(All material from A Church for Helldorado copyright 2006 by SJ Reidhead and may not be used without written permission).
FROM: A CHURCH FOR HELLDORADO
P. 13, 14
49The Gunfight at the OK Corral occurred on October 26, 1881. To make a very long “and involved story as short as possible is to gloss over a hundred salient facts. The bottom line is Wyatt Earp and his brothers had been threatened by misc. Cowboys at misc. times during the previous year.
Things came to a head the night of the 25th, when Ike and Frank McLaury rode into town and began drinking. Ike became drunk. He threatened the Earps. Doc Holliday heard him and threatened him. One thing lead to another and the following morning, Ike continued to drink a little and continued to posture around town, threatening to kill the Earps and Doc Holliday. He and Frank were joined by their younger brothers Billy Clanton and Tom McLaury. They were also associating with cowboys Billy Claiborne and Wes Fuller. After several incidents during the day, things came to a climax when word reached the Earps that the Clantons and McLaurys were down at the OK Corral, armed, which was against a city ordinance.
Virgil Earp, as City Marshal, was determined to disarm the men. He stopped by the Wells, Fargo office to pick up his shot-gun.
Doc Holliday joined Wyatt, Virgil and Morgan Earp at the corner of Fourth and Allen Street. As in every good ‘Western’ the townspeople new trouble was brewing. People came out to watch the men. Someone told Virgil, “They mean trouble…all armed, and I think you had better go disarm them.” Tefertiller, p. 119.
Around two fifteen in the afternoon, the Earps began “The Walk”. John Behan came out and confronted Virgil Earp, who responded, “…a lot of sons-of-bitches are in town looking for a fight.” Behan then claims to go down to the OK Corral to try and disarm the men. Ibid, p. 119.
The men of the Citizen’s Safety Committee, including Clapp and Parsons were getting ready for trouble. Virgil exchanges his shotgun for Doc Holliday’s cane. By now the Cowboys are heading to the OK Corral. Townspeople watch the Earps as they walk a block down Fourth Street and turn left onto Fremont. Behan comes running up, “For God’s sake, don’t go down there or you will get murdered.” He then says he has disarmed the men. The Earps continue their advance. It is overcast, very windy, and quite chilly. Snow threatens. They reach the rear entrance of the OK Corral. There is a vacant lot between the OK Corral and Fly’s rooming house. Behan ducks into Flys. Claiborne and Fuller run. Virgil then says, “Boys, throw up your hands. I want your guns.” Billy Clanton and Frank McLaury reach for their guns. Virgil then says, “Hold, I don’t want that.” Ibid, p. 1121-122.
Thirty seconds it was over. Ike Clanton had fled in terror, throwing his gun onto the ground. Billy Clanton was dying. Frank and Tom McLaury were dead. Doc Holliday, Morgan and Virgil Earp were injured. Only Wyatt Earp was standing.
It became a defining moment of American culture.
52Peabody had it correct. The “Cowboys” were a loose confederation of cattle-rustlers, stage robbers, quasi legal ranchers, and opportunists who congregated into Cochise County, primarily after New Mexico Territorial Governor General Lew Wallace (Ben Hur) eject John Slaughter in the winter of 1880. Reidhead, p. 233. Slaughter brought a host of outlaws with him a host of ‘cowboys as drovers: Curly Bill Brocius, Billy Claiborne, Charley Snow, John Ringo, Pete Spence, Frank Stillwell, Zwing Hunt, Billy Grounds, etc. Immediately upon reaching Cochise County they formed a lose association with the Clanton family and the McLaury Brothers.
They specialized in traveling across the border into Mexico, terrorizing ranchers and villagers down there, stealing horses and cattle, then running them back up the border and stashing them in holding areas through out the region, including the McLaury and Clanton ranches. They would then sell the beef to unscrupulous butchers like John Slaughter who has a shop in Charleston, and butchers in Tombstone. The region had a voracious appetite for beef which was the primary food source. Honest ranchers like Henry Hooker at the Sierra Bonita Ranch and the Vails at the Empire Ranch had a difficult time dealing with the rustlers and had to maintain what amounted to small standing armies just to maintain their own property.
To supplement their incomes they would resort to an occasional stage robbery, which would often lead to the death of passengers and as with Bud Philpott, the driver. Their depravations down into Mexico were so flagrant and so severe, the government of Mexico was in constant communication with the US in an attempt to quell what was rapidly becoming a state of armed insurrection.
To make matters worse, the County Sheriff, John Behan worked hand in glove with the ‘Cowboys’. Frank Stilwell, the man who was involved in the assassination of Morgan Earp was a Cochise County Deputy. Things reached such a point that Peabody associates Parsons and Clapp were part of a group of leading business men who organized a ‘Citizen’s Safety Committee’ to protect the town’s interests against the depravations of the Cowboys and the County Sheriff.
As an example of what was going on in Tombstone the week Peabody arrived, Judge Stilwell had provided warrants for US Deputy Marshal Wyatt Earp on Wednesday, the 25th. “U. S. Marshal Crawley Dake arrived in Tombstone in response to an urgent telegram from former governor Anson Stafford, requesting he meet with Acting Governor John Gosper in Tombstone to investigate the lawless situation in southeastern Arizona. Gosper invested Marshal Wyatt Earp with complete powers of law enforcement and appointed under him deputies Morgan and Warren Earp, Doc Holliday, Sherman McMasters, Texas Jack Vermillion, and Turkey Creek Jack Johnson…” Tenderfoot, p. 203. Peabody recorded….”Was routed out of bed night before last to help get a horse for posse which left about four A.M. for Charleston to re-arrest Ringo….The Earps are out too on U. S. business and lively times are anticipated. Slept at Milton’s last night as his request as he felt uneasy…” Tenderfoot, p. 202-203.
