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Thread: The OK Corral: what really happened one fine day in Tombstone

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    Regular Member EMNofSeattle's Avatar
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    The OK Corral: what really happened one fine day in Tombstone

    By EMNofSeattle


    Prelude

    The gunfight at the OK corral in Tombstone, Arizona has been one of the most famous and yet obscure events in U.S. History. Throughout the 1940s and 1950s various cowboy action movies and television movies referenced or portrayed the famous gunfight. Modern day gun control advocates often use "The OK corral" to describe the percieved deadly consequences of unrestricted open carry or shall issue concealed carry permitting. I have noted in many conversations with individuals on both sides of the gun control debate that many people are unaware of the context, history, or events of October 26, 1881.
    Tombstone, Arizona was founded by prospectors in 1877 and grew rapidly, the town was officially "incorporated" in 1879 (1). Shortly after Virgil Earp was appointed as a Deputy U.S. Marshal for the region. He soon was appointed as "Town Marshal". Earp however wanted to become the elected Sheriff of Cochise County following a dispute in which the county sheriff Johnny Behan refused to pay Earp and his posse for deputy work done for the county (2). Earp was not universally liked by the townspeople, but tended to lookout for the interests of residents and business owners. Virgil and his brothers Morgan and Wyatt constituted the law enforcement of the town of tombstone. The famed western gunfighter Doc Holliday was a friend of the Earps and was a person often deputized for law enforcement work in Tombstone. Hollidays reputation had been injured by allegations that he had participated in the robbery of a Wells Fargo stagecoach, although no solid evidence existed to implicate Holliday in the robbery. Kate Elder, Holliday's common-law wife in a fight with Holliday had gotten drunk and accused Holliday of the stagecoach robbery, even signing an indictment written by Sheriff Behan, Holliday was promptly arrested, but his indictment was dissolved by Judge Spicer citing lack of evidence after Kate recanted. (2) It was with this in mind that Wyatt first approached Ike Clanton.
    Wyatt proposed a deal with Clanton (a notorious "cowboy" and cattle rustler) Clanton would snitch on and lure some of his fellow criminals into a trap, these criminals were suspected of the stagecoach robbery, Wyatt hoped they could apprehend or kill the three suspects, exonerate Holliday, embaress Behan, and give Ike the reward. The plan was never carried out as the three boys died that summer before Wyatt could confirm the reward was for "dead or alive" (3)
    In the following months Ike Clanton began to make threats against the Earps, and had gotten into an altercation with Holliday. Numerous incidents marked the time leading up to the gunfight of hostility between Clanton and the Earps, on October 26th Clanton came into tombstone visibly armed, and gathered with fellow cowboys Frank and Tom McLaury and Billy Claiborne had entered town. Witnesses had reported hearing Clanton lodging threats against the Earps. Virgil and Morgan arrested Clanton and dragged him to court, where he was fined and allowed to leave without his firearms. Clanton returned to OK corral and rejoined the other cowboys. At this time Virgil had enough of Clanton. Virgil armed himself and Doc Holliday and brought him along with Wyatt and Morgan to the Corral, Sheriff Behan attempted to stop them, and was brushed aside. (4)

    The Gunfight

    The Earps approached the Corral with their revolvers held in hand, while Holliday carried a double barreled shotgun under his coat. As Virgil approached Clanton and his gang he said "throw up your arms we want your guns" To this day no one is sure who exactly fired first, but two shots rang out followed by a pause, then a more lively exchange of fire. less then thirty seconds later Frank McLaury lay dead, and Tom McLaury, having received a blast of buckshot from Holliday, and Billy Clanton were fatally injured. Morgan and Virgil suffered flesh wounds. Roughly thirty shots were fired. As quickly as it began, the greatest gun battle of the wild west was over. (5)

    Aftermath

    Ike Clanton was the only survivor of the "cowboys" having been disarmed by Virgil, Clanton had tried to grab a hold of Wyatt, but seeing he was disarmed, Wyatt brushed him aside and knocked him to the ground. Wyatt remained uninjured, and likely never even fired. As soon as the smoke had cleared Sheriff Behan strolled up to Wyatt and told him "I'll have to arrest you now" Wyatt is reported saying "Not today Johnny, you told us they were disarmed" "not today" None of the Earps or Holliday were arrested that day. (6)
    Ike Clanton proceeded to file charges for murder against the three Earps and Holliday. Roughly a month after shooting a grand jury was convened to hear the indictments against the four. The main witnesses for the prosecution were Ike and Sheriff Behan, they testified that the cowboys had put their hands up to surrender and were gunned down with Holliday firing the first shots. Numerous witnesses gave conflicting views, and in the end Judge Spicer decided not enough evidence existed to indict any of them and the grand jury agreed, rendering a "not-true" bill on in early december of 1881. (7).

