Tag Archive: Wyatt Earp


William Barclay “Bat” Masterson (November 26, 1853 – October 25, 1921) was a noted figure of the American Old West.

Known as a buffalo hunter, U.S. Marshal and Army scout, avid fisherman, gambler, frontier lawman, sports editor and columnist for the New York Morning Telegraph, he was the brother of lawmen James Masterson and Ed Masterson.

The actor Gene Barry played Bat Masterson in a U.S. television series loosely based on the historical character. The show ran on NBC in 107 episodes from 1958 to 1961, and featured Masterson as a superbly dressed gambler, generally outfitted in a black suit and derby hat, who was more inclined to “bat” crooks over the head with his gold-knobbed cane than shoot them.

Here’s a taste of what the show was like (video comes courtesy of YouTube):

And here’s what history has to tell us about the man:

His Early Years

William Barclay Masterson was born on November 26, 1853, at Henryville, Canada East, in the Eastern Townships of what is today Quebec, and was baptized as Bartholomew Masterson. He adopted the forename William Barclay, in later life.

His father, Thomas Masterson (or Mastersan), was born in Canada, of an Irish family; and his mother, Catherine McGurk (or McGureth), was born in Ireland.

William was the second child in a family of five brothers and two sisters. They were raised on farms in Quebec, New York, and Illinois, until they finally settled near Wichita, Kansas.

In his late teens, he and two of his brothers, Ed Masterson and James Masterson, left their family’s farm to become buffalo hunters.

While traveling without his brothers, Bat took part in the Battle of Adobe Walls in Texas, and killed Comanche Indians. He then spent time as a U.S. Army scout in a campaign against the Kiowa and Comanche Indians.


His first gunfight took place in 1876 in Sweetwater, Texas (later Mobeetie in Wheeler County).

Bat was attacked by a soldier, Corporal Melvin A. King – allegedly because of a girl. The girl in question, Mollie Brennan, stopped one of King’s bullets and was killed.

King (whose real name was Anthony Cook) died of his wounds.

Masterson was shot in the pelvis, but recovered. The story that he needed to carry a cane for the rest of his life is a legend perpetuated by the TV series starring the late Gene Barry.


In 1877, he joined his brothers in Dodge City, Kansas. Jim was the partner of Ed, who was an assistant marshal.

Soon after his arrival, Masterson came into conflict with the local marshal over the treatment of a man being arrested. He was jailed and fined, although his fine was later returned by the city council.

He served as a sheriff’s deputy alongside Wyatt Earp, and within a few months was elected county sheriff of Ford County, Kansas.

As sheriff, Bat won plaudits for capturing four members of the Mike Roark gang, who had unsuccessfully held up a train at nearby Kinsley.

He also led the posse that captured Jim Kenedy – who had inadvertently killed an entertainer named Dora Hand in Dodge. Masterson brought Kenedy down with a shot through the shoulder.

Masterson continued as Ford County sheriff until he was voted out of office in 1879. During this same period his brother Ed was Marshal of Dodge City and died in the line of duty on April 9, 1878.

Ed was shot by a cowboy named Jack Wagner – who was unaware that Bat was in the vicinity.

As Ed stumbled away from the scene, Masterson responded from across the street with deadly force, firing on both Wagner and Wagner’s boss, Alf Walker. Wagner died the next day but Walker was taken back to Texas and recovered.


For the next several years, Bat made a living as a gambler moving through several of the legendary towns of the Old West.

Wyatt Earp invited Masterson to Tombstone, Arizona Territory, in early 1881.

Earp owned a one-quarter interest in the gambling concession at the Oriental Saloon, in exchange for his services as a manager and enforcer. He wanted Bat’s help running the faro tables in the Oriental.

Bat remained until April 1881, when he received an unsigned telegram that compelled him to immediately return to Dodge City:


Battle of the Plaza

Jim Masterson was in partnership with A. J. Peacock in Dodge City’s Lady Gay Saloon and Dance Hall. Al Updegraff was Peacock’s brother-in-law and bartender.

Jim thought Updegraff was dishonest and a drunk, and demanded that Peacock fire Updegraff, which Peacock refused to do. Their disagreement grew until threats flew, at which time Bat received the telegram.

Masterson got the next stagecoach out of Tombstone and arrived in Dodge City on April 16.

Jumping off the train before it stopped, Masterson saw Updegraff and Peacock. He accosted them.

Recognizing Bat, the two retreated behind the jail, and the three began exchanging gunfire.

Citizens ran for cover as bullets ripped through the Long Branch Saloon. Other individuals began firing in support of both sides until Updegraff was shot.

Mayor Ab Webster arrested Masterson, and only then did he learn that his brother Jim was fine.

Updegraff slowly recovered, and since it could not be determined who shot Updegraff, Masterson was fined $8.00 and released.

Updegraff and Peacock did not explain why they were headed towards the train depot, guns under their coats.

The citizens were outraged, warrants were issued, but Bat and Jim were permitted to leave Dodge.

Denver, Colorado

In 1888 Masterson was living in Denver, Colorado, where he dealt faro for “Big Ed” Chase at the Arcade gambling house.

That same year, he managed and then purchased the Palace Variety Theater. It was probably there that Bat first met an Indian club swinger and singer called Emma Moulton, born as Emma Walter near Philadelphia in 1857. The pair subsequently lived together, and it has been widely reported that they married in Denver on 21 November 1891. Although no record of the marriage has come to light thus far (and Emma was not divorced from her first husband until 9 November 1893), the partnership was to survive until Bat’s death.

While in Denver, Bat also met and maintained a long term friendship with the infamous confidence man, Soapy Smith, and members of the Soap Gang.
In 1889 the two friends were involved together in the famous Denver registration and election fraud scandal.

Travels, West

In 1892 Bat moved to the silver boom town of Creede, Colorado, where he managed the Denver Exchange Club until the town was destroyed by fire. On the 1900 Federal Census record for Arapahoe County in Denver he lists his name as William Masterson with his birthplace as Missouri in 1854. His wife is listed as Emma Masterson married for 10 years and he lists his occupation as Athletic Club Keeper.

Bat continued to travel around the boom towns of the West, gambling and promoting prize fights. He began writing a weekly sports column for George’s Weekly, a Denver newspaper, and opened the Olympic Athletic Club to promote the sport of boxing.

New York: A Call to Service

Masterson left the West and went to New York City by 1902, where he was arrested for illegal gambling

Some time later, President Theodore Roosevelt, on the recommendation of mutual friend Alfred Henry Lewis, appointed Masterson to the position of deputy to U.S. Marshal for the southern district of New York, under William Henkel. Roosevelt had met Masterson on several occasions and had become friendly with him.

Masterson split his time between his writing and keeping the peace in the grand jury room whenever the U. S. Attorney in New York held session. He performed this service for about $2,000 per year from early 1908 until 1912, when President William Howard Taft removed Masterson from the position during Taft’s purge of Roosevelt supporters from government positions.

Newspaper Man

Bat Masterson’s career as a writer started around 1883, and ended at his death in New York City in 1921. He worked as a sports writer and editor; and a columnist.

He wrote a letter published in the Daily Kansas State Journal, on June 9, 1883, that mentioned his arrival in Dodge City, the famous Long Branch saloon, and his famous cohorts who made the Long Branch their headquarters during the so-called “Dodge City Saloon War.” It was during this time that Bat met newspapermen Alfred Henry and William Eugene Lewis.

Masterson penned a weekly sports column for George’s Weekly sometime after his arrival in Denver, Colorado, in the late 1890s.

Masterson continued his writing career in New York at the New York Morning Telegraph, (a sporting newspaper featuring race form and results, whose reputation was part of what was known as “a whore’s breakfast,” which consisted of a cigarette and the Morning Telegraph), c. 1904. Hired by the younger Lewis brother, William Eugene Lewis, he reprised his role as sports writer, later becoming the paper’s sports editor.

The politics, sporting events, theaters, fine dining establishments, and varied night life of his adopted city became fodder for his thrice weekly column “Masterson’s Views on Timely Topics” for more than 18 years.

W. E. Lewis eventually became the general manager and president of the company and promoted his friend Masterson to vice president and company secretary.

The Latter Day Masterson

Alfred Henry Lewis eventually wrote several short stories and a novel, “The Sunset Trail”, about Masterson. He encouraged Bat to write a series of sketches about his adventures which were published by Lewis in the magazine he edited, Human Life (c. 1907–1908). Masterson regaled his readers with stories about his days on the frontier and his gunfighter friends. He also explained to his audience what he felt were the best properties of a gunfighter.

It was during this time that Masterson sold his famous six-gun -“the gun that tamed the West” – because he “needed the money.”

Actually, Masterson bought old guns at pawnshops, carved notches into the handles and sold them at inflated prices. Each time he claimed the gun was the one he used during his career as a lawman!

Bat Masterson’s Death

Bat Masterson died at age 67 on October 25, 1921, while living and working in New York City. He collapsed at his desk from a heart attack after penning what became his final column for the New York Morning Telegraph.

His body was taken to Campbell’s Funeral Parlor and later buried after a simple service in Woodlawn Cemetery in The Bronx, New York.

His full name, William Barclay Masterson, appears above his epitaph on the large granite grave marker in Woodlawn.

His epitaph states that he was “Loved by Everyone.”

I hope you loved this one.

And that you’ll join me, for the next.

Till then.




Dallas Stoudenmire (December 11, 1845 – September 18, 1882) was an American Old West gunman and lawman, who gained fame for a brief incident that was later dubbed the “Four Dead in Five Seconds Gunfight”.

Stoudenmire had a deadly reputation in his day, and was involved in more gunfights than most of his better known contemporaries, such as John Selman, Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, Elfego Baca, Luke Short, and Doc Holliday.

Hollywood has yet to produce a specific movie on his life, but the classic 1952 Western “High Noon” (starring Gary Cooper) may have been inspired by Stoudenmire’s exploits in the town of El Paso.

Video is courtesy of YouTube:

Here’s what is known about Stoudenmire’s life:

Stoudenmire’s Early Life

Dallas Stoudenmire was born in Aberfoil, Bullock County, Alabama, one of the nine children of Lewis and Elizabeth Stoudenmire.

