Old West gunfighters refer to people (mostly men!) who were quite handy using their firearms during the nineteenth century when settling the American West. They were not necessarily outlaws, although many were.
1880s Parade on Allen Street - Goes by the O.K. Corral
Some were law officers, or at least were at some point in their life. Some were known for being lawmen, yet sometimes acted a little "fishy" - going outside the law to accomplish their aims! Some were on the wrong side of the law, always! Even, it seems, since childhood.
Some became well-known, infamous you could say, because of a particular old west gunfight! Like the one here in Tombstone, Arizona - pretty well known: The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Let's first look at that one, and the old West gunfighters there.
Gunfight at the O.K. Corral
The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral is the famous draw that put Tombstone on the map. Especially popular since tourism became popular with the advent of automobile travel.
The town itself had its ups and downs for tourism success. It historically began capitalizing on its sightseeing potential. Many citizens in town rely on tourism for their income and jobs.
The very first attraction was Boot Hill. It's still there and popular today!
We have to say, about the most well-liked attractions in town are the gunfights. And of the gunfights, the one that's a Must-See is the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Here's Helpful Details! It's good to know the True History of that old West gunfight. For it is a true story!
O.K. Corral Preview
Scene from Re-enactment of the O.K. Corral Gunfight
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While at the O.K. Corral Attraction, visitors gather on shaded viewing bleachers to watch actors portray the old west gunfighters who took part in the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. The scene isn't at the actual spot. They use fake buildings. It's a short, entertaining skit to give you an idea of what occurred that pivotal day!
They're placed in their location at the start of the gunfight. A narration is set in motion by pushing a button. The figures move (to a degree, they don't fall) along with it, to show who fired when.
This is where the gunfight actually did occur. In this vacant lot. It's adjacent to photographer C.S. Fly's Studio. It's behind the actual O.K. Corral.
Old West Gunfighters Make a Sensation!
Baltimore Sun News Report - Friday, October 28, 1881
These old west gunfighters made news all across the country, and even world-wide! Think about when you've played "The Telephone Game" (probably in school!). You know how stories can be changed! So as you can see, this news report (as well as a lot of the other reports) had definite errors!
WHAT'S YOUR OPINION?
Have you seen any movies about the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral? Have you read anything about this gunfight? Do you think the Earps were in the right here? Or do you think the McLaurys and Clantons were wronged? Do you think it was just one of those things - with a bad eventuality?
Please just Click Here, so you can have your say by commenting on our old west Gunfighter O.K. Corral Shoot-out Page, to tell us what YOU think!! Thanks so much for participating!!
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More Old West Gunfighters
Some other gunslingers in the old West were known to come through Tombstone Arizona at one point or another. Let's see - who were they?
William "Curly Bill" Brocius - One of the Cow-boys in 1880s Cochise County who regularly tangled with the Earps and other Tombstone lawmen
Johnny Ringo - Troubled since his teens, involved in Texas land war before coming to the Tombstone area. Read More>
Billy Claiborne - Known as a miner, a drover and cattleman. An associate of the Cochise County Cow-Boys, he fled the scene just before the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral began.
Billy Clanton - Killed at the O.K. Corral Shootout. He was a cattle wrangler on a ranch outside Tombstone. One of the Cow-boys
Ike Clanton - A prime instigator for Tombstone's notorious gunfight. This Cow-boy was often into it with Doc Holliday.
Charles "Pony" Diehl - One of the Cochise County Cow-boys, Wyatt Earp believed he was involved in attacking his brother Virgil.
Warren Earp - The youngest Earp brother, he was also the most troublesome. He gave his parents a lot of grief while growing up. Read More>
"Buckskin" Frank Leslie - A man of many faces, he was a U.S. Army scout, gambler, rancher, and miner. He worked as a bartender at the Oriental Saloon. Known around Tombstone as a quick-draw old West gunfighter. Some believe he was also a con-man.
Bartholemew William Barclay "Bat" Masterson - He had a storied life as a U.S. Army scout, lawman, professional gambler, and even a journalist toward the end. He worked with Wyatt Earp when they were both in Dodge City.
Sherman McMaster - Most known in town as a friend of Wyatt Earp, helping him on his Vendetta Ride to avenge Morgan Earp's death and Virgil Earp's shooting.
