☞Today in Old West History — On today’s date 137 years ago, Wednesday, October 26, 1881, at 3:00 PM, the most famous event in the entire history of the Old West took place at the town of Tombstone in Arizona Territory — in a narrow lot six doors west of the rear entrance to the O.K. Corral on Fremont Street.
☞The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, which is believed to have lasted for only about thirty seconds, was fought between the outlaw Cowboys Gang members Billy Claiborne, Ike & Billy Clanton, & Tom & Frank McLaury, against a group of Lawmen comprised of Marshal Virgil Earp & his brothers Morgan & Wyatt, aided by Doc Holliday. Ike Clanton & Billy Claiborne ran from the fight unharmed, but Ike’s brother Billy Clanton was killed, along with both McLaurys. Virgil & Morgan were wounded, but Wyatt Earp & Doc Holliday came through the fight unscathed.
☞The funerals for Billy Clanton (age 19), Tom McLaury (age 28), & his older brother Frank (age 33) were well-attended. Around 300 people joined in the procession to Boot Hill, & as many as 2,000 watched from the sidewalks of Tombstone.
☞The Coroner’s Jury ruling neither condemned nor exonerated the Lawmen for shooting the Cowboys. “William Clanton, Frank, & Thomas McLaury, came to their deaths in the town of Tombstone on October 26, 1881 from the effects of gunshot wounds inflicted by Virgil, Morgan, & Wyatt Earp, & Doc Holliday.
☞It is curiously interesting to compare the famous Gunfight at the O.K. Corral to the relatively unknown Gun Battle at Buttermilk Junction. (Buttermilk Junction is the location where the tracks of the Fort Worth & New Orleans railroad & the tracks of the Missouri Pacific railroad intersected, & it is the namesake of Buttermilk Junction Old-Time String Band.)
☞The 1881 Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, with seven participants & resulting in three deaths, was a relatively obscure & almost unknown event outside of Arizona Territory at the time when it took place. The 1886 Gun Battle at Buttermilk Junction near Fort Worth was fought between striking railroad labor union members against guards hired by the railroad companies led by former Fort Worth town marshal Longhair Jim Courtright (1848-1887). This gunfight resulted in only one death, but it involved railroad companies, labor unions, local law enforcement, the Texas Rangers, & the Texas State Militia — so it was widely reported in newspapers & magazines all around the country & it soon became one of the most famous events of its day. By the 1930s, the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral had gone from relative obscurity to world-wide fame, & the once-famous Gun Battle at Buttermilk Junction had faded into obscurity & was mostly forgotten.
☞The left-hand photograph depicts the remains of the OK Corral after it was severely damaged when the town of Tombstone was devastated by fire in May 1882 — about seven months after the famous gunfight.
☞The right-hand photograph depicts (left-to-right) the bodies of Tom McLaury, Frank McLaury, & Billy Clanton in coffins in the window of the undertakers. This is the only known surviving photograph of Billy Clanton.