Gunfight At The O.K. Corral - Public Reaction

Public Reaction

The bodies of the three dead Cowboys were displayed in a window at Ritter and Reams undertakers with a sign: "Murdered in the Streets of Tombstone." The Tombstone Nugget proclaimed:

The 26th of October, 1881, will always be marked as one of the crimson days in the annals of Tombstone, a day when blood flowed as water, and human life was held as a shuttle cock, a day to be remembered as witnessing the bloodiest and deadliest street fight that has ever occurred in this place, or probably in the Territory.

The Tombstone Epitaph was more restrained in its language:

The feeling among the best class of our citizens is that the Marshal was entirely justified in his efforts to disarm these men, and that being fired upon they had to defend themselves which they did most bravely.

The funerals for Billy Clanton (age 19), Tom McLaury (age 28) and his older brother Frank (age 33) were well attended. About 300 people joined in the procession to Boot Hill and as many as two thousand watched from the sidewalks. The Coroner's Jury ruling neither condemned or exonerated the lawmen for shooting the Cowboys. "William Clanton, Frank and Thomas McLaury, came to their deaths in the town of Tombstone on October 26, 1881, from the effects of pistol and gunshot wounds inflicted by Virgil Earp, Morgan Earp, Wyatt Earp, and one—Holliday, commonly called 'Doc Holliday'."

The initial public reaction was largely favorable to the Earps, but began to change when rumors began to circulate that Ike Clanton and Tom McLaury were unarmed, and that Billy Clanton and Tom McLaury even threw up their hands before the shooting. Within a few days, Phineas "Fin" Clanton arrived in town, and some began to claim that the Earps and Holliday had committed murder, instead of enforcing the law. Clara Spalding Brown, the wife of mining engineer Theodore Brown, was a correspondent for the San Diego Union and other California newspapers. She wrote that Tombstone residents were divided about the justification for the killings. Referring to the initial testimony offered by Ike Clanton, she wrote, "Opinion is pretty divided as to the justification of the killing. You may meet one man who will support the Earps, and declare that no other course was possible to save their own lives, and the next man is just as likely to assert that there was no occasion whatever for bloodshed, and that this will be 'a warm place' for the Earps hereafter. At the inquest yesterday, the damaging fact was ascertained that only two of the cowboys were armed, it thus being a most unequal fight."

Even the Governor of the Arizona Territory, John C. Frémont, reported after the gunfight, "Many of the very best law-abiding and peace-loving citizens have no confidence in the willingness of the civil officers to pursue and bring to justice that element of out-lawry so largely disturbing the sense of security... is quite prevalent that the civil officers are quite largely in league with the leaders of this disturbing and dangerous element."

Read more about this topic:  Gunfight At The O.K. Corral

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