Posts Tagged With: Wyatt Earp

Top 10 Deadliest Gunslingers In The Old West


The terms “gunfighter” or “gunslinger,” as they are most often called today, are actually more modern words utilized in films and literature of the 20th Century.

During the days of the “real” Wild West, men who had gained a reputation as being dangerous with a gun were more commonly called gunmen, pistoleers, shootists, or bad men. Gunslingers weren’t even called gunslingers during the ‘Wild West’ period. They didn’t wear the standard ‘gunfighter’s rig’ of a low-slung hip holster tied to their thigh for a faster draw. The terms “gunfighter“ or “gunslinger“ are more commonly synonymous to a hired gun who made a living with his weapons in the Old West.

Here’s a look at 10 of the deadliest Wild West gunslingers.

1. John Wesley Hardin

photo credit: truewestmagazine.com
Hardin

Some say the worst bad man that Texas ever produced.

John Wesley Hardin was easily the deadliest gunfighter of all time and one of the darkest characters in the Old West.  He was a kind of a guy who will shoot first and ask questions later. This American outlaw and gunfighter claimed to have killed 42 men though the newspapers attributed only 27 killings. He was so quick tempered with a gun that it has been said that he once killed a man for snoring.

Hardin committed his first murder in 1868, when he was just 15 years old (gunned down an ex-slave) and then proceeded to kill three Union soldiers before going on the run. Hardin was known for carrying two pistols in holsters strapped to his chest, which he claimed facilitated the quick draw, and he used them to gun down three more people in various gunfights soon after his flight. At age 17, he was arrested for the murder of a Texas City Marshal, but he was able to escape. At 25, he was finally arrested by a team of Texas Rangers, and eventually served 17 years in prison before being released at the age of 41. Shortly after his release, he was shot in the back of the head by John Selman Jr. in the Acme Saloon in El Paso, Texas, while playing dice.

2. Jim “Killer“ Miller

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Jim Miller

James “Killin’ Jim“ Miller, also known as “Killin’ Jim“, “Killer Miller“ and “Deacon Jim“, was an American outlaw and assassin of the American Old West who is credited with killing at least 14 people, though legend has it that the number is somewhere closer to 50. As a teenager, Miller blasted his sister’s husband in the head with a shotgun after a disagreement. He was handed a life sentence for the murder but escaped justice owning to a technicality.

Described as being cold to the core, Miller famously declared that he would kill anyone for money, and is rumored to have gunned down everyone from political figures to famed sheriff Pat Garrett. On April 19, 1909, following the murder of former Deputy Marshal Allen “Gus“ Bobbitt, he was arrested and his days of bloodshed finally came to an end. Before he died, he made two requests. He wanted his ring to be given to his wife (who was a cousin of John Wesley Hardin) and to be allowed to wear his hat while being hanged. Both requests were granted. He also asked to die in his black frock coat; this request was denied. Apparently, he screamed, “Let ‘er rip,“ before stepping off the box. His body was left hanging for hours until a photographer could be found to immortalize the event.

3. James “Wild Bill” Hickok

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Wild Bill

A legend in his own time.

James Butler Hickok (a.k.a. Wild Bill) was the most notorious man in the Wild West. A gunfighter, gambler, civil war spy, Indian fighter, peace officer, Hickok was said to have killed more than 100 men. At the age of 17, he left home and worked as a “canal boat pilot“ in Utica, Illinois. Got his nickname “Wild Bill“ from fighting in the Union army during the Civil War. During this time, he provided many services, such a spy, scout, and a sharpshooter.

In 1865, on the streets of Springfield, Missouri, he gained a reputation for being handy with a gun after he killed David Tutt with a single bullet from 75 yards away (first classic “Wester-style“ quick-draw duel). Suddenly he could not go anywhere without being recognized. On August 2, 1876, Deadwood, South Dakota, Hickok was playing poker when he was shot in the back of the head by a gambler named Jack McCall (better known as “Crooked Nose Jack“), supposedly in retaliation for a prior insult. Hickok was supposedly holding a pair of Aces and Eights at the time, a combination now known as the “Dead Man’s Hand.“

4. Tom Horn Jr.

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Tom Horn Jr

Thomas “Tom“ Horn, Jr. was a respected lawman and detective, but he was one of the most cold-blooded killers of the Old West. In the 1880s, Horn made a name for himself as a tracker and a bounty hunter. He was eventually hired as a detective by the famous Pinkerton Detective Agency and was responsible for the arrest of many feared criminals. Quickly becoming known for his volatile temper and dangerous capacity for violence, he was forced to resign his position with the Agency after becoming linked to the murders of 17 people.

