From the Tombstone Daily Epitaph, the statement of Wyatt Earp on 17 November 1881
Q. What is your name and age?
A. Wyatt S. Earp; 32 last March.
Q Where were you born?
A. Monmouth, Warren County, Illinois.
Q. Where do you reside and how long have you resided there?
A. Tombstone; since 1 December 1879.
Q. What is your business or profession?
A. Saloon keeper; have also been employed as a deputy sheriff, and also as a detective.
Q. Give any explanation you may think proper of the circumstances appearing in the testimony against you, and state any facts which you think will tend to your exculpation.
A. The difficulty between the deceased and myself originated first when I followed Tom McLowry and Frank McLowry, with Virgil and Morgan Earp and Captain Hearst and four soldiers to look for six government mules which were stolen. A man named Estes told us at Charleston that we would find the mules at McLowry's ranch, that the McLowry’s were branding D. S. over the U. S. We tracked the mules to McLowry's ranch, where we also found the brand. Afterwards some of those mules were found with the same brand. After we arrived at McLowry's ranch there was a man named Frank Patterson who made some kind of a compromise with Captain Hearst. Captain Hearst came to us boys and told us he had made this compromise and by so doing he would get the mules back. We insisted on following them up. Hearst prevailed upon us to go back to Tombstone, and so we came back. Hearst told us two or three weeks afterwards that they would not give up the mules to him after we left, saying they only wanted to get us away: that they could stand the soldiers off. Captain Hearst cautioned me and Virgil and Morgan to look out for those men; that they had made some threats against our lives. About one month after that, after those mules had been taken, I met Frank and Tom McLowry in Charleston. They tried to pick a fuss out of me, and told me that if I ever followed them up again as close as I did before that they would kill me.
Shortly after the time Budd Philpot was killed by those men who tried to rob the Benson stage, as a detective I helped trace the matter up, and I was satisfied that three men, named Billy Leonard, Harry Head, and Jim Crane were in that robbery. I know that Leonard, Head, and Crane were friends and associates of the Clantons and McLowrys and often stopped at their ranches.
It was generally understood among officers, and those who have information about criminals, that Ike Clanton was a sort of chief among the cowboys; that the Clantons and McLowrys were cattle thieves, and generally in the secrets of the stage robbers; and that the Clanton and McLowry ranches were the meeting place, and place of shelter, for the gang.
I had an ambition to be sheriff of this county next election, and I thought it would be a great help to me with the people and the business men if I could capture the men who killed Philpot. There were rewards offered of about $1,200 each for the robbers. Altogether there was about $3,600 offered for their capture. I thought that this amount might tempt Ike Clanton and Frank McLowry to give away Leonard, Head, and Crane; so I went to Ike Clanton and Frank McLowry, when they came to town. I had an interview with them in the back yard of the Oriental saloon. I told them what I wanted. I told them I wanted the glory of capturing Leonard, Head, and Crane; if I could do so, it would help me make the race for sheriff next election. I told them if they would put me on the track of Leonard, Head, and Crane, tell me where those men were hid, I would give them all the reward, and would never let anybody know where I got the information. Ike Clanton said that he would be glad to have Leonard captured, that Leonard claimed a ranch that he claimed, and if he could get him out of the way he would have no opposition about the ranch.
Ike Clanton said that Leonard, Head, and Crane would make a fight, that they would never be taken alive, and that I must first find out if the reward would be paid for the capture of the robbers dead or alive. I then went to Marshal Williams, the agent of Wells, Fargo & Co. in this town, and at my request he telegraphed to the agent of Wells, Fargo & Co. at San Francisco to find out if the reward would be paid for the robbers dead or alive. He received in June of 1881 a telegram which he gave me, promising that the reward should be paid dead or alive. I showed this telegram soon after I got it to Ike Clanton in front of the Alhambra.
I told them that the dispatch has come. I went to Marshal Williams and told him I wanted to see the dispatch for a few minutes. He went to look for it and could not find it, but went over to the telegraph office and got a copy of it, and he came back and gave it to me. I went and showed it to Ike Clanton and Joe Hill and returned it to Marshal Williams, and afterwards told Frank McLaury of it's contents.
It was then agreed between us that they should have all the $3,600 reward, outside of necessary expenses for horses in going after them, and Joe Hill should go to where Leonard, Head, and Crane were hid, over near Eureka, in New Mexico, and lure them in near Frank and Tom McLowry's ranch near Soldier Holes, thirty miles from here, and I would be on hand with a posse and capture them. I asked Joe Hill, Ike Clanton, and Frank McLowry what tale they would make to them to get them over here. They said they had agreed upon a plan to tell them that there would be a paymaster going from Tombstone to Bisbee shortly to pay off the miners, and that they wanted them to come in and take them; Ike Clanton then sent Joe Hill to bring them in; before starting, Joe Hill took on his watch and chain and between two and three hundred dollars in money, and gave it to Virgil Earp to keep for him until he got back. He was gone about ten days and returned with the word that he had got there a day too late; that Leonard and Head had been killed the day before he got there by horse thieves. I learned afterward that the thieves had been killed subsequently by members of the Clanton and McLowry gang.
