If not for a 27-second gunfight near Tombstone’s O.K. Corral, many of the Old West’s most colorful characters would be remembered as little more than historical footnotes.
But that shoot-out transformed all who participated—and many of their friends and acquaintances—into legends. Lawman or thief, drunkard or dope addict, hero or coward, they all now have one thing in common—they are no more. Here, then, are photos of their final resting places, and a small tribute to their lasting immortality.
MARY K. “BIG NOSE KATE” CUMMINGS
WILLIAM “BILLY” BREAKENRIDGE
WILLIAM “BILLY” CLAIBORNE (A.K.A. ARIZONA’S BILLY THE KID) Born: October 21, 1860, in Louisiana. Died: November 14, 1882, in Tombstone, Arizona. Buried: Boothill Cemetery, Tombstone. Contributions: Member of the cowboy element; shot and killed Jim Hickey in Charleston (near Tombstone) in 1881; ran from Earp party just before Gunfight near the O.K. Corral; and testified at the inquest. Cause of Death: Gunshot wound inflicted by Frank Leslie outside the Oriental Saloon. Tribute: “…the Kid has gone to Hell. I say so because, if such a place exists and is for bad men, he is there, as he was a notoriously bad egg and has innocent blood on his head.” —Early-day Tombstone resident George Parsons, in his diary, November 1882. Last Words: “[Leslie is] a murdering son-of-a-bitch to shoot a man in the back.” —Billy Claiborne to Dr. George Willis, who replied, “I think he received the wound in the front.”
THOMAS McLAURY & ROBERT FINDLEY “FRANK” McLAURY Thomas Born: 1853 in Oneonta, New York. Frank Born: 1848 in Oneonta, New York.Thomas Died: October 26, 1881. Frank Died: October 26, 1881, in Tombstone, Arizona. Buried: Boothill Cemetery, Tombstone. Contributions: Cochise County ranchers and cattlemen, and friends of the Clanton boys. They were said by some to be intimate with the cowboy element, while others believe it was more of a casual relationship. Cause of Death: During the October 26, 1881, O.K. Corral shoot-out, Thomas was killed by a shotgun wound in the right side, courtesy of Doc Holliday. Frank was killed by a gunshot wound under the ear, courtesy of Morgan Earp. Tribute: “They were participants in one of the world’s most famous gun fights, but their careers prior to that fateful day were mediocre at best, two young, adventurous, hardworking ranch types mixed up with a rowdy cowboy crowd.” —Lynn Bailey and Don Chaput in Cochise County Stalwarts. Last Words: “I have got nothing.” —Tom McLaury in response to Virgil Earp’s command to throw up his hands. “I have you now.” —Frank McLaury to Doc Holliday just before being shot and killed by Morgan Earp.
JOHN HENRY “DOC” HOLLIDAY Born: August 14, 1852, in Griffin, Georgia. Died: November 8, 1887, in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. Buried: Linwood Cemetery, Glenwood Springs. Contributions: Bosom friend of Wyatt Earp; dentist by schooling; gambler by trade; participant in the Gunfight near the O.K. Corral where he shot and killed Tom McLaury with a shotgun; and a member of Wyatt’s Vendetta Ride. Cause of Death: Tuberculosis. Tribute: “…the beginning of my acquaintance with Doc Holliday, the mad, merry scamp with heart of gold and nerves of steel, who, in the dark years that followed stood at my elbow in many a battle to the death. He was a dentist, but he preferred to be a gambler. He was a Virginian, but he preferred to be a frontiersman and a vagabond. He was a philosopher, but he preferred to be a wag. He was long, lean, an ash-blonde, and the quickest man with a six-shooter I ever knew.” —Wyatt Earp, in an interview with the San Francisco Examiner, 1896. Last words: “This is funny.” —According to legend.
CAMILLUS SIDNEY “C.S.” FLY Born: 1849 in Andrews County, Missouri. Died: October 12, 1901, in Bisbee, Arizona. Buried: Tombstone City Cemetery, Tombstone. Contributions: Nicknamed Buck; a famed photographer who photographed Geronimo’s meeting with Gen. George Crook on March 25, 1886; and served as Cochise County sheriff from 1895-96, during which he tracked down the “High-Five Gang.” Cause of Death: Acute alcoholism. Tribute: “Fly recorded the normal and the abnormal sights and scenes of Tombstone—all history now—miners at work in the mines, the mills, citizens posing for relatives back east, graduates of Tombstone’s schools, parties, picnics, parades, organizational gatherings, and the people and buildings of that time.” —Ben Traywick, official Tombstone city historian, 1990s.
JOHN HARRIS BEHAN Born: October 25, 1845, in Westport, Missouri. Died: June 7, 1912, in Tucson, Arizona. Buried: Holy Hope Cemetery, Tucson. Contributions: Member of California Column during the Civil War; Yavapai County sheriff; representative in Seventh (from Prescott) and 10th (from Mohave) territorial legislature; first Cochise County sheriff; and warden of Arizona’s Territorial Prison in Yuma. Cause of Death: Bright’s Disease and hardening of the arteries. Tribute: “Should it not be appropriate for honorable men and women, writers past and present, to figuratively stand at the foot of John Harris Behan’s grave at Tucson’s Holy Hope Cemetery, and with somber reverence, reflect about a man who literally walked through the pages of history … a human being who respected other’s individual rights, and loved life—nothing more, nothing less.” —Bob Alexander in John H. Behan: Sacrificed Sheriff.