Following his resignation, he developed a reputation as a hitman and is said to have been responsible for as many as 50 murders in his 43 years of life. Thomas Horn was arrested, tried in a controversial trial and hanged the day before his 43rd birthday in 1903. A retrial was held in 1993 in which he was declared innocent. The New York Times described the trial, “Once Guilty, Now Innocent, But Still Dead.“

5. Clay Allison

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Clay Allison

Robert Clay Allison was a Texas cattle rancher and gunfighter. Known for his unpredictable personality and violent temper, Clay was a gunslinger who is remembered as one of the deranged outlaws of the Old West. Allison fought in the Civil War, but was discharged after a blow to the head started causing unpredictable behavior in him. Historians believe this event explains some of his shockingly brutal actions, which included once beheading a man he suspected of murder and carrying the head into his favorite bar to share a drink.

After this incident, which bond his reputation as one of the most dangerous figures of his day, Allison was participating in a number of gunfights against fellow gunslingers. The most famous of these gunfights was against outlaw Chunk Colbert, whom Allison shot in the head when the other drew his gun on him following a meal they had shared. When asked why he had eaten with a man who wanted to kill him, Allison replied, “I wouldn’t want to send a man to hell on an empty stomach.“ He died in 1887 when he fell from his wagon and broke his neck. His gravestone is said to read:

“Clay Allison. Gentleman. Gun Fighter. He never killed a man that did no need killing.“

6. Wyatt Earp

photo credit: legendsofamerica.com
Wyatt Earp

Wyatt Berry Stapp Earp was an American gambler, deputy sheriff, and deputy town marshal inTombstone, Arizona. He spent most of his life roaming the West, supporting himself with police work, mining, gambling, saloon-keeping, and real estate deals.

Famed lawman Earp is perhaps the most storied figure of the Wild West, but he was also an accomplished gunslinger who was greatly feared by the bandits of the time. Earp had a violent career that saw him travel to boomtowns like Wichita, Dodge City and the lawless town of Tombstone to serve as sheriff, and he participated in some of the most legendary gunfights of the 1800s.

Best known for his participation in the controversial “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral,“ which took place at Tombstone, Arizona, on October 26, 1881. The famous Gunfight at the O.K. Corral was a 30-second gunfight between the semi-outlaw group “The Cowboys“ (Ike and Billy Clanton and Tom and Frank McLaury) and lawmen (Earp, his brothers Virgil and Morgan, and Doc Holliday), that is generally regarded as the most memorable shootout in the history of the American Wild West and the greatest gunslinger moment of all time (the outcome of the shootout: Earp, Virgil, and Morgan wounded; Doc Holliday grazed; Tom and Frank McLaury and Billy Clanton killed.). The shootout and the bloody events that followed resulted in Wyatt Earp acquiring the reputation as being one of the Old West’s toughest and deadliest gunmen of his day. All told, Earp participated in numerous gunfights in his life, killing anywhere from 8 to 30. He would become the fearless Western hero in countless novels and films.

7. Dallas Stoudenmire

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Dallas Stoudenmire

Dallas Stoudenmire was a feared lawman and is known for participating in more gunfights than most of his contemporaries. Stoudenmire earned himself repute as a legendary lawman and gunslinger, but he also made himself a lot of enemies. Armed with two guns, he was an accurate shooter with both hands, and he had a reputation for being tough and dangerously shot-tempted when he had a drink or two. After being wounded several times while fighting in the Civil War, Stoudenmire moved to the lawless and violent city of El Paso, Texas, to serve as sheriff. On the third day on the job, he killed three men with his two 44 caliber Colt revolvers in a famous incident known as the “Four Dead In Five Seconds“ gunfight.

Witnesses generally agreed that the incident lasted no more than five seconds after the first gunshot though a few would insist it was at least ten seconds. Marshal D. Stoudenmire was responsible for three of the four fatalities with his “twins.“ Less than a year after these incidents, he would kill as many as six more men in gunfights while in the line of duty, eventually gaining a reputation as one of the most feared lawmen in Texas. In 1882, Stoudenmire was shot to death by a group of outlaws during a verbal confrontation.

