Minutes later, three men would be dead, and the four men who had walked to the corral and killed them — Tombstone marshal Virgil Earp, his brothers Wyatt and Morgan, and Wyatt's friend Doc Holliday — had unknowingly secured their places in history. But what was it about? And why has it, above all the many other gunfights that took place in the era of frontier justice, achieved such infamy?
To understand the gunfight, you have to first understand the town. Tombstone in was a thriving, bustling silver mining community. They had everything. They would catch it in Baja California; pack it in barrels of salt, ice and seaweed at dusk; freight it by train to Benson or Contention City, immediately pack it on to wagons and bring it here by dawn every day. It was a very opulent town. But again, people don't understand — especially if they come today — Tombstone was open 24 hours a day.
The miners worked rotating 10 hour shifts; everything had to be open when they got off, including banks. They were also pumping 2. It must have been noisy as hell. Both Virgil and Wyatt had been lawmen; Virgil had recently been appointed deputy marshal for the part of the Arizona Territory that included Tombstone, and although some record-keeping at the time was poor, it is possible that Wyatt may have been a deputy marshal as well. Certainly, it appears as if all the brothers were anxious to join the list of those profiting from Tombstone's booming business: they invested in one of the mines, James tended bar, Wyatt rode as a stagecoach guard and dealt faro — the popular card game of the time — in a local saloon.
The cowboys — who were predominantly rural, southern Confederates — eyed the primarily Yankee mercantile class that was dominating Tombstone, and which the Earps typified, with suspicion. And the feeling was mutual. It didn't take long after the Earps' arrival in late for tensions between them and the cowboys to develop, particularly with Virgil and Wyatt spending time in law enforcement positions.
That tension reached boiling point when Wyatt helped in the identification and arrest of some cowboy members in a pair of stagecoach robberies, and the cowboys in turn asserted that Wyatt and Holliday had in fact been the ones responsible for the holdups. However, Addie Bourland, a dressmaker watching from her shop across the street, testified that she clearly saw that none of the Cowboys had their hands in the air.
Deputy district attorney Winfield Scott Williams testified that the sheriff had inaccurately depicted a conversation with Virgil Earp after the gunfight in which, according to Williams, Behan told Virgil that one of the Cowboys had drawn his gun to start the fight.
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Equally important, documents were located in showing that Behan served as guarantor of a loan to Ike Clanton during the Spicer hearing. And then there is Richard Rule. It is one of those flukes of history that the Nugget story ever appeared as it did. This left the talented and experienced Rule to oversee the newsgathering and writing of a story that would be essentially pro-Earp. Hold up boys, don? The article relates details of the conversation Behan had had with the Cowboys. It is hard to imagine the Nugget not interviewing Behan for this story.
By Williams? This remarkable chain of events is so unlikely as to render it unbelievable. After generations of lies, deception and confusion, it appears that we finally have a true understanding of how the firing began. Morey served as historical adviser for the movie Tombstone. For more great articles be sure to subscribe to Wild West magazine today!
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Silently the Robinsons waited until the funeral procession passed. Four men rode in front with sawed-off shotguns across their laps; then came a wagon bearing the casket. Following it came a buggy with two women dressed in deep mourning. Back of their carriage rode two more men with guns across their laps. The men nodded as they passed the Robinsons. He was murdered by a sympathizer of the Clanton gang. The driver of the stagecoach told us about the shooting.
I never before saw guns take the place of flowers at a funeral. Morgan Earp was the most luckless of the six Earp brothers. He had almost died after being shot through the shoulders during the shootout near the O. Corral on October 26, , allegedly by rustler Tom McLaury. Then, on the night of March Wyatt turned 33 on the 19th , Morgan was killed by a shot in the back while playing pool. In October , Virgil Earp was both a deputy U. Morgan Earp, too, was temporarily commissioned as a policeman.
Half the town wanted the Cowboys to go.
Half the town wanted the Earps to go. Something had to give, and the showdown came on October 26, , at about p. Frank McLaury and Billy Clanton openly wore holstered revolvers in violation of a town ordinance that prohibited the carrying of guns within city limits unless the carrier was entering town, leaving town or in a corral. None of those exceptions applied to Frank and Billy. Virgil Earp wanted to arrest the Cowboys for breaking the gun law, but the Cowboys held their ground, or at least some of them did. Billy Claiborne left the lot before the confrontation, as did Fuller.
