Oct 26 2010

On This Day in History: October 26

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

October 26 is the 299th day of the year (300th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 66 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1881, the Earp brothers face off against the Clanton-McLaury gang in a legendary shootout at the OK Corral in Tombstone, Arizona.

On the morning of October 25, Ike Clanton and Tom McLaury came into Tombstone for supplies. Over the next 24 hours, the two men had several violent run-ins with the Earps and their friend Doc Holliday. Around 1:30 p.m. on October 26, Ike’s brother Billy rode into town to join them, along with Frank McLaury and Billy Claiborne. The first person they met in the local saloon was Holliday, who was delighted to inform them that their brothers had both been pistol-whipped by the Earps. Frank and Billy immediately left the saloon, vowing revenge.

Around 3 p.m., the Earps and Holliday spotted the five members of the Clanton-McLaury gang in a vacant lot behind the OK Corral, at the end of Fremont Street. The famous gunfight that ensued lasted all of 30 seconds, and around 30 shots were fired. Though it’s still debated who fired the first shot, most reports say that the shootout began when Virgil Earp pulled out his revolver and shot Billy Clanton point-blank in the chest, while Doc Holliday fired a shotgun blast at Tom McLaury’s chest. Though Wyatt Earp wounded Frank McLaury with a shot in the stomach, Frank managed to get off a few shots before collapsing, as did Billy Clanton. When the dust cleared, Billy Clanton and the McLaury brothers were dead, and Virgil and Morgan Earp and Doc Holliday were wounded. Ike Clanton and Claiborne had run for the hills.


The funerals for Clanton and the McLaurys (who were relatively wealthy men) were the largest ever seen in Tombstone, drawing over 2,000 people. The fear of the Cowboys caused many Tombstone residents and businesses to reconsider their calls for the mass killing of Cowboys. Although rowdy, the Cowboys brought substantial business into Tombstone.

The fear of Cowboy retribution and the potential loss of investors because of the negative publicity in large cities such as San Francisco started to turn the opinion somewhat against the Earps and Holliday. Stories that Ike Clanton and Tom McLaury were unarmed, and that Billy Clanton and Tom McLaury even threw up their hands before the shooting, now began to make the rounds. Soon, another Clanton brother (Phineas “Fin” Clanton) had arrived in town, and some began to claim that the Earps and Holliday had committed murder, instead of enforcing the law.

The Spicer hearing

After the gunfight, Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday (the two men not formally employed as law officers, and the two least wounded) were charged with murder. After extensive testimony at the preliminary hearing to decide if there was enough evidence to bind the men over for trial, the presiding Justice of the Peace Wells Spicer ruled that there was not enough evidence to indict the men. Two weeks later, a grand jury followed Spicer’s finding, and also refused to indict. Spicer, in his ruling, criticized City Marshal Virgil Earp for using Wyatt and Doc as backup temporary deputies, but not for using Morgan, who had already been wearing a City Marshal badge for nine days. However, it was noted that if Wyatt and Holliday had not backed up Marshal Earp, then he would have faced even more overwhelming odds than he had, and could not possibly have survived.

The participants in later history

A few weeks following the grand jury refusal to indict, Virgil Earp was shot by hidden assailants from an unused building at night – a wound causing him complete loss of the use of his left arm. Three months later Morgan Earp was murdered by a shot in the back in Tombstone by men shooting from a dark alley.

After these incidents, Wyatt, accompanied by Doc Holliday and several other friends, undertook what has later been called the Earp vendetta ride in which they tracked down and killed the men whom they believed had been responsible for these acts. After the vendetta ride, Wyatt and Doc left the Arizona Territory in April, 1882 and parted company, although they remained in contact.

Billy Claiborne was killed in a gunfight in Tombstone in late 1882, by gunman Franklin Leslie.

Ike Clanton was caught cattle rustling in 1887, and shot dead by lawmen while resisting arrest.

Later in 1887, just over six years from the time of the O.K. fight, Doc Holliday died of tuberculosis in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, aged 36.

Virgil Earp served as the “Town Marshal,” hired by the Southern Pacific RR, in Colton, California. He lived without the use of his arm, although continued as a lawman in California, and died of pneumonia at age 62 in 1905, still on the job as a peace officer.

