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2 Billys at the OK Corral: Who? Tombstone Tips Issue 31
October 03, 2019

Insider Info Newsletter

October 2019


~ ~ Billy Claiborne

~ ~ September Events/Insider Update Review

~ ~ The Latest at Tombstone Travel Tips


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Portrait of Billy Claiborne
Circa 1881

#1 - Billy: His Beginnings

~ ~ Born in Yazoo County, Mississippi on Oct. 21, 1860. In the central Western part of the state. Nothing much is known about his youth & upbringing. But there are some who say he was a teen with a "chip on his shoulder" type of attitude. He turned up in Arizona around 1879, working on John Slaughter's ranch.

~ ~ He also began working the mines in the 1880s. He worked the metals amalgamator in Charleston & drove a slag cart for Neptune Mining in Hereford AZ.

Slaughter Ranch Marker

Now a Wildlife Refuge & National Historic Site
Photo Credit: Marine69-71

#2 - Known as a Cowboy

~ ~ Billy Claiborne is known in history for a few things. One of them is his association with the Cochise County Cowboys - we now have a web-page about them: Click Here>

~ ~ He likely came in contact with the Clantons & McLaurys while working as a drover for Slaughter. Or even while mining in Charleston, where both families - but particularly the Clantons, spent time. Claiborne was known as a friend of Billy Clanton.

Charleston Arizona & Tombstone on 1882 Map

#3 - 1st Outlawing Problem

~ ~ Oct. 7, 1881 Billy was in a Charleston saloon when he shot & killed James Hickey. They were both pretty well sloshed. It's said Hickey was a mean sort.

~ ~ Hickey had already been mouthing off when he noticed Billy. It was reported Billy accused him of stalking. To stop or he'd shoot him.

~ ~ Billy pulled out his pistol. Hickey turned & moved toward him. Billy squeezed the trigger, hitting Hickey below the left eye. He fell dead.

From Tucson's Arizona Weekly Citizen - Sun., Oct. 9, 1881 - Pg. 4

~ ~ Oct. 26, 1881 is an infamous Tombstone history day. Billy Claiborne was with Tom & Frank McLaury, Ike & Billy Clanton in the lot by the O.K. Corral as they discussed what happened all that morning. When the Earps & Doc Holliday arrived there, Billy exited quickly. Probably with his Hickey trial ahead, he didn't want any other trouble fomenting!

~ ~ In November, it took 3 days of jury calls to get started with the trial. The 1st 2 days, half the jurors were no-shows. When they convened, they asked for conviction on 3rd degree murder. The judge refused & ruled a mistrial. A new trial was set for February 1882.

From the Tombstone Weekly Epitaph - Mon., Jan. 23, 1882 - Pg. 4

#4 - The Kid Finds Trouble Again

~ ~ His trial finally happened in May. It took 72 hours of deliberation to find him not guilty.

From the Arizona Daily Star - Tue., May 23, 1882 - Pg. 2

~ ~ But "Billy the Kid" Claiborne was soon in hot water again. Pete Spence was missing some horses. The Epitaph reported Billy was the suspect. As the story unfolded the Epitaph printed a July 1st clarification that relieved "The Kid" of guilt.

~ ~ Apparently Claiborne knew who the bandits were. Pete Spence also hung with the same Cowboy crowd as did Billy, after all. So The Kid set out after them, got Pete's stock back & was returning them.

From the Tombstone Epitaph - Sat., July 1, 1882 - Pg. 3

#5 - Billy the Kid's Final Day

~ ~ Early Tues. Nov. 14, 1882 Buckskin Frank Leslie was at the Oriental Saloon. The Kid came in, right up to Frank, started all-around bad-mouthing, with vile language. Being very argumentative. Frank tried to calm him. When it didn't work - he escorted him outside, with Billy threatening him: "I'll get even on you."

~ ~ Soon a guy came into the Oriental reporting to Frank, a guy was waiting outside for him. Then another told him Claiborne was on Allen St. with a rifle, asking for Frank. Frank went outside & saw Billy by a fruit stand.

~ ~ Leslie said "Billy don't shoot..." But Billy fired, then did Frank. Billy was hit & said "Don't shoot again, I am killed." Buckskin Frank was arrested by Officer Coyle. Before long Billy was dead. The Coroner's Jury, after taking witness testimony, ruled it a self-defense shooting.

Tombstone Epitaph - Sat., Nov. 18, 1882 - Pg. 1

#6 - Why?

~ ~ What was the motivation for Billy's assassination attempt of Buckskin Frank Leslie? There are testimonial hints & there are the theories that abound.

~ ~ One Coroner's witness, Otto Johnson, said Billy told him just before the incident, "I don't allow any man to spit on me... and if he don't come out I will go in and make him fight. Johnson said Billy told him that man was Leslie.

~ ~ Another witness, William Hush, quoted Billy straight out: "I am going to kill Frank Leslie." But no further explanation. When he tried to talk him out of it, Billy threatened him!

