The OK Corral Shootout – 10/26/1881

US History |


History was made in Tombstone, Arizona as the Clanton-McLaury gang face off against the Earp brothers involving a shootout at the OK Corral on October 26th, 1881.

Tombstone immediately rose in stature as being one of the wealthiest mining towns in the Southwest when silver was found nearby in 1877. The “law and order” of the town was represented by a prior Kansas police officer that worked as a security guard for the bank named Wyatt Earp. Assisting him were his two brothers Morgan and the town marshal Virgil although their reputations has them as being ruthless and power-hungry. The McLaurys and Clantons were cowboys who resided outside of town on a ranch as well as being murderers, rustlers and thieves. The conflict between the two groups over control of Cochise County and Tombstone would conclude at the OK Corral in blazing gunfire in October of 1881.

Both Ike Clanton and Tom McLaury ventured into Tombstone to acquire supplies on the morning of October fifth. Both men had a few violent run-ins with the Earp and a friend of theirs named Doc Holiday. The next day at approximately 1:30 p.m., Frank McLaury, Billy Claiborne and Ike’s brother Billy rode into town to meet up with them. Venturing into the local saloon, the first individual the group encounters is Doc Holiday who is ecstatic to inform them that the Earps both pistol-whipped their brothers. Vowing revenge, Billy and Frank quickly left the saloon.

Five members of the Clanton-McLaury gang were spotted in a deserted lot behind the OK Corral, which is located where Fremont Street ends, by Holiday and the Earp roughly at 3 p.m. The historic gunfight that ensued lasted only 30 seconds while roughly 30 shots were fired. Even though today that there is still an ongoing debate on who actually pulled the trigger first, the majority of reports suggest it was started by Virgil Earp pulling out his gun and hitting point-blank in the chest Billy Clanton. Meanwhile, Doc Holiday joined in with a shotgun blast in the chest of Tom McLaury. However, Billy was able to unload a few shots before collapsing as did Frank McLaury after being shot and wounded in the stomach by Wyatt Earp. Finally, when the dust cleared, Claiborne and Ike Clanton retreated into the hills; the McLaury brothers and Billy Clanton were dead while Doc Holiday, Morgan and Virgil Earp had been wounded.

Although this ends with what happened on this historical day, the story does not end there. The aftermath of the gunfight led to the arrest of the Earp brothers and Doc Holiday by Cochise County Sheriff John Behan, who was an actual witness to the event, and charged all of them with murder. The defendants and the citizens of Cochise County only had to wait one month before a verdict would be decided on. The judge in Tombstone declared that the three of them were found to be not guilty being that their action was “fully justified in committing these homicides.” What transpired at the OK Corral is more than simply a story that has been passed down through the generations or mentioned in an encyclopedia. The historic shootout has also appeared in movies making it immortalized for future generations to actually see. Some of these movies, not in order of when they appeared, include “Wyatt Earp” in 1994, “Frontier Marshal” in 1939, “Tombstone” in 1993 and “Gunfight at the OK Corral” in 1957.

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Amanda Miller

Contributor & Chief Coffee Maker

Being from San Diego I have always gone to the Ocean and wrote my thoughts onto paper. Since a young girl writing has been my passion and now I love being creative with what I love. In school I started early writing for my middle school paper and have learned so much since then. I now have an opportunity to do what I love and work from home every day you can't beat it. I look forward to writing some great content for you all and to see the feedback I get in the process. My favorite topic is positive stories showing people helping others.