Shortly after the American Civil War began, Dallas enlisted in the Army of the Confederacy, even though he was only 15 years old. He was six feet tall, but his officers soon discovered his age and discharged him.

He reenlisted twice more (the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors system reports a Pvt D. Stoudenmire Co F of the 17th Alabama Infantry and a Pvt D. Stowdemire Co C, 6th Alabama Cavalry) and eventually was allowed to serve as a private in Company F, 45th Alabama Infantry Regiment.

According to surviving records, he stood 6’4″ (1.94 m) tall by the war’s end and was wounded numerous times. He carried two bullets in his body for the remainder of his life.

Following the war, Stoudenmire drifted west and served for at least three years with the Texas Rangers.

He had a reputation for being handsome, a sharp dresser, and a gentleman around ladies. But when intoxicated, he could be extremely dangerous and had a quick temper.

Stoudenmire was known for his habit of wearing two guns, and being equally accurate with either hand.

He disappeared from the records between 1874 and 1878, possibly residing in Mexico for a time. He was able to speak Spanish fairly well, and is known to have worked during the years immediately after the war as a sheep farmer, wheelwright, proprietor, merchandiser and carpenter.

Career as a Lawman: El Paso

Stoudenmire resurfaced when he served as a town marshal for Socorro, New Mexico. While employed there, his brother-in-law and El Paso, Texas resident, Stanley “Doc” Cummings, convinced him to take up a job as town marshal in El Paso.

At that time, El Paso was a remote, lawless boomtown. The city was seeking to hire an outsider with a “rough reputation”.

Stoudenmire traveled to El Paso by stagecoach and was soon hired.

Marshal Stoudenmire started his tenure in El Paso on Monday, April 11, 1881. He was the sixth town marshal in eight months.

The City Council immediately asked him to take the city jail keys from deputy marshal and town drunkard Bill Johnson.

Witnesses alleged that Stoudenmire approached an intoxicated Johnson asking for the jail keys. Johnson mumbled that he would go home and figure out which keys were his, and which were the city’s.

Stoudenmire became impatient and demanded he hand over the keys right away. When Johnson demurred, the marshal physically turned Johnson upside down, grabbed the keys, then threw him to the ground. Johnson was publicly humiliated.

Prelude to a Gunfight

On Thursday, April 14, 1881 – only three days into his new job – Stoudenmire became involved in one of the most famous gunfights in Old West history, called the “Four Dead in Five Seconds Gunfight”.

This gunfight was well publicized in newspapers in cities as far away as San Francisco and New York City.

The events began a mile (1.6 km) south, at the Rio Grande – which divided the U.S.A. and Mexico.

Roughly 75 heavily-armed Mexican cowboys galloped into El Paso, looking for two missing young Mexican cowboys, Sanchez and Juarique, plus thirty cattle stolen from a ranch just across the river. The missing animals belonged to a wealthy Mexican who had hired an armed posse to recover them.

El Paso County Constable Gus Krempkau was asked by the Mexican leader to lead them to a possible location. Krempkau agreed.

The bodies of the two missing Mexicans were discovered near Johnny Hale’s ranch about 13 miles (21 km) northwest of El Paso. Hale was a ranch owner and cattle rustler.

The bodies were taken back to town.

Two American cattle rustlers, Pervey and Fredericks, were accused of the murders, after they were overheard bragging about killing the two cowboys when they found them trailing the herd to Hale’s ranch.

A large crowd gathered in El Paso, including John Hale and his friend, former town marshal George Campbell.

There was animosity and worry among the Americans about the presence of heavily armed Mexicans within the city limits, demanding justice for the slain men.

An inquest was held in court. Constable Krempkau was fluent in Spanish and was required to interpret for the judge.

The two Americans were formally charged with the murders and immediately arrested. They were scheduled for trial at a later date. The court was adjourned and the crowd dispersed.

The armed Mexicans, now calm, took the two corpses back to Mexico for proper burial.

The “Four Dead in Five Seconds Gunfight”

On April 14, 1881 Constable Krempkau went into a saloon to retrieve his rifle and pistol. A confrontation erupted with George Campbell over comments allegedly made by Campbell about Krempkau.

A heavily intoxicated John Hale, who was allegedly unarmed and upset by Krempkau’s role in the investigation, pulled one of Campbell’s two pistols and shot Krempkau.

Marshal Stoudenmire was eating dinner across the street. He ran out and started shooting, killing first an innocent Mexican bystander, then Hale.

When Campbell saw Hale go down, he tried to stop the fight, but Krempkau, thinking Campbell had shot him, fired at him before losing consciousness.

Campbell screamed and scooped up his gun. Stoudenmire then fired and killed him.

After the Gunfight

This gunfight made Stoudenmire a legend, but it eventually had deadly consequences.

Stoudenmire had few friends in El Paso, whereas both Campbell and Hale had many. Eventually, Stoudenmire would stand alone in his own defense of his actions.

Three days after the gunfight, on April 17, 1881, James Manning (he and his brothers were friends to Hale and Campbell) convinced former Deputy Marshal Bill Johnson to assassinate Stoudenmire. Johnson was known to have a profound hatred and grudge against Stoudenmire for publicly humiliating him.

That same night, Johnson, heavily intoxicated, squatted behind a large pillar of bricks with a loaded double-barreled shotgun and waited.

When he heard the voices of Stoudenmire and Stoudenmire’s brother-in-law, Stanley “Doc” Cummings, his legs started to wobble and he fell backward, accidentally firing both shells into the air. Stoudenmire quickly pulled out his pistols and fired at Johnson eight times, severing his testicles. Johnson bled to death, within minutes.

This started a feud between Stoudenmire and the Mannings.

Within six days of having started his job as town marshal, Stoudenmire had killed four men, one accidentally. Between the killing of Johnson and the following February, Stoudenmire killed another six men in shootouts during arrests, and the city’s crime rate dropped dramatically.

His reputation, as both a lawman and a gunman, grew to legendary status.


On February 14, 1882, James Manning killed “Doc” Cummings – supposedly while acting in self-defense after an earlier argument that evening had escalated. Manning claimed that Cummings had pulled his pistol and verbally threatened to kill him outside the saloon, when an innocent bystander walked by.

Cummings whirled and growled, “Now, are you not one of his friends?”

The bystander squealed his innocence, but Cummings allowed him to go, provided that he walked with his arms up in the air, into the darkness of night.

Cummings then turned and realized that Manning had gone back inside the saloon. Cummings entered and again verbally threatened to kill him.

Manning left the bar briefly and appeared in the hallway. Armed with his pistols, Manning snapped, “We will settle this for now and all.”

In an instant, gunfire erupted from both sides. Hit, Cummings staggered out across a wooden sidewalk toppling backward onto the dusty street as he screamed in agony, then died.

Manning was acquitted in a trial attended by a large number of local residents who were friends of the Mannings. This enraged Stoudenmire.

Unfortunately for El Paso, Cummings had been the only man able to face up to or control Stoudenmire’s fierce temper. He began to publicly confront those responsible for James Manning’s acquittal, and caused many to avoid coming into town or visiting saloons, for fear of running into an irate Stoudenmire.


Despite his prowess and expertise with handguns, and his effectiveness as a lawman, Stoudenmire was still an outsider.

Locally, he had several things going against him.

He was not from El Paso, and had no family there other than his own family and his now deceased brother-in-law. The Mannings had been in El Paso longer, and had many friends in the general population as well as in high places in the city government.

Stoudenmire had only two things in his favor; he had dramatically lowered El Paso’s violent crime rate – and people truly feared him.

On May 27, 1882, the town council announced the firing of Stoudenmire. He walked into the council hall, drunk, and dared them to take his guns or his job. They attempted to calm him by telling him he could keep his job.

However, after sobering up, he resigned on his own on May 29, 1882 and became a proprietor of the Globe Restaurant, which had formerly belonged to Cummings. He was then appointed Deputy U.S. Marshal for Western Texas and New Mexico Territory.

U.S. Marshal – Still a Target

For a few short months, Stoudenmire served well as a Deputy U.S. Marshal.

However, the feud was far from over.

The Mannings, mainly “Doc” Manning (d.1925), James Manning (d.1915), and Frank Manning (d.1925), were careful to never confront Stoudenmire alone. Despite their hatred of him, he had shown his skill with a gun on several occasions, and this made them wary.

On one instance, while standing out in the street, a drunken Stoudenmire mocked them, daring them to come outside and fight him. They remained inside a saloon while other residents attempted to convince Stoudenmire to go away and sleep off his intoxication. Eventually he grew tired, called the Mannings cowards, and left.

The Death of Stoudenmire

On September 18, 1882, the Mannings and Stoudenmire met in a local saloon, to make what they would call a “peace treaty” to end the feud.

James Manning, believing things were settled, left.

Stoudenmire is reported to have said,”Doc, someone or somebody has been going about telling lies…”.

Doc replied, “Dallas, you have not kept your word.”

“Who ever says I have not tells a damn lie,” Stoudenmire roared.

Manning and Stoudenmire drew their pistols and fired. Stoudenmire’s friend tried to push both men, causing Stoudenmire to lose his balance and Doc’s bullet to hit Stoudenmire in his left arm. A second round barely penetrated Stoudenmire’s skin because of papers folded heavily in his shirt pocket. Nonetheless, the second shot knocked Stoudenmire down.

As he fell outside the doorway, he pulled one of his pistols with his right hand and shot “Doc” Manning in the arm.

As Stoudenmire was firing, James Manning came from behind Stoudenmire and fired two rounds, one hitting a barber’s pole, and the other hitting Stoudenmire behind the left ear, killing him. “Doc” Manning then commenced beating the dead man over the head with his own gun, before being restrained by James Manning.

His Funeral and Legacy

A funeral ceremony for Stoudenmire was held at El Paso’s Masonic Lodge #130. His wife Isabella then had his body shipped to Columbus, Texas for burial. All funeral expenses were paid for by the Masonic Lodge.