Michael "Johnny Behind the Deuce" O'Rourke - A professional gambler who killed a man in Charleston AZ. He claimed self-defense.
David "Dave" Rudabaugh - Sometimes known as "Dirty Dave." Was in town for awhile, associating with the Clanton Gang and the Cow-boys.
Luke Short - For a time he had an interest in the Oriental Saloon. He also shot Charlie Storms there when serving as a Faro look-out.
Frank Stilwell - Associated with the Cow-boys, he was deputized by Sheriff John Behan, served four months. His interests included mines, saloons, wholesale liquors, a stage line, and a livery stable. Wyatt Earp killed him.
Charlie Spencer Storms - A professional gambler, he was known throughout the old West as a gunfighter as well. He was fatally shot by Luke Short.
William "Russian Bill" Tattenbaum - In town he claimed to be descended from Russian nobility. He associated with the Cow-boys, and kinda looked like a "dandy!"
Jack Taylor - He led a gang that conducted train robberies in Cochise County.
Texas Jack Vermillion - Primarily known in Tombstone for taking part in Wyatt's Vendetta ride.
Burt (Albert) Alvord - Cochise County Sheriff, Texas John Slaughter, deputized him in 1886. By the end of the century he turned to crime, robbing trains.
John Horton "Texas John" Slaughter - A rancher in Cochise County, who was elected County Sheriff for two terms.
Other Notable Old West Gunfighters
When you think of gunslingers of the Wild West, some names ring a bell right off! Others you may have heard of. The name sounds familiar, but you don't quite know who they are. Well, let's find out! Those well known, and not so...
David Lawrence "Billy Wilson" Anderson - Started out as a Texas ranching cowboy. Rode with Billy the Kid after getting in trouble, accused of counterfeiting. Arrested & serving time, he escaped. He returned to TX & his birth name. He had a family & a ranch. President Cleveland pardoned him in 1896. He became a Customs Agent & then a County Sheriff.
Jesse at 25 (L) - Frank at 29
Jesse James - The middle child, raised as a Southerner in Western Missouri. During the Civil War, he aided Confederate support fighting groups. Jesse was shot, injured twice during these conflicts. He was at his Uncle's place recovering when he fell in love with his 1st cousin, Zerelda Mimms. Jesse & his brother Frank held much post Civil-War bitterness. When they began their bank, train & stage robbing gang activities, they mainly raided to avenge for the crimes of the war. They joined up with kindred spirits: Cole Younger & his brothers, to forge the James-Younger gang. They became infamous, instigating an Entertainment Legacy that began at that time! The Pinkerton Detective Agency took charge of catching them. But an inside job got him.Read Jesse's Story>
Alexander Franklin "Frank" James - The first child, the older brother of Jesse James. A good student, he planned to be a teacher. He was 18 when the Civil War began, he joined the Confederate forces. He became sick & had to surrender to the Union. They let him go home. He ended up joining Quantrill's Raiders for the 1863 Lawrence Massacre. Afterwards a few accounts tell of gunfights he's involved in. Then he joined his brother Jesse, robbing banks & trains from 1868 to 1876 that included some murders. After Jesse was killed, he surrendered to authorities. But accountability never quite reached him.
Sam Bass - An orphan raised by an aunt & uncle in Indiana, he was on his own at age 18. He went to Denton, Texas. Worked on a Sheriff's farm & drove coaches. He saved money, bought a race horse & began a gambler's life. Then a bad gold mine investment left him broke. He turned to robbery. With the "Black Hill Bandits" he robbed stages & then trains. He formed his own gang, robbing trains & banks in Texas. Rangers came after them, called the "Sam Bass War." Finally had a show-down in Round-rock TX, where he's buried.Read More>
"Queen" Ann Bassett - She grew up on ranches in Colorado & Utah, learning riding, roping & guns. Her father's customers for supplies & horses included outlaws, like Butch Cassidy. She was educated, but loved ranching. Ann got romantically involved with Cassidy in her teens, but was also friendly with others in Cassidy's Wild Bunch. She hung with them about seven years. Her nickname came from her outspoken efforts against the cattlemen's associations.
Charles E. "Charlie" Bassett - At about 25 years old he appeared in Dodge City, KS. He opened the Long Branch Saloon. In 1873 he became was elected the first Ford County Sheriff, then re-elected twice. Unable by law to run again, he next became the City Marshal. That's when he chose Wyatt Earp as Assistant. He interacted with quite a few outlaws during his days in law enforcement.
