Gunfight near the O.K. Corral
Visitors have a choice between a commercial retelling of the 30-second gunfight and a do-it-yourself version at the shootout’s actual location, which was not the O.K. Corral.
The privately owned O.K. Corral features a daily reenactment of the 30-second gunbattle, life-size mockups of the key figures, and information about the Oct. 26, 1881, event.
The tourist attraction also offers tours of C.S. Fly’s Photo Gallery, and displays of Fly’s photos of the Apache warrior Geronimo in 1986 and Tombstone life in the 1880s. Next door is the Tombstone’s Historama, a quirky, old-fashioned presentation on Tombstone history, narrated by Vincent Price, the late horror movie star.
The gunfight, however, occurred not on the O.K. Corral property on Allen Street but a block away on Fremont Street, between Third and Fourth streets. There is no historic marker for the shootout site, but the gunfight began on the south side of Fremont near Fly’s Photography Gallery and what then was a vacant lot to the west that served as a back entrance to the corral. The gunfight spilled out onto Fremont Street from there.
The gunfight was set against a backdrop of conflicts and feuds between the Earps and Doc Holliday on one side and members of the Clanton gang on the other. Virgil Earp was the Tombstone marshal, and Wyatt Earp was a deputy U.S. marshal, while the Frank and Tom McLaury and Billy and Ike Clanton were part of a loose-knit group of outlaws who had been implicated in cattle rustling and robbery. Rising tensions, including threats against Holliday and the Earps, led Virgil Earp to deputize his brothers and Holliday and set out to disarm the McLaurys and Clantons on that fateful October day.
Wyatt Earp testified at the coroner’s inquest that, as he, his brothers Morgan and Virgil and Doc Holliday walked down Fremont, he saw “Frank McLaury, Tom McLaury, and Billy Clanton standing in a row against the east side of the building on the opposite side of the vacant space west of Fly’s photograph gallery. Ike Clanton and Billy Claiborne and a man I don’t know (later determined to be Wes Fuller) were standing in the vacant space about halfway between the photograph gallery and the next building west.”
Earp continued, “The first two shots were fired by Billy Clanton and myself, he shooting at me, and I shooting at Frank McLaury. I don’t know which was fired first. We fired almost together. The fight then became general.”
Tom Laury was mortally wounded and half-ran and half-staggered across Fremont, then fell dead against a telephone pole at Third and Fremont, according to an eyewitness, though another eyewitness said Laury died after being taken into a nearby house. Frank Laury also crossed Fremont before being killed, with both Holliday and Morgan Earp testifying that they fired the fatal shot to his head. Clanton was badly wounded and was taken into the same house on the north side of Fremont, where he died.
Ike Clanton, Billy’s brother, accused the Earps and Holliday of murder, but they were exonerated by a local judge after a 30-day hearing and again by a local grand jury. On Dec. 28, 1881, outlaw cowboys attempted to kill Virgil Earp, maiming him, and on March 19, 1882, they assassinated Morgan Earp. This led to further killings and retributions with federal and county lawmen supporting different sides of the conflict in what became known as the Earp Vendetta Ride.
326 E. Allen St.
Tombstone, AZ 85638
(520) 457-3456 ?