8. Billy The Kid

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Billy the Kid

Henry McCarty, a.k.a. William H. Bonney or just “Billy the Kid,” started his life of crime with petty theft and horse thievery, but is said to have first killed a man at the age of eighteen. In 1877, he was deputized during the so-called “Lincoln County War” and rode with lawmen who were seeking to arrest a group of corrupt businessman responsible for the murder of an innocent rancher. Billy’s group, called, “the Regulators,” became known for their wanton violence, and were themselves soon regarded as outlaws.

The group was unfazed by their new classification as bandits and proceeded to go on a killing spree, gunning down three people in the course of just three days, including a sheriff and his deputy. The group was eventually broken up by law enforcement, but the Kid managed to elude capture. He formed a gang and increased his notoriety after shooting down a gambler in a New Mexico saloon. After a number of run-ins with the law, the Kid was again captured and sentenced to death, but he managed to escape after he got a hold of a weapon and gunned down the two men guarding him. After three months on the run, he was killed when Sheriff Pat Garrett and two deputies shot him to death in 1881. All told, Billy the Kid is said to have killed a total of 21 men, one for each of the years of his life, though this number is often regarded as inaccurate and exaggerated.

9. King Fisher

photo credit: wikipedia.org
King Fisher

One the lesser-known but more violent pistoleers of the Old West, gunfighter, and one-time lawman John King Fisher was in and out of prison from the age of sixteen. By the early 1870s, Fisher became known as a bandit when he joined a group of outlaws whose specialty was raiding ranches in Mexico. Though quickly becoming known for his flamboyant style of dress, (always seen wearing brightly colored clothes), and signature twin ivory-handled pistols, it was his propensity for aggression that singled him out.

Among his many exploits, he was known for gunning down three members of his own gang during a dispute over money and then killing seven Mexican bandits a short time later. In his most famous gunfight, Fisher is said to have taken on four Mexican cowboys single-handedly, which after hitting one with a branding iron, outdrew another. Then in his well-documented sadistic style, then shot the other two who were unarmed. In 1884, Fisher was ambushed and killed, along with gunslinger Ben Thompson, by friends of a man Thompson had previously killed in a gunfight.

10. Sam Bass

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Sam Bass

Sam Bass started out an honest man. He had a simple and modest dream of moving to Texas and becoming a cowboy. Eventually he did just that but decided after one season he didn’t like it. While transitioning from simple farmer to famed outlaw might be a stretch for some, Bass did it seamlessly. He began robbing banks and stagecoaches and became rather proficient at it.

After his 7th stagecoach robbery, Bass and his gang turned their sights on bigger prizes and decided to rob trains. They eventually robbed the Union Pacific gold train from San Francisco, netting over $60,000, which is to this day the largest single robbery of the Union Pacific. He was wounded by Texas Rangers on the way to rob a small bank in Round Rock and died two days later on his 27th birthday.

Categories: Arizona, Billy the Kid, California, Civil War, Confederate, Legends, Old West, Texas, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is ‘Two Gun Billy’ the Real McCoy?..Another Billy the Kid photo?


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Posted: Sunday, February 7, 2016 11:00 pm |Updated: 11:57 pm, Sun Feb 7, 2016.

Another photo said to be of the famous outlaw Billy the Kid — showing a young man posing on a rock, holding one pistol in his right hand and another in his holster — surfaced last week.

It is still unauthenticated and lacks provenance.

But like all the other purported Billy the Kid photos, this one has an interesting backstory.

Two Gun Billy is one of nearly 500 photos in an Old West collection believed to have been owned by Frank Phillips, the founder of Phillips Petroleum.

The photos are now owned by an unidentified couple who traveled in the 1990s to Checotah, Okla., where they stopped at an antique store called the Downtown Antique Mall. The woman, who is an artist, purchased several photos from the store to use in painting profiles.

Both she and her husband are Western enthusiasts and, after comparing the photos to those in their books on the Old West, they went back to the antique store the next day, and the day after that, and spent a few hundred dollars on the collection.

The couple believe that 100 of the photos depict people involved in the O.K. Corral shootout, their family members and others from Tombstone, Ariz.

Because there were photos of Phillips and his family among those the woman purchased, she and others who have examined them concluded that they once belonged to Phillips, whose 3,700-acre ranch in northwestern Oklahoma, called Woolaroc, was only 100 miles away from where the photos were purchased. And the property was adjacent to land frequented by outlaws. The photos came to be known as the Phillips Collection.