Johnny Behan failed even to be re-nominated by his own party for the sheriff race in 1882, and never again worked as a lawman, spending the rest of his life at various government jobs, dying in Tucson of natural causes at age 67 in 1912.

Wyatt Earp, the last survivor of the fight, traveled across the western frontier for decades in the company of Josephine Marcus, working mostly as a gambler, and eventually died in Los Angeles of infection, in 1929, at the age of 80.

A legacy of questions

The issue of fault at the O.K. Corral shooting has been hotly debated over the years. To this day, Pro-Earp followers view the gunfight as a struggle between “Law-and-order” against out-of-control Cowboys; Pro-Clanton/McLaury followers view it as a political vendetta and abuse of authority.

A recent attempt to reinvestigate part of the matter aired on an episode of Discovery Channel’s Unsolved History using modern technology to re-enact the shotgun shooting which was part of the incident. However, the re-enactment did not use 19th century period technology (a late 19th century shotgun messenger type short shotgun, brass cases, black powder). The episode concluded that Doc Holliday may have triggered the fight by cocking both barrels of his shotgun, but was likely not the first shooter.

In April 2010, original transcripts of witness statements were rediscovered in Bisbee, Arizona, and are currently being preserved and digitized. Photocopies of these documents have been available to researchers since 1960, and new scans of them will be made available for public viewing online.

 306 – Martyrdom of Saint Demetrius of Thessaloniki

1597 – Imjin War: Admiral Yi Sun-sin routs the Japanese Navy of 300 ships with only 13 ships at the Battle of Myeongnyang.

1640 – The Treaty of Ripon is signed, restoring peace between Scotland and Charles I of England.

1689 – General Piccolomini of Austria burned down Skopje to prevent the spread of cholera. He died of cholera himself soon after.

1774 – The first Continental Congress adjourns in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

1775 – King George III goes before Parliament to declare the American colonies in rebellion, and authorized a military response to quell the American Revolution.

1776 – Benjamin Franklin departs from America for France on a mission to seek French support for the American Revolution.

1795 – The French Directory, a five-man revolutionary government, is created.

1811 – The Argentine government declare the freedom of expression for the press by decree.

1825 – The Erie Canal opens – passage from Albany, New York to Lake Erie.

1859 – The Royal Charter is wrecked on the coast of Anglesey, north Wales with 459 dead.

1860 – Meeting of Teano. Giuseppe Garibaldi, conqueror of the Kingdom of Two Sicilies, gives it to King Victor Emmanuel II of Italy.

1861 – The Pony Express officially ceased operations.

1881 – The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral takes place at Tombstone, Arizona.

1905 – Norway becomes independent from Sweden.

1909 – Ito Hirobumi, Resident-General of Korea, was shot to death by Korean independence supporter Ahn Jung-geun at the Harbin train station in Manchuria.

1912 – First Balkan War: The capital city of Macedonia, Thessaloniki, is liberated and unified with Greece on the feast day of its patron Saint Demetrius. On the same day, Serbian troops captured Skopje.

1917 – World War I: Battle of Caporetto; Italy suffers a catastrophic defeat at the forces of Austria-Hungary and Germany. The young unknown Oberleutnant Erwin Rommel captures Mount Matajur with only 100 Germans against a force of over 7000 Italians.

1917 – World War I: Brazil declared in state of war with Central Powers.

1918 – Erich Ludendorff, quartermaster-general of the Imperial German Army, is dismissed by Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany for refusing to cooperate in peace negotiations.

1921 – The Chicago Theatre opens.

1936 – The first electric generator at Hoover Dam goes into full operation.

1940 – The P-51 Mustang makes its maiden flight.

1942 – World War II: In the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands during the Guadalcanal Campaign, one U.S. aircraft carrier, Hornet, is sunk and another aircraft carrier, Enterprise, is heavily damaged.

1943 – World War II: First flight of the Dornier Do 335 “Pfeil”.

1944 – World War II: The Battle of Leyte Gulf ends with an overwhelming American victory.

1947 – The Maharaja of Kashmir agrees to allow his kingdom to join India.

1948 – Killer smog settles into Donora, Pennsylvania.

1955 – After the last Allied troops have left the country and following the provisions of the Austrian Independence Treaty, Austria declares permanent neutrality.

1955 – Ngo D├Čnh Diem declares himself Premier of South Vietnam.

