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OK Corral Backstory - Tombstone Tips Issue 50
September 09, 2021
Insider Info Newsletter
September/October 2021 - Issue #50
~ ~ Tombstone Arizona's OK Corral - Behind the Scenes: the Backstory
~ ~ Insider Updates
~ ~ The Latest at Tombstone Travel Tips
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The OK Corral - Beyond its Notoriety
OK Corral as it Looks Now
#1 - Intro
~ ~ Have you visited yet? A popular attraction. Of course it's likely the most infamous part of Tombstone AZ - what brought all the attention to the town, putting it on the map. So to speak.
~ ~ But what more do we know about the actual historic business? If you've been there, you may have learned some of this. But even so, we probably have some other trivia you haven't yet heard. If you haven't visited - it may be a discovery trip for you!
Turn of 20th Century Livery Drawing
#2 - Owners
~ ~ In 1840 John B. Montgomery was born in Los Angeles. In adulthood he moved to New Mexico, then Wickenburg AZ. Then to Phoenix, Arizona, buying a property there he retained all along. Involved in mining & cattle. By the late 1870s he came to Tombstone AZ.
~ ~ He partnered with E.M. Benson to open a Livery Stable business. Knowing it would be a reliable living for this booming town. Most people didn't own a horse, but had occasions to need transportation. They'd rent one from them when needed, plus accessories.
Tombstone in 1881
~ ~ They didn't advertise right away. But with burgeoning business openings in town, 4 other corrals competing, eventually they began running ads.
~ ~ They first advertised in the inaugural issue of a new journal.
Published in Arizona Quarterly Illustrated - July, 1880
#3 - Getting Its Name
~ ~ Historynet.com says the idiom "O.K." usage began in New York state among the Amish. Around the 1850s. But it perhaps had an earlier start.
~ ~ In Martin Van Buren's 1939 presidential reelection campaign he made use of O.K. for his slogans. His hometown's "Oll Korrect" club gave him their support. Van Buren was a member. They changed the name to an easier "Old Kinderhook." But then used the initials: O.K. They applied it to Martin, meaning he was exceptional, & topflight!
O.K. - Note it says "Gunfight Site"
~ ~ Thus Montgomery & Benson wanted to associate their livery with being outstanding, above average. Although today, O.K. is often meant to mean just alright, nothing special. Unless you say: A-OK! For Tombstone's O.K. Corral - there's always periods after the letters.
Tombstone Epitaph - Sat., Oct. 7, 1882 - Pg. 1
#4 - Taken by Flames
~ ~ May 26, 1882 across into the next block just past the NE corner of 4th, a fire started. It spread quickly, becoming the
that's ever been seen.
O.K. Corral Remains After the Fire~ ~ It didn't take Montgomery & Benson long to get busy with reconstruction.
~ ~ They informed people through local promotion that they'd saved all their stock & buggies. And now located them at the Arizona Corral while rebuilding. Seems they likely then incorporated an annex section with their rebuild, exiting onto 4th St.
Tombstone Epitaph - Sat., June 10, 1882
#5 - Changes Over the Next Year
~ ~ Sometime it seems in 1883, is the likely date, Benson quits their partnership.
~ ~ John Montgomery becomes the sole proprietor of the O.K. Corral. That's not all - though.
Daily Tombstone - Sat., March 21, 1885
~ ~ Montgomery now embarks on a pattern of running for Cochise County offices. For County Supervisor, which he won. He often reran for that position, & usually won. He became Chairman. His pay was $65 mo. He tried for County Treasurer & Sheriff, but lost.
~ ~ He was very active in Tombstone affairs - signing petitions, writing letters, active on committees. After the devastating fire, he was voted treasurer for the newly created Engine Co. No. 1. He served on the Grand Jury.
~ ~ Other earnings came from interests he held in local mines. He obtained a position on the Sterling Silver Mining Co. in Tombstone.
~ ~ He hired out teams when the city of Tombstone needed transport for events & dignitaries (Was that a conflict of interest?) - although sometimes he didn't charge. But he did earn a nickname - they called him "Honest John" & his detractors did so sarcastically. (The Epitaph a prime critic.)