Jim Williams, a Western antique dealer with a shop in Springfield, Mo., was hired by the couple to help authenticate the photo called Two Gun Billy and market it. Cathy Briley, Williams’ fiancée, a real estate appraiser and collector of antiques from Palmyra, Neb., said they immediately felt the albumen print was of Billy the Kid.

They didn’t have the resources, Briley said, to hire people with the software to do facial recognition — and besides, they were unsure if it would work because the photo shows the Kid in profile. But they did decide to try to find the location where the photograph was taken, and they were pretty sure the landscape depicted New Mexico.

They came here in December, after studying Google Earth images for weeks and weeks. In New Mexico, everyone gave them different opinions. They failed at first and spent the night in Ruidoso before driving home.

It was there when Briley had an idea that the photo might have been taken at the time of the shootout at Blazer’s Mill between the Lincoln County Regulators and the buffalo hunter Buckshot Roberts. The Regulators apparently were hunting down anyone associated with the murder of John Tunstall, which had set off the Lincoln County War. The confrontation took place three days after the shooting of Sheriff William Brady, a crime for which Billy the Kid was convicted in 1881. The Regulators, including the Kid, were supposedly in Blazer’s Mill to eat at Mrs. Godfrey’s Restaurant.

The connection hit Briley, she said, “like a ton of bricks.”

They now believe the photo was taken on a hillside between Lincoln and Tularosa overlooking a 19th-century village called South Fork. The area subsequently became part of the Mescalero Apache Indian Reservation. Williams and Briley believe the photo was taken April 3, 1878, the day before the shootout.

Williams went back to New Mexico and on Jan. 20, Briley said, he found the rock overlooking South Fork on which the Kid had been posed, and matched up the mountains in the background as well as old Indian trails.

Briley said the face looks identical and the body type and size are “perfect” when compared to the authenticated tintype of Billy the Kid purchased by billionaire William Koch for $2.3 million in 2011 at an auction in Colorado.

Furthermore, the figure is wearing patterned suspenders and an unadorned sombrero, and is pictured with the types of guns Billy was known to carry. There’s a bandana wrapped around his leg above his right knee, which could be related to injuries sustained in the Brady ambush, Briley said.

In Koch’s tintype, the Kid looks sloppy, but in this photo, his tie is tucked into his shirt and, according to Briley, he was known as a “snappy dresser.”

Briley said she has seen another photo that surfaced in recent years — one said to show the Kid playing croquet in New Mexico in 1878 — and the National Geographic program that aired about the photo last year. In that case, the photo was bought by a California man for $2 or so from a Fresno County memorabilia shop.

She believes that photo is of the Kid, but she conceded many photos claimed to be of him don’t get received very well. “They get a lot of negative response,” she said. “Western enthusiasts immediately deny them if there’s no provenance attached to the photo.”

So, she said, even though “I do think our photos are the genuine article … we are fighting an uphill battle.”

But that doesn’t stop people who think they have the real deal, she added. “We’re just going to be inundated with photos because people are seeing dollar signs.”

Briley said several photos from the Phillips Collection already have been sold, including those of outlaw Belle Starr and lawman Wyatt Earp’s brother James, and one of Earp himself in a forest with several other people. Two of those were bought by Williams and resold. There are two other photos of the Kid in the Phillips Collection, Briley said.

The original Oklahoma vendor, however, had no idea of their value, she said. Online, Briley called the collection “likely one of the largest historical finds in recent history.”

But Daniel Kosharek, photo curator at the Palace of the Governors Photo Archives in Santa Fe, said the number of Kid photos cropping up is getting to be “almost as bad as Elvis sightings.”

“This one is a pretty good stretch,” he said of Two Gun Billy.

Korsharek said there are many photos that could show the Kid, and even in the Museum of New Mexico collection, he said, he could probably find a half-dozen tintypes that could be of the famous outlaw.

Contact Anne Constable at 505-986-3022 or aconstable@sfnewmexican.com.

Categories: Billy the Kid, Ghost Towns, Old West, Outlaws, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Johnny Ringo, Outlaw…The truth, not Hollywood fiction…..



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There has been much false information disseminated concerning Johnny Ringo. Much of the mis-information came from writers such as Stuart Lake (Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal), Walter Noble Burns ( Tombstone), and William M. “Billy” Breakenridge ( Helldorado).