The Mannings stood trial for the murder, but were acquitted – again by a jury made up mostly of their friends. They continued to live in El Paso, and soon the killing of Dallas Stoudenmire was all but forgotten.

When Assistant City Marshal Thomas Moad was killed while investigating a disturbance at a local brothel on July 11, 1883, Frank Manning was appointed to replace him. However, he only kept the job temporarily, as he often failed to arrest friends and acquaintances.

Marshal Dallas Stoudenmire has been credited for successfully taming a wild and violent town.

Even today, the El Paso Police Department acknowledges and pays tribute to the legendary Marshal Stoudenmire, for his accomplishments.

An intriguing tale.

I hope you’ll join me, for the next one.

Till then.



John Peters “Johnny” Ringo (May 3, 1850 – July 13, 1882) was an outlaw Cowboy of the American Old West who was affiliated with Ike Clanton and Frank Stilwell in Cochise County, Arizona Territory during 1881-1882.

He was occasionally referred to as “Ringgold” by the newspapers of the day.

He is best remembered for his relations with legendary gunmen Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday – which were never good.

In the 1993 film “Tombstone”, Ringo was played with suitable menace by “Terminator” and “Aliens” star, Michael Biehn.

Video is courtesy of YouTube:

That’s the Hollywood.

Here’s the history:

Ringo’s Early Life

John Peters Ringo was born in Greensfork, Indiana, of partial Dutch ancestry. His family moved to Liberty, Missouri in 1856.

He was a contemporary of Frank and Jesse James (who lived nearby in Kearney, Missouri), and became a cousin of the Younger brothers through marriage when his aunt, Augusta Peters Inskip, married Coleman P. Younger, uncle of the outlaws.

In 1858 the Ringo family moved to Gallatin, Missouri where they rented property from the father of John W. Sheets (who became the first “official” victim of the James-Younger gang when they robbed the Daviess County Savings & Loan Association in 1869).

On July 30, 1864, while the Ringo family was traveling through Wyoming on their way to California, Johnny’s father Martin Ringo stepped out of his wagon holding a shotgun which accidentally discharged. The buckshot round entered the right side of Martin’s face, exiting the top of his head. The 14-year-old Johnny, and the rest of the family, buried Martin on a hillside along the trail.

The Mason County War

By the mid-1870s, Ringo had migrated from San Jose, California to Mason County, Texas. Here he befriended an ex-Texas Ranger named Scott Cooley, who was the adopted son of a local rancher named Tim Williamson.

Trouble started when two American rustlers, Elijah and Pete Backus, were dragged from the Mason jail and lynched by a predominantly German mob.

Full-blown war began on May 13, 1875, when Tim Williamson was arrested by a hostile posse and murdered by a German farmer named Peter Bader.

Cooley and his friends, including Johnny Ringo, conducted a terror campaign against their rivals. Officially called the “Mason County War”, locally it was called the “Hoodoo War”.

Cooley retaliated by killing the local German ex-deputy sheriff, John Worley, shooting him, scalping him, and tossing his body down a well on August 10, 1875.

After Cooley supporter Moses Baird was killed, Ringo committed his first murder on September 25, 1875.

He and a friend named Bill Williams rode up in front of the house of James Cheyney – the man who had led Baird into an ambush.

As Cheyney came out, unarmed, invited them in, and began washing his face on the porch, both Ringo and Williams shot and killed him. The two then rode to the house of Dave Doole, and called him outside, but when he came out with a gun, they fled back into town.

Some time later, Scott Cooley and Johnny Ringo mistook Charley Bader for his brother Pete, and killed him. Both men were jailed in Burnet, Texas by Sheriff A. J. Strickland. Ringo and Cooley were broken out of jail by their friends shortly afterwards, and parted company to evade the law.

By November 1876, the Mason County War had petered out, after costing a dozen or so lives.

Scott Cooley was believed dead, and Johnny Ringo and his friend George Gladden were locked up, once again. One of Ringo’s alleged cellmates was the notorious killer John Wesley Hardin.

Gladden was eventually sentenced to 99 years, but Ringo appears to have been acquitted.

Two years later, Ringo was noted as being a constable in Loyal Valley, Texas. Soon after this, he appeared in Arizona for the first time.

A Bad Reputation – and a Temper

According to Western author Louis L’Amour, Ringo was a surly, bad-tempered man who was worse when he was drinking.

His main claim to infamy was an incident in an Arizona territory saloon in 1879.

In December of that year, a drunk Ringo shot the unarmed Louis Hancock in a Safford, Arizona saloon, when Hancock refused a complimentary drink of whiskey (Ringo was buying), stating he preferred beer. Hancock survived his wound.


Ringo first turned up in Cochise County, Arizona Territory in 1879, together with Joseph Graves Olney (alias “Joe Hill”), a friend from the Mason County War.

Here, too, Ringo had a reputation for having a bad temper. He may have participated in robberies and killings with the Cowboys.

Ringo did not, however, take part in the shootout at the O.K Corral.

On January 17, 1882, Ringo and Doc Holliday traded threats, and seemed to be headed for a gunfight. Both men were arrested by Tombstone’s new chief of police, James Flynn (former chief Virgil Earp having been badly wounded in an ambush a few weeks before), and hauled before a judge for carrying weapons in town. Both were fined.

Judge William H. Stilwell followed up on charges outstanding against Ringo for a robbery in Galeyville, and Ringo was re-arrested and jailed on January 20 for the weekend.


Two months later, Ringo was suspected by the Earps of taking part in the murder of Morgan Earp on March 18, 1882.

After Deputy U.S. Marshal Wyatt Earp and his posse killed Frank Stilwell in Tucson on March 20, 1882, warrants were issued for their arrest. Cochise County Sheriff Johnny Behan deputized Ringo and 19 other men – many of them Cowboys and friends of Stilwell. Ringo joined the county posse that pursued but never found Earp’s federal posse.

Pete Spence’s wife, Marietta Duarte, testified that her husband, Frank Stilwell, “Indian Charlie” Cruz, Frederick Bode, and a half-breed named Fries had killed Morgan Earp.

The Earp posse searched for Pete Spence at his wood camp in the South Pass in the Dragoon Mountains, and found Florentino “Indian Charlie” Cruz (whom they presumed to be “Fries”), and killed him.

One of Ringo’s closest friends, “Curly Bill” Brocius, was killed by Wyatt Earp in a gunfight at Iron Springs (later Mescal Springs) about 20 miles (32 km) from Tombstone, two days after the Cruz murder.

Earp told his biographer Stuart Lake that he got Cruz to confess to being the lookout at Morgan’s murder, and that Cruz identified Johnny Ringo, Frank Stilwell, Hank Swilling, and Curly Bill Brocius as Morgan’s killers.

Turkey Creek Canyon

On July 14, 1882, Johnny Ringo was found dead in the crotch of a large tree in West Turkey Creek Valley, near Chiricahua Peak, with a bullet hole in his right temple and an exit wound at the back of his head.

A single shot had been heard by a neighbor late in the evening, the day before. The property owner found Ringo sitting on the low-leaning trunk and fork of a large tree by the river.

Ringo’s revolver had one round expended, and was found hanging by one finger in his hand. His feet were wrapped in pieces of his undershirt. His horse was found two weeks later, Ringo’s boots tied to the saddle of his horse – a common method to keep scorpions out of boots.

After an inquest, the coroner found that death had been caused by a single shot through the head, and Ringo’s death was officially ruled a suicide.

Johnny Ringo is buried close to where his body was found in West Turkey Creek Canyon at the base of the tree in which he was found. The tree fell around 2010.

The grave is located on private land and is accessible through a gate with instructions on how to get to the grave site.

Suicide, or…?

Several people have been suggested as Ringo’s murderer, including Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, Mike O’Rourke, and Buckskin Frank Leslie.

The book, “I Married Wyatt Earp”, supposedly written by Josephine Marcus Earp, reported that Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday returned to Arizona to find and kill Ringo. Edited by Glen Boyer, the book claims that Holliday killed Ringo with a rifle shot from distance, contradicting the coroner’s ruling that Ringo’s death was a suicide.

Holliday was fighting a court case in Colorado at the time of Ringo’s death. Official records of the District Court of Pueblo County, Colorado indicate that both Doc and his attorney appeared in court there on July 11, 14, and 18, 1882, which, if true, would make it impossible for Holliday to have killed Ringo.

Author Karen Holliday Tanner, in “Doc Holliday, A Family Portrait”, speculated that Doc may not have been in Pueblo at the time of the court date, citing a writ of habeas corpus issued for him in court on July 11. She believes that only his attorney may have appeared on his behalf that day, in spite of the wording of a court record that indicated he may have appeared in person.

One theory that supports the coroner’s finding that Ringo committed suicide is that a few weeks before Ringo’s death, a large fire in Tombstone had wiped out most of the downtown area. The silver mines were producing less, and demand for beef was down. Many of Ringo’s friends were gone, while his way of life was quickly becoming a thing of the past. Ringo was depressed after being rejected by his remaining family members in California and the recent deaths of his outlaw friends.

Stoked by a period of binge drinking, Ringo was preparing to camp in an isolated spot, far from the city. He tied his boots to his saddle (a common practice in Arizona to keep scorpions out of them), but the horse got loose from his picket and ran off. Ringo tied pieces of his undershirt to his feet to protect them, and crawled into the fork of a large tree to spend the night.

As evening came on, despondent over the miserable state of his life, Ringo shot himself.

Fred Dodge, a Wells, Fargo & Co. undercover agent, attributed Ringo’s killing to Mike O’Rourke.

A gambler, O’Rourke had been arrested for murdering Henry Schneider in January, 1881. Curly Bill Brocius and John Ringo encouraged talk of a lynching and led other men who pursued the wagon carrying O’Rourke.

O’Rourke got to the outskirts of Tombstone and the Last Chance Saloon just ahead of the mob. He was met there by Deputy U.S. Marshal Virgil Earp, and was escorted to jail in Tucson, where he soon escaped.

