Monday, January 14, 2008

Two from Tombstone

Janet of expressed an interest in Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday, whose statues guard the back patio of the old railroad depot here in Tucson. I actually have some more material on them, some from a 2004 journal entry, the rest not previously online. So let's run with that, shall we?

Here's the best picture I got on Saturday of Wyatt and Doc. Wyatt Earp is presumably the one with the big mustache, as you can see from the portrait below.

This marker was also at the depot. I didn't actually read it, so now I must Google to find out what the story is. As you might expect, it all ties in with the feud between the Earp brothers and the Clanton gang, which seems to have been more a faction than an actual criminal gang. Certainly there was plenty of murder carried out by both the Clantons and the Earps, and the Earps didn't always have the law on their side. Based on an excellent article I just found about little brother Warren Earp, here's the gist of what happened:

The three who fell at or near OK Corral. Photo by KFB.
  • July 1881: deputy U.S. Marshall Virgil Earp takes a posse to "investigate" cattle rustling by Old Man Clanton. Gunplay ensures. It is thought that the senior Clanton was killed (among others) and Warren Earp injured.
  • October 26, 1881: the Earps and their friend Doc Holliday have it out with the Clantons and McLaurys in the Gunfight at the OK Corral. Frank and Tom McLaury and Billy Clanton are killed.
  • December 28, 1881: Ike Clanton, Frank Stillwell and others try to shoot Virgil Earp as he crosses Allen Street. Virgil Earp is injured. The shooters are eventually acquitted, and Wyatt Earp becomes U.S. deputy marshal.
  • March 18, 1882: Morgan Earp is shot in the back while shooting pool in Tombstone. Stillwell as suspected of being one of the group that killed him.
  • March 20, 1882: the surviving Earps, Doc Holliday and others leave Tombstone, ostensibly to join family in California. The train stops in Tucson, where the Earps hear that members of the Clanton faction (notably Ike Clanton and Frank Stillwell) are waiting to shoot them down. Wyatt reportedly spies both men at the Tucson depot. He, Doc and the rest get off the train. The next morning, Stillwell's "bullet-filled body" is found near the tracks. A warrant goes out for the Earps' arrest, and there are Clantons in the posse. The Earps return briefly to Tombstone for supplies and then ride out, killing three more of the Clanton faction in what becomes known as the Earp Vendetta Ride.
  • April 15, 1882: about this date, the Earps reteat to Colorado.
  • And so on: Wyatt and Doc are suspected of returning to Arizona that summer, long enough to kill Johnny Ringo. Others of the Earp faction kill Billy Claiborne and Frank Leslie before the whole sorry mess is over. Holliday dies of T.B. in Colorado. Warren Earp ends up in Willcox, Arizona, where he sporadically picks fights with people until he eventually gets himself killed. One of his surviving brothers, probably Virgil, is thought to have avenged his death. Wyatt drifts around the country, gambling and prospecting, and lives until 1929.
What a waste of human life. Seriously.

Of course, most of this takes place in and around Tombstone which Google Maps places exactly 66 miles from my house, or 1 hour 18 minutes. It's not exactly close by. I've been there a few times, but probably not since 1990. It's a memorable place, though. Some of the attractions are laughably dated and low-tech, but all the more endearing because of it. And it's real history, in a real place that hasn't changed all that much in the last fifty years or so. If you get a chance to go there, I recommend it.

My dad hangs out with the famous gunslingers, March 2005.


No comments: