Saturday, December 1, 2012

Gunfight At The OK Corral - Preliminary Hearing - H. F. Sills

Testimony of H. F. Sills

in the Preliminary Hearing in the Earp-Holliday Case,

Heard before Judge Wells Spicer

November 22-23, 1881

On this 22nd day of November, 1881, on the hearing of the above entitled cause, on the examination of Wyatt Earp and J. H. Ho­liday; H. F. Sills, a witness of lawful age, being produced and sworn deposes and says as follows:

H. F. Sills, of Las Vegas, Nevada, a locomotive engineer for the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad. On furlough and visiting in Tombstone.

(Q) Was asked about any threats he may have heard on October 26, 1881.

[Objection by Prosecution. Question withdrawn.]

(Q) [Question rephrased.]

(A) I saw four or five men standing in front of the O.K. Corral, talking of some trouble they had had with Virgil Earp, and they made threats at the time, that on meeting him they would kill him on sight.

Someone of the party spoke up at the time and said that they would kill the whole party of the Earps when they met them.

I then walked up the street and made enquiries to know who Virgil Earp and the Earps were. A man on the street pointed out Virgil Earp to me and told me that he was the city marshal.

I went over and called him to one side and told him the threats I had overheard this party make. One of the men has a bandage around his head at the time, and the day of the funeral he was pointed out to me as Isaac Clanton. I recognized him as one of the party.

(Q) Questioned on the shooting.

(A) A few minutes after I had spoken to the marshal, I saw a party start down Fourth Street. I followed them down as far as the Post Office.

Then I got sight of the party I had heard making those threats. I thought there would be trouble and I crossed the street.

I saw the marshal and party go up and speak to the other party. I wasn't close enough to hear their conversation, but saw them pull out their revolvers immediately.

The marshal had a cane in his right hand at the time. He threw up his hand and spoke. I didn't hear the words, though. By that time, Billy Clanton and Wyatt Earp had fired their guns off and the marshal changed the cane from one hand to the other and pulled his revolver out.

He seemed to be hit at that time and fell down. He got up immediately and went to shooting. The shooting became general at that time and [I] stepped back into the hallway along the side of the court house.

(Q) How did you know it was Billy Clanton?

(A) I saw him after he was dead, and recognized him as the one who fired at Wyatt Earp.


(Q) When did you come to Tombstone?

(A) I came here on the 25th of the month.

(Q) How did you come?

(A) I came in a bullion wagon of Wells Fargo, in company with another passenger and the driver. I knew one man was a driver, and one was a passenger. I could not recognize them on the street.

(Q) Where have you been since?

(A) In Tombstone. The first few days I was in town I stopped at a lodging house below Wells Fargo and Company's stage barn. I cannot [give the name of the lodging house.] I stayed there 10 nights and then went to the hospital. I remained there until today. I am stopped there now. I walked there now. I walked here from the hospital.

[Doesn't remember or know who the man was he asked regarding Virgil Earp, after hearing the threats at the O.K. Corral. Says, "I don't know, just a man I met on the street. I don't think I would [recognize him], as there were a great many men on the street at that time."]

(Q) About the threats he said he heard.

(A) I merely told him [Virgil Earp] it was a party of armed men I met on the street. I didn't know the men at the time. There were four men in the party.

I can't say they were all armed because I could not see the arms of all the party. Of two, the pistols were in plain sight. I was within four or five steps of them.

(Q) Was there anybody else around there?

(A) There were men standing back in the corral, and some were walking by and some were 15 or 20 steps back in the corral.

(Q) Describe the men you saw with arms on them.

(A) One of the men I saw with arms was a youngish looking man about nineteen or twenty years old. I don't just remember what kind of clothes he had on. I did not pay much attention to him. I don't know what kind of hair he had.

He seemed to [be] red in the face, not very light or very dark. He had no beard or moustache. I don't know whether he was clean shaved or not. I don't know what kind of a hat he had on; did not notice his clothes.

The other man looked to be about 30 years old. He had a moustache. His hair was dark. I cannot be certain, but I think his face was shaved, except his moustache. I did not notice his clothes particularly; don't know what kind they were.

(Q) Which was the taller of the two men, the first one described, or the last one?

(A) The first one, to the best of my knowledge.

(Q) You say one of them had a bandage around his head. Were there not two of them with bandages around their heads?

(A) No sir, not that I saw. I only saw one. I did not notice the color of it. I only saw it hanging down under his hat. I could hardly say [as to his complexion] because he had his back to me.

(Q) You did not see his face then?

(A) No sir, not at that time.

(Q) When did you first see his face?

(A) On the day of the funeral.

(Q) Can you positively swear that the man you saw at the funeral was the same man that you saw with the bandage around his head in front of the O.K. Corral?

(A) Yes sir I can, by his appearance and by hearing him talk.

(Q) You recognized him by his appearance and by his voice as being the same man?

(A) I recognized him by his appearance and by hearing him talk with this party in front of the O.K. Corral and with other parties at the funeral.

(Q) You state that his back was toward you and you didn't see his face; it was by the appearance of his back and his voice then, that you re­cognized him

(A) I took it to be the same man because he had a bandage on his head the day of the funeral and by his voice.




In answer to obvious questions:

(A) I am 36 years old. I was born in Kingston, Canada. I lived there until I was 20 years old. I went from there to Calinlle, Canada. I lived there about 3 years. I then went to Omaha, Nebraska. I lived [illegible] served my time in the Union Pacific shops.

I was in Omaha and on the line of the road between eight and nine years. I was [in that time] an apprentice in the machine shop, a locomotive fireman, and on the road as locomotive engineer.

