BIG NOSE KATE'S SALOON • TOMBSTONE, AZ

PROFILES OF THE "COWBOYS"

 

The COWBOYS were a loosely organized gang of outlaws who operated along the Mexican border and frequented towns like Tombstone. They stole cattle from Americans and sold them in Mexico, and vice versa. Stage coach robbery, ambushing teamsters, and all other sorts of mischievous activities were partaken by the Cowboys.

 

"Old Man" Clanton provided a place for the Cowboys to hang out and fence their stolen cattle or goods. Many of the outlaws operated jointly in their efforts, and would band together when it was profitable. Marshal Virgil Earp began to come down hard on the Cowboys when he was elected, with the help of his brothers and Doc Holliday. The result was the famous gunfight at the OK Corral, but the real death toll did not begin until after the fight when both sides began to assassinate key members of the opposing factions.

 

Newman Haynes "Old Man" Clanton was born in Tennessee in 1816. He married Mariah Kelso in Missouri on January 5, 1840. Newman went to California in 1849-50 for the gold rush, but eventually moved to Texas. In March of 1862, Newman and his oldest two sons John and Phineas, joined the Confederate Army. Newman was discharged July 6, 1862, and his sons in March of 1863. The Clanton family appeared in California in 1866, then in the Arizona Territory in 1873. They lived by Camp Thomas, trying to make a living off of the military post. By 1877, they had moved down the San Pedro, a few miles from where Tombstone would be built the next year. They built a ranch house, and did some freighting and ranching. Things were looking up for the Clanton family.

 

The McLaury brothers moved in next door to the Clantons, and soon they were all good friends. In 1880, Newman gave the ranch to his boys and moved to New Mexico. As the unofficial leader of the Cowboys, who were engaged in robbery and rustling on both sides of the border, he now had full control of the territory from Tombstone to Animas Valley. "Old Man" Clanton was killed in August 1881, in an ambush while driving a stolen herd of cattle. The death was blamed on Mexican soldiers, but many believe that an Earp posse that was in the area was just as suspect.

 

Joseph Isaac "Ike" Clanton (pictured left) was born in Missouri in 1847. Ike traveled with the family and eventually ended up in Tombstone with them. He took part in the rustling of cattle and robbery, and in 1878, he even opened a restaurant. Ike is most famous for his involvement in the gunfight at the OK Corral. He was initially the one to instigate the fight, but arrived unarmed. He was not harmed in the battle. After the gunfight, he filed three separate suits against the Earps for the murder of his brother Billy. The Earps were released on a Writ of Habeas Corpus. Ike and his brother Phin moved from Tombstone to Apache County in 1883. By July, they were indicted on five counts of improper marking and branding of calves. In 1886, they jumped the ranch of a friend, killing him in the process. In 1887, J.V. "Rawhide Jake" Brighton and a Deputy Sheriff came to arrest Phin and Ike. Ike saw the lawmen coming, tried to run, and was killed instantly. He was buried near where he fell.

 

Robert Findley "Frank" McLaury (photo right) and Thomas Clark McLaury (photo left) came from a respected family in Korthright, New York. Their father was a lawyer who moved the family to Iowa in 1855, and then to South Dakota after the Civil War. Frank and Tom passed through Fort Worth in 1878 on their way to Arizona Territory. They picked a spot to build a cattle ranch, and it just happened to be next to the Clantons. Before long, they were involved in the Clantons illegal activities. The McLaury brothers sold their ranch late in 1880 and moved to Soldiers Hole in Sulphur Springs Valley to help close the net the Clantons were making to catch cattle herds crossing the border in either direction. The McLaurys were involved in many of the events that lead up to the gunfight at the OK Corral. Both brothers were killed at the gunfight at the OK Corral, on October 26, 1881.

