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October 26, 1881 Shootout Behind The OK Corral

Tensions were high between the Earp’s and the Cowboys. The gunfight lasted about 30 seconds and became the most famous gunfight in US History.

Virgil Earp, Wyatt Earp, Morgan Earp, with friend Doc Holliday went to disarm Cowboy members Ike Clanton, Billy Clanton, Billy Claiborne, Tom McLaury, and Frank McLaury after many threats made against the Earps. Carrying a firearm in town was a town ordinance violation.


The Cowboys where behind the OK Corral in a vacant lot next to the C.S. Fly photography studio and boarding house. As the Earp’s approached, Johnny Behan who was Sheriff of Cochise County and a known associate of the Cowboys, tried to stop the Earp’s and Holliday saying that he had already disarmed them. They walked right passed him and when they reached the vacant lot, Virgil informed them that he was there to disarm them. Billy Claiborne who was not armed ran away. In a split second, the shooting started. Ike ran and 30 seconds later, Billy Clanton, Tom McLaury, and Frank McLaury lay dead and or dying. Everyone took a bullet except Wyatt Earp. Morgan was shot in the right shoulder, Virgil was hit in the calf, and Doc was grazed off the hip.


After the smoke cleared, Behan said that they were all under arrest. Wyatt walked up to Behan and said “I don’t think I will let you arrest us today.” Behan was already at odds with Wyatt due to political reasons.


Tom McLaury, Frank McLaury, and Billy Clanton

The bodies of the three Cowboys were displayed in their black coffins in the undertaker’s window with a sign “Murdered in the Streets of Tombstone.” A procession with around three hundred people and a couple thousand watching from the wooden sidewalks would take the bodies to Boothill cemetery where the bodies would be buried.


Boothill, Tombstone

The Earp’s and Holliday would eventfully be arrested. Bail would be granted by Judge Spicer and paid by a collection of private parties and the Earp’s own money. Judge Spicer would rule on November 30, 1881, that there was not enough evidence to indict the Earp’s and Holliday and they would be free men.


The town of Tombstone was torn in half. Some looked at the Earp’s as murderers and other felt like they were doing their job and the Cowboys were looking for a fight.

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