These authors make claims of killings and of deadly accuracy with a pistol. Claims were also made by some, such as former Cochise County Deputy William M. “Billy” Breakenridge, that Ringo was an educated man and had an extensive collection of books, the light classics, that he read in the original Latin and Greek they were written in.

But do the facts prove the suppositions presented by any of these men or other “old timers” of the Tombstone era?

One author, John Myers, went on to state in his book Doc Holliday, that “John Ringgold, more commonly called Johnny Ringo…left Missouri for other parts. In Texas, according to some authorities, he had taken part in the Mason County war…”
and then went on to say, “Johnny attended college in a day when only young men of good background normally did so…”

First, Johnny Ringo was never associated with name Ringgold. His family a lways spelled the name Ringo. This myth continues
up to today. Second, as we now know from relatives of John Ringo, he never attended college. He dropped out of grade school to be exact. Of course William Breakenridge, who basically created a rival to upstage Wyatt Earp, a man he detested, also claimed Ringo was a college graduate. However, as history shows, Breakenridge is a very unreliable, if not a completely dishonest source of information. His hatred of Wyatt Earp overrode all honesty and integrity in anything he stated. His book, Helldorado, is more fiction than fact.

John Peters Ringo, named for his mother, was born May 3, 1850, in Greenfork, Wayne County, Indiana. As far as documented records go, We can accurately pick up the story of John Ringo at the age of 14.

His family joined a wagon train west from Liberty, Missouri, in 1864. Through family documentation, their story begins here. Johnny’s father, Martin Albert Ringo, was born October 1, 1819, in Kentucky. On June 7, 1846, Martin enlisted in the Army at Liberty, Missouri, to fight in the war with Mexico. On September 5, 1848, Martin married Mary Peters in Clay County, Missouri, the place of her birth on November 23, 1826.

Mary Peters Ringo kept a diary of sorts while the family joined the wagon train. If one can draw any conclusions at all from her Journal, Mary Ringo was not given to thoughtful observations or to expressing herself very much. Her journal, covering nearly five months, consists of about 36 pages.

In the journal she worries about being “attacted” by Indians, wishes for a “good sermon,” and worries about traveling on the Sabbath. A deeply religious woman, she was quite and reserved with her thoughts and feelings.

On July 30, 1864, Mary Ringo records an event that may very well have helped to shape the person Johnny Ringo was to become. “And now Oh God comes the saddest record of my life for this day my husband accidentally shot himself and was buried by the wayside and oh, my heart is breaking, if I had no children how gladly would I lay me down with my dead…”.

An eyewitness account of Martin Ringo’s death carried in the Liberty [Missouri] Tribune reveals it to have been a horrible one for the family. The account, from “W. Davidson” addressed to “Mr. R.H. Will—–,”reads as follows:

“Just after daylight on the morning of the 30th July Mr. Ringo stepped out…of the wagons as, I suppose, for the purpose of looking around to see if Indians were in sight and his shotgun went off accidentally in his own hands, the load entering at his right eye and coming out at the top of his head. At the report of his gun I saw his hat blow up 20 feet in the air and his brains were scattered in all directions. To see the agony and distress of his wife and children was painful in the extreme…” ( Liberty [Missouri] Tribune, August 26, 1864, and September 18, 1864 )

We do know that the entire family witnessed this awful tragedy. The sisters of Johnny were younger at seven, four, and two and would not recall much later. Johnny, at 14, would remember the event all to well. One can only imagine the trauma this event caused in his life.

In 1869, 19 year old Johnny Ringo headed for Texas. There he would get caught up in the Hoodoo war. The war was an appellation used to describe the vigilantism of what was really the Mason County Range War. It was both complex and confusing.On one side were the Germans opposing the outlaws, on the other was the Americans, who were supporters of the south in the civil war while the Germans were more Republican and had supported the North especially in a moral sense. Becuase of the German Republican leaning, they were hardest hit by outlaws and decided to take matters into their own hands.They elected a Sheriff to stand guard over themselves and their herds of cattle that were being rustled by the outlaws.
On Feburary 18, 1875, a mob forced their way into a jail and removed five rustlers that had been arrested. Only two of the rustlers were rescued.