On December 28, 1881 Virgil Earp was nearly murdered by a group of Cowboys. On March 1882, Morgan Earp was murdered by Frank Stilwell, and a group of Cowboys.
FROM: A CHURCH FOR HELLDORADO
314Morgan Earp was shot by Frank Stilwell (Behan’s former deputy sheriff), Pete Spence or Spencer, Fries, and ‘Indian Charley’, a half-breed. Tenderfoot, p. 212.
315 It was Wyatt’s thirty-fourth birthday. He made the arrangements to send Morgan’s casket back home to Colton. Tefertiller, p. 226. The Epitaph reported, “His body was placed in a casket and sent to his parents at Colton, Cal., for burial, being guarded to Contention by his brothers and two or three of his most intimate friends [Wyatt and Warren Earp, Doc Holliday, and in all probability Sherman McMasters, Texas Jack Vermillion, Turkey Creek Jack Johnson, Dan Tipton, and Hair-lip Charley Smith.] The funeral cortege started away from the Cosmopolitan Hotel about 12:30 yesterday with the fire bells tolling out its solemn peels of ‘Earth to earth, dust to dust.’ Martin, p. 218.
316 “Morg Earp’s body sent to Colton yesterday, and today Virgil Earp and wife left for that place. A body guard, well armed, accompanied Virg Earp…” Bailey, “Tenderfoot, p. 212.
328 Tombstone and Earp researchers and writers call it “The Vendetta Ride”. It began at the railroad station in Tucson (now a historical site and museum) when Frank Stilwell fired a shot through the open window of the train where the injured Virgil was sitting. His wife, Allie saw the bullet as it sailed past the two of them. I do not think Wyatt would have gone after Stilwell the way he did, had Stilwell not tried to assassinate his brother. It cannot be stressed enough how desperate the ‘Cowboys’ were to basically eliminate anyone who stood in their way. Wyatt Earp and his brothers were in their way. Tefertiller, p. 227 records what happened next. “’I ran straight for Stilwell. It was he who killed my brother,” Wyatt Earp said, “What a coward he was. He couldn’t shoot when I came near him. He stood there helpless and trembling for his life. As I rushed upon him he put out his hands and clutched at my shotgun. I let go both barrels, and he tumbled down dead and mangled at my feet. I started for Clanton (Ike) then, but he escaped behind a moving train of cars. When the train had passed I could not find him.’” Diarist George Hand wrote, “Frank Stillwell was shot all over, the worst shot-up man that I ever saw.” Ibid. p. 227.
The Vendetta Ride lasted for several weeks. By the time it was over, the crime wave in Cochise County was basically over. Wyatt Earp, Doc Holiday, and the rest of the Vendetta Posse were on their way to Colorado where a series of interesting negotiations between the governors of that state and Arizona prevented the men from being hung.
GUADELOUPE CANYON TODAY
James reminded me about something. A few years ago, along with a group of Earp historians, I went to Guadeloupe Canyon. They were looking for the marker set up to commemorate the elimination of Old Man Clanton and a few other outlaws that day in August, 1881. The canyon today cannot be accessed unless you make arrangements with the BLM. You basically need to know someone. You cannot go into it alone or unarmed.
NOTE: It is not smart to hike anywhere in the Southwest unarmed. There is always the potential for rattlesnakes, lions, tigers big cats and bears. Then there is the two-legged problem.
Guadeloupe Canyon is a heavily traveled route for illegal aliens. My source was told if the coyotes, drug runners, or criminal illegals don’t get you, the idiot minutemen and militia playing soldier will. There is a very real fear that one of these crazies will start shooting first and asking questions later.
When my group went to Guadeloupe Canyon, I thought it would be an easy walk along a dirt road. I have never owned a pair of hiking shoes or athletic shoes in my life. I think they are ugly. I started down the trail in my cute little Brighton slides. I think I went about a half mile when I realized it was foolish to continue. Everyone had gone on ahead of me and I was alone in this spooky canyon. On the way out I met a friend who is employed by the BLM. He was carrying a shotgun and a 45. He told me to hurry back to the cars and not to stop, just to be smart.
It is a very weird place, spooky, overgrown with grass, trees, and cactus. I finally made it to the car, but I was very apprehensive. The place reeked of death.
The names have changed. The Earps have faded into history. The Cowboys are a romantic memory, celebrated by some. Today, where the Apache once posted scouts on the mountains, the drug cartels have watchers, complete with highly sophisticated electronics, to monitor every law enforcement movement. Instead of the Cowboys going into Mexico to commit their criminal activities, Mexicans are returning the favor. It is still about the money, but now it is drug money. There are coyotes who smuggle migrants across the desert, but they would rather run drugs. It is more profitable. Today the Cochise County Sheriff is a very honest, decent man, as is his Chief Deputy (a friend). They are tasked with watching the border, crime, and keeping an eye on alleged terrorists who are, according to our conservative friends, just waiting to swoop in and blow up the county. So far this has not happened. The Border Patrol is more like John Behan’s infamous sheriff’s department. Some of the agents are on the take. Others are ill educated. There are some good people, but they are terribly under-staffed. They are, according to one source, over-inflating their numbers just as any other federal agency does. Why? MONEY.
Today Cochise County is all about the money. It was all about the money when Wyatt Earp was there. Nothing has changed that way. The storyline is different, but it is the same. The Illegals of today are yesterday’s Apache.
Nothing has changed.
Except – for the people who have invaded Cochise County to prevent the movement of illegal aliens. That is another story.