1958 – Pan American Airways makes the first commercial flight of the Boeing 707 from New York City to Paris, France.

1959 – The world sees the far side of the Moon for the first time.

1964 – Eric Edgar Cooke becomes last person in Western Australia to be executed.

1967 – Mohammad Reza Pahlavi crowns himself Emperor of Iran and then crowns his wife Farah Empress of Iran.

1977 – The last natural case of smallpox is discovered in Merca district, Somalia. The WHO and the CDC consider this date the anniversary of the eradication of smallpox, the most spectacular success of vaccination.

1979 – Park Chung-hee, President of South Korea is assassinated by KCIA head Kim Jae-kyu. Choi Kyu-ha becomes the acting President; Kim is executed the following May.

1984 – “Baby Fae” receives a heart transplant from a baboon.

1985 – The Australian government returns ownership of Uluru to the local Pitjantjatjara Aborigines.

1992 – The Charlottetown Accord fails to win majority support in a Canada wide referendum.

1992 – The London Ambulance Service is thrown into chaos after the implementation of a new CAD, or Computer Aided Despatch, system which failed.

1994 – Jordan and Israel sign a peace treaty

1995 – Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Mossad agents assassinate Islamic Jihad leader Fathi Shikaki in his hotel in Malta.

1999 – Britain’s House of Lords votes to end the right of hereditary peers to vote in Britain’s upper chamber of Parliament.

2000 – Laurent Gbagbo takes over as president of Cote d’Ivoire following a popular uprising against President Robert Guei.

2001 – The United States passes the USA PATRIOT Act into law.

2002 – Moscow Theatre Siege: Approximately 50 Chechen terrorists and 150 hostages die when Russian Spetsnaz storm a theater building in Moscow, which had been occupied by the terrorists during a musical performance three days before.

2003 – The Cedar Fire, the second-largest fire in California history, kills 15 people, consumes 250,000 acres, and destroys 2,200 homes around San Diego.


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  1. TMC

    Dalai Lama

    True compassion is impartial and bears with it a feeling of responsibility for the welfare and happiness of others.

  2. Cold Blue Steel

    turns 63 today.

    Happy Birthday to her.

  3. Translator, aka Dr. David W. Smith

    “Doc’s Prescription”, purportedly his recipe.  Here it is:

    One half applejack and one half bourbon.

    The legend says that it was taken at room temperature, since little or no ice was available most of the time then.  It goes on to say that he drank about a little under a quart of it per day.  If that is correct, he was an extremely intoxicated person, since applejack is around 30% alcohol by volume, and the bourbon at the time around 50%.

    Applejack is an interesting substance, because it is one of a very rare class of high alcohol drinks that is not distilled.  It is made by freezing hard cider (apple wine) and throwing the ice out until it will freeze no more.  The freezing concentrates the sugar and alcohol into the liquid phase.

    There is also a quote attributed to him, but I am not sure if it real.  It goes that just before he killed a man for what we would now call a domestic disturbance

    The worst thing that I can call you is that you are a human.  Horses, dogs, even pigs treat each other than humans treat each other.

    I am not sure that either of these are actually correct, as they are taken from the Bull Cook and Authentic Historical Recipes and Practices book that was self published by George L. Herter and Berthe E. Herter in 1960.  This book made some pretty wild statements, but it is a hoot to read.  Out of print now, it actually has a couple of good recipes.  In the mid 1960s, Herter’s was the primary source of outdoor equipment.  The trademark was bought by a different outfit, so some of their stuff is still available, mostly printed matter.

    I remember the Star Trek original series installment, Spectre of the Gun, which involved Holliday and his cohorts at the O.K. Corral.  In that episode, perception was real, and only Spock, using his melding abilities, was able to save the crew from believing to death that they were being killed.  They finally made uneasy friends with the alien race, who were true telepaths in that all of the crew heard their initial communication in their native tounge, Kirk in English, Spock in Vulcan, Checkov in Russian, and Uhura in Swahili.  Spock warned the crew that because of this ability the aliens were extremely dangerous since they could transcend language with their thoughts.

    I strongly add my best wishes to Secretary Clinton’s birthday.  She is an excellent Secretary of State, and I think one day will make a fine President of the United States.  By the way, she was my state’s First Lady for a very long time.

    Warmest regards,


  4. TMC

    so here it is

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