 

William Brocius "Curley Bill" Graham was an outlaw from Texas, wanted for rustling, robbery, and murder. Fleeing to Arizona, he eventually ends up in Tombstone. Curly Bill started one of the first Cowboy-Earp clashes when he killed the Town Marshal Fred White on January 6, 1880. Wyatt Earp pistol whipped him in the street after the killing and sent him to jail. The Marshal declared the shooting an accident, and Curly Bill was released.Some of Curly Bills wilder escapades include holding a Reverend at gunpoint and forcing him to give them religious services, capturing and stuffing the ballot box at San Simon to make sure that Bob Paul did not get elected Sheriff, and ambushing a mule train of silver coming from Mexico. Curly Bill was the wildest and most reckless of the Cowboys. On March 24, 1882, Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday were on their trail of vengeance, to avenge the crippling of Virgil and the murder of Morgan. Curly Bill was killed by their posse, near Iron Springs, shot with two blasts from Wyatt Earps shotgun.

 

"... and his word was as good as his bond." - Said of Johnny Ringo in the Tombstone Epitaph July 22, 1882

 

John Peters Ringo (photo left) was born on March 3, 1850 in Green Fork, Indiana. Despite many myths about him, he did not come from a wealthy aristocratic family, he did not attend any college, and he was not related to Coleman Younger who rode with Jesse James. Ringo came to San Jose, California with his family when he was 14. By 1869, he was a drunk and a grade school dropout, and returned to Indiana. In 1874, Ringo was in Texas, and fought in the "Hoodoo War", a family feud between Union and Confederate sympathizers. He fought with the Cooley gang that sided with the Confederate family when it suited their purposes. Ringo was involved in numerous criminal activities in Texas, served a few sentences, and eventually headed for Arizona Territory, where he quickly became involved in the Cowboy's activities. He rustled cattle and committed robbery. Strangely enough, he was not involved in the gunfight at the OK Corral, but did participate in the murders and attempted murders of Morgan, Virgil, and other Earp sympathizers afterward. However, Ringo fled to Mexico when Wyatt and Doc Holliday began their trail of vengeance. On July 14, 1882, John Ringo was found dead, sitting in the branches of an old oak tree. He had been shot in the head. His boots, horse, and coat were missing, and his undershirt was bound around his feet, clean and dry. To this day, many historians have attempted to solve the mystery of Ringo's death. These theories have been proposed: 1) Ringo committed suicide, 2) Ringo was killed by the gunfighter "Buckskin Frank" Leslie, 3) Ringo was killed by "Johnny-Behind-the-Deuce" O'Rourke, and 4) Ringo was killed by Wyatt Earp. Tombstone historian Ben T. Traywick suggests that only Wyatt had sufficient motive, was supposedly in the area at the time, and admitted to the killing before his death.

 

FRIENDS AND ALLIES OF THE COWBOYS IN TOMBSTONE

 

Pete Spence, or Peter Spencer was born in Louisiana as Elliot Larkin Ferguson in 1850, but little is known about his early life. On June 29, 1874 Ferguson joined the Frontier Company of Texas Rangers commanded by Captain Warren Wallace. He was given a commission as a second lieutenant. He was known to have shot a man in the line of duty, but the wound was not serious and the man recovered. Sometime after leaving the Texas Rangers, is when he showed up in southern Arizona using the name Peter M. Spencer (Pete Spence). He became friends with the Clantons as well as other members of the so-called cowboy element. When Morgan Earp was killed in 1882, many believed that Spence was the killer. After the Earps had left Arizona, Spence served as a lawman on several occasions. He was known to have killed at least four men. For one of the killings he was sentenced to five years in Yuma Prison, with the sentence to begin June 10, 1893. When he entered Yuma Prison, the "scary looking" photo to the left was taken and he gave his occupation as "teamster" listing his nearest relative, Mollie E. Spencer of Los Angeles, California. On November 29, 1894, Spence was given a full pardon by L.C. Hughes, governor of Arizona.

 

Not pictured:Sheriff Johnny Behan, Phineas Fray "Phin" Clanton, William Harrison, "Billy" Clanton, Alex Arnett, Jake Gauze, Milt Hicks, Bud Snow, John McGill, Jake McKenzie, Dick Gray, Harry Ernshaw, Pony Deal, Tall Bell, Joe Hill, Charlie Green, Charlie Thomas, John Greene, Jim Crane, Harry Head, Billy Lang, Jim Hughs, "Rattlesnake Bill", Johnny Barnes.

 

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