CECELIA “MATTIE” BLAYLOCK EARP Born: Possibly February 1855 in Fairfax, Iowa (birth date and place is unclear). Died: July 3, 1888, in Pinal, Arizona. Buried: Old Pinal Cemetery, near Superior, in an unmarked grave. Contributions: Second wife of Wyatt Earp; lost him to Josie Marcus; and moved to Pinal, where she became a soiled dove. Cause of Death: Suicide (took an overdose of laudanum). Tribute: “…as fine a woman as ever lived. She worked like a nigger. Stuck with him [Wyatt] through thick and thin. And was there every minute.” —Allie Earp, Virgil’s wife, to author Frank Waters in the 1930s. Last Words: “She then said ‘come in and sit down and talk’ and I said, ‘How do you feel?’ and she said ‘better’ and that she thought she could sleep.” —Frank Beeler, a witness at the inquest examining Mattie’s death.
MORGAN S. EARP Born: April 24, 1851, in Pella, Iowa. Died: Assassinated March 18, 1882, in Tombstone, Arizona. Buried: Hermosa Cemetery, Colton, California. Contributions: Younger brother of Wyatt Earp; participant in the Gunfight near the O.K. Corral; special deputy for brother Virgil in Tombstone; and his death sparked Wyatt’s Vendetta Ride. Cause of Death: Gunshot wound in the back, while playing pool in Campbell & Hatch’s Saloon. Tribute: “Life for him [Morgan] had been in truth a game, and he had played it with the spirit of a cavalier adventurer, gaily, carelessly, recklessly, bravely—above all bravely. He had cashed in his chips, shoved back his chair, and gone out with a smile into the eternal silence.” —Walter Noble Burns in Tombstone, 1927. Last Words: “They got me, Wyatt, you be careful, don’t let them get you.” —Wyatt Earp.
JOHN RINGO Born: May 3, 1850, in Greensfork, Indiana. Died: July 13, 1882, near Sanders Ranch by the Chiricahua Mountains in Southeast Arizona. Buried: Near the spot where he died, on the banks of Turkey Creek in the foothills of the Chiricahua Mountains. Contributions: Participant in the Mason County “Hoodoo War” in Texas and reputed to be coleader of the cowboy element in Cochise County in the early 1880s. Cause of Death: Gunshot wound (some consider his death a suicide, while others believe Wyatt Earp killed him). Tribute: “Among the colorful characters of those days, John Ringo stands out as much superior in caliber to the other rustlers, if there could be made such a distinction. Ringo was tall, dark, rather an heroic type of man, always quiet in his manner and apparently of some education. No one knew much of him. He seemed to be Curly Bill’s [Brocius] right-hand man and was no doubt feared most by the Earps of all the rustlers.” —Early-day Tombstone resident John Plesant Gray, in his memoirs.
JOHN SLAUGHTER Born: October 2, 1841, in Sabine Parish, Louisiana. Died: February 15, 1922, in Douglas, Arizona. Buried: Douglas Cemetery, Douglas. Contributions: Texas cattleman before moving his herds to Arizona in 1879; owner of the San Bernardino Ranch near Douglas; Cochise County sheriff; and representative in the 24th territorial legislature. Cause of Death: High blood pressure, asthma and tuberculosis. Tribute: “John Slaughter was loved as well as hated. He had a soft spot for little children and raised several besides his own. In the ranch commissary he always had a barrel of candy for them.” —Ervin Bond, author, 1930s.
VIRGIL WALTER EARP Born: July 18, 1843, in Hartford, Kentucky. Died: October 19, 1905, in Goldfield, Nevada. Buried: Riverview Cemetery, Portland, Oregon. Contributions: Union Civil War veteran; constable of Prescott, Arizona; city marshal of Tombstone; participant in the Gunfight near the O.K. Corral; U.S. deputy marshal; and first marshal of Colton, California. Cause of Death: Pneumonia. Tribute: “A great many harsh things have been said and written about the ‘Earp gang,’ but nevertheless it is a fact that a more charitable man never lived than Virgil Earp…. Every desperate act ever known to have been committed by him was clothed with the authority of the law.” —Arizona Daily Journal-Miner, 1905. Last Words: “He said to me, ‘get me a cigar.’ Believing he was feeling better I did so. ‘Now,’ he said, ‘put Hickie’s [his grandniece] last letter under my pillow, light my cigar, and stay here and hold my hand.’”—Allie Earp, his wife.
WARREN BAXTER EARP Born: March 9, 1855, in Pella, Iowa. Died: July 6, 1900, in Willcox, Arizona. Buried: Old Willcox Cemetery, Willcox. Contributions: Nicknamed Tiger; youngest of the Earp brothers; rode with Wyatt on the Vendetta Ride after the O.K. Corral gunfight. Cause of Death: Shot in the chest by Johnny Boyett after a saloon fight. Tribute: “He [Warren] was just an ill-mannered ruffian who got himself killed in a bar brawl,” wrote Phyllis de la Garza, Willcox resident and historian, in a letter to author Michael Hickey (see The Death of Warren Baxter Earp by Michael Hickey). Last Words: “You have got all the better of this.” —Warren, as he approached Johnny Boyett, who subsequently shot him.
WYATT BERRY STAPP EARP Born: March 19, 1848, in Monmouth, Illinois. Died: January 13, 1929, in Los Angeles, California. Buried: Hills of Eternity Cemetery, Coloma, California. Contributions: Kansas peace officer; faro dealer; participant in the Gunfight near the O.K. Corral; U.S. deputy marshal; and led the famed Vendetta Ride to avenge the death of his brother Morgan. Cause of Death: Chronic Cystitis. Tribute: “Wyatt Earp … excited, by his display of great courage and nerve under trying conditions, the envy and hatred of those small-minded creatures with which the world seems to be abundantly peopled, and whose sole delight in life seems to be in fly-specking the reputations of real men.” —Bat Masterson for Human Life magazine, 1907. Last Words: “Suppose, suppose….”—According to legend.