    "More Gun Control or More Gun Fights at the OK Corral?"

    The events of October 26, 1881 have been largely forgotten in their details, and the term "OK Corral" has taken a new meaning with gun control advocates often using OK corral as a synonym for "loose gun laws" An article by Richard Farrell specifically uses this comparison in the wake of the Theatre shooting in Aurora Colorado (8). These comparisons are false, Tombstone had much stricter gun laws (albiet that were inconsistantly enforced) The fight at OK corral involved not murdering unarmed civilians wholesale, but a questionable fight between two armed outlaws (Tom McLaury was later found to be unarmed) and a Law enforcement officer and his deputies. Neither the police nor the crooks are giving up their guns anytime soon. The next time someone compares lenient gun laws to "OK Corral" you now have the information to solidly refute this prevelant false comparison.

    Works Cited
    1)http://www.tombstoneweb.com/history.html
    2)Murder in Tombstone: The Forgotten Trial of Wyatt Earp, Lubet, Steve p.38
    3)Murder in Tombstone: The Forgotten Trial of Wyatt Earp Lubet, Steve p.39-41
    4)Murder in Tombstone: The Forgotten Trial of Wyatt Earp, Lubet, Steve p. 41-50
    5)Murder in Tombstone: The Forgotten Trial of Wyatt Earp Lubet, Steve p.52-55
    6) 7)O.K. Corral: A Gunfight Shrouded in Mystery, Wild West Magazine, Terfiller, Casey. Morey, Jerry. October 2001
    8) More Gun Control or More Gun Fights at the OK Corral? Farrell, Richard. American Titanic
    July 21, 2012 <http://americantitanic.wordpress.com/2012/07/31/more-gun-control-or-more-gun-fights-at-the-ok-corral/>
    Last edited by EMNofSeattle; 10-08-2012 at 07:54 PM.
    they love our milk and honey, but they preach about some other way of living, when they're running down my country man they're walkin' on the fightin side of me

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    Regular Member EMNofSeattle's Avatar
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    This essay is now complete
    they love our milk and honey, but they preach about some other way of living, when they're running down my country man they're walkin' on the fightin side of me

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    Regular Member EMNofSeattle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ca Patriot View Post
    from what I have learned in the past few years, the Earps were as big of criminals as the other guys.

    lots of politics and money involved.
    As was the custom in the old west, law enforcement was quick and brutal. Wyatt Earp once admitted to killing over 12 people in his lifetime. Virgil and Morgan I'm not sure.
    they love our milk and honey, but they preach about some other way of living, when they're running down my country man they're walkin' on the fightin side of me

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    Regular Member EMNofSeattle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gutshot View Post
    Criminals, maybe, but unproven. Questionable, certainly. As big as the other guys, no way. The Clantons and their associates were known cattle thieves and robbers. Ike was killed in an attempted bank robbery a short time after the OK Corral.
    Ike was actually killed while stealing some guys cattle, he was shot and left to die, A group of Mormons found his body and put him in a shallow unmarked grave.

    Morgan was killed and Virgil maimed in retaliation for the OK corral fight, this led Wyatt to go on a Vendetta tour where he killed four men suspected of attacking his brothers. The story of the Earps is indicative of how things were done in that day and age. it may be controversial now, but so are the Montana Vigilantes, who's famous "3-7-77" was one of the most feared sights in the Montana territory.

    and the vigilantes had such an effect that 3-7-77 is embossed on Montana Highway Patrol patches and vehicles.