He held on to a burning rage toward Ringo and Curly Bill, and according to a conversation Dodge had with Frank Leslie, O’Rourke learned in July, 1882 that Ringo and Buckskin Frank Leslie were camping in the Turkey Creek Canyon area. O’Rourke knew that Ringo had been drinking heavily for the last week and made camp in the same area. On July 14, he allegedly found Ringo sleeping off his liquor and killed him, arranging the body to look like a suicide.

The story had enough credibility that many – including Ringo’s close friend, Pony Diehl – believed it to be true. O’Rourke was killed, shortly after being caught cheating at cards.

Another theory suggests that “Buckskin” Frank Leslie killed Ringo.

Leslie allegedly found Ringo drunk and asleep in a tree. Hoping to curry favor with Earp supporters in office, he shot Ringo through the head.

Suicide, or murder?

A sticky end, in either case.

It’s the end of this one, too.

See you next time.



John Henry “Doc” Holliday (August 14, 1851 – November 8, 1887) was an American gambler, gunfighter and dentist of the American Old West, who is usually remembered for his friendship with Wyatt Earp and his involvement in the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.

In the years since his death, debate has continued about the exact crimes he may have committed during his life. And how many gunfights he was actually involved in.

Holliday’s cousin by marriage was Margaret Mitchell, who wrote “Gone With the Wind”.

A portrait, taken at the age of 20, supports accounts that Holliday had ash-blond hair. In early adulthood, he stood about 5 feet 10 inches (178 cm) and weighed about 160 pounds (73 kg).

At the movies, Doc Holliday has been portrayed many times over the years. Among the most memorable performances was the one given by Val Kilmer, in the 1993 film, “Tombstone”. Video is courtesy of YouTube:

That’s the Hollywood version.

Here’s the history:

Early life and Education

John Henry Holliday was born in Griffin, Georgia, to Henry Burroughs Holliday and Alice Jane Holliday (née McKey), on August 14, 1851. His father served in the Mexican–American War and the Civil War. His family baptized him at the First Presbyterian Church in 1852.

In 1864 his family moved to Valdosta, Georgia.

Holliday’s mother died of tuberculosis on September 16, 1866, when he was 15 years old. Three months later his father married Rachel Martin.

While in Valdosta, Holliday attended the Valdosta Institute, where he received a strong classical secondary education in rhetoric, grammar, mathematics, history, and languages – principally Latin, but also French and some Ancient Greek.

In 1870, the 19-year-old Holliday left home to begin dental school in Philadelphia.

On March 1, 1872, at the age of 20, he met the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Dental Surgery from the Pennsylvania College of Dental Surgery (which later merged with the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine). He graduated 5 months before his 21st birthday – which would have been problematic, since this age was needed both to hold a D.D.S. degree or to practice dentistry as anything other than a student under a preceptor, in Georgia.

After graduation, Holliday did not go home, but worked as an assistant with a classmate, A. Jameson Fuches, Jr., in St. Louis, Missouri.

By the end of July he had moved to Atlanta, where he lived with his uncle and his family while beginning his career as a dentist.

A few weeks before his birthday, the Atlanta papers carried an announcement by noted dentist Arthur C. Ford that Holliday would fill his place in the Atlanta office while he was attending dental meetings. This was the beginning of Holliday’s career in private practice as a dentist, but it lasted only until December.

Health Complications

Shortly after beginning his dental practice, Holliday was diagnosed with tuberculosis.

He may have contracted the disease from his mother, although he may also have caught it from a coughing or sneezing patient. Little or no precaution was taken against this during dental procedures, as tuberculosis was not known to be contagious until 1885.

He was given only a few months to live, but considered that moving to the drier and warmer southwestern United States might slow the deterioration of his health.

Gambler and Gunman

In September 1873, Holliday moved to Dallas, Texas, where he opened a dental office with fellow dentist and Georgian John A. Seegar. Their office was located between Market and Austin Streets along Elm Street, about three blocks east of the site of today’s Dealey Plaza.

Holliday soon began gambling and realized this was a more profitable source of income, since patients feared going to his office because of his persistent cough.

On May 12, 1874, Holliday and 12 others were indicted in Dallas for illegal gambling. He was arrested in Dallas in January 1875 after trading gunfire with a saloon-keeper, but no one was injured and he was found not guilty.

He moved his offices to Denison, Texas, and after being found guilty of, and fined for, “gaming” in Dallas, he decided to leave the state.

Holliday’s Travels

Holliday made his way to Denver, traveling the stage routes and staying at Army outposts along the way, practicing his trade as a gambler.

In the summer of 1875 he settled in Denver under the alias “Tom Mackey”, working as a Faro dealer for John A. Babb’s Theatre Comique at 357 Blake Street. Here he heard about gold being discovered in Wyoming, and on February 5, 1876 he relocated to Cheyenne, working as a dealer for Babb’s partner, Thomas Miller, who owned a saloon called the Bella Union.

In the fall of 1876, Miller moved the Bella Union to Deadwood (site of the gold rush in the Dakota Territory) and Holliday moved with him.

In 1877, Holliday returned to Cheyenne and Denver, eventually making his way to Kansas to visit an aunt.

He left Kansas and returned to Texas setting up as a gambler in the town of Breckenridge. On July 4, 1877 he got involved in an altercation with another gambler named Henry Kahn, whom Holliday beat with his walking stick repeatedly. Both men were arrested and fined, but later in the day, Kahn shot Holliday, wounding him seriously.

The Dallas Weekly Herald incorrectly reported Holliday as dead, in its July 7 edition.

His cousin, George Henry Holliday moved west to take care of him during his recovery.

Friends, at Fort Griffin

Fully recovered, Holliday relocated to Fort Griffin, Texas, where he met “Big Nose Kate” (Mary Katharine Horony) and began his long-time involvement with her.

In Fort Griffin, Holliday was initially introduced to Wyatt Earp through mutual friend John Shanssey.

Earp had stopped at Fort Griffin, Texas, before returning to Dodge City in 1878 to become the assistant city marshal, serving under Charlie Bassett.

The two began to form an unlikely friendship; Earp more even-tempered and controlled, Holliday hot-headed and impulsive.

This friendship was cemented in 1878 in a saloon at Dodge City, Kansas, where both Earp and Holliday had traveled to make money gambling with the cowboys who drove cattle from Texas. Holliday defended Earp in a saloon against a handful of cowboys out to kill Earp, and earned his lifelong gratitude.

Holliday was still practicing dentistry on the side from his rooms in Fort Griffin and in Dodge City, as indicated in an 1878 Dodge newspaper advertisement (he promised money back for less than complete customer satisfaction) – but this is the last known time he attempted to practice.

Gunfighter, or…?

Holliday was primarily a gambler.

Modern research has only identified three instances in which he shot someone.

One documented instance happened when Holliday was employed during a railroad dispute.

On July 19, 1879, Holliday and noted gunman John Joshua Webb were seated in a saloon in Las Vegas, New Mexico when a former U.S. Army scout named Mike Gordon tried to persuade one of the saloon girls to leave her job and come away with him. When she refused, Gordon stormed outside and began firing into the building.

Holliday followed him and killed him before he could get off a second shot.

Holliday was placed on trial for the shooting but was acquitted, mostly based on the testimony of Webb.

In three of his four known pistol fights, he shot one opponent (Billy Allen) in the arm, one (Charles White) across the scalp, and missed one man (saloon keeper Charles Austin) entirely.

In an early incident in Tombstone in 1880, shortly after he arrived in town, a drunken Holliday managed to shoot Oriental Saloon owner Milt Joyce in the hand, and his bartender Parker in the toe (neither was the man Holliday originally quarreled with). For this, Holliday was fined for assault and battery.

With the exception of Mike Gordon in 1879, there are no newspaper or legal records to match the many unnamed men whom Holliday is credited with killing in popular folklore; the same is true for the several tales of knifings credited to Holliday by early biographers.

Some scholars have argued that Holliday may have allowed his reputation to remain as it was, and in reality may not have killed anyone.


Holliday, by this time, was as well known for his prowess as a gunfighter as for his gambling – although the latter was his trade, and the former simply a reputation.

Through his friendship with Wyatt and the other Earp brothers (especially Morgan and Virgil), Holliday made his way to the silver-mining boom town of Tombstone, Arizona Territory, in September 1880. The Earps had been there since December 1879.

Some accounts state that the Earps sent for Holliday when they realized the problems they faced in their feud with the Cowboy faction.

In Tombstone, Holliday quickly became embroiled in the local politics and violence that led up to the famous Gunfight at the O.K. Corral in October 1881.

O.K. Corral

The gunfight happened in front of, and next to, Fly’s boarding house and picture studio (where Holliday had a room), the day after a late night of hard drinking and poker with Ike Clanton. The Clantons and McLaurys collected in the space between the boarding house and the house west of it, before being confronted by the Earps. Holliday likely thought they were there specifically to assassinate him.

It is known Holliday carried a coach gun from the local stage office into the fight; he was given the weapon just before the fight by Virgil Earp, as Holliday was wearing a long coat which could conceal it. Virgil Earp in turn took Holliday’s walking stick. By not going visibly armed, Virgil was seeking to avoid panic in the citizenry of Tombstone, and in the Clantons and McLaurys.

An inquest and arraignment hearing determined the gunfight was not a criminal act on the part of Holliday and the Earps.

Aftermath of The Gunfight

The situation in Tombstone soon grew worse, when Virgil Earp was ambushed and permanently injured in December 1881. Morgan Earp was ambushed and killed in March 1882.

Holliday and Wyatt Earp stayed in Tombstone to exact retribution on Ike Clanton and the remaining Cowboys.

Their efforts culminated in the Earp Vendetta Ride, where Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, and a posse of their friends killed at least four men, in two weeks.

Holliday and four other members of the posse were still faced with warrants for the death of Frank Stilwell, a notorious Cowboy. The group elected to leave the Arizona Territory for New Mexico and then Colorado.

While in Trinidad, Colorado, Wyatt Earp and Holliday parted ways, going separately to different parts of Colorado.

Holliday arrived in Colorado in mid-April 1882.

