Ringo was born to a good family on May 3, 1850, in Green’s Fork, Indiana. The family later moved to Liberty, Missouri where Ringo attended college. The family moved again to California, but Ringo headed to Texas in 1869. There, he earned a deadly reputation in numerous gunfights and fought with Scott Cooley in the Mason County War of 1874-1876. For his actions in this feud, he spent almost two years in jail until charges were dismissed.
Afterward, he settled in Loyal Valley, Texas, where he did a short stint as a constable. His life as a lawman; however, didn’t last long as he next appeared in Arizona in 1879. There, Ringo hooked up with the Clanton Gang, a group of outlaws commonly known as the “Cowboys” around Tombstone. Ringo himself was called “the King of the Cowboys.”
Though he was a known antagonist of Wyatt Earp heavily involved with the Clantons, he was not a participant in the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. In 1882, Ringo was found dead with a bullet in his brain. Though his death was ruled as a suicide, his gun was discovered fully loaded, and most believed it to be murder, some say by either Wyatt Earp or Doc Holliday. Ringo is buried a few yards from the tree where his body was found. The grave is located on a ranch southeast of Willcox, Arizona, on private property and can only be viewed with permission.
By Kathy Weiser-Alexander, updated October 2019.