Friday, October 21, 2016

The OK Corral -- The Rest Of The Story

Tombstone's OK Corral after the 1882 fire.
In my article, Wyatt Earp -- After The Vendetta, I address what Wyatt Earp did after his now famous vendetta. Well, this is the rest of the story pertaining to most of the key figured involved.

On May 25, 1882, about a month or so after Wyatt Earp's vendetta, a second major fire ripped through Tombstone Along with other structures, the Tombstone Nugget newspaper and the OK Corral were wiped out in the fire. The spark started in the back of Tivoli Gardens, a saloon, in a water closet.

Johnny Ringo was found shot on July 13th, 1882. Some say by his own hand, but others believe it was that "Buckskin" Frank Leslie who shot Ringo after finding him passed out drunk.

Johnny Barnes died of wounds sustained at the Iron Springs shootout, while Pete Spence, Fin Clanton and Pony Diehl were eventually convicted of various crimes and all did time in state penitentiaries.

Phineas Clanton served a jail sentence and died in 1906. Pete Spence served a sentence in Arizona State Prison for an 1883 manslaughter charge and died in prison in 1914.

Billy "the Kid" Claiborne was killed in a gunfight in Tombstone in late 1882, by gunman Franklin Leslie. Billy was 22 years old.

Billy Claiborne believed Leslie killed Ringo, and it was said that his fatal shootout with Leslie was due to that fact. But in reality Claiborne was demanding that Leslie refer to him as "Billy the Kid". And when Leslie refused, well Claiborne challenged him.

Billy Claiborne was shot through the right side, the bullet exiting out his back, and died hours later. His last words were supposedly "Frank Leslie killed John Ringo. I saw him do it". Yes, yet another claim that has no evidence to support it.

Ike Clanton was caught stealing cattle on June 1st, 1887, and was shot dead by lawman Jonas V. Brighton. Supposedly he was resisting arrest. Clanton was thought to be about 40 years old at the time of his death.

John H. "Doc" Holliday died of TB, tuberculosis, in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, November 8, 1887. He was 36 years of age. And yes, back in those days, TB was called "consumption." Consumption is an old name for tuberculosis (TB) that describes how the illness consumed a person as they waste away.

Johnny Behan was not re-nominated by the local Democrat Party for the sheriff race in 1882 and never again worked as a lawman. He spent the rest of his life at various government jobs and died in Tucson of natural causes at age 67 in 1912.

As for the Earp brothers? Of course, Morgan Earp was killed after being shot in the back while playing billiards at 10:50pm on Saturday, March 18th, 1882, less than five months after the O.K. Corral fight. He was 30 years old. He was first buried in the old city cemetery of Colton near Mount Slover. When the cemetery was moved in 1892, Morgan's body was reburied in the Hermosa Cemetery in Colton, California.

The revolver that Morgan was supposedly wearing when he was killed can be seen on display at the College of the Ozarks in Branson, Missouri. The pearl-handled grip is still stained with Morgan's blood from the fatal injury sustained during his last game of pool.

Warren Earp joined older brother Wyatt and was in town when Morgan was assassinated. He also helped Wyatt in the hunt for the outlaws they believed responsible. Later in life, Warren developed a reputation as a loudmouth bully. And yes, there are reports to say that he was a homosexual.

On July 6, 1900, Warren became involved in an argument with rancher Henry Hooker's range boss, Johnny Boyett, inside Brown's Saloon in Willcox.

Boyett and Warren had been involved in verbal disputes before that night, and rumor was that their mutual dislike stemmed from affections for the same woman, possibly a local prostitute. Then again, there are those who say that Warren Earp had homosexual interest in Boyett who was not interested in that lifestyle.

Either way, the Tombstone Epitaph said the incident began out of Warren Earp's constant bullying of Boyett. In fact, there are some stories that say Earp was angry with Boyett for turning down his homosexual advances and that's why he picked on Boyett. Yes, believe it or not, there are stories out there that say Warren Earp was indeed a homosexual and a bully. Imagine that.

Later that night, the two men, both drunk, began arguing. Bystanders said they "never heard any man take such abuse."

Warren Earp is alleged to have said "Boyett, get your gun and we'll settle this right here. I've got mine, go and get yours".

Boyett left and returned shortly afterwards. Supposedly Boyett had two .45 caliber Colt handguns. Boyett called out for Earp, who walked in from another doorway. Immediately upon seeing Earp, Boyett fired two rounds, but both missed. Now we know why he needed two pistols. He needed more bullets!