Denver Extradition Hearing

On May 15, 1882, Holliday was arrested in Denver on the Arizona warrant for murdering Frank Stilwell.

Wyatt Earp – fearing that Holliday would not receive a fair trial in Arizona – asked his friend Bat Masterson, Chief of Police of Trinidad, Colorado, to help get Holliday released. The extradition hearing was set for May 30.

Late in the evening of May 29, Masterson needed help getting an appointment with Colorado Governor Frederick Walker Pitkin. He contacted E. D. Cowen, capital reporter for the Denver Tribune, who held political sway in town.

After meeting with Masterson, Pitkin was persuaded by whatever evidence he presented, and refused to honor Arizona’s extradition request.

Masterson took Holliday to Pueblo, where he was released on bond two weeks after his arrest.

Holliday and Wyatt met briefly after Holliday’s release, during June 1882 in Gunnison.

The Death of Johnny Ringo

On July 14, 1882, Cowboy stalwart Johnny Ringo was found dead in the crotch of a large tree in West Turkey Creek Valley, near Chiricahua Peak, Arizona Territory, with a bullet hole in his right temple and a revolver hanging from a finger of his hand.

The book, “I Married Wyatt Earp”, supposedly written by Josephine Marcus Earp, reported that Wyatt Earp and Holliday returned to Arizona to find and kill Ringo. Actually written by Glen Boyer, the book states that Holliday killed Ringo with a rifle shot at a distance, contradicting the coroner’s ruling that Ringo’s death was a suicide.

However, Boyer’s book has been discredited as a fraud and a hoax that cannot be relied upon.

Official records of the Pueblo County, Colorado District Court indicate that both Holliday and his attorney appeared in court there on July 11, 14 and 18, 1882.

Author Karen Holliday Tanner, in “Doc Holliday, A Family Portrait”, speculated that Holliday may not have been in Pueblo at the time of the court date, citing a writ of habeas corpus issued for him in court on July 11. She believes that only his attorney may have appeared on his behalf that day, in spite of the wording of a court record that indicated he may have appeared in person.

There is no doubt that Holliday arrived in Salida, Colorado on July 7, as reported in a town newspaper. This is 500 miles (800 km) from the site of Ringo’s death – six days before the shooting.

The End of the Line

Holliday spent the rest of his life in Colorado. After a stay in Leadville, he suffered from the high altitude. He increasingly depended on alcohol and laudanum to ease the symptoms of tuberculosis, and his health and his ability to gamble began to deteriorate.

In 1887, prematurely gray and badly ailing, Holliday made his way to the Hotel Glenwood, near the hot springs of Glenwood Springs, Colorado. He hoped to take advantage of the reputed curative power of the waters, but the sulfurous fumes from the spring may have done his lungs more harm than good.

As he lay dying, Holliday is reported to have asked the nurse attending him at the Hotel Glenwood for a shot of whiskey. When she told him no, he looked at his bootless feet, amused. The nurses said that his last words were, “Damn, this is funny.”

Holliday died at 10am, November 8, 1887. He was 36.

Although the legend persists that Wyatt Earp was present when Holliday died, Earp did not learn of Holliday’s death until two months afterward. Big Nose Kate later said she attended to him in his final days, but it is also doubtful that she was present.

In a newspaper interview, Holliday was once asked if his conscience ever troubled him. He is reported to have said, “I coughed that up with my lungs, years ago.”

Big Nose Kate, his long-time companion, remembered Holliday’s reaction after his role in the O.K. Corral gunfight. She reported that Holliday came back to his room, sat on the bed, wept and said, “that was awful – awful”.

Complex, and contradictory.

That wraps it up, for this one.

I hope you’ll join me, for the next installment.

Till then.


The Gunfighters: Wyatt Earp


Wyatt Berry Stapp Earp (March 19, 1848 – January 13, 1929) is best known for his part in the gunfight at the O.K. Corral – the 30-second gunfight that defined the rest of his life.

He was a city policeman (“assistant city marshal”) in Wichita, Kansas and Dodge City, Kansas. He served as a deputy sheriff and deputy U.S. marshal in Tombstone, Arizona. He was also at various times a farmer, teamster, buffalo hunter, bouncer, saloon-keeper, gambler, miner, and on one occasion a boxing referee.

Earp’s modern-day reputation is that of the Old West’s “toughest and deadliest gunman of his day.”

In the 1990s, Hollywood gave us two contrasting views of the legendary lawman.

The first was 1993’s “Tombstone”, with Kurt Russell as Wyatt Earp (video courtesy of YouTube):

The second was the epic “Wyatt Earp” (1994), with Kevin Costner in the title role (video courtesy of YouTube, also):

The historical truth may lie somewhere between the two visions.

Let’s see.

His Early Life

Wyatt Earp was born in Monmouth, Illinois, on March 19, 1848, to widower Nicholas Porter Earp and Virginia Ann Cooksey. From his father’s first marriage, Wyatt had an elder half-brother, Newton, and a half-sister Mariah Ann, who died at the age of ten months. Wyatt was named after his father’s commanding officer in the Mexican-American War, Captain Wyatt Berry Stapp, of the 2nd Company Illinois Mounted Volunteers.

In March 1849, the Earps left Monmouth for California but settled in Pella, Iowa.

On March 4, 1856, Earp’s father Nicholas sold his farm and returned to Turtle, Illinois, where he was elected the municipal constable, serving at this post for about three years. He was caught and convicted in 1859 for bootlegging. Nicholas was unable to pay the fines, and the family left again for Pella, Iowa.

During the family’s second stay in Pella, the American Civil War began.

Newton, James, and Virgil joined the Union Army on November 11, 1861. Wyatt, along with his two younger brothers, Morgan and Warren, were left in charge of tending their 80-acre (32 ha) corn crop.

Only 13 years old, Wyatt was too young to enlist, but he tried on several occasions to run away and join the army. Each time his father found him and brought him home.

James was severely wounded in Fredericktown, Missouri, and returned home in the summer of 1863. Newton and Virgil fought several battles in the east and later returned.

On May 12, 1864, the Earp family joined a wagon train heading to California.


In the spring of 1866, Wyatt became a teamster, transporting cargo for Chris Taylor. His assigned trail for 1866–1868 was from Wilmington, through San Bernardino then Las Vegas, Nevada, to Salt Lake City, Utah Territory.

In the spring of 1868, Earp was hired by Charles Chrisman to transport supplies for the construction of the Union Pacific Railroad. He learned gambling and boxing while working on the railhead in the Wyoming Territory, and refereed a fight between John Shanssey and Mike Donovan.


In the spring of 1868, the Earps moved east again to Lamar, Missouri, where Wyatt’s father Nicholas became the local constable. When Nicholas resigned on November 17, 1869 to become the justice of the peace, Wyatt was appointed constable in his place.

The adult Wyatt was an imposing, handsome man: blonde, 6 feet (1.8 m) tall, weighed about 165 to 170 pounds (75 to 77 kg). He was broad-shouldered, long-armed, and muscular. He had been a boxer and was reputed to be an expert with a pistol. According to author Leo Silva, Earp showed no fear of any man.

His First Marriage

In late 1869, Wyatt met Urilla Sutherland (c.1849–1870), the daughter of hotel-keeper William and Permelia Sutherland, formerly of New York City. They married in Lamar on January 10, 1870. Urilla was pregnant and about to deliver their first child when she died from typhoid fever later that year.

After Urilla’s death, Wyatt experienced a series of legal problems.

On March 14, 1871, Barton County, Missouri filed a lawsuit against Earp and his sureties. Earp was in charge of collecting license fees for Lamar, which funded local schools, and he was accused of failing to turn in the fees.

On March 28, 1871 Earp, Edward Kennedy, and John Shown were charged with stealing two horses from William Keys while in the Indian Country. On April 6, Deputy United States Marshal J. G. Owens arrested Earp for the horse theft.

On June 5 Edward Kennedy was acquitted, while the case against Earp and John Shown remained.

Earp didn’t wait for the trial. He climbed out through the roof of his jail and headed for Peoria, Illinois.

Peoria, Illinois

Wyatt’s biographer Stuart Lake reported that Wyatt took to hunting buffalo during the winter of 1871-72, but Earp was arrested three times in the Peoria area during that period.

Earp is listed in the city directory for Peoria during 1872 as a resident in the house of Jane Haspel, who operated a brothel.

In February 1872, Peoria police raided the brothel, arresting four women and three men: Wyatt Earp, Morgan Earp, and George Randall. Wyatt and the others were charged with “Keeping and being found in a house of ill-fame.” He was arrested for the same crime in May 1872 and late September 1872.

It’s not known if Earp was a pimp, an enforcer or a bouncer for the brothel.

Wichita, Kansas

Wichita was a railroad terminal that was a destination for cattle drives from Texas. Such cattle boom towns on the frontier were raucous places filled with drunken, armed cowboys celebrating at the end of long drives.

Earp officially joined the Wichita marshal’s office on April 21, 1875, after the election of Mike Meagher as city marshal. He also dealt faro at the Long Branch Saloon.

Wyatt’s stint as Wichita deputy came to a sudden end on April 2, 1876, when Earp took too active an interest in the city marshal’s election. According to news accounts, former marshal Bill Smith accused Wyatt of using his office to help hire his brothers as lawmen. Wyatt got into a fistfight with Smith and beat him.

Meagher was forced to fire and arrest Earp for disturbing the peace, which ended a tour of duty that the papers called otherwise “unexceptionable.”

When his brother James opened a brothel in Dodge City, Kansas, Wyatt joined him there.

Dodge City, Kansas

After 1875, Dodge City, Kansas became a major terminal for cattle drives from Texas along the Chisholm Trail.

Earp was appointed assistant marshal in Dodge City under Marshal Larry Deger in 1876.

In October 1877, Earp left Dodge City to gamble throughout Texas. He stopped at Fort Griffin, Texas before returning to Dodge City in 1878 to become the assistant city marshal, serving under Charlie Bassett.

He may have met John Henry “Doc” Holliday while in Texas.

