Guide The Cochise County Cowboys - Who Were These Men?

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Amazingly, that image has endured despite the many, many books written about Wyatt Earp and his brothers, along with their nasty sidekick, Doc Holliday. Some of these books actually exposed the Earps for the bad boys they really were. Nevertheless, no one wanted to accept such a representation of their favorite lawman, and so Wyatt will reign supreme for some time to come. But the tide is turning; many more serious students of the old west are becoming interested in all the peripheral characters that surrounded the intriguing stories fashioned out of the lives of the heroes.

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These men, both friends and enemies, have stories to tell as well. Some far more interesting than the heroes. More than that, they add the color to the kaleidoscope of peoples that made up the frontier and it's myriad of adventures. They taught us more about how people lived in that time period; why some appeared to be bad when they really were only dealing with events around them, and why others appeared good when they had learned to deal with the hand dealt them and rise above it.

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All wore shades of grey. This little volume is attempting to provide information that will help to give the interested reader a more rounded view of the men of Cochise County in the early 's who have since come to be known as Tombstone's 'outlaws. Others have earned the black letter, but through circumstances they often had little control over.

And of course, a few were just bad boys.

So the question is asked, Who were these men? Were they truly criminals; rustlers, murderers, stage robbers and thieves? Let's see what you think after you read up on these few. Some have very little history to draw on, others have left a good trail. Follow their trail and see for yourself. Barely daylight creeping over the tops of the hills surrounding Guadalupe Canyon along the Mexican border, birds are beginning to move about seeking their breakfast of bugs and seeds, there are sounds of The startled men in the cow camp struggled to get out of their bedrolls, recognizing the danger with quickening adrenalin, reacting to familiar sounds of danger, yet just not fast enough.

Newman Clanton, the camp cook, fell from an almost upright position to a flat sprawl across the campfire's soft embers from the night before. Several others in the camp were also killed, young men in their prime. Only two survived the rapid onslaught of Mexican retaliation. This for a previous attack that these men would pay for with their lives, an incident in which they were not involved.

Byers escaped with a wound in the abdomen while Ernshaw ran away amidst a shower of bullets, one of which grazed his nose. It is estimated that the Mexican party numbered twenty-five to thirty men. The condition of the camp indicated that the attack came just as the murdered men were about getting up; one had evidently been killed while yet laying down One of the more interesting observations about this episode is the lack of notoriety pertaining to the death of Newman Clanton, known in the surrounding area as 'Old Man Clanton. Because from the time the Earps, the McLaurys, and the Clantons clashed a couple of months later, the legend of old man Clanton's depravations throughout the southeastern Arizona territory as a patriarch of outlaw sons and equally wicked camp followers had inundated historic writings with myths and half-truths that promoted the idea of a well organized gang of thieves, murderers and stage robbers under his control.

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Yet, the local papers barely mentioned his passing. In fact, they simply referred to him as 'the senior Clanton,' possibly not even knowing his full name. But is this so? There is a mixture of reports from some responsible as well as dubious characters from those times past which might well confuse us. Perhaps it would be most interesting to examine both sides and see what comes up. So then; who was this man? Who was old man Clanton and how did he become so controversial when so little was known about him? Contemporary accounts, such as the above newspaper report, do not describe an outlaw king, an organized crime leader.

Actually, there is very little information to be gleaned about Mr. But what little there is, is most interesting. Newman Clanton was a widower whose background was quite unremarkable. His past was similar to that of thousands of men, who at a young age, had struck out in wagon trains with their families for the promises of the western territories. Sometimes this took long arduous months and even years of temporary locations while health problems intervened or monies needed to be earned to press on. Relocating a family on the frontier was no easy task.

According to Virgil Earp, the Cowboys were "saddlers", men who lived in the saddle.


Their primary occupation was raiding haciendas in Sonora , Mexico, for cattle. They sold the cattle in Tombstone to cooperative butchers. When they couldn't find cattle to steal, they robbed stages and engaged "in similar enterprises". He said that as soon as they had money to spend, they roared into Tombstone to spend it freely in the saloons, brothels, and " faro banks". The Cowboys' generous spending habits earned them friends among the businessmen in town, who welcomed them. There the Cowboys freely expressed their opinions publicly, loudly, and with little opposition.