Some of the persons who had charge of the machine shop were: Mr. Congdon, General Master Mechanic, and Mr. McConnel was foreman. I was in the shops three years.

For about a year and a half I boarded at the Pacific Hotel and about a year and a half my mother kept house for me. A man, I think by the name of Jordan, kept the house where I boarded.

I ran, as fireman and as engineer, about six trains. I run the train to Grand Island and Omaha. I run between Cheyenne and Laramie and between Laramie and Rolling Springs.

(Q) Who were the conductors of those trains? [Prosecution objects as being too remote. Overruled.]

(A) It would be hard for me to tell. I remember one man named Frank Fuller, another man by the name of Kelly, I think. I run on engine 75 about two and a half years.

Q) Did you ever know on that road, A. A. Bean?

(A) The name is familiar. I think there was a Division Superintendent under or over Mr. Clark; it was out of my department.

(Q) Did you know General Kimbell, the General Superintendent of the U. P. Railroad?

(A) I knew of the man, but was not personally acquainted with him.

(Q) [Question not given.]

(A) When I left that road I went to Las Vegas, New Mexico. I have lived in Las Vegas since last March. I left the Union Pacific road last January.

(Q) [Question not given.]

(A) I am still in the employ of that road. I left the line of that road on the nineteenth of last month. I went from there to Tucson. I had no business there. Am going back to take up my employment on the tenth [of] next month. I got four cents a mile on the A. T. & S. F. road; the division is 100 miles long.

(Q) [Question not given.]

(A) I came here on the 26th of last month. I came on the Wells, Fargo express wagon with the driver and a passenger.

(Q) [Question not given.]

(A) I did not ask the driver his name and don't know who he was. He was a middle aged man with whiskers on his face. I did not pay any particular attention to him.

(Q) [Question not given.]

(A) I think there was a white horse and one bob-tailed horse in the team between Benson and Charleston.

(Q) [Question not given.]

(A) I would not know the man I came with. I sat right behind him.

(Q) [Question not given.]

(A) I am so positive that I came here on the 25th of October last on the bullion wagon, as I am of anything else I have testified to here. I stayed in Benson about half an hour, I do not think I would know the driver again, who drove the wagon I came in on, although I have seen him here on the street and spoke to him.

(Q) [Question not given.]

(A) I had no conversation with the lodging house where I stayed nine or ten days, about the difficulty testified to here. On the night of October 25th I stayed at this lodging house I speak of.

(Q) [Question not given.]

(A) No I did not see anything in the hands of Virgil Earp when I went up and spoke to him on the street.

(Q) [Question not given.]

(A) I saw him on the comer of Fourth and Allen Streets, on the further comer of Fourth Street. I should judge it was about half an hour before the difficulty.

(Q) [Question not given.]

(A) There were four or five men standing [near the O.K. Corral] together. I think there were four. I saw no horses with those men. I was four or five steps from them. I stayed there probably three or four minutes.

(Q) Did you see any other parties as near the party as you were yourself?

(A) There was men walked right by them on the street. [Correct, same as original] I did not know the parties at that time.

(Q) Where did you next see the same parties?

(A) I saw them on Fremont Street between third and fourth, near the comer of Third, standing in the vacant lot. There were five men in the party when I first saw them on Fremont Street and one of them left and walked off.

I saw the Earps and Doc Holliday when they went down Fremont Street. I was right behind them. I went down behind them as far as the Post Office. I then crossed the street in front of what I believe is the courthouse. That is [as] near as I was to the scene of the difficulty during its occurrence.

(Q) Where are you working now, and for whom?

(A) At the present time I am on a lay-off from the A. T. & S. F. road. I am not working at all.

(Q) [Question not given.]

(A) I am at present in the hospital. I went there on the sixth or seventh of this month.

(Q) [Question not given.]

(A) I haven't told anybody direct what I know of this difficulty. The first word I spoke of it to anybody was to Jim Earp I believe. I have not told any person at the hospital what I know of this transaction.

(Q) [Question not given.]

(A) I first knew I would be wanted here as a witness sometime last week, about Thursday or Friday.

(Q) [Question not given.]

(A) I did not see any person on the side of the street I was on when the shooting was going on. I was standing close to the building and then stepped back into the hall when the shooting became general.

(Q) [Question not given.]

(A) The Earps and Holliday started from the corner of Fourth and Allen Streets. I did not see the other party at that time. I saw the marshal pick up a shotgun when they started from alongside of the building and hand it to Doc Holliday. Doc put it under his coat and the marshal took his cane.

(Q) During the time you were working in the machine shops and running on the U. P. or A. T. & S. F. roads, had you a nickname?

(A) Yes sir, it was Curley.

(Q) Where do you layoff at, and at whose place do you stop in New Mexico?

(A) I layoff at Las Vegas, and stop at my own house.

1 comment:

  1. The three men that Curley Sills described were Frank McLaury, Tom McLaury, and Billy Clanton. At the time of their deaths, Frank McLaury was 28, Tom McLaury was 25, and Billy Clanton was 19. It is mistakenly reported in the Tombstone Epitaph that Frank McLaury was 32 and that his brother Tom was 30. The guns that they carried were Colt revolvers and Winchester rifles both in .44-40. When they died, Frank Mclaury had three bullets in his chest and one behind his right ear. Tom McLaury had died from a single shotgun blast fired by Doc Holliday. Billy Clanton was hit five times, once in the chest, once in the wrist, twice in the shoulder, and once in the leg. His last request for more bullets for his gun went ignored. His final words were, "Please, friends, go away and let me die".


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