In the summer of 1878, Holliday assisted Earp during a bar room confrontation when Earp “was surrounded by desperadoes.” Earp credited Holliday with saving his life that day and they became lifelong friends.

While in Dodge City, Earp became acquainted with brothers James and Bat Masterson, Luke Short, and prostitute Celia Anne “Mattie” Blaylock.

Blaylock became Earp’s common-law wife until 1881. When Earp resigned from the Dodge City police force on September 9, 1879, she accompanied him to Las Vegas in the New Mexico Territory, and then Tombstone in Arizona Territory.

George Hoyt Shooting

At about 3:00 in the morning of July 26, 1878, George Hoyt (spelled in some accounts as “Hoy”) and other drunken cowboys shot their guns wildly, including three shots into Dodge City’s Comique Theater, causing comedian Eddie Foy to throw himself to the stage floor in the middle of his act. Fortunately, no one was injured.

Assistant Marshal Earp and policeman James Masterson responded and “…together with several citizens, turned their pistols loose in the direction of the fleeing horsemen.”

As the riders crossed the Arkansas river bridge south of town, George Hoyt fell from his horse from weakness caused by a wound in the arm he had received during the fracas. Hoyt developed gangrene and died on August 21.

Earp claimed to have sighted on Hoyt against the morning horizon and to have fired the fatal shot, but Hoyt could easily have been shot by Masterson or one of the citizens in the crowd.

Tombstone, Arizona

Wyatt’s older brother Virgil was in Prescott, Arizona Territory, in 1879 and wrote Wyatt about the opportunities in the nearby silver-mining boomtown of Tombstone. In the fall of 1879, Wyatt, his common-law wife Mattie Blaylock, his brother Jim and his wife, and Doc Holliday and his common-law wife Big Nose Kate, all left for Arizona.

They stopped in Las Vegas and at other locations, arriving in Prescott in November.

The three Earps moved with their wives to Tombstone while Doc remained in Prescott where the gambling afforded better opportunities.

There, the Earps clashed with a loose federation of outlaw cowboys.

It was in Tombstone that the famous Gunfight at the O.K. Corral took place.

Wyatt, Virgil, and their younger brother Morgan held various law enforcement positions that put them in conflict with Tom and Frank McLaury, and Ike and Billy Clanton, who threatened to kill the Earps. The conflict escalated over the next year, culminating on October 26, 1881 in the gunfight at the O.K. Corral, during which the Earps and Holliday killed three of the Cowboys.

The Cowboys didn’t take their perceived “defeat” at the O.K. Corral lightly.

On December 28, while walking between saloons on Allen Street in Tombstone, Virgil was ambushed and maimed by a shotgun round that struck his left arm and shoulder. Ike Clanton’s hat was found in the back of the building across Allen Street from where the shots were fired.

After attending a theatre show on March 18 1882, Morgan Earp was assassinated by gunmen firing from a dark alley through a door window into a room where he was playing billiards. Another round narrowly missed Wyatt.

Wyatt Earp felt he could not rely on civil justice, and decided to take matters into his own hands. He concluded that the only way to deal with Morgan’s murderers was to kill them all.

Earp Vendetta Ride

The day after Morgan’s murder, Deputy U.S. Marshal Wyatt, his brother James, Doc Holliday, and a few others that Wyatt deputized took Morgan’s body to the railhead in Benson. They put Morgan’s body on the train with James, who accompanied it to the family home in Colton, California, where Morgan’s wife waited to bury him.

They guarded Virgil and Addie through to Tucson, where they had heard Frank Stilwell and other Cowboys were waiting to kill Virgil.

The next morning Frank Stilwell’s body was found alongside the tracks riddled with buckshot and gunshot wounds. Wyatt and five others were accused of murdering him and Tucson Justice of the Peace Charles Meyer issued warrants for their arrest.

The Earp posse briefly returned to Tombstone where Sheriff Behan tried to stop them. The heavily armed posse brushed him aside and set out for Pete Spence’s wood camp in the Dragoon Mountains.

They found and killed Florentino “Indian Charlie” Cruz.

Two days later, near Iron Springs (later Mescal Springs), in the Whetstone Mountains, they were seeking to rendezvous with a messenger. They unexpectedly stumbled onto the wood camp of Curly Bill Brocius, Pony Diehl, and other Cowboys.

According to reports from both sides, the two sides immediately exchanged fire. Except for Wyatt and Texas Jack Vermillion, whose horse was shot, the Earp party withdrew to find protection from the heavy gunfire.

Curly Bill fired at Wyatt with a shotgun but missed. Wyatt received bullet holes in both sides of his long coat and another struck his boot heel.

Wyatt returned Curly Bill’s gunfire with his own shotgun and shot Curly Bill in the chest from about 50 feet (15 m) away. Curly Bill fell into the water by the edge of the spring and died.

After emptying his shotgun, Wyatt fired his pistol, mortally wounding Johnny Barnes in the chest, and wounded Milt Hicks in the arm.

Vermillion tried to retrieve his rifle wedged in the scabbard under his fallen horse, exposing himself to the Cowboys’ gunfire. Doc Holliday helped him gain cover.

Wyatt had trouble remounting his horse because his cartridge belt had slipped down his legs. He was finally able to get on his horse and with the rest of the posse retreated.

The Earp Party rode north to the Percy Ranch, but were not welcomed by Hugh and Jim Percy, who feared the Cowboys.

The Earp party slipped into the area near Tombstone and met with supporters, including “Charlie” Smith and Warren Earp.

On March 27, the posse arrived at the Sierra Bonita ranch of Henry C. Hooker, a wealthy and prominent rancher. When Behan’s posse was observed in the distance, Hooker suggested Wyatt make his stand there, but Wyatt moved into the hills about three miles (5 km) away, near Reilly Hill.

The Earp posse did not meet with the posse, led by Cochise County Sheriff John Behan, searching for the Earps, and in the middle of April 1882 the Earp party fled the Arizona territory, heading east into New Mexico Territory and then into Colorado.

The coroner reports credited the Earp party with killing four men in their two-week long ride.

Life After Tombstone

The gunfight in Tombstone lasted only 30 seconds, but would end up defining Earp for the rest of his life. After Wyatt killed Frank Stilwell in Tucson, his movements received national press coverage and he became a part of Western folklore.

After Morgan Earp’s assassination, Wyatt’s former common-law wife, Celia Anne “Mattie” Blaylock, waited for him in Colton but eventually accepted that Wyatt was not coming back.

Wyatt left Mattie their house when he left Tombstone. She moved to Pinal City, Arizona and resumed life as a prostitute.
Mattie struggled with her addictions and committed “suicide by opium poisoning” on July 3, 1888.

Wyatt went to San Francisco and joined his lover, the Jewish actress Josephine Marcus, Warren and Virgil in late 1882.

Josie, or Sadie as he called her, was his common-law wife for the next forty-six years.

The Death of Wyatt Earp

The last surviving Earp brother and the last surviving participant of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, Wyatt Earp died at home in the Earps’ small apartment at 4004 W 17th Street, in Los Angeles, of chronic cystitis (some sources cite prostate cancer) on January 13, 1929 at the age of 80.

His pallbearers were prominent men: George W. Parsons, Charles Welch, Fred Dornberge, Los Angeles Examiner writer Jim Mitchell, Hollywood screenwriter Wilson Mizner, Earp’s good friend from his days in Tombstone, John Clum, and Western actors William S. Hart and Tom Mix. Mitchell wrote Wyatt’s obituary.

The newspapers reported that Tom Mix cried during his friend’s service. His wife Josie was too grief-stricken to attend.

Josie had Earp’s body cremated and buried Earp’s ashes in the Marcus family plot at the Hills of Eternity, a Jewish cemetery in Colma, California.

Although it never was incorporated as a town, the settlement formerly known as Drennan located near the site of some of his mining claims was renamed Earp, California in his honor when the post office was established there in 1930.

When she died in 1944, Josie’s ashes were buried next to Earp’s. The original gravemarker was stolen on July 8, 1957 but was later recovered. Their gravesite is the most visited resting place in the Jewish cemetery.

Quite a life.

I hope you’ll join me, for the next installment in this series.

Till then.



The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral is generally regarded as the most famous gunfight in the history of the American Old West.

It took place at about 3:00 p.m. on Wednesday, October 26, 1881, in Tombstone, Arizona Territory, and is believed to have lasted only about thirty seconds – enough time for the birth of a legend.

The fight has been staged umpteen times, on the silver screen.

Here’s how Hollywood depicted the events, in the movie “Tombstone” – widely considered as one of the more historically accurate portrayals of the event.

Video comes courtesy of YouTube:

And here’s how the historical facts shape up:

The Territory

Tombstone, near the Mexican border, was formally founded in March 1879 and was a rapidly growing frontier mining boomtown.

The small town was mostly composed of tents as living quarters, a few saloons and other buildings, and the mines.

The Earp brothers – Wyatt, Virgil, and James – arrived on December 1, 1879.

Virgil Earp had been given the job of Deputy U.S. Marshal for the region around Tombstone only days before his arrival. In June 1881 he became Tombstone’s town marshal (or police chief).

In the summer of 1880, brothers Morgan and Warren Earp also moved to Tombstone.

John Henry “Doc” Holliday – who had saved Wyatt Earp’s life at one time and was a very close friend – had been living in Prescott and making a living as a gambler since late 1879, where he first met future Tombstone sheriff and sometime gambler Johnny Behan. In late September, 1880, he followed the Earps to Tombstone.

Though not universally liked by the townspeople, the Earps tended to protect the interests of the town’s business owners and residents – although Virgil’s brother Wyatt helped keep a Cowboy from being lynched after he accidentally killed Tombstone Marshal Fred White.

The Cowboys were a loosely-knit group of rowdies, cattle rustlers and outlaws, known for the distinctive red sashes they wore round their waists. In the extent to which they supported each other’s (often) criminal activities, they represented one of the first recorded instances of organized crime.

In those days, legitimate cowmen were referred to as cattle herders or ranchers. In Cochise County it was an insult to call a legitimate cattleman a “Cowboy.”