William "Tulsa Jack" Blake - A cowboy in Kansas & Oklahoma, he eventually joined up with Doolin's Wild Bunch gang. They specialized in bank and train robberies in Western Oklahoma.
Charles Earl "Black Bart" Boles - Born in England, he grew up in New York State. At 20 years old he went West for the Gold Rush. Five years later he was married & living in Illinois. Fathered four kids, one after another. He fought for the Union, was injured & returned home. He prospected for Montana & Idaho gold in the late 1860s. There a problem with Wells Fargo occurred. He vowed revenge, took up the nickname & began robbing their Stagecoaches. His M.O. was leaving poems behind! Finally caught, he went to San Quentin.
Billy the Kid's Headstone
William H. "Billy the Kid" (nee: Henry McCarty) Bonney - A hard young life, orphaned at 13, while living in New Mexico. He was arrested stealing food at 16. Continued robbing. He fled arrest in New Mexico by going to Arizona, where he committed his first murder. Back in NM, he joined up with the Regulators in the Lincoln County War. That's where he gained his infamy. He once said he killed 21, but more reliable estimates are a total of nine.
William L. "Buffalo Bill" Brooks - Nicknamed because he began as a buffalo hunter. Then drove a stage-coach. In 1872 he became Marshal in Newton Kansas. After that he was offered the Marshal's job in Dodge City. During his lawman days he was involved in over 15 gunfights!
Laura "Della Rose" Bullion - Her origins are obscure, but apparently she's part German & Native American. She was with Butch Cassidy's Wild Bunch. Her boyfriend was the "Tall Texan" Ben Kilpatrick. She served time for her involvement in the Great Northern Train Robbery.
Seth Bullock - Born in Canada, he ran away from home at 16, to his sister's in Montana. He became a County Sheriff there, killing a man in that job. Soon after he moved on to Deadwood, Dakota Territory. And soon appointed Sheriff. He became an entrepreneur, met the president & was quite successful.
Robert Leroy "Butch Cassidy" Parker - Growing up with Mormon parents in Utah, he left their home before adulthood. Working on a farm, he met & was influenced by cattle rustler Mike Cassidy. He later took his name & added Butch after working as a butcher in Wyoming. He mostly cowboyed until 1889 when he robbed a bank at age 23. Eventually he hooked up with Harry Longabaugh, the Sundance Kid.
Ned "NeDe WaDe" Christie - Born in Oklahoma. He was an executive council in the Cherokee Nation senate. He advised Chief Dennis Bushyhead. He was falsely accused of killing a U.S. Marshal. He asked for bail to go prove his innocence, but was denied. He resisted arrest & was then on the run. The law offered him wanted dead or alive. He hid out & held out for almost 5 years. He was shot & killed by a posse in 1892. Then posthumously exonerated of this crime in 1918, when an eyewitness came forward.
Scott Cooley - Taken in & raised by Texas rancher Tim Williamson. He became a respected Texas Ranger. Deputy Sheriff John Worley arrested his adoptive father on false charges of cattle rustling. Enoute to jail, German immigrant cattlemen killed Williamson. That enraged Cooley. This began the Hoodoo War. Cooley blamed the Sheriff, but waited for the law. Unsatisfied with results, he & other friends, like Johnny Ringo, took the law into their own hands.
Timothy Isaiah "Longhair Jim" or "Big Jim" Courtright - Born in Illinois, he practiced with guns while growing up. He lied about his age to enlist with the Union during the Civil War. Afterwards he moved to Fort Worth, TX in 1876. He became the city's first elected Marshal. He had a tough reputation, with a few gunfights. He moved to New Mexico where he was appointed Marshal. There add a few more shootings to his list. His end came in a gunfight with Luke Short.
George Sutherland "Flat-Nose" Currie - Born in Canada, he moved down to Nebraska in his youth. Beginning his outlaw deeds with rustling, he moved onto robbery with a gang behind him. He stole as needed & got in gunfights to survive. He robbed the Union Pacific Overland Flyer train with Cassidy's Wild Bunch. His end came during a Utah rustling job by bullets from Sheriff Tyler.