~ ~ Oriental bartender E.H. Dean said Billy butted into Frank's conversation with friends, by making snide political remarks. Frank said he should go away, they weren't even talking politics. Billy said he wouldn't go away, then Frank carried him off by the collar. So Billy said that "he would allow no man to handle him in a manner of that kind."

~ ~ Finally there's the theory of his last words! That it was revenge for his belief that Buckskin Frank Leslie was the one Who Killed Johnny Ringo. According to Dr. G.C. Willis, who gave this following testimony:

Tombstone Weekly Epitaph - Sat., Nov. 18, 1882 - Pg. 1

Buckskin Frank Leslie - He Killed Billy Claiborne in Tombstone AZ

~ ~ I've even seen a theory saying his argument with Frank was over his refusal to call him "Billy the Kid." The nickname he liked, after the more famous New Mexico Billy. He honored him that way, after he was killed in July 1881. It may have come up at some point. Haven't seen any evidence. But motivation? Doubtful.

~ ~ What do you think?

From Tucson's Daily Arizona Citizen - Sat., Nov. 18, 1882 - Pg. 3

~ ~ There are often historical remembrance events that make one want to know the true facts for people who roamed the Tombstone area & the Old West. What was their true story? And what happened to them - do we even know?

~ ~ And we enjoy sharing what we find with you.

We hope we'll see you in town sometime, seeing areas where they spent time - back in the 1800s.

Let us know if you'll be going to an upcoming event! Tell us how you liked any of them, or what you visited here! Just reply to this newsletter for easy input! (Let us know if we can use your comments - & how to credit you.)



~ ~ 1ST - Showdown in Tombstone

~ ~ As we mentioned last month, "Showdown in Tombstone" was over the Labor Day weekend, so it did begin Sat., Aug. 31, & continued into Sept. - the 1st & 2nd.

~ ~ We noticed there were quite a few tourists in town. The weather was pretty good, not very hot. We went into town on Monday, Labor Day. The crowds were thinning out that day. Activities were winding down.

~ ~ 2ND - The Store

~ ~ If you remember The Store of Tombstone was on Fremont St. Recently it went up for sale, had no takers & then went on auction. Someone grabbed it & now it's for rent. What kind of rental business will be there? Hmmm.

~ ~ 3RD - OktoBeerfest

~ ~ The Tombstone Brewery has been having this now since they've opened in town. This year Tombstone Forward sponsored it with them on Sept. 21st. We didn't attend, but heard it was a good time.

~ ~ We always wonder why the Octoberfest type of events occur in September?? Even the original, in Germany, I believe happens then! Anyone know why? And why isn't it called Septemberfest? Oh, & just an FYI - there is a really good one each year in El Cajon, California.

A Custom Brew from Tombstone Brewing Company

~ ~ 4TH - Tombstone at Twilight

~ ~ We were in town for September's evening event. Not as many people came out as the last time we went to town for Twilight. We'd like to see this event supported, so we hope people will come out for it. Some local business people are brain-storming ideas for types of happenings to conduct in the evenings. Any suggestions?

Sunset - Twilight: Return Tomorrow for the O.K. Corral

~ ~ 5TH - Car Shows

~ ~ Tombstone often features Vintage Car Shows. One was recently held the 1st Saturday of Sept. We took a bit of a peak at all the fabulous oldies there! Lined up along 5th Street. Tombstone's event parades usually feature these antique cars, too.

Checking Out Antiques Alongside the Crystal

~ ~ 5TH - Gotta Preview It!

~ ~ October: What a Month!! So much goes on over here in October. Of course the biggest event of all is Helldorado. But tons of other stuff are happening in the area! You could make the whole month a Tombstone Vacation - Yes!

One event during Helldorado will occur at the Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park on Sat., Oct. 19 at 11:30 a.m., Author Mark Warren will make a presentation "What Made Wyatt Earp Tick?" Just pay the very reasonable admission to the Courthouse. See more on our FB Events page below.

Books by Author Mark Warren

Close by in historic Benson, is their yearly Butterfield Days & Rodeo. See the October listings on our Facebook Event Page Here>
OR our Website October Events Page Here>


~ ~ Your Chance to Win The Grand Prize - or First or Second Prizes

~ ~ The deadline's coming! That's midnight Arizona time (Mountain Standard Time), November 3, 2019.

~ ~ The contest is a promotion. We are giving away the prizes & we provide the method of getting them to the winners. If you have any questions about entering - please remember you can always ask.

Click Here to Have a Peek at the Entries!


~ ~ And just 1 more time: We'll send a reminder email about the contest after this Tombstone Tips October newsletter. It will come about mid to late October. If you have no intentions of entering (But think about it! You may get that great photo in the meantime!) - just delete that reminder!


And To Enter Our Photo Contest - Click Here>


What's going on this month or next month - check out our Events Page:
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Until Next Month,

Karen & Bill McGowan
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