On October 26th, 1881 The Earps along with John "Doc" Holliday, faced off with the McLaurys & Billy Clanton in what has become the most famous gunfight in all of western history. The Clantons & the McLaurys led factions of a loosely organized gang of outlaws known as "the cowboys" whose main enterprise was cattle rustling & occaisionally stage robbing. The tensions between the Earps & the cowboys were many & complex. The efforts of US Deputy Marshal Virgil Earp to clean up the town made him, his brothers & associate Doc Holliday enemies of the cowboys. In July of 1880 Virgil Earp accused Frank McLaury of stealing 6 Army mules. To avoid a fight, Earp returned to Tombstone with his posse under the condition that the mules would be returned. They were not. The Army newspaper printed a story about the incident disparaging the McLaurys causing the McLaurys to resent the Earps. In March of 1881 three cowboys attempted to hold up the Benson stage, killing the driver & a passenger. Doc Holliday was implicated in the hold up by his companion "Big Nose" Kate while she was drunk. Once sober, she recanted & no charges were ever filed against Holliday. With his eyes on the Cochise County Sheriff position, Wyatt Earp felt capturing the cowboys responsible for the hold up would be a fine feather in his cap so he turned to none other than Ike Clanton. Wyatt promised Ike the Wells Fargo reward money if he would provide information leading to the arrest or death of the three men who were later identified as the prime suspects. At $1,200 a head, $3,600 was a lot of money in 1881. When the three were found dead Ike renegged & would later accuse Wyatt of setting them up at the OK Corral fight to silence him about knowing that he & Holliday were actually involved in the stage robbery. In September of 1881 another stage was robbed. Though they wore masks, the robbers were identified as Pete Spence & Frank Stillwell, both friends of the McLaurys. They were arrested & released on bail. Virgil Earp later re-arrested them for interfering with a mail carrier & the McLaurys considered this simple harrassment. There were other episodes of drunken threats & counter threats, pistol whippings & charges of abuse of power, accusations of fraud & ballot box stuffing, political & even romantic rivalries all culminating in the inevitable confrontation that was destined to occur. At about 3:00 in the afternoon of October 26th, 1881 Virgil Earp acting in his lawful duty as US Deputy Marshal along with his two brothers Wyatt & Morgan and associate Doc Holliday entered the 18 foot wide lot behind the O.K. Corral next to Camillus Fly's photography studio & boarding house to disarm the McLaurys, Billy Clanton & Billy Claiborne who were in violation of City Ordinance 9 prohibiting firearms in the town. Ike Clanton & Billy Claiborne would flee the scene apparently unarmed. The other three would refuse the order to disarm. Thirty shots would be fired in under thirty seconds & the most famous gun fight in American history would be over. Frank & Tom McLaury would lie dead & Billy Clanton would be mortally wounded. He was taken to Fly's boarding house where he would later die from his wounds. Click image to enlarge.
The Gunfight At The O.K. Corral
Virgil cries, "Throw up your hands, I'm here to disarm you!"
The cowboys reach for there guns. Virgil cries, "No, I don't want that!"
Doc Holliday makes his move.
Ike flees blocking Wyatt.
Thirty shots fired in thirty seconds.
Frank McLaury in his last breath, "I have you now Holliday, I'm gonna kill you!" To which Doc replies, "You're a daisy if you do."
"Three men hurled into eternity in the duration of a moment."
Click Image to enlarge.