Monday, August 2, 2010

Meet the Clantons -- III

Last instalment, the year was 1877 and the Clantons had moved to a ranch 14 miles from Tombstone. About this time, oldest son John Wesley Clanton and his family went back to California.

In those days, the cattle business was good in southern Arizona, and the Clantons prospered. They soon met the McLaury brothers, Frank and Tom, young men who had a ranch in the Sulphur Springs Valley. The Clantons and the McLaurys became close friends and occasionally did business together.

Tom & Frank McLaury

This time frame was also the one in which the Clantons and McLaurys somehow made enemies of the Earp brothers, who were Tombstone gamblers and part-time lawmen. The enmity also included Doc Holiday, the dentist gunman.

No one really knows what started the feud, but a story often told says it stemmed from a robbery of the Benson stage on March 15, 1881. Apparently Billy Clanton saw Doc Holiday kill stage driver Budd Philpot. Also, some of the robbers were acquaintances of Ike Clanton. And, the story has it that Wyatt Earp, then running for Sheriff of Cochise County, approached Ike Clanton, asked him to set up those “acquaintances,” and offered Ike the reward money if Wyatt could kill them and “get the glory.”

The plot got curiouser and curiouser and ended up creating a burning hatred between the two factions.

Old Man Newton Clanton was ambushed and killed in Guadalupe Canyon, New Mexico, in August 1881, along with four other men. He had freighted supplies in his wagon to ranchers in Animas Valley, and was returning with a herd of cattle. The men were attacked at dawn, and some were still in their bedrolls. Two men escaped. The attackers were Mexicans, and the newspaper called it murder.

In the next instalment, we’ll get into the Gunfight at OK Corral.