    One must not be too quick to judge the lawmen of the old west. the lived in a society far different and much more dangerous then ours.
    they love our milk and honey, but they preach about some other way of living, when they're running down my country man they're walkin' on the fightin side of me

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    Regular Member EMNofSeattle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by scott58dh View Post
    --Moderator deleted quote--
    Oh great here we go.......
    Last edited by Grapeshot; 10-18-2012 at 08:07 PM. Reason: Deleted quote
    they love our milk and honey, but they preach about some other way of living, when they're running down my country man they're walkin' on the fightin side of me

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    Regular Member sudden valley gunner's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by EMNofSeattle View Post


    One must not be too quick to judge the lawmen of the old west. the lived in a society far different and much more dangerous then ours.
    True only if you believe in Hollywood myths and modern propaganda that fits an agenda where we need "controllers".
    Last edited by sudden valley gunner; 10-09-2012 at 09:04 AM.
    I am not anti Cop I am just pro Citizen.

    U.S. v. Minker, 350 US 179, at page 187
    "Because of what appears to be a lawful command on the surface, many citizens, because
    of their respect for what only appears to be a law, are cunningly coerced into waiving their
    rights, due to ignorance." (Paraphrased)

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    Regular Member EMNofSeattle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sudden valley gunner View Post
    True only if you believe in Hollywood myths and modern propaganda that fits an agenda where we need "controllers".
    See the problem is, you're reaching the same conclusion for different reasons. The reason that the wild west was not as violent as portrayed was because of lawmen who didn't care about people's constitutional rights. it really is as simple as that. just read my first post on this thread and then tell me if would have gone open carrying with a "don't earp me" shirt in Tombstone? Justice was dispensed quick and brutal.

    And if there was no lawman, the citizens would choose one quickly, and often times "vigilance committees" would be formed, these operated with the tacit approval of law enforcement authorities or courts if there even were any.

    One of Doc Holliday's kills was a army cavalryman who came and tried to abduct a saloon girl, when holliday stopped him from doing that the cavalryman left the bar, and fired one shot, no one knows where, probably in the sky, but Holliday stormed straight out the saloon and killed him right there.

    now how do you think this shooting was looked at? holliday was indicted, and the indictment was quickly and quietly dropped.

    Certainly I would not want to live in such a society. maybe you do, but I have feeling after you got holed or arrested by some sheriff for the crime of carrying a firearm in town (a law adopted in most frontier settlements, except for lawmen and their friends) you would stop seeing it in romantic lenses.
    they love our milk and honey, but they preach about some other way of living, when they're running down my country man they're walkin' on the fightin side of me

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    Regular Member sudden valley gunner's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by EMNofSeattle View Post
    See the problem is, you're reaching the same conclusion for different reasons. The reason that the wild west was not as violent as portrayed was because of lawmen who didn't care about people's constitutional rights. it really is as simple as that. just read my first post on this thread and then tell me if would have gone open carrying with a "don't earp me" shirt in Tombstone? Justice was dispensed quick and brutal.

    And if there was no lawman, the citizens would choose one quickly, and often times "vigilance committees" would be formed, these operated with the tacit approval of law enforcement authorities or courts if there even were any.

    One of Doc Holliday's kills was a army cavalryman who came and tried to abduct a saloon girl, when holliday stopped him from doing that the cavalryman left the bar, and fired one shot, no one knows where, probably in the sky, but Holliday stormed straight out the saloon and killed him right there.

    now how do you think this shooting was looked at? holliday was indicted, and the indictment was quickly and quietly dropped.

    Certainly I would not want to live in such a society. maybe you do, but I have feeling after you got holed or arrested by some sheriff for the crime of carrying a firearm in town (a law adopted in most frontier settlements, except for lawmen and their friends) you would stop seeing it in romantic lenses.

    You really love jumping to conclusions, this post you posted was the rarity not the norm in "Wild West". The towns that banned firearms wasn't the norm either.

    Your second sentence proves my point citizens took care of problems.

    Birk Murdered a drunk, deaf, wood carver who was not warranting alarm to anyone. So your analogy falls flat. Are you wanting to defend Birk too?

    Interesting you say it was violent and post these posts in support of modern unconstitutional police but now say it wasn't as violent as you originally portrayed because of unconstitutional "law man" of the past. This just isn't based on any facts, historically if you would actually read something other than Hollywood myths or modern statist propaganda, the West just wasn't that violent. The norm was actually peace and social cooperation from folks of drastically different backgrounds who found a way to make a living and live together.
    I am not anti Cop I am just pro Citizen.

