This article originally ran in Tales from the Morgue April 9, 2012. Today is the 136th anniversary of the shootout in Tombstone.
One of the most famous — or infamous — incidents in Arizona history happened not far from Tucson. Some lawmen and a few cowboys had a showdown in Tombstone, and the image of the Wild West was born.
There was no banner headline warning of the news. It appeared in the middle of a column of type with the note that it was a “Special Dispatch to the Star” as its only introduction.
From the Arizona Weekly Star, October 27, 1881:
(Special Dispatch to the Star.)
TOMBSTONE, October 26.—A sanguinary shooting affray occurred on Fremont Street this afternoon. Four cow-boys have been in town for a few days past, drinking heavily, and making themselves generally obnoxious by boisterous conduct. This morning City Marshal V. W. Earp arrested one of them for disorderly conduct, and was fined $25 and disarmed, in the Justice’s Court. He left swearing vengeance. The Sheriff and Marshal Earp and his brother, Morgan, tried to induce them to leave town, but they were thirsty for gore, and refused to be pacified. About 3 p. m. the Earp brothers and J. H. Holliday met the four, who drew upon them at once, when a lively fire commenced from the cow-boys against the three citizens. About thirty shots were fired rapidly. When the smoke of the battle cleared away, it was found that Jim and Frank McLoury were gasping in the agonies of death, and Bill Clanton mortally wounded. Shortly after Morgan Earp was wounded in the shoulder, thought to be seriously. V. W. Earp received a flesh wound in the calf of the leg. Holliday escaped unhurt with several bullet holes in his clothing.
The streets immediately filled with resolute citizens, many of whom were armed with rifles and pistols. There is great excitement but no further trouble is anticipated. Ike Clanton, one of the cow-boys escaped with a slight wound and is now in jail. He was slightly wounded. The sheriff's posse are now under arms. Morgan Earp, after being wounded and fallen struggled to his feet and continued the fight till he emptied his revolver. His wound is not thought to be serious. Citizens are armed and determined to put down the riotous element at all hazards.
The fight didn't just happen on the spur of the moment, it had been brewing for some time. And the survivors didn't just walk away. First one wanted revenge and then another did. The stories continued in the newspapers for some time.
Read how the fight was reported in the Tucson Citizen Oct. 30, 1881: