The Clanton Family of Tombstone, Arizona


The Clanton family and their ranch hands of Tombstone, Arizona were a loosely organized gang of outlaws who operated along the Mexican border, stealing cattle, robbing stagecoaches, ambushing teamsters, and committing murder. They were known as the Clanton Gang or The Cowboys.

Finneas Clanton – Son of Ike Clanton and member of the Clanton Gang. Although not as active an outlaw as his brothers, he did serve a prison sentence for cattle rustling.

Ike Clanton

Ike Clanton

Isaac “Ike” Clanton (1847-1887) – A member of the Clanton family in Cochise County, Arizona, he was unarmed when the Earps and Doc Holliday advanced on them at the O.K. Corral. Ike, the braggart leader of the outlaws, fled at the first sound of gunfire with Billy Claibourne hot on his heels. His brother William “Billy” Clanton was killed in the shootout along with Frank and Tom McLowry. Ike Clanton schemed revenge on the Earps, arranging to have Virgil Earp ambushed in November 1881. Virgil was hit in the back and was crippled for the rest of his life. In March 1882 Clanton and four henchmen shot and killed Morgan Earp. Wyatt Earp then gathered a posse including his brother Warren and Doc Holliday and went after the Clanton Gang killing three of them. Ike fled to Mexico and hid under an assumed name. When Earp finally gave up the search, Ike returned to the Tombstone area, took up his old rustling ways, and was shot in 1887 by lawmen. He was buried where he was shot in an isolated grave in Greenlee County, Arizona.

Newman Haynes “Old Man” Clanton (1816-1881) – The head of the Clanton Clan in Cochise County, Arizona, Clanton was accused by the Earps of rustling, ambushing smugglers and harboring rustlers. However, he was never prosecuted or arrested for these alleged crimes. In July 1881, Old Man Clanton and several of his rustlers, ambushed a group of Mexican cowboys driving a herd through Guadalupe Canyon, killing 19 of them. The slaughter was later known as the Guadalupe Canyon Massacre. In retaliation, Clanton and four of his men were killed in the same canyon by Mexican cowboys seeking revenge for the earlier ambush. Originally, he was buried in the Animas Valley of New Mexico. However, he was later re-interred in Boot Hill at Tombstone, Arizona.

William “Billy” Clanton (1862-1881) — Born in Hamilton County, Texas, Billy moved with his family to Fort Bowie, Arizona in 1865. The next year, the family moved once again to San Buena Ventura, California and somewhere along the line, Billy’s mother, Mariah Kelso Clanton died leaving Newman “Old Man” Clanton with four boys and two girls to care for. For the next decade, they move several times before finally settling down near Charleston, Arizona in 1877. Not long afterward, the Clantons began to be known as cattle rustlers, horse thieves and road agents who often ambushed unsuspecting travelers. Billy soon became involved in the ongoing feud with the Earps in Tombstone and was involved in the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral on October 26, 1881. On that fateful day, Billy Clanton, along with Frank and Tom McLowery were killed and later buried at the Boothill Graveyard in Tombstone, Arizona.


© Kathy Weiser-Alexander/Legends of America, updated February 2020.

Also See:

The Clanton Gang

Gunfight at the O.K. Corral

Outlaw Gangs

Tombstone, Arizona

2 thoughts on “The Clanton Family of Tombstone, Arizona”

  1. I have heard that at least some of the Clanton’s were county law officers and that this was just one of many cases of a gun fight between two law enforcement agencies. This may not be the case here, but history does have many other examples of law on law gunfights.

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