    U.S. v. Minker, 350 US 179, at page 187
    "Because of what appears to be a lawful command on the surface, many citizens, because
    of their respect for what only appears to be a law, are cunningly coerced into waiving their
    rights, due to ignorance." (Paraphrased)

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    Regular Member EMNofSeattle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sudden valley gunner View Post
    You really love jumping to conclusions, this post you posted was the rarity not the norm in "Wild West". The towns that banned firearms wasn't the norm either.
    Dodge City, Abilene, Wichita, Tombstone, Yuma, and Bodie (a mining town in far eastern California) all had laws requiring firearms be deopisited to the Sheriff or Saloon upon entering town. I suppose I can't know the law in every single settlement in the American west, but it's a good guess that numerous towns had similar laws.


    Your second sentence proves my point citizens took care of problems.
    Because there was no organized system of enforcement and punishment. The problem with vigilantes is, because they operate without sanction of the state the constitution doesn't apply to them. If I'm out ranching my cattle, and someone rustles them, maybe I didn't know it was you, but I saw someone at a distance that kind of looked like you, and I honestly believed it was you, well what happens then, I go to vigilance committee, and while vigiliance comittees were rarely hysteric lynch mobs, most of the time they did operate methodically and carefully, chances are how they conducted themselves would be seen as constitutional violations of your rights by modern courts, and if they believe what I tell them chances are you might have needed to change your ZIP code quickly for your own health. If after I claim you stole my cattle you wake up and "3-7-77" is scrawled on your house I'd move and move quickly....

    Birk Murdered a drunk, deaf, wood carver who was not warranting alarm to anyone. So your analogy falls flat. Are you wanting to defend Birk too?
    Why not? you probably think I support him anyway

    Interesting you say it was violent and post these posts in support of modern unconstitutional police but now say it wasn't as violent as you originally portrayed because of unconstitutional "law man" of the past
    No this is a misreading of what I intended to say, maybe my grammar skills need improvement. The dime novel hollywood depiction of gun fights every day is complete ********, definitely. But to claim it was tame and settled and a libertarian utopia is also an incorrect view. Order was maintained because the slightest missteps would be punished, brutally. In Texas for instance it is completely legal to shoot someone in the back as they flee with your property(Penal Code 2.9.42). this is a leftover from the frontier days. The shooting of someone like John T Williams in the Frontier west would be unlikely to result in any punishment to the slayer. Indictments were filed all the time in the old west, but anyone could file one, there was no DA. While the benefits of private prosecution warrant a whole thread of their own (and maybe I will start one to discuss that) the point in that is that charges were only filed against the Earps because Clanton could go to the justice of the peace himself and file an indictment and get the justice to hold a hearing. As the attempt to prosecute the Earps shows, these indictments were generally failures.
    I doubt Birk would have been prosecuted in Tombstone either, unless Williams had political connections. but I guess he would've seen a judge and grand jury....

    But the simple point here is that crime was not tolerated and coercion and threats, and the like were used to keep it from happening. That's why there was little actual crime. Also was the fact that many things considered crimes today were not back then for instance getting into a fight with someone rarely resulted in criminal charges.


    This just isn't based on any facts, historically if you would actually read something other than Hollywood myths or modern statist propaganda, the West just wasn't that violent. The norm was actually peace and social cooperation from folks of drastically different backgrounds who found a way to make a living and live together.
    Socialism!
    they love our milk and honey, but they preach about some other way of living, when they're running down my country man they're walkin' on the fightin side of me

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    Regular Member WalkingWolf's Avatar
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    Most towns had no lawman, and little crime. The tales of the wild west are just that, tales.
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    They were not a state of the USA during that time period ...

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    Regular Member sudden valley gunner's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by WalkingWolf View Post
    Most towns had no lawman, and little crime. The tales of the wild west are just that, tales.
    =
    +1

    History proves this out.

    Some folks will hold on to a misinterpretation of a few isolated instances, to judge the whole west. The truth was the "civilized" east coast under governments where way more violent than the "Wild West".
    I am not anti Cop I am just pro Citizen.

    U.S. v. Minker, 350 US 179, at page 187
    "Because of what appears to be a lawful command on the surface, many citizens, because
    of their respect for what only appears to be a law, are cunningly coerced into waiving their
    rights, due to ignorance." (Paraphrased)

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    Regular Member sudden valley gunner's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by EMNofSeattle View Post
    Dodge City, Abilene, Wichita, Tombstone, Yuma, and Bodie (a mining town in far eastern California) all had laws requiring firearms be deopisited to the Sheriff or Saloon upon entering town. I suppose I can't know the law in every single settlement in the American west, but it's a good guess that numerous towns had similar laws.
    This doesn't disprove my point in any way. Most people carried guns everywhere. So maybe a few towns restricted the carry, but most folks didn't live in towns.