William Marion "Bill" Dalton - As an adult, he began in the California legislature. Then turned to crime & a desire for infamy. With his brother Grat, he went on a three-year spree of bank, stagecoach & train robbery around Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas & Kansas. In 1892 his brother was killed. He joined up with The Wild Bunch. Then in OK he killed Deputy US Marshal Shadley. Bill was cornered & killed by a posse in Pooleville OK in 1894.
Charles Wilson "Charley" Ford - He joined the Jesse James gang. Charley was the brother of Robert Ford, who killed Jesse. He was in on Jesse's murder plot. Charley's death was by his own hand.
Patrick Floyd Jarvis "Pat" Garrett - Born & raised in the South, his family suffered heavily from the Civil War. He left the area at age 18 & was in Fort Griffin TX in 1876. By 1880 he was in New Mexico, where fame found him. He became Lincoln County Sheriff. Then also was U.S. Deputy Marshal. His focus was bringing Billy the Kid to justice. He shot him dead on July 14, 1881. Some portrayed him as an assassin for that act. Afterwards he was in Texas as a Ranger. A mysterious disappearance brought him back to NM, he was appointed Dona Ana County Sheriff & made arrests in the case. He remained a controversial figure in NM.
John Wesley Hardin - Born into a Texas preacher's family, he grew up a problematic child. In 1868, he committed his first murders of four freed slaves. It didn't end there. Next it was a soldier, a gambler, a pimp & two men in a posse coming after him. Finally arrested in 1871 at age 17. He escaped during transport, killing four lawmen in the process. Hardin hooked up with cousins as a cowboy to ditch Texas. Then still got involved in gunfights & a few more killings. After that still more involvement with old west gunfighters. Even including shooting a man (although unintentionally) for snoring! They say he was the fastest draw of all the old west gunfighters. Finally captured by Texas Rangers, tried for murder of Deputy Sheriff Charles Webb & sentenced to 25 years. Still controversy & gun-play followed him til the end!
Pearl Hart - Born in Canada, (nee Taylor) she was well brought up & educated. In her teens she met Mr. Hart & they eloped. He wasn't the dream she thought! He was abusive & she returned to her parents. She tried working out her marriage a few times. Including a trip to the 1893 World's Fair, giving her a look at Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West Show. She became fascinated with cowboys, so on her own, went West. Ended up in Arizona, funding herself various ways. At a desperate point she robbed a stage with a male accomplice. They were captured. Her next lodging was Yuma Territorial Prison. Afterwards, details are dim. But she caused a sensation as a woman stage robber!
James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickok - His talents encompassed many occupations: drover, wagon master, soldier, spy, scout, lawman, gunfighter, gambler, showman, actor & embellisher of his own life! He did a lot, but did a lot more to make it even more exciting. Raised in Illinois, with youthful life filled with local freedom & adventure. He went West after a fight when he thought wrongly he'd killed another youth. He wasn't immune to gunfights, either as Marshal or gambler. And that's how his life ended, shot while in a card game.
Bass Reeves - Born a slave in Arkansas, for the state legislator William Steele Reeves. That family moved to Texas when Bass was eight. Later he was with the son, George Reeves. Bass left that family, running North to Indian Territory, living with the Cherokee, Creek & Seminole tribes. He learned all their languages. In 1865, when the 13th Amendment abolished slavery, he returned to Arkansas a freedman. There he married, began farming, & eventually had 11 children. U.S. Marshal James Fagan hired Bass Reeves as a U.S. Deputy Marshal for Western Arkansas, including Indian Territory, since he spoke the languages. He also served in Eastern TX & Muskogee OK. During his 32 years as a law officer he made over 3000 arrests & engaged 14 gunfighters to defend himself. Just before retirement he served two years on the Muskogee Police Department.
Bass Reeves, U.S. Federal Law Officer
Thomas E. "Black Jack" Ketchum - Born in Texas, he went to New Mexico by 1890. He worked as a cowboy. Then he became involved in robbing trains & stagecoaches. He joined the Wild Bunch, Hole in the Wall Gang. He also did jobs on his own, including his last. He was shot by the train conductor, found & arrested the next day. Sentenced to death by hanging. It ended up in decapitation!
Ben "Tall Texan" Kilpatrick - Born in Texas, he started adulthood as a cowboy. He became friendly with a few outlaws & then joined with Cassidy's Wild Bunch gang. He was imprisoned at one point. When released, he continued his criminal life. He attempted a train robbery, but the Wells Fargo messenger defended the valuables by attacking the Tall Texan with a mallet. It caused fatal brain damage.
