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Today in History: Gunfight at the OK Corrall (1881)

On this day, 130 years ago, one of the legendary events known to the Old West took place in Arizona. Let us step back in time and relive the infamous shootout between the Earp brothers and the Clanton-McLaury gang in OK Corral.

Tombstone in 1881. Photo via Tombstone Arizona Extra Pictures

The city of Tombstone in Arizona prospered into a wealthy mining town after silver was discovered nearby in 1877. Former Kansas police officer Wyatt Earp and his brothers, town marshal Virgil and Morgan, served as the law enforcers of the growing city. Their status as the “good guys” was nonetheless tinged with controversy, as they were also reputed to be ruthless and power-hungry.

On the outskirts of the town lived the “bad guys”—a group of rowdy cowboys, the Clantons and the McLaurys, who lived on a ranch. They were notorious for being outlaws that sidelined as thieves, murderers, and cattle rustlers.

On October 25, Ike Clanton and Tom McLaury went to Tombstone to sell beef and get supplies. Later, the two cowboys had an altercation with the Earps and their friend, Doc Holliday. Clanton, who had been threatening the Earps for arresting some of the cowboys, threw another threat against the brothers.

The next day, perhaps with the threat still fresh in mind, Virgil and Wyatt Earp pistol-whipped Ike Clanton and Tom McLaury after noticing that the cowboys were illegally carrying revolvers with them. The tension between the two groups soon escalated when the other cowboys learned that their brothers were “buffaloed.”

What followed was the confrontation and exchange of fire between the two groups in a vacant lot by the OK Corral. Virgil Earp ordered the cowboys to adhere to the city ordinance and surrender their weapons, but they refused. As to who fired first shot, nobody can still say for certain, but reports tell of Virgil Earp being the first to draw his weapon. The shoot-out lasted for only 30 seconds, but left three cowboys—the McLaury Brothers and Billy Clanton—dead, and the Earps and Doc Holliday injured.

The casualties of the O.K. Corrall shootout. Photo via Tombstone Arizona Extra Pictures

The shootout was unknown to the world until it was popularized by author Stuart Lake in 1931, through a fictionalized biography on Wyatt Earp. Nevertheless, it proved to be one of the best Old West stories worthy of being immortalized into several Hollywood films.

Curious about the modern day Tombstone and OK Corral? Let our very own Lomographer, blueskyandhardrock, show you some nice photos below!

Now, let’s take a look at a selection of modern-day cowboys and Old West-inspired photos from the community!

Sources and additional readings:
This Day in History: Shootout at the OK Corral — History.com
Gunfight at the O.K. Corral — Wikipedia

written by plasticpopsicle

2 comments

  1. emperornorton

    emperornorton

    Here's an interesting fact" Wyatt Earp ended his days in Colton, California. He is buried in a Jewish Cemetery in San Francisco's city of the dead Colma, California. (His wife was Jewish.)

    almost 3 years ago · report as spam
  2. bountyhunter

    Without going back in time to be there and see first hand what happened I am sure there will always be speculation on this subject. Other then court records the only other source is eye witness,[ not always reliable], hearsay, [ never reliable] , or those of the individuals themselves, [ all of which will be suspect ] . And it was a different time, a time when some things ended in gunplay and in general the outcome was considered as just. Real law was sparse at best. A lot of small towns had no law what so ever.
    almost 2 years ago · report as spam