    Because there was no organized system of enforcement and punishment. The problem with vigilantes is, because they operate without sanction of the state the constitution doesn't apply to them. If I'm out ranching my cattle, and someone rustles them, maybe I didn't know it was you, but I saw someone at a distance that kind of looked like you, and I honestly believed it was you, well what happens then, I go to vigilance committee, and while vigiliance comittees were rarely hysteric lynch mobs, most of the time they did operate methodically and carefully, chances are how they conducted themselves would be seen as constitutional violations of your rights by modern courts, and if they believe what I tell them chances are you might have needed to change your ZIP code quickly for your own health. If after I claim you stole my cattle you wake up and "3-7-77" is scrawled on your house I'd move and move quickly....
    Grasping at straws, these instances rarely happened. And the fear of the unconstitutionally restricted vigilantes was one reason. You really need to read up on some history, tribunals and court systems based on common law were often established.



    Why not? you probably think I support him anyway
    Interesting. Do you?



    No this is a misreading of what I intended to say, maybe my grammar skills need improvement. The dime novel hollywood depiction of gun fights every day is complete ********, definitely. But to claim it was tame and settled and a libertarian utopia is also an incorrect view. Order was maintained because the slightest missteps would be punished, brutally. In Texas for instance it is completely legal to shoot someone in the back as they flee with your property(Penal Code 2.9.42). this is a leftover from the frontier days. The shooting of someone like John T Williams in the Frontier west would be unlikely to result in any punishment to the slayer. Indictments were filed all the time in the old west, but anyone could file one, there was no DA. While the benefits of private prosecution warrant a whole thread of their own (and maybe I will start one to discuss that) the point in that is that charges were only filed against the Earps because Clanton could go to the justice of the peace himself and file an indictment and get the justice to hold a hearing. As the attempt to prosecute the Earps shows, these indictments were generally failures.
    I doubt Birk would have been prosecuted in Tombstone either, unless Williams had political connections. but I guess he would've seen a judge and grand jury....

    But the simple point here is that crime was not tolerated and coercion and threats, and the like were used to keep it from happening. That's why there was little actual crime. Also was the fact that many things considered crimes today were not back then for instance getting into a fight with someone rarely resulted in criminal charges.
    You are making my point crime was low because, you could get shot in the back for stealing property. So what? Don't steal?

    The shooting of Williams weren't likely to happen because there wasn't unconstitutional proactive police looking for "incidents".

    Did you ever think the charges by the crooks the Clantons didn't go anywhere because the town had hired the Earps to take care of the Clantons?

    So you admit there was little actual crime, but but because you feel it was by 'threats and coercion' by civilians that kept it low that somehow that is worse than having a government police force that uses threats, coercion, violence, perjury, and immunity of the state?

    I don't think getting into a fight of two consenting adults should result in criminal charges.








    Socialism!
    Nope. Two different beasts.

    P.S. My original point was to contradict, the view of the violent Wild Wild West myth, put forth in the OP. It seems you agree now but just don't agree with the methods done by civilians working without government.

    History also shows that violent crime rose with the advent of U.S. intervention in the west and the advent of institutionalized government.

    Turn from the Dark side young Padawan. Join us in Liberty.
    I am not anti Cop I am just pro Citizen.

    U.S. v. Minker, 350 US 179, at page 187
    "Because of what appears to be a lawful command on the surface, many citizens, because
    of their respect for what only appears to be a law, are cunningly coerced into waiving their
    rights, due to ignorance." (Paraphrased)

  14. #14
    Regular Member OC for ME's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sudden valley gunner View Post
    <snip> I don't think getting into a fight of two consenting adults should result in criminal charges. <snip>
    It wouldn't, normally, because that would be classified as pugilism.....until the defeated party claimed "unprovoked assault" by the victor.
    "I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it." - Thomas Jefferson.

    "Better that ten guilty persons escape, than that one innocent suffer" - English jurist William Blackstone.
    It is AFAIK original to me. Compromise is failure on the installment plan, particularly when dealing with so intractable an opponent as ignorance. - Nightmare

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