The "Gunfight at the OK Corral" is an 1881 event that gave attention to Tombstone Arizona. The story that put the town on the world-wide map! People still talk about it, hold opinions about it & discuss it today.
Have you heard of it? Seems like you may have - and that's why you stopped by. Have you watched any of the movies about it? Have you already formed your opinion on who was in the right - who was in the wrong? If so - we'd like to hear what YOU think... Sound Off!!
There was one immediate outcome of the OK Corral gunfight that day: three men were dead, three men were injured. But many things led up to that gunfight. Other repercussions resulted from the gunfight.
Get the Gunfight Background and Story>
They restored the block where the shoot-out occurred. It's been remade into a production explaining the events of that day. You'll be entertained while reliving those historical gunfight incidents.
Here are the details you should know:
Local resident, Dr. Jay, schedules regular walking tours through the streets of Tombstone. He covers the incidents surrounding the Gunfight at the OK Corral in his interesting and entertaining guided walk around town. See the details of his and other Tombstone Walking Tours>
Other Tours through town go over the affairs surrounding the shoot-out. The Gunfight at the OK Corral is so identified with Tombstone Arizona, that most tours cover it to some degree. Two general tours you can consider will give you an overview of the gunfight:
Any of These Tours Are Worth Your While - We've Taken Them, and Recommend Any of Them!
The immediate prelude to the Gunfight at the OK Corral began the day before, on October the 25th. Two area ranchers, known as Cochise County Cow-boys arrived in Tombstone around lunchtime. They were Ike Clanton and Tom McLaury. Their intent was to do errands, and then hit the saloons for enjoyment.
Wyatt Earp had previously made a deal with Ike. Wyatt had been vying for the position of Cochise County Sheriff the next year. He thought capturing recent stage robbers would improve his chances.
His deal with Ike was for help in capturing those robbers. Ike had ties to the culprits. Wyatt offered him the (dead or alive) reward money, he only wanted renown for the capture. Ike agreed, with assurances his involvement would be kept secret.
Meanwhile the stage robbers were gunned down & killed by stockmen: the Haslett Brothers. Ike realized the deal was off. He now figured Wyatt had no reason to keep quiet about their agreement. He'd never been friendly with the Earps. Now his relationship deteriorated further.
On October 25th, Ike Clanton and Frank McLaury were in Tombstone bars, drinking and gambling throughout the day and into the night. As their intoxication level increased their mood soured. By one in the morning of the 26th, Ike went to the Occidental's lunch counter to eat. Doc Holliday and Morgan Earp were there.
Some say Doc was irritable, and both he and Ike began getting at each other. It's unclear who began it all, but both were obviously inebriated. They cursed each other, with Doc finally telling Ike to get out his gun. Ike told him he wasn't armed. Doc said "Go arm yourself then."1 Apparently Ike went off to do just that.
Oddly he returned and began playing poker with Tom, Virgil Earp and a few others. But Ike still griped about how Doc had treated him. When the game ended at about 6 am, he walked in the street by Virgil. Ike complained to Virgil the "son of a bitch has got to fight." He replied to Ike, "I am an officer....I am going down home now to go to bed, I don't want you to raise any disturbance while I am in bed." 2
Ike Clanton interacted with some others in town, roaming around with a Winchester complaining about Doc Holliday and the Earps. City Ordinance No. 9 did not allow gun carry within the town limits without a special permit. Word spread that there was going to be an encounter.
When Virgil awoke, he heard of Ike's actions. He called on Wyatt and Morgan. Together they found Ike about lunchtime. On 4th Street, North of Allen, Virgil went to Ike from the rear. He struck him on the side of his head with his pistol, causing a bloody injury. He took Ike's guns and brought him to court. While Justice Wallace fined him $25 and $2.50 in costs, Ike continuously chewed out the Earps.
That morning Tom McLaury heard of Ike's arrest and court proceedings. He put up his own gun, as the law required, at the Capitol Saloon and went to find Ike. Nearby the court Wyatt appeared and asked Tom if he was armed. He said no. Wyatt slapped his face and then used his old Dodge City tactic: clunking him hard on the head with his pistol. Tom fell to the ground, and Wyatt left him there.
Shortly after this, Frank McLaury and Billy Clanton, Ike and Tom's brothers, also arrived in Tombstone. They went into the Grand Hotel (now where Big Nose Kate's is located) and greeted Doc Holliday, shaking hands. Others there let them know what happened that morning with the Earps and their brothers.
