The Clanton Gang of Tombstone – The Cowboys

Ike Clanton

Ike Clanton

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

Before the Earp brothers arrived in Tombstone, Arizona, their unlawful and reckless behavior was unchallenged. Newman Haynes “Old Man” Clanton and his sons arrived in Arizona Territory in 1873, where they initially were involved in freighting and ranching. However, by the time that brothers, Tom and Frank McLaury, became their neighbors in 1878, the Clantons were avidly involved in outlaw pursuits. With “Old Man” Clanton at its helm, the “Cowboys” included his sons, Ike, Billy and Phin; Tom and Frank McLaury, Curly Bill Brocius, Johnny Ringo, Pete Spence, and several others, including many who may not have actually participated in their outlaw activities, but supported or overlooked them, such as Sheriff Johnny Behan.

Controlling the territory from Tombstone, Arizona to the Animas Valley of New Mexico, they operated undaunted until Marshal Virgil Earp began to come down on them when he was elected. This, of course, led to the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral on October 26, 1881, where Wyatt, Morgan and Virgil Earp, along with Doc Holliday fought against Tom and Frank McLaury, Billy and Ike Clanton, and Billy Claiborne.

When the dust settled, Tom and Frank McLaury and Billy Clanton lay dead. While the Earps faired much better, Virgil was shot in the leg, Morgan in the shoulder, and Holliday was grazed on the hip. However, the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral did not end the feud, as the real death toll began after the fight when both sides began to assassinate key members of the opposing factions.

The main members of the gang were:

Allen Street, Tombstone, Arizona, 1882

Allen Street, Tombstone, Arizona, 1882

Newman Haynes “Old Man” Clanton
Joseph Isaac “Ike” Clanton
Phineas Fray “Phin” Clanton
William “Billy” Clanton
Robert Findley “Frank” McLaury
Thomas Clark “Tom” McLaury
William “Curly Bill” Brocius
Billy Claiborne
John Peters Ringo
Alex Arnett
Johnny Barnes
Sheriff Johnny Behan

Other members, friends, and allies of the Cowboy Faction:


Tall Bell
Jim Crane
Florentino “Indian Charlie” Cruz
Pony Deal
Harry Ernshaw
William Harrison
Jake Gauze
Dick “Dixie” Gray
Charlie Green
John Greene
Billy Grounds
Harry Head
Milt Hicks
Joe Hill

Jim Hughs
Zwing Hunt
Luther King
Billy Lang
John McGill
Sherman McMasters
Jake McKenzie
“Rattlesnake Bill”
Bud Snow
Peter Spence
Frank C. Stillwell
Hank Swilling
William “Russian Bill” Tattenbaum
Charlie Thomas

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

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

© Kathy Weiser-Alexander/Legends of America, updated June 2021.

Also See:

Gunfight at the O.K. Corral

Outlaw Gangs

Tombstone, Arizona

Virgil Earp