Tim Williamson, a well-known and well-liked American, was arrested in May of 1875 on an old charge of having stolen a yearling. The arresting officer, Deputy John Wohrle, seems to have led Williamson into a nest of German bushwhackers, where he was murdered by Peter Bader, a German farmer.
The killing of Williamson brought the Scott Cooley gang————–and with it, Johnny Ringo-into the Hoodoo War. During this time, Ringo puts in an appearance as one of the killers of a man named Cheyney, a Mason gambler. The story goes that Ringo and a man named Williams, rode up to Cheyney’s house early one morning and said “hello”. Cheyney came out
and they asked him for breakfast. Cheyney complied and while covering his face with a towel after washing it, Ringo and Williams shot him down and rode back and caught up with the other members of the Cooley gang.

Two newspapers, The San Antonio Express of Oct. 6, 1875, and the Austin Daily Statesman of Oct. 17, 1875, carried the same general story. A year later, a Texas grand jury indicted John Ringo and George Gladden for the murder of “James Chaney”; Williams was not mentioned in the indictment.

Shortly after the killing of Cheyney, Ringo and Cooley killed Charley Bader, the innocent brother of Peter, by mistake. In 1877, Ringo was in a Travis County, Texas jail with gunman John Wesley Hardin. Hardin a well known brutal outlaw and murderer complained of being jailed with someone as mean and vicious as John Ringo. Ringo is said to have broke jail and fled. He of course would end up in Tombstone by 1879.

In 1879, the Earp brothers, Wyatt, Virgil, Morgan and James would arrive in Tombstone along with John Henry “Doc” Holliday. Younger brother Warren Earp would make the trip to Tombstone later on. The Earps, were seeking fortune in the boom town. They were generally in law enforcement and were from the North. As such, they were Republicans while Ringo and other rustlers were staunch Democrats.

Ringo paired up with known rustlers such as Curley Bill Brocius, Ike Clanton and Pony Deal. The rustlers became known in Tombstone as “cowboys”. They were a loosely banded group of rustlers/ranch hands and ranch owners who rustled cattle through the Arizona territory.

The cowboys generally kept law and order advocates rattled and the town in general feared the cowboys. The business owners of Tombstone and the large ranch owners such as Henry Clay Hooker, called for the heads of the rustlers. The Sheriff of Cochise County, John Behan, was considered a friend and ally of Ringo and the cowboys. Wyatt Earp, former deputy sheriff
prior to Behan’s arrival in 1880, and U.S. Marshal was at odds with the weak version of law enforcement practiced by John Behan.

Tombstone city marshal Fred White was shot and killed by Curley Bill Brocius. Within moments of the shooting, Wyatt arrived and smashed Curley Bill over the head with his six shooter and arrested him. The brutal treatment of Curley by Wyatt is what basically sparked the hostilities between the Earps and the cowboy gang.

Following the gunfight at the O.K. Corral, in which cowboy gang members, Billy Clanton,and Tom and Frank McLaury were killed in October of 1881, Johnny Ringo confronted Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday on the street around Fifth and Allen Street. This event occured on January 17, 1882.

Ringo is said to have been drunk and challenged Doc Holliday and Wyatt to a shoot-out. Some reports have Doc, ever ready to quarrel, stating, ” I’m your huckleberry”, a popular phrase in the 1800’s generally meaning I’m your champion. Officer James Flynn, however, grabbed Ringo from behind and ended the hostility. On March 18, 1882, two months after this near shoot-out, Morgan Earp was shot in the back and killed. Thus began Wyatt Earp’s Tombstone vendetta and Johnny’s world would never be the same.

Ringo had rustled cattle with Ike Clanton, the McLaury’s, Pony Deal and Curley Bill Brocius will in Tombstone. He was involved in the killing of at least two men in the Hoodoo War in Texas while riding with the Cooley gang, and attempted to kill Louis Hancock, after Hancock turned down Ringo’s invitation for whiskey saying he prefered beer. There is enough documented evidence to suggest that Ringo was a cold blooded killer.

Following the killing of Moragn Earp, many of Ringo’s associates in the cowboy faction, Curley Bill, Frank Stillwell, Florentino Cruz, a.k.a. Indian Charlie, Billy Clanton and the McLaury brothers had all been killed By Wyatt Earp and his associates and another rustler, Johnny Barnes lay dying from gunshot wounds received at the hands of Wyatt at the same battle in Sulpher Springs were Wyatt killed Curley Bill.