Daily Tombstone - Mon., March 30, 1885 Pg. 3
#6 - A Variety of Changes
~ ~ In 1885 he did a few O.K. Corral upgrades, like a new sign.
~ ~ 1886 is when he threw his hat in the ring for Sheriff. In the Republican primary he had 3 opponents. He lost to the incumbent, R.S. Hatch.
Daily Tombstone - Fri., July 30, 1886 - Pg. 3
~ ~ In the summer of 1890 he began selling a few assets. In 1891 he's documented as a resident in Tres Alamos Arizona. It's now a ghost town North of Benson, near the San Pedro River.
Maybe You Can See an Old Cemetery & Some Ruins~ ~ In 1887 John Montgomery owned property still in Tombstone, which was probably the O.K. Corral, & had a mortgage on it. He was assessed taxes & penalties that year of $261.21.
~ ~ At the end of the year he joins with well known city residents J. Pascholy, Allen English, & 12 others to form the "Cochise Fair Association." The purpose to have fair grounds to exhibit Cochise County products. Its business location was Tombstone. Guess you could say it was establishing the 1st Cochise County Fair.
~ ~ In 1890, seizing on his Phoenix property eligibility - he ran for, & won, the election for Maricopa County Sheriff. Serving 2 years.
Arizona Republican - Tue., Nov. 18, 1890 - Pg. 1
~ ~ Over the years a couple of crimes were committed within the O.K. Corral. Never mind the 1881 shootout there!
~ ~ But the one that really caused horror in town, was the murder in Jan. 1891 of a physician. Dr. G.C. Willis. The full transcript of the Coroner's jury made the news.
Tombstone Epitaph - Sun., Jan. 4, 1891 - Pg. 3
#7 - Winding Down
~ ~ Montgomery tries a new tack in his ads. Pointing out the usefulness of O.K. Corral's Livery Stable offerings. Also their great prices.
Tombstone Weekly Epitaph - Sat., May 18, 1895 - Pg. 4
~ ~ On Sept. 26, 1899 he offered his "Poor Man Mine" for sale to the highest bidder. A few days later he was in Sonora supervising their new gold mine there.
~ ~ He was still a Cochise County Supervisor in 1900. Montgomery's final run for office was for Supervisor in 1906. He prepared to run again in 1914, at 74 years old. Can't find any confirmation that he won.
~ ~ In 1907 a portion of the O.K. Corral collapsed. Deteriorating since Tombstone's financial difficulties with mining troubles. It had been considered unstable awhile.
~ ~ John Montgomery left this life on December 24, 1917 at 77 years of age.
Tombstone's O.K. Corral - A Historic Icon
Tombstone Epitaph - Sun., Jan. 19, 1902 Pg. 4
~ ~ Then the town began refurbishing historic buildings, seeking to attract tourism visitors. The O.K. Corral was billed as the Earp-Clanton front line clash.
~ ~ What remained of the O.K. Corral on Allen was spruced up a little. More renovations came for Tombstone's 1st Helldorado. Tombstone Restoration Commission rebuilt the O.K.'s fence in 1951. Finally a full refurbishment in 1958, as authentic as possible, using its original plans. In 1965, a Historic corporate purchase enabled another O.K. Corral overhaul.
#8 - O.K. Corral Gunfight Site
~ ~ Today you enter West of where the authentic, historic corral was located. The Historama entrance is approximately where the main 1880s building was.
~ ~ Probably about where Puny John's BBQ patio is, was the location of the 4th St. Annex.
~ ~ There was also an entryway alley on Fremont St. (Hwy. 80). today it's where you see the Marshal's parking area West of the historical City Hall.
~ ~ Inside the Attraction, the gunfight figure section is the general true shootout area. It's a great part of the O.K. Corral to take a good look at, even if the figure action is a little corny! You'll enjoy the whole experience, we think!
Enjoying the O.K. Corral Experience!
~ ~ Historical places & events create curiosity for facts about people who roamed the Tombstone area & the Old West. What's the true story? Can we discover the authentic history?
~ ~ And we enjoy sharing what we find with you.
We hope we'll see you in town sometime, (soon we hope, in the near future!) 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.)
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