Frank and Billy went to find them, locating Ike and Tom at Spangenberg's Gun Shop, where Ike purchased a gun. Frank secured his horse on the sidewalk in front, prohibited by town ordinance. Wyatt came along, and purposely moved Frank's horse into the street. There was a heated, wordy exchange!
Virgil came along, but made no arrests, since it seemed the McLaurys and Clantons intended to leave town. Sheriff Behan also interceded as they headed out, confirming they weren't in violation if they were leaving town.
Tom & Frank, and Ike & Billy walked through Dunbar's Stable toward the OK Corral. They gathered in a vacant lot west of C.S. Fly's boarding house and photo gallery. That's Northwest of the current OK Corral entrance. A friend of Billy Clanton came by, Billy Claiborne. They stood a bit, talking over the morning's events. Frank and Billy Clanton saddled up, getting ready to ride out.
At the same time, Virgil, Wyatt and Morgan Earp got together with Doc Holliday. They weren't pleased at hearing how the Cow-boys had been mouthing off around town of the Earps' treatment of them that morning.
They felt these Cowboys might not actually be leaving town. And if not, Virgil planned "to take away their arms, intimidate them, and again show them who was boss."3
Walking West on Fremont Street, Sheriff Behan tried calling them off. [See a paper related to his court testimony: pages 13 & 29 - Click Here>] But they brushed past him, and continued on...
As the Earps entered the lot, Claiborne sensed the ominous tone and left. The Earps went right up to the Clantons and McLaurys. Virgil said "Boys, throw up your hands, I want your guns."4 Another voice said (many think it was Wyatt) "you have been looking for a fight, and now you can have it." 5
Then the firing started! Quickly it all happened. It's hard to say with whom it began, it was essentially simultaneously. All told, when it began, there was about a bullet a second for half a minute!
Morgan's first shot hit Billy's wrist, hampering his shooting efforts. He was further hit in the chest and gut, but still managed to empty his gun. C.S. Fly came out of his shop and took Billy's gun as he was calling for more ammo.6
Tom was shot in the chest, close-range, by Doc.7 He wobbled down the street to the corner, and fell over. Unconscious, he lay there while the gunfight was ending.8 Frank was mortally wounded when hit in the head.9
Frank McLaury, Tom McLaury and Billy Clanton were dead by day's end. Virgil Earp was shot in the right leg, Morgan Earp took bullets across the back hitting both shoulder blades. Doc Holliday was just grazed at his hip. Wyatt wasn't at all harmed. Ike Clanton fled the scene as the shooting began.10
The next day town folk watched a procession to the Town Cemetery: Boothill. Funeral wagons carried the McLaury brothers and Billy Clanton. A banner on the front wagon proclaimed "Murdered on the Streets of Tombstone."
Talk in Tombstone was split over the blame. The two main newspapers, as well. The Epitaph supported the Earps, the Nugget supported the Cow-boys.
The aftermath of the Gunfight at the OK Corral took on a life of its own. The Shootout at the OK Corral became an infamous story. Some of the players stuck to their guns in seeking their own justice:
1 Ike Clanton testimony, Turner, OK Corral Inquest, p. 33.
2 Virgil Earp disposition, Turner, OK Corral Inquest, p.191.
3Bailey, L.R. (2004) Too tough to die: The rise, fall, and resurrection of a silver camp; 1878 to 1990. Tucson: Westernlore Press.
4 Linder, Douglas, ed. (2005). "Testimony of Virgil Earp in the Preliminary Hearing in the Earp Case". Famous trials: The O. K. Corral trial. Retrieved 10 August 2017. From Turner, Alford (Ed.), The O. K. Corral Inquest (1992)
5 Bailey, L.R.(2004) Too tough to die: The rise, fall, and resurrection of a silver camp; 1878 to 1990. Tucson: Westernlore Press.
6 Turner, Alford E. (1981). The OK Corral Inquest. College Station, Texas: Creative Publishing company. ISBN 0-932702-16-3.
7 Weir, William (2009). History's Greatest Lies: the Startling Truths Behind World Events our History Books Got Wrong. Beverly, Mass.: Fair Winds Press. p. 288. ISBN 1-59233-336-2.
8 "Another Chapter in the Bloody Episode". Famous Trials. Retrieved 10 August 2017.
10 Bailey, L.R. (2004) Too tough to die: The rise, fall, and resurrection of a silver camp; 1878 to 1990. Tucson: Westernlore Press.
We'd like you to express your opinion on the events of that October day in 1881. Give us your input. As mentioned, when people learn about it - feelings still run high! Here's a chance to express your view on that shoot-out. And the events leading up to it.
Let's hear what you have to say...