Harvey Alexander "Kid Curry" Logan - He grew up learning the cowboy life into adolescence. In his early 20s he got into a major conflict with a Montana mine operator. Charged with assault, he felt he wouldn't get a fair trial. He left the area & took up with Black Jack Ketchum. Montana sent Pinkerton detectives after him. Then he had a falling out with Black Jack. So with his brother he joined the circus! Then they worked a Colorado ranch. Next they gathered other guys, formed a gang, & began robbing banks & post offices. In 1899 Kid Curry rode with Cassidy's Wild Bunch. With them he was involved in many gunfights with the law. His ending is still disputed.
Harry Alonzo "Sundance Kid" Longabaugh - With Butch Cassidy, he was in his Wild Bunch gang. Born in Pennsylvania, the "baby" of the family. He went West in his teens. Then at 20, he stole a gun in Sundance Wyoming: his first crime, for which he served prison time. He started calling himself the Sundance Kid. After that he worked ranches. When he join up with Cassidy, he wasn't really a prime gunfighter, though he did participate in the shoot-out at the Hole-in-the-Wall hideout. That's where he met his long-time love: Etta Place. He also teamed with Kid Cody to rob banks. To escape continuous law pressure, he & Etta left for Argentina in 1901. Apparently he never returned to the U.S. It's said he crossed into Bolivia & may have died there.
Martha Jane "Calamity Jane" Cannary - Born in Missouri, the oldest of six children. Her parents died when she was a teen & she took charge of her younger siblings, while in Wyoming. To earn money she did dishwashing, cooking, waitressing, nursing. She worked as a dance-hall girl & an ox team driver. When necessary she worked as a prostitute at Three-Mile Hog Ranch in Fort Laramie. She claimed she did scouting for Fort Russell. At least she hung around the military fort areas when they were occupied with their Native American campaign conflicts. She claimed she was christened "Calamity Jane" by a post commander who she saved from falling off his horse. However she got it, it was hers by mid-1876. That year she joined Charlie Utter's wagon train to Deadwood, meeting Wild Bill Hickok. She had two daughters. There's an unverified claim that one was fathered by Hickok. A heavy drinker through her life, but also was known to help people.
Myra Maybelle Shirley Reed "Belle" Starr - Well educated, born & growing up in Missouri. She became acquainted with the Younger & James families in her youth. Her family moved to Texas in 1864, after a Union attack during the Civil War. She married one of Quantrill's Raiders, Jim Reed in post war 1866. Belle dressed stylishly, rode side-saddle all glamoured up & was a great shot with her twin pistols. She had two children by Reed. When he was killed, she moved on. She married Sam Starr, a Cherokee who took her to his family in Indian Territory. Together they grew a lucrative system of fencing for rustlers, horse-thieves & bootleggers. Plus they'd provide them hide-outs. Finally Bass Reeves caught up with them. After serving time, they took up old habits. Belle escaped conviction, but Sam was killed in a gunfight with an officer. She remarried a Starr relative to stay on Indian land. When she was nearly 41, she was ambushed & killed, never determined by whom.
Belle Starr, sitting side saddle on her horse.
Thomas Coleman "Cole" Younger - Born in Missouri, the middle child of 14. His father supported the Union when the Civil War began. But when a Kansas Union soldier killed his father, Cole was filled vengeance. He joined Quantrill's Raider's on their Lawrence KS Massacre, killing about 200 citizens, looting & burning the town. He claimed he left them then, joined the regular Confederate Army, went to California to recruit & came back to Missouri at war's end. At that point Union Radicals were ruling Missouri, enacting harsh restrictions on former Confederates which created anger & division. Cole recruited some of his brothers & took up with a former Quantrill man, who'd formed a gang to target Union owned businesses. The leader was killed. At some point, Jesse James & his brothers joined with Cole & his brothers. They continued robbing banks & stagecoaches in Missouri & Kentucky, as the James-Younger gang. The Pinkerton National Detective Agency were after them. These old west gunfighters engaged law enforcement along the way. At various points they were killed, until only Cole & his brothers Jim & Bob were left. Plus Frank James. The Youngers pleaded guilty. They all received a life sentence.