Cochise County Sheriff Johnny Behan was generally a friend to the interests of the rural ranchers and Cowboys.

Earps versus Cowboys

The Earps were a tight-knit family who had worked and served together as deputy marshal, marshal, sheriff, and saloon owners in several towns (among other occupations), and had moved together from location to location. Wyatt, in particular, had helped police the cattle drive destination towns of Wichita and Dodge City in Kansas – where problems were often caused by celebrating cowboys at the end of a cattle drive.

Wyatt arrived in Tombstone hoping to have left law-enforcement behind. He brought a stagecoach, only to find the business was already very competitive. The Earps then invested in several mining claims and water rights.

When the Earps’ efforts to invest in various businesses were fruitless, Wyatt became a stagecoach shotgun messenger for Wells Fargo, guarding shipments of silver bullion, until he was appointed Pima County deputy sheriff on July 28, 1880 – the only official law enforcement position Wyatt would hold in Tombstone before the gunfight.

The Earps were in conflict with Frank and Tom McLaury and Billy and Ike Clanton, Johnny Ringo, Curly Bill Brocius, and others, almost from the word ‘go’.

Ike was prone to drinking heavily, and threatened the Earps numerous times.

Virgil Earp thought that some of the Cowboys had met at Charleston, Arizona, and taken “an oath over blood drawn from the arm of Johnny Ringo, the leader, that they would kill us.”

The ranch owned by Newman Haynes “Old Man” Clanton near Charleston, Arizona was believed to be the local center for the Cowboys’ illegal activities, while Tom and Frank McLaury worked with the rustlers buying and selling stolen cattle.

Ranchers largely maintained control of the country around Tombstone, due in large part to the sympathetic support of Cochise County Sheriff Johnny Behan, who grew to intensely dislike the Earps.

Behan tended to ignore the Earps’ complaints about the McLaury’s and Clanton’s horse thieving and cattle rustling.

As officers of the law, the Earps were known to bend the law in their favor when it affected their gambling and saloon interests, which earned them further enmity from the Cowboy faction.

More Money, More Problems

After silver was discovered in the area, Tombstone grew extremely rapidly. At its founding in March 1879, it had a population of just 100.

Only two years later, it had more than 7,000 citizens, excluding all Chinese, Mexicans, women and children residents.

The largest boomtown in the America southwest, the silver industry and attendant wealth attracted many professionals and merchants who brought their wives and families. With them came churches and ministers.

By 1881 there were fancy restaurants, a bowling alley, four churches, an ice house, a school, an opera house, two banks, three newspapers, and an ice cream parlor, alongside 110 saloons, 14 gambling halls, and numerous brothels – all situated among a number of dirty, hardscrabble mines.

Horse rustlers and bandits from the countryside came to town, and shootings were frequent.

In the 1880s, illegal smuggling and theft of cattle, alcohol, and tobacco across the Mexico – United States border about 30 miles (48 km) from Tombstone were common. The Mexican government taxed these items heavily and smugglers earned a handsome profit by stealing these products in Mexico and smuggling them across the border.

In the border area between Arizona and Mexico, there was only one passable route – a passage known as Guadalupe Canyon.

In August 1881, 15 Mexicans carrying gold, coins and bullion to make their purchases were ambushed and killed in Skeleton Canyon. The next month Mexican Commandant Felipe Neri dispatched troops to the border, and they in turn killed five Cowboys including “Old Man” Clanton in Guadalupe Canyon. The Earps strongly suspected that the McLaurys and Clantons were involved in this incident.

To reduce crime in Tombstone, on April 19, 1881, the Tombstone city council passed an ordinance prohibiting anyone from carrying a deadly weapon.

Anyone entering town was required to deposit their weapons at a livery or saloon soon after entering town. This ordinance led directly to the confrontation that resulted in the shoot out.

Increasing Tensions

Tensions between the Earp family and both the Clanton and McLaury clans increased through 1881.

On the evening of March 15, 1881, three Cowboys attempted to rob a Kinnear & Company stagecoach carrying US$26,000 in silver bullion (about $626,152 in today’s dollars) en route from Tombstone to Benson, Arizona, the nearest freight terminal.

Bob Paul, working as the Wells Fargo shotgun messenger, fired at the robbers, but was unable to stop them.

Deputy U.S. Marshal Virgil Earp, along with temporary federal deputies Wyatt and Morgan Earp, Wells Fargo agent Marshall Williams, former Kansas Sheriff Bat Masterson (who was dealing faro at the Oriental Saloon), and County Sheriff Behan set out to find the robbers. Robbery of a mail-carrying stagecoach was both a federal and territorial crime, and the posse consisted of both county and federal authorities and deputies.

The posse trailed the robbers to a nearby ranch where they found a drifter named Luther King. He wouldn’t tell who his confederates were until the posse lied and told him that Doc Holliday’s girlfriend had been shot. Fearful of Holliday’s reputation, he confessed to holding the reins of the robbers’ horses, and identified Bill Leonard, Harry “The Kid” Head and Jim Crane – all known Cowboys – as the robbers.

Behan and Williams escorted King back to Tombstone.

Somehow King walked in the front door of the jail and a few minutes later out the back.

The Earps pursued the other men for 17 days, riding for 60 hours without food and 36 hours without water, during which Bob Paul’s horse died, and Wyatt and Morgan’s horses became so weak, that the two men walked 18 miles (29 km) back to Tombstone to obtain new horses.

They returned to Tombstone on April 1, and submitted a bill for $796.84 to the county for posse expenses – which Behan refused to pay.

They were finally reimbursed by Wells, Fargo & Co. later on, but the incident caused further friction between county and federal law enforcement, and between Behan and the Earps.

Wyatt thought he might beat Behan in the next Cochise County election in late 1882. He offered the Wells, Fargo & Co. reward money (and more) to Ike Clanton if he would provide information leading to the capture or death of the stage robbers.

Ike began to fear that word of his possible cooperation had leaked, threatening to compromise his standing among the Cowboys. Undercover Wells Fargo Company agent M. Williams suspected a deal, and said something to Ike, who was fearful that other Cowboys might learn of his double-cross.

Ike now began to threaten Wyatt and Doc Holliday (who had learned of the deal) for apparently revealing Ike’s willingness to help arrest his friends.

Ike Clanton later testified that Doc Holliday, Virgil Earp, Wyatt Earp, and Morgan Earp had all confided in him that they had actually been involved in the stage robbery.

Eve of the Gunfight

On the morning of Tuesday, October 25, 1881 (the day before the gunfight), Ike Clanton and Tom McLaury drove 10 miles (16 km) in a spring wagon from Chandler’s Milk Ranch at the foot of the Dragoon Mountains to Tombstone. They were in town to sell a large number of beef stock, most of them owned by the McLaurys.

Seeing Ike Clanton in the Alhambra Saloon around midnight, Holliday confronted Ike, accusing him of lying about their previous conversations. They got into a heated argument.

Wyatt Earp (who was not wearing a badge) encouraged his brother, Tombstone Deputy City Marshal Morgan Earp, to intervene. Morgan escorted Holliday out onto the street and Ike, who had been drinking steadily, followed them. City Marshal Virgil Earp arrived a few minutes later and threatened to arrest both Holliday and Clanton if they did not stop arguing.

Wyatt Earp walked over to the Oriental Saloon and Ike followed him. Ike sat down to have another drink, his revolver in plain sight, and told Earp “You must not think I won’t be after you all in the morning.”

The Morning of the Shoot Out

After the confrontation with Ike Clanton, Wyatt Earp took Holliday back to his boarding house at Camillus Sidney “Buck” Fly’s Lodging House to sleep off his drinking, then went home and to bed.

Tombstone Marshal Virgil Earp played cards with Ike Clanton, Tom McLaury, Cochise County Sheriff Johnny Behan and a fifth man (unknown to Ike and to history), until morning.

At about dawn on October 26, the card game broke up and Behan and Virgil Earp went home to bed.

Not having rented a room, Tom McLaury and Ike Clanton had no place to go.

Shortly after 8:00 am barkeeper E. F. Boyle spoke to Ike Clanton, who had been drinking all night, in front of the telegraph office. Boyle encouraged him to get some sleep, but Ike insisted he would not go to bed. Boyle later testified he noticed Ike was armed and covered his gun for him, recalling that Ike told him “‘As soon as the Earps and Doc Holliday showed themselves on the street, the ball would open – that they would have to fight’.

Later in the morning, Ike picked up his rifle and revolver from the West End Corral, where he had stabled his wagon and team and deposited his weapons after entering town.

By noon that day, Ike, drinking again and armed, told others he was looking for Holliday or an Earp.

At about 1:00 p.m., Virgil and Morgan Earp surprised Ike on 4th Street where Virgil pistol-whipped (“buffaloed”) him from behind. Disarming him, the Earps took Ike to appear before Judge Wallace for violating the city’s ordinance against carrying firearms in the city. Virgil went to find Judge Wallace so the court hearing could be held.

At the hearing, Ike was fined $25 plus court costs, and after paying the fine left unarmed. Virgil told Ike he would leave Ike’s confiscated rifle and revolver at the Grand Hotel which was favored by Cowboys when in town.


Outside the court house where Ike was being fined, Wyatt almost walked into 28 year-old Tom McLaury as the two men were brought up short nose-to-nose.

Tom, who had arrived in town the day before, was required by the well-known city ordinance to deposit his pistol when he first arrived in town. When Wyatt demanded, “Are you heeled or not?”, McLaury said he was not armed.

Wyatt testified that he saw a revolver in plain sight on the right hip of Tom’s pants.

As an unpaid deputy marshal for Virgil, Wyatt habitually carried a pistol in his waistband, as was the custom of that time.

Witnesses reported that Wyatt drew his revolver from his coat pocket and pistol whipped Tom McLaury with it twice, leaving him prostrate and bleeding on the street. Saloon-keeper Andrew Mehan testified at the Spicer hearing afterward that he saw McLaury deposit a revolver at the Capital Saloon sometime between 1-2:00 p.m., after the confrontation with Wyatt, which Mehan also witnessed.

