps out of the way, while the crowd started down the street on a run. The rope had been placed around Heath’s body, and about 20 men had hold of it. It never became taut during the run, the prisoner keeping up with the crowd, and showing no signs of the white feather.

Arriving at the place selected for the hanging one of the party climbed a telegraph pole and passed the rope over the cross-bar. Heath pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and, placing it on his knee, coolly and deliberately folded it, and, placing it over his eyes, asked someone in the crowd to tie it. This being done, he informed the crowd they were hanging an innocent man, and would find it out when the others (meaning Dowd and his companions) were hanged.

He told them he had faced death too often to be afraid, and had but one request to make, namely, that they would not shoot into his body. He was told his last wish would be respected and he told them he was ready. Countless hands grasped the rope. A run was made, and in a twinkling the man was suspended to the pole. The news spread about town rapidly, and in a few minutes an immense crowd of men, women, and children congregated on the scene. The universal expression was, “Served him right.” That this opinion should be so prevalent is no doubt the result of the testimony at the trial, which was convincing to any mind of ordinary intelligence, that Heath was a guilty accessory to the Bisbee murders.

The Coroner’s jury found as a verdict that Heath came to his death from “emphysema, which might have been caused by strangulation, self-inflicted or otherwise.” A placard was posted on the telegraph pole where Heath was found suspended and dead with the following inscription: “John Heath was hanged to this pole by citizens of Cochise County for participation in the Bisbee massacre as a proved accessory at 8:20 A.M., Feb 22, 1884, to advance Arizona.”

Compiled and edited Kathy Weiser-Alexander/Legends of America, updated November 2021.

Note: These are not always exact quotes, as spelling errors and minor grammatical changes have been corrected

Also see: 

Tombstone, Arizona – The Town Too Tough To Die

Fred White – Tombstone’s First Marshal

The Clanton Gang of Tombstone – The Cowboys

The Earps Role in Tombstone

Old West Gunfights

John Heath and the Bisbee Massacre