Just as it was when he was 14, Johnny Ringo was vulnerable. He attempted to return home in 1882 but his sisters refused to allow him in their homes. A devout Methodist family, they were very ashamed of John Ringo and did everything possible to hide him and to deny he was kin to them for a long time. Upon this rejection by his family, Ringo would return to Tombstone.

Ringo is said to have been generally drunk and suicidal at most times. On July 14, 1882, Ringo was found shot through the head in Sulpher Springs, near Turkey Creek. His body was found sitting against a tree with his head flung to the right, his .45 gripped in his right hand, and was shot through the right temple. To add to the mystery, he appeared to have been partially scalped. He was buried behind the tree. His cartridge belt was on upside down and his shirt had been ripped off and was tied around his feet. His boots were later found strung across his horse.
The men who found his body wrote out the following details concerning his death:

“There was found by the undersigned John Yoast the body of a man in a clump of Oak trees 20 yards north from the road leading to Morse’s mill and about a quarter of a mile west of the house of B. F. Smith. The undersigned viewed the body and found it in a sitting posture, facing west, the head inclined to the right. There was a bullet hole in the right temple, the bullet coming out the top of the left side. There is apparently a part of the scalp gone including a small portion of the forehead and part of the hair, this looks as if cut by a knife. These are the only marks of violence visible to the body. Several of the undersigned identify the body as that of John Ringo, well known in Tombstone. He was dressed in light hat, blue shirt, vest, pants and drawers, on his feet were a pair of hose and undershirt torn up so as to protect his feet. He had evidentially traveled but a short distance in this footgear. His revolver he grasps in his right hand, his rifle rested against the tree close to him. He had on two cartridge belts. The belt for the revolver cartridges being buckled upside on down.”

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WHAT HAPPENED AT THE OK CORRAL?



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On Oct. 26, 1881, four men met at the corner of Fifth and Allen Streets in the bustling silver mining town of Tombstone, Arizona. They walked north on Fifth, turned left on Fremont Street and headed toward a vacant lot next to the OK Corral.

Minutes later, three men would be dead, and the four men who had walked to the corral and killed them – Tombstone marshal Virgil Earp, his brothers Wyatt and Morgan, and Wyatt’s friend Doc Holliday – had unknowingly secured their places in history.

The Gunfight at the OK Corral is arguably the single most famous incident in the Old West. But what was it about? And why has it, above all the many other gunfights that took place in the era of frontier justice, achieved such infamy?

To understand the gunfight, you have to first understand the town. Tombstone in 1881 was a thriving, bustling silver mining community.
“There’s a huge misconception about Tombstone in the 1880s: that it was a violent, dangerous place,” says local author and historian Don Taylor. “It was extremely sophisticated and massively wealthy. Thirty-seven million dollars in 1880s dollars of silver was mined here; that’s $8.25 billion today. They had everything.

“They had fresh seafood every day. They would catch it in Baja California; pack it in barrels of salt, ice and seaweed at dusk; freight it by train to Benson or Contention City, immediately pack it on to wagons and bring it here by dawn every day. It was a very opulent town. But again, people don’t understand – especially if they come today – Tombstone was open 24 hours a day.

The miners worked rotating 10 hour shifts; everything had to be open when they got off, including banks. They were also pumping 2.5 million gallons of water out of the mines every day to keep them dry; so you had all the mining activity, all the milling activity, all the water rushing down Toughnut Street, and the town open 24 hours a day. It must have been noisy as hell.
As the mines thrived, so did all manner of supporting businesses: banks, bars, restaurants, hotels – and prostitutes, many of whom worked out of small ‘cribs’ that lined Sixth Street. The riches to be, had attracted plenty of would-be entrepreneurs — among them Wyatt, Virgil, Morgan, James and Warren Earp, and Doc Holliday.

Both Virgil and Wyatt had been lawmen; Virgil had recently been appointed deputy marshal for the part of the Arizona Territory that included Tombstone, and although some record-keeping at the time was poor, it is possible that Wyatt may have been a deputy marshal as well.

Certainly, it appears as if all the brothers were anxious to join the list of those profiting from Tombstone’s booming business: they invested in one of the mines, James tended bar, Wyatt rode as a stagecoach guard and dealt faro – the popular card game of the time – in a local saloon.

