Monday, July 26, 2010

Meet the Clantons -- I

In the telling of the gunfight at OK Corral, the Clantons and the McLaurys are made out to be the baddies. From the files of the National Association for Outlaw and Lawman History, let’s meet the Clantons.

Newman Haynes Clanton, often known as Old Man Clanton, father of John Wesley, Phin, Ike, and Billy, was born in Davidson County, Tennessee, in 1816. His father, Henry Clanton, is said to have fought in the Battle of New Orleans.

Newman married Mariah P. Kelso on January 5, 1840, in Callaway County, Missouri. She was 16. Newman and Mariah settled down on a farm, where their first three children were born:

Newton "Old Man" Clanton

John Wesley in 1841, Phineas Fay in 1845, and Joseph Isaac in 1847.
The family later surfaces in Illinois, where daughter Mary Elsie was born in 1852, and then in Dallas, Texas, where they were farming again. Poll tax records of the time show Newman owning from six to thirty-eight cattle during his Dallas years. Two more children were born there, Hester in 1854 and Alonzo in 1859.

Two years later, the family moved to Hamilton County, Texas, a wild unsettled area with many hostile Indians. Then the Civil War broke out.

A company of company of Home Guards was organized under Captain W. H. Cotton. Records show Newman Clanton as a private and John Wesley Clanton, 19, a first corporal. John Wesley lasted only about six weeks. He then left Ellis Country and enlisted in the Twelfth Regiment of Texas Cavalry. Four months later, he left and went home to Hamilton County, a deserter. He was caught and court martialed, but not hanged. He lost his pay and gained a dishonourable discharge . . . but he also enlisted in various other places. Once in Waco, March 1862. Once again in Ft. Herbert in 1863 (he went AWOL three months later). And yet again in his home county of Hamilton, where he served 23 days at two dollars a day. He claimed he was never paid.

Newton was not idle during the war, as Mariah gave birth to their seventh and last child, William Harrison Clanton, in 1862.

After the end of the war, Newman, John Wesley and Phin went west, and showed up on a list of people at Fort Bowie, Arizona, on route to California, who formerly belonged to the Confederate States Army. The list also included physical descriptions. Newman Clanton: six feet one inch, fair complexion, light hair, and blue eyes. John Wesley Clanton: five feet eleven inches, fair complexion, light hair, and brown eyes. Phin Clanton: Five feet eight inches, fair complexion, brown hair, and blue eyes.

Joseph Isaac "Ike" Clanton

The family left Fort Bowie and headed for California, but Mariah died some time in 1866, leaving Newman with seven children ranging from four to twenty-five years of age. John Wesley got married in California to Nancy Rose Kelsey, 17, and his brother Phin lived with them. Their first child, Mary, was born in California in 1870.

Clanton daughter Mary Elsie also married in California to John Franklin Slinkard. They had five children.

The next we hear of the Clanton family, they are in Arizona, and we’ll take up that story in the next instalment.


  1. You never hear the Clantons' side of the story. What's amazing is how their story reflects the wide-ranging, restless movements of many people as the frontier expanded in the 19th century. The Clantons must take some kind of prize.

    Question: how do you get captions under your pictures?

  2. Captions? I edited the post about a dozen times until I got the captions in the right place so they'd slip under the photos, then I italicized them. I'm sure there's a better way, and Gary Dobbs probably knows how, but I just do it by guess and by golly.

  3. I'd think that "positioned" text would slip around in different browsers and different text sizes. I'm going to have to experiment.

  4. Hello! I have been in Law Enforcement in Kansas for years. The issue about the Earps is widely incorrect. Wyatt was never a U.S. Marshal. He was in fact a Policeman in Ellsworth and Wichita, Kansas. And was fired at both places. While in Tombstone he ran for Sheriff and was defeated by the incombent John Behan. The only thing we know of the Earps is what Wyatt told Hollywood. The Earps were nothing more than Bullys. Well, I should really add that the oldest Earp was a true Law Man. I think Wyatt just rode his shirt tail. You can look up archives of Wyatt's employment I spoke of earlier. In my opinion. In todays Courts, the Earps would have been found guilty of Murder. Thanks for your post!