Supposedly Warren Earp stepped outside of the saloon onto the street without producing a weapon, just as Boyett fired two more rounds, missing again! Then Earp walked towards Boyett, opened his coat and vest. "I have not got arms. You have a good deal the best of this".

Earp continued walking toward Boyett, talking the entire time. As Boyett warned him several times to halt, Boyett appearing slightly frightened but angry. Then when Earp did not stop, Boyett fired a fifth round, this time striking Earp in the chest, killing him almost instantly.

Boyett claimed that he feared for his life, and that by allowing Warren Earp to get too close, he believed his life was in danger. It is said that while Earp didn't have a gun on him -- he did have an open pocket knife in his fist.

Boyett was arrested for the shooting. The coroner's inquest confirmed that he killed Warren Earp in self-defense. Fearing retribution from the other Earp brothers, Boyett sought protection from the local sheriff. Maybe his fear was well founded? After all, the Earps were known for taking the law into their own hands when it suited them.

The Tombstone Epitaph reported the following on July 9th, 1900:

"Warren Earp, the youngest of the four Earp brothers whose names twenty years ago were synonymous with gun fighting on the Arizona frontier, "died with his boots on" here. He was shot through, the heart in a saloon by Cowboy Johnny Boyett, and died almost Instantly. The shooting occurred early in the morning and grew out of a feud that had existed between the two men ever since the bloody fights between the Earp's and Arizona cattle rustler about Tombstone In the early eighties [1880s]. Earp had habitually bullied Boyett for months past, and the latter always tried to avoid a quarrel. A few days ago Earp cornered Boyett in a saloon, and, pressing a revolver against Boyett's stomach, made him promise that if they ever quarreled again the one should kill the other.

The two men met in a restaurant and Earp began his abuse. Boyett went Into an adjoining saloon, followed by Earp. The latter said: "Boyett, go get your gun and we'll settle the matter right here. I've got my gun; go get yours." Boyett was willing and agreed to return in a few moments and fight it out. Earp also left the saloon. Boyett returned very soon and finding Earp gone warned all loungers in the saloon to clear out, emphasizing his warning by shooting into the ceiling. Earp shortly appeared through a back door. He started toward Boyett, throwing open his coat and saying: "Boyett, I am unarmed; you have the best of this," advancing as spoke. Boyett warned him not to come nearer, but Earp did not heed the words, and when within eight feet Boyett fired, shooting Earp through the heart and killing him instantly. Warren Earp was the youngest brother of the Earp family.

He was well known by Under-Sheriff Paul of Tucson, who was Sheriff of Pima county in the eighties when trouble occurred between the Earps and the Clanton gang. Earp came to this country about the time of the beginning of the feud from Colton, Cal. He was one of the original brothers and took an active part in their fights after he arrived. Morgan Earp was killed In 1883 In Bob Hatch's saloon in Tombstone, being shot from the back as he was playing billiards. Virgil Earp later was shot in the arm and seriously wounded and the killing of Frank Stilwell occurred In Tucson not long after, when he attempted to shoot Virgil through a car window. Stilwell was shot by Wyatt Earp. Warren came here when his brothers got into trouble at Tombstone with the Clanton gang and he has remained here since. He was driving stage from Willcox to Fort Grant and had done freighting."

Johnny Boyett returned to work on Hooker's ranch, staying out of Willcox for a long period of time. James and Newton Earp did not get involved in the incident, nor did Wyatt who was staying out of Arizona as he was still wanted for murdering Frank Stilwell.

It was later falsely reported that the Earps avenged Warren's death by killing Johnny Boyett. Fact is that Johnny Boyett eventually retired in Redlands, California. He later died while visiting Texas.

Virgil Earp was ambushed on the streets of Tombstone on the evening of December 28, 1881, by hidden assailants shooting from the second story of an unfinished building. The wound eventually left him without the use of his left arm. Of course, as most of us already know, Wyatt used his brother getting shot to send off a plea to be made Deputy U.S. Marshal.

Virgil left Tombstone for California after Morgan was killed. Later, he served as the "Town Marshal" in Colton, California. He was also hired by the Southern Pacific Railroad as a Railroad Policeman, He lived without use of the left arm, continuing as a lawman in California. He died of pneumonia at the age of 62 in 1905, still on the job as a peace officer.

For me, I don't think Virgil was like his other brothers. He surely wasn't like Wyatt. In fact, after reading about Virgil Earp, I'd have to say that he was in the same position as lawmen Frank Dalton who was nothing like his famous outlaw brothers. And while I see James Masterson as the best lawman in the Masterson family, I'd say that Virgil was the real lawman in the Earp family.

And yes, that's the way I see it.

Tom Correa


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