When the Cowboys broke the law, the businessmen feared alienating their customers and hesitated to support lawmen when they confronted cattle thieves or stage robbers. The sympathy of the respectable portion of the community may be with him but it is not openly expressed. The lines were not always distinct between the outlaw element and law enforcement. Doc Holliday had a reputation as a killer. He was friends with Bill Leonard, who was implicated in a stagecoach robbery. It was en route from Tombstone to Benson, Arizona , the nearest rail terminal. The brothers Frank and Tom McLaury had a ranch outside Tombstone, which they may have used to receive and sell stolen Mexican cattle.

When six U. Army in a search. They found the animals on the McLaurys' ranch on the Babacomari River. They also found the branding iron used to change the "US" brand to "D8". Pony Diehl was mentioned in the records of the events leading up to and after the Gunfight at the O. He was suspected of involvement in numerous robberies and cattle rustling and of involvement in the theft of US Army mules, along with Sherman McMaster.

Read Cochise County Stalwarts A Whos Who of the Territorial Years 2 vol set EBooks Online

McMaster had been a Texas Ranger in —79, during which his unit captured and held Curly Bill Brocius as prisoner for five months. He was also accused of stealing U. Army mules and a robbing a stage with outlaw Pony Diehl. The Clanton family, led by Newman Haynes Clanton , had a ranch in a valley outside Tombstone that was likely used for selling stolen Mexican beef.

He was assisted by his sons Ike , Billy , and Phin Clanton. Old Man Clanton was involved in the robbery, murder, and torture of a number of Mexican smugglers who were ambushed on their way to Tucson in the Skeleton Canyon Massacre. He was killed on August 13, , by Mexican soldiers in a retaliatory raid along the Mexican border at Guadalupe Canyon. Unarmed, he ran from the gunfight. Frank Stilwell had previously been accused and acquitted of two murders. He was dismissed four months later for "accounting irregularities" relating to the collection of taxes. Virgil Earp was at times both U. John J.

Marshal and Town Marshal Virgil Earp.

Gosper expressed his dismay with both lawmen to Washington, D. The cowboy element at times very fully predominates, and the officers of the law are either unable or unwilling to control this class of outlaws, sometimes being governed by fear, at other times by a hope of reward. At Tombstone, the county seat of Cochise County, I conferred with the Sheriff upon the subject of breaking up these bands of outlaws, and I am sorry to say he gave me but little hope of being able in his department to cope with the power of the cowboys.

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  5. He represented to me that the Deputy U. Marshal, resident of Tombstone, and the city Marshal for the same, seemed unwilling to heartily cooperate with him in capturing and bringing to justice these outlaws. Earp, I found precisely the same spirit of complaint existing against Mr. Behan the Sheriff and his deputies. 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 outlawry so largely disturbing the sense of security, and so often committing highway robbery and smaller thefts.

    The opinion in Tombstone and elsewhere in that part of the Territory is quite prevalent that the civil officers are quite largely in league with the leaders of this disturbing and dangerous element.

    Cochise County AZGenWeb Publications Index

    Something must be done, and that right early, or very grave results will follow. It is an open disgrace to American liberty and the peace and security of her citizens, that such a state of affairs should exist. To counter the ongoing problems with weapons in Tombstone, the biggest city in the county and the county seat, its city council passed an ordinance on April 19, , that prohibited carrying a deadly weapon in town.

    It required everyone to deposit weapons at a livery or saloon soon after entering town. As City Marshal, Virgil Earp was charged with enforcing this ordinance. Section 1. It is hereby declared unlawful to carry in the hand or upon the person or otherwise any deadly weapon within the limits of said city of Tombstone, without first obtaining a permit in writing. Section 2: This prohibition does not extend to persons immediately leaving or entering the city, who, with good faith, and within reasonable time are proceeding to deposit, or take from the place of deposit such deadly weapon.

    Section 3: All fire-arms of every description, and bowie knives and dirks, are included within the prohibition of this ordinance. The initial version of Ordinance No.