It was early afternoon by the time Ike and Tom had seen doctors for their head wounds. The day was chilly, with snow still on the ground in some places.

Both Tom and Ike had spent the night gambling, drinking heavily, and without sleep. Now they were both out-of-doors, both wounded from head beatings, and Ike, at least, was still drunk.

More Cowboys Arrive

At around 1:30–2:00 p.m., Ike’s 19-year-old younger brother Billy Clanton and Tom’s older brother Frank McLaury arrived in town.

Both Frank and Billy were armed with a revolver and a rifle, as was the custom for riders in the country outside Tombstone.

Billy and Frank stopped first at the Grand Hotel on Allen Street, and were greeted by Doc Holliday. They learned immediately after of their brothers’ beatings by the Earps within the previous two hours.

Angrily, Frank said he would not drink, and he and Billy left the saloon immediately to look for Tom.

By law, both Frank and Billy should have left their firearms at the Grand Hotel. Instead, they remained fully armed.

Virgil testified afterward that he thought he saw all four men, Ike Clanton, Billy Clanton, Frank McLaury, and Tom McLaury, buying cartridges in Spangenberger’s gun and hardware store on 4th Street.

The statute was not specific about how far a recently-arrived visitor might “with good faith, and within reasonable time” travel into town while carrying a firearm. This permitted a traveler to keep his firearms if he was proceeding directly to a livery, hotel or saloon. The three main Tombstone corrals were all west of 4th street, a block or two from where the Cowboys were buying ammunition.

A man named Coleman told Virgil that the Cowboys had left the Dunbar and Dexter Stable for the O.K. Corral and were still armed, and Virgil decided he and Wyatt had to disarm them.

When Virgil Earp learned that Wyatt was talking to the Cowboys at Spangenberg’s gun shop he picked up a 10-gauge or 12-gauge, short, double-barreled shotgun from the Wells Fargo office around the corner on Allen Street. To avoid alarming Tombstone’s public, Virgil returned to Hafford’s Saloon carrying the shotgun under his long overcoat.

He gave the shotgun to Doc Holliday who hid it under his overcoat. He took Holliday’s walking-stick in return.

The Forces Gather

From Spangenberg’s, the Cowboys moved to the O.K. Corral, where witnesses overheard them threatening to kill the Earps. For unknown reasons they moved a block west to an empty lot next to C. S. Fly’s boarding house where Doc Holliday lived.

Virgil Earp was told by several citizens that the McLaurys and the Clantons had gathered on Fremont Street and were armed. He decided he had to act.

Several members of the citizen’s vigilance committee offered to support him with arms, but Virgil said no. He had previously deputized Morgan and Wyatt and also deputized Doc Holliday that morning. Wyatt spoke of his brothers Virgil and Morgan as the “marshals” while he acted as “deputy.”

The Earps carried revolvers in their coat pockets or in their waistbands. Holliday was wearing a pistol in a holster, but this was hidden by his long coat, as was the shotgun.

The Earps and Holliday walked west, down the south side of Fremont Street, out of visual range of the Cowboys, toward the Cowboys’ last reported location.

The Earps saw the Cowboys and Sheriff Behan, who left the group and came toward them, though he looked nervously backward several times. Virgil testified later that Behan told them, “For God’s sake, don’t go down there or they will murder you!”

Wyatt said Behan told him and Morgan, “I have disarmed them.” Behan testified afterward that he’d only said he’d gone down to the Cowboys “for the purpose of disarming them,” not that he’d actually disarmed them.

When Behan said he had disarmed them, Virgil attempted to avoid a fight. “I had a walking stick in my left hand and my hand was on my six-shooter in my waist pants, and when he said he had disarmed them, I shoved it clean around to my left hip and changed my walking stick to my right hand.”

Wyatt said I “took my pistol, which I had in my hand, under my coat, and put it in my overcoat pocket.”

The Earps walked westerly across Fremont street and came into full view of the Cowboys.

Wyatt testified he saw “Frank McLaury, Tom McLaury, and Billy Clanton standing in a row against the east side of the building on the opposite side of the vacant space west of Fly’s photograph gallery. Ike Clanton and Billy Claiborne and a man I don’t know [Wes Fuller] were standing in the vacant space about halfway between the photograph gallery and the next building west.”


When the Earps approached the alley, they found Ike Clanton talking to Billy Claiborne in the middle of the lot. Beyond those two, against the MacDonald house and assay office to the west stood Tom and Frank McLaury, Billy Clanton, and two of their horses. Billy Clanton and Frank McLaury wore revolvers in holsters on their belts and stood alongside saddled horses with rifles in their scabbards, possibly in violation of the city ordinance prohibiting carrying weapons in town.

The Coroner’s inquest and the Spicer hearing conducted after the event produced a sketch showing the Cowboys standing, from left to right facing Fremont Street, with Billy Clanton and then Frank McLaury near the MacDonald house and Tom McLaury and Ike Clanton roughly in the middle of the alley. Opposite them and initially only about 6 to 10 feet (1.8 to 3.0 m) away, Virgil Earp was on the left end of the Earp party, standing a few feet inside the vacant lot and nearest Ike Clanton. Behind him a few feet near the corner of C. S. Fly’s boarding house was Wyatt. Morgan Earp was standing on Fremont Street to Wyatt’s right, and Doc Holliday anchored the end of their line in Fremont Street, a few feet to Morgan’s right.

The Gunfight

Virgil Earp commanded the Cowboys to “Throw up your hands, I want your guns!” But he said the Cowboys reached to draw their guns. Virgil and Wyatt testified they saw Frank McLaury and Billy Clanton draw and cock their six-shooters. Virgil yelled: “Hold! I don’t mean that!” or “Hold on, I don’t want that!”

According to one witness, Holliday drew a “large bronze pistol” (interpreted by some as Virgil’s coach gun) from under his long coat and shoved it into Tom or Frank McLaury’s belly, then took a couple of steps back. It is not known who started shooting first; accounts by both participants and eyewitnesses are contradictory.

Virgil Earp reported afterward, “Two shots went off right together. Billy Clanton’s was one of them.” All witnesses generally agreed that two shots were fired first, almost indistinguishable from each other. General firing immediately broke out.

Wyatt Earp testified that he shot Frank McLaury after both he and Billy Clanton went for their revolvers.

Virgil and Wyatt thought Tom was armed. When shooting started, the horse that Tom McLaury held jumped to one side. Wyatt said he also saw Tom McLaury throw his hand to his right hip. Virgil said Tom followed the horse’s movement, hiding behind it, and fired once, if not twice, over the horse’s back.

At some point in the first few seconds, Holliday stepped around Tom McLaury’s horse and shot him with the short, double-barreled shotgun in the chest at close range. Witness C. H. “Ham” Light saw Tom running or stumbling westward on Fremont Street towards Third Street, where he fell at the foot of a telegraph pole on the corner and lay there, without moving, through the duration of the fight.

After shooting Tom, Holliday tossed the shotgun aside, pulled out his nickel-plated revolver, and continued to fire at Frank McLaury and Billy Clanton.

Despite having bragged that he would kill the Earps or Doc Holliday at his first opportunity, once the shooting broke out, Wyatt told the court afterward that Ike Clanton ran forward and grabbed Wyatt, exclaiming that he was unarmed and did not want a fight. To this protest Wyatt said he responded, “Go to fighting or get away!” Clanton ran through the front door of Fly’s boarding house and escaped, unwounded. Billy Claiborne also ran from the fight.

Morgan Earp fired almost immediately as Billy drew his gun right-handed, hitting Billy Clanton in the right wrist. This shot disabled Billy’s gunhand and forced him to shift the revolver to his left hand. He continued firing until he emptied it.

Virgil and Wyatt were now firing. Morgan Earp tripped over a newly buried waterline and fired from the ground.

Frank McLaury was shot in the abdomen, and taking his horse by its reins, struggled into the street. Frank tried to grab his rifle from its scabbard on his horse, and fired his revolver, only to lose the horse before he could withdraw the rifle from the scabbard.

Though wounded, Billy Clanton and Frank McLaury kept shooting. One of them, perhaps Billy, shot Morgan Earp across the back in a wound that struck both shoulder blades and a vertebra. Morgan went down for a minute before picking himself up. Either Frank or Billy shot Virgil Earp in the calf (Virgil thought it was Billy). Virgil, though hit, fired his next shot at Billy Clanton.

Frank and Holliday exchanged shots as Frank moved into Fremont street with Holliday following, and Frank hit Holliday in his pistol pocket, grazing his skin. Frank lost control of his horse and, firing his weapon, crossed Fremont Street to the sidewalk on the east side. Holliday followed Frank across Fremont Street, exclaiming, “That son of a bitch has shot me, and I am going to kill him.” Morgan Earp picked himself up and also fired at Frank.

Frank, now entirely across Fremont street and still walking at a good pace according to Claiborne’s testimony, fired twice more before he was shot in the head under his right ear. Both Morgan and Holliday apparently thought they had fired the shot that killed Frank, but since neither of them testified at the hearing, this information is only from second-hand accounts.

Billy Clanton was shot in the chest and abdomen, and after a minute or two slumped to a sitting position near his original spot at the corner of the MacDonald house in the alley between the house and Fly’s Lodging House. Claiborne said Billy Clanton was supported by a window initially after he was shot, and fired some shots after sitting, with the pistol supported on his leg. After he ran out of ammunition, he called for more cartridges, but C. S. Fly took his pistol at about the time the general shooting ended.

A few moments later, Tom was carried from the corner of Fremont and Third into the Harwood house on that corner, where he died without speaking.

Passersby carried Billy to the Harwood house, where Tom had been taken. Billy was in considerable pain and asked for a doctor and some morphine. He told those near him, “They have murdered me. I have been murdered. Chase the crowd away and from the door and give me air.” Billy gasped for air, and someone else heard him say, “Go away and let me die.”

Ike Clanton, who had repeatedly threatened the Earps with death, was still running.

And that’s the way it was.

All that, in 30 seconds.

I hope you’ll join me next time, when we’ll be taking a closer look at three of the principal figures of this affair.

Till then.