When Virgil, Wyatt and Morgan Earp and their hastily commissioned policeman friend Doc Holliday stepped into the front of the lot, somebody pulled a gun. Ike Clanton ran. At first the Earps and Holliday were hailed as heroes. But then they were accused of shooting down unarmed men who were trying to surrender. So the they were never actually tried for murder. There were eight people and two horses in the front of the crowded lot, and the black powder gun smoke added to the confusion and bedlam of the gunfight. Figuring out who shot whom was difficult because the Cowboy faction told lies in an attempt to get the Earps and Holliday hanged for murder, and the Earps stretched the truth to keep their necks out of nooses.
The coroner, Dr.
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Hayhurst not only failed to decipher some of the handwriting but also arbitrarily edited out wording that he decided was not relevant. Furthermore, the original documents were never returned after Hayhurst transcribed them. They have never been found. But only the reporter from the Nugget knew shorthand. Thus, the wording of the testimony that the court recorder and the two newspaper reporters put on paper varied greatly.
It takes months examining all three versions of the testimony word by word to fully understand how much of it was altered by Hayhurst in what historians now call the Hayhurst transcript. And the few objective newspaper articles that were written in the first days following the shootout could only report on hearsay.
What really happened at the O.K. Corral | MPR News
Army surgeon J. During the last 10 years of his life, Wyatt collaborated three times with biographers. Tom shot under horses neck 2 [shots] hitting Morg…. Say Tom unarmed. When fell, gun in hand. Wes Fuller picked up gun, put in his pocket. So that leaves us with four largely forgotten witnesses:. Coleman, who was quoted in the October 27 issue of the Epitaph. Coleman, owned a restaurant in Tombstone and might have been buying rustled beef.
If so, Ruben, like his son, would have favored the Cowboys over the Earps. Colyer of Kansas City, who was visiting with her sister in Tombstone that day. When the shooting erupted, Mrs. Colyer was sitting in a buggy in front of the post office on the southeast corner of Fremont and Fourth streets, less than a block away from the vacant lot. And you never saw such shooting. One of the cowboys, after he had been shot three times, raised himself on his elbow and shot one of the officers and fell back dead…. The biggest key to the question of whether Tom McLaury had a gun is the testimony of another impartial witness, laundryman Peter H.
After the shooting commenced…,[t]he younger one of the Earps was firing at a man behind the horse. Holliday was also firing at the same man behind the horse, and firing at a man who had run by him to the opposite side of the street. Then I see the man who had the horse let go the reins of the bridle and kept staggering all the time, until he fell on his back near a horse [emphasis added]. He still held his pistol in his hand, but [I] did not see it go off after he had fell. I then went to the young man who was lying on the sidewalk and offered to pick him up….
I picked up a revolver that was lying five feet from him and laid it at his side. This was the man that lay on the north side of Fremont Street. Based on other testimony in the Spicer hearing, we know that this second man, who led his horse out of the vacant lot but was never behind the horse, and who then fell on the north side of Fremont Street, was Frank McLaury.
And we also know from other testimony that Billy Clanton never got near his horse. I saw another man standing, leaning, against a building joining the vacant lot…. Corral occurred at about 3 p. Wednesday afternoon, October 26, , in a vacant lot lot 2, in block 17 behind a corral, in Tombstone, Arizona Territory.
At that time, a corral was like a livery stable. Some of the fight also took place on Fremont Street in front of the vacant lot. About thirty shots were fired within thirty seconds. The conflicts leading to the gunfight were complex. Both sides were in opposition due to a variety of concerns: politics, business, as well as other ideological factors.
The Earps were viewed by their enemies as badge-toting bullies who ruthlessly enforced the business interests of the town, while the McLaurys, the Clantons and their cowboy friends were viewed by their enemies as cattle rustlers, thieves, and murderers.
What really happened at the O.K. Corral
The instigating factor leading to the shootout was the arrest by Virgil Earp and later release of Ike Clanton and Tom McLaury for carrying firearms within the city limits. After they were disarmed and released, the two men joined Billy Clanton and Frank McLaury, who had just arrived in town. The men gathered at the OK Corral.