But Tombstone’s growth and growing sophistication grated with one segment of society: the ‘cowboys’, a loose confederation of ranchers and cattle rustlers. The cowboys – who were predominantly rural, southern Confederates – eyed the primarily Yankee mercantile class that was dominating Tombstone, and which the Earps typified, with suspicion. And the feeling was mutual.

It didn’t take long after the Earps’ arrival in late 1879 for tensions between them and the cowboys to develop, particularly with Virgil and Wyatt spending time in law enforcement positions. That tension reached boiling point when Wyatt helped in the identification and arrest of some cowboy members in a pair of stagecoach robberies, and the cowboys in turn asserted that Wyatt and Holliday had in fact been the ones responsible for the holdups.
On the night of Oct. 25, 1881, one of the cowboy leaders, Ike Clanton, got into a heated, drunken argument with Holliday, and the next morning he wandered drunkenly up and down Allen Street, threatening to kill him and the Earps. A series of confrontations steadily escalated until Virgil was informed that a group of armed cowboys had gathered outside Fly’s Boarding House – where Holliday was living – in a vacant lot close to the OK Corral.

Carrying guns inside city limits was a violation of a town ordinance, and it provided Virgil, who was now town marshal, with an opportunity to arrest the cowboys. But there may also have been other considerations at play.

As the self-identified Dr. Jay, who leads historical tours of Tombstone, explains: “Ike Clanton had openly threatened to kill the Earps. And why are they in that alley? Because it’s right outside Fly’s Boarding House. So if you’re Doc Holliday, you show up and here’s a bunch of guys with guns outside your house. You might want to think about, ‘Are they going to get me tomorrow if I don’t get them today?’”
Virgil deputized his brothers and Holliday and they set off for the vacant lot.

“Throw up your hands,” shouted Virgil as they reached the alleyway’s entrance. “I mean to disarm you.”

There was a pause, and the click-click of a gun – or guns – being cocked.

“Hold on, I don’t want that!” shouted Virgil, but it was too late.

There were two shots fired simultaneously – it is uncertain by whom – and then, as Wyatt later testified, “the fight then became general.”
Ironically, Ike Clanton, who had instigated the confrontation, fled the scene, grabbing Wyatt and screaming that he was unarmed.

“The fight has commenced,” snarled Earp. “Get to fighting or get away.” Clanton promptly took off, as did another cowboy, Billy Claiborne.

Within seconds, two of the cowboys – Tom McLaury and Billy Clanton – lay mortally wounded, Virgil Earp had been shot in the calf, and Morgan Earp shot through the shoulder blades. A third cowboy, Frank McLaury, shot in the stomach, staggered into Fremont Street and leveled his gun at Holliday.

“I’ve got you now,” he said, mistakenly believing Holliday was out of ammo.

“Blaze away,” taunted Holliday. “You’re a daisy if you do.”

At that point both Holliday and Morgan Earp fired almost simultaneously; bullets from one or both of their guns struck McLaury in the head, killing him.

The entire gunfight lasted approximately 30 seconds.
The following day, the headline in the ‘Tombstone Epitaph’ newspaper read, “Three Men Hurled into Eternity in the Duration of a Moment.” The cowboys’ supporters insisted their men had been killed in cold blood. The Earps and Holliday stood trial for murder, but were cleared.

A hundred and thirty years later, the gunfight has been the focus of numerous motion pictures, and a part of many more – and was even pivotal to an episode in the original series of Star Trek. So we ask again: why has the slaying of three men on a misdemeanor firearms violation endured through history?
Don Taylor offers one explanation. “In January 1881, (Tombstone mayor) John Clum joined the brand new Associated Press,” he explains. “So everything he wrote went to San Francisco, Chicago, New York. Everybody knew what was going on here.”

There was also, explains Tim Fattig, who works as a tourist guide at the OK Corral and has written a voluminous biography of Wyatt Earp, another factor: the fact that the gunfight did not mark the end of the Earp-cowboy feud.

On Dec. 28, 1881, Virgil Earp survived an assassination attempt, but lost the use of his left arm. The following March, Morgan was gunned down and killed while playing billiards.

In revenge, Wyatt, Warren Earp, Holliday and others set out on a “vendetta ride” for justice, in which they killed at least three cowboys, including the faction’s de facto leader, Curly Bill Brocius.

“It was the vendetta ride that truly elevated the gunfight in public perception,” Fattig says. “The idea of a brother gaining revenge for one brother’s murder and another being wounded is compelling.”

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