Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Wyatt Earp -- Not Mentioned OK Corral Gunfight Reports

I hope you enjoy reading old newspaper articles as much as I do. I really like the way most call a spade a spade. And as most of you have heard me say time and time again, I like to read old newspapers when looking for evidence of what took place during this or that event.

I love looking for what one paper has to say versus another, what they have in common, or what they get wrong. Of course sometimes, what's evident is what they leave out. Please check out the Sacramento Record-Union article below, it was picked up as a news story when it was syndicated by telegraph.

The Sacramento Record-Union 
October 27, 1881

Arizona Cowboys in Tombstone — Desperate Shooting Affray

TOMBSTONE, October 26th — A sanguinary shooting affray occurred on Fremont street this afternoon. Four cowboys had been in town a few days past drinking heavily, and making themselves generally obnoxious by their boisterous conduct.

This morning City Marshal V.W. Earp arrested one for disorderly conduct, and he was fined $25 and disarmed in the Justice’s Court. He left swearing vengeance on the Sheriff and Marshal Earp and his brother, Morgan, tried to induce them to leave town, but they were thirsting for gore and refused to be pacified.

About 3 p.m. the Earp brothers and J.H. Halilday met the four, who drew upon them at once. when a lively fire commenced from the cowboys against the three citizens.

About thirty shots were fired rapidly and when the smoke of the battle cleared away it was found that Jim and Frank McLoury were gasping in the agoinies of death. Bill Clanton was mortally wounded and died shortly after, Morgan Earp was wounded in the shoulder. V.W. Earp received a flesh wound in the calf of the leg, Halliday escaped unhurt but with several bullet holes in his clothing.

The streets were immediately filled with resolute citizens, many of whom were armed with rifles and pistols. There was great excitement but no further trouble is anticipated.

Ike Clanton, of the cowboys, escaped with a slight wound and is now to jail. The Sheriff’s posse is now under arms. Morgan Earp, after being wounded and fallen struggled to his feet and continued the fight until he had emptied his revolver. His wound is not though to be serious. The citizens are determined to put down the riotous element at all hazards.

-- end of article.

No, I did not correct any of the misspellings in the 1881 Sacramento Record-Union article above. And besides some of the facts being questionable, if you notice, Wyatt Earp was not mentioned at all.

Frankly, there are reasons why he wasn't mentioned. First, he was only deputized that morning. His full time job at the time, as he states in his court testimony, is bartender. Second, he was not an important player in all that went on that day.

While I'm sure Wyatt Earp fans will send me nasty letters, it's just the truth that he wasn't very well known until he took part in the fixing of the Fitzsimmons vs Sharkey Heavyweight Championship Fight in 1896. Fact is, during the post-fight investigation, Earp's wrongdoing as an accomplice in fixing that fight made him famous -- if not infamous.

To read more about when Wyatt Earp went from unknown to infamous, click here: Wyatt Earp -- From Unknown To Notorious Desperado

Actually Wyatt Earp received much more publicity for his notorious act as a crooked referee than he ever did for that gunfight in 1881 at what we all known as the gunfight near the O.K. Corral. And while today we're all lead to believe that Wyatt Earp was a legend in the West and in charge of his brothers and Doc Holliday at the OK Corral, fact is that he was almost never mentioned at all in any of the reports that were telegraphed for syndication about the shooting that took place that day.

And friends, I was surprised that the reporter used the term "sanguinary" instead of simply saying a shooting "involving or causing much bloodshed," and using the term "affray" instead of just saying the shooting was "an instance of fighting in a public place that disturbs the peace."

Writers, you gotta love 'em!

Tom Correa


  1. The wording of these old articles shows, to me, that the readers were equipped with far better vocabularies than many of our people today. Sanguinary is a far more romantic word than bloody. I enjoy the old articles for their language if nothing else.

  2. I wonder what else they didn't mention about the O.K. Corral? I'd be dying to know more.


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