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

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

Alex Arnett

Johnny Barnes

Sheriff Johnny Behan

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 February 2020.

Also See:

Gunfight at the O.K. Corral

Outlaw Gangs

Tombstone, Arizona

Virgil Earp

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