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Badges that won the west tombstone arizona marshals badge

Badges That Won The West — Tombstone, Arizona Marshal’S Badge

The Tombstone, Arizona U.S. Marshal’s Badge recalls the mining town of Tombstone, with its storied Boot Hill Cemetery and Gunfight at the OK Corral. Even though history records several gunfights with more combatants and a much higher body count, the OK Corral shoot-out is acknowledged by historians to be the most famous gunfight in the history of the American West.

Though Tombstone was quite a metropolitan city for its day and time, its  remote location made it an isolated place, surrounded by unpopulated desert with no railroad access.

By the 1880s, Tombstone was known as one  of the deadliest places in the west–thanks to a bitter feud between a  criminal gang calling themselves the “Cow-Boys” and the businessmen,  investors and immigrant miners who ran the city and the nearby silver mines.
On October 26, 1881, at about three in the afternoon, this simmering powder keg exploded in a hail of gunfire that would come to be known as the Gunfight  at the OK Corral.  Virgil and Morgan Earp, their brother Wyatt and the  notorious gunslinger, Doc Holliday, shot it out with five of the Cow-Boys that included Ike Clanton and his younger brother, Billy, along with the  McLaury brothers, Frank and Tom, and Billy Claiborne.

According to a clipping from The Epitaph, Tombstone’s famous newspaper,  the trouble began when Ike Clanton was arrested that  morning for violating  a city ordinance against carrying firearms within Tombstone city limits.
Virgil Earp was Tombstone’s City Marshal, and also a Deputy Federal Marshal  for Arizona Territory. Like many lawmen hired to be “town tamers” in that era,  the first thing Virgil had done after taking the job was ask the city  council to enact an ordinance against carrying guns within the city limits.
The charge against Clanton that morning was disorderly conduct. He put up a  fight when Virgil asked him to surrender his pistol, and was pistol-whipped,  disarmed and fined twenty-five dollars. He paid the fine, was released and  left town, after swearing to return and take vengence upon the Earp brothers.

Expecting trouble from the Cow-Boys, Virgil had temporarily deputized Wyatt, and Wyatt’s long-time friend, Doc Holliday. True to his word, Clanton returned that afternoon with his brother, Billy, the two McLaury brothers and Billy Claiborne in tow. The famous confrontation–in which thirty shots were  fired in the space of about thirty seconds–actually began in William Harwood’s lumber yard, which was located just down the street from the rear entrance to the OK Corral, and  had spilled out onto Fremont Street by the time it ended.

Considering the proximity of the combatants to each other, it was a miracle that only three  men died that day. Billy Clanton and the two McLaurys were killed.  Realizing they would be facing four men–at least two of which had formidable reputations as gunmen–instead of the two lawmen they expected must have put an instant damper on Ike Clanton’s and Billy Claiborne’s tempers.  Claiming to be unarmed, Clanton and Billy Claiborne both ran from the fight, and because they ran, both of them survived.

Wyatt Earp was unscathed, and Doc Holliday received only a couple of near-miss bullet holes through his coat, but Virgil Earp was shot through the calf of one leg, and Morgan received a severe wound to the shoulder. Outnumbered 5 to 2, it’s unlikely that Virgil and Morgan Earp would have survived the armed confrontation with the Clanton faction, if Virgil hadn’t deputized Wyatt and Holliday. That didn’t stop County Sheriff John Behan from charging  both Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday with murder in the incident, however, on the grounds  that neither were lawmen at the time of the shootout. But a grand jury would twice decline to indict either man, and the charges were  eventually dropped.
Though all three Earp brothers survived the OK Corral shootout, they suffered brutal reprisals from vindictive Cow-Boys afterward.  Virgil Earp was shot from ambush and lost the use of his left arm as a result of his wounds. Morgan Earp was shot and killed a short time later, provoking Wyatt Earp to embark on his famous “vendetta ride”, vowing to wipe out the Cow-Boys once and for all.  Ironically, Ike Clanton didn’t die in the vendetta ride.  He would die six years later, shot down by lawmen while resisting arrest after he was caught rustling cattle in 1887.

Doc Holliday died that same year of tuberculosis at the age of 36 in a Glenwood Springs, Colorado sanitorium.

 Wyatt Earp lived many more years, moving to Los Angeles in his later years, where he became friends with movie cowboys, Tom Mix and William Hart, and died peacefully in his bed at the age of 81.

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