Ike Clanton and Frank McLowry said I had given them away to Marshal Williams and Doc Holliday, and when they came in town they shunned us, and Morgan and Virgil Earp and Doc Holliday and myself began to hear of their threats against us.
I am a friend of Doc Holliday because, when I was city marshal of Dodge City, Kansas, he came to my rescue and saved my life, when I was surrounded by desperadoes. A month or so ago, Morgan and I assisted in the arrest of Stillwell and Spence on the charge of robbing the Bisbee stage. The McLowrys and Clantons have always been friendly with Spence and Stillwell, and they laid the whole blame of their arrest on us, though the fact is, we only went as a sheriff's posse. After we got in town with Spence and Stillwell, Ike Clanton and Frank McLowry came in. Frank McLowry took Morgan into the middle of the street where John Ringgold, Ike Clanton, and the Hicks boys were standing, and commenced to abuse Morgan for going after Spence and Stillwell. Frank McLowry said he would never speak to Spence again for being arrested by us. He said to Morgan: "If ever you come after me, you will never take me." Morgan replied that if he ever had occasion to go after him he would arrest him. Frank McLowry then said to him: "I have threatened you boys' lives, and a few days ago I had taken it back, but since this arrest it now goes." Morgan made no reply, and walked off.
Before this and after this, Marshal Williams, Farmer Daly, Ed Burns, and three or four others, told us at different times of threats made to kill us by Ike Clanton, Frank McLowry, Tom McLowry, Joe Hill, and John Ringgold. I knew that all these men were desperate and dangerous cattle thieves, robbers, and murderers. I knew of the Clantons and McLowrys stealing six government mules. I heard of Ringgold shooting a man down in cold blood near Camp Thomas. I was satisfied that Frank and Tom McLowry killed and robbed Mexicans in the Skeleton Canyon two or three months ago, and I naturally keep my eyes open, and I did not intend that any of the gang should get the drop on me if I could help it.
Three or four weeks ago, Ike Clanton met me at the Alhambra and told me that I had told Holliday about this transaction, concerning the capture of Head and Leonard. I told him I'd never told Holliday anything. I told him when Holliday came up from Tucson I would prove it. Ike Clanton said that Holliday had told him so; when Holliday came I asked him and he said no; I told him that Ike Clanton had said so.
On the 25th of October, Holliday met Ike Clanton in the Alhambra saloon and asked him about it. Clanton denied it, and they quarreled for three or four minutes. Holliday told Ike Clanton he was a damned liar, if he said so. I was sitting eating lunch at the time. They got up and walked out on the street. I got through and walked out, and they were still talking about it. I then went to Holliday, who was pretty tight, and took him away. Then I came back alone and met Ike Clanton. He called me outside and said his gun was on the other side of the street at the hotel. I told him to leave it there. He said he would make a fight with Holliday anytime he wanted to. I told him Holliday did not want to fight, but only to satisfy him this talk had not been made.
I then went away and went to the Oriental, and in a few minutes Ike Clanton came over with his six-shooter on. He said he was not fixed right; that, in the morning, he would have man for man that this fighting talk had been going on for a long time, and it was about time to fetch it to a close. I told him that I wouldn't fight no one if I could get away from it. He walked off and left me, saying: "I will be ready for all of you in the morning." He followed me into the Oriental, having his six-shooter in plain sight. He said: "You musn't think I won't be after you all in the morning." Myself and Holliday walked away and went to our rooms.
I got up the next day, 26 October, about noon. Before I got up, Ned Boyle came to me and told me that he met Ike Clanton on Allen Street, near the telegraph office, that morning; that Ike was armed; that he said: "As soon as those damned Earps make their appearance on the street today, the battle will open," That Ike said,"We are here to make a fight, we are looking for the sons of bitches." Jones came to me after I got up and went to the saloon, and said: "What does all this mean?" I asked what he meant. He says: "Ike Clanton is hunting you Earp boys with a Winchester rifle and a six-shooter." I said: "I will go down and find him and see what he wants." I went out and, on the corner of Fourth and Allen Streets, I met Virgil Earp, the marshal. He told me how he had heard that Ike Clanton was hunting us. I went up Allen Street, and Virgil went down Fifth Street and then Fremont Street. Virgil found Ike Clanton on Fourth Street in an alley. He walked up to him and said, "I hear you are hunting for some of us." Ike Clanton then threw his Winchester rifle around towards Virgil.
Virgil grabbed it and hit Clanton with his six-shooter and knocked him down. Clanton had his rifle, and his six-shooter was exposed in his pants. By that time I came up, and Virgil and Morgan took his rifle and six-shooter away and took them to the Grand Hotel after the examination, and took Ike Clanton before Justice Wallace. Before the investigation, Morgan had Ike Clanton in charge, as Virgil was out. A short time after I went into Wallace's court and sat down on a bench.
Ike Clanton looked over to me and said: "I will get even with all of you for this. If I had a six-shooter I would make a fight with all of you." Morgan then said to him: "If you want to make a fight right bad I will give you this one", at the same time offering Ike Clanton his own six-shooter. Ike Clanton started to get up to take it, when Campbell, the deputy sheriff, pushed him back on his seat, saying he wouldn't allow any fuss. I never had Ike Clanton's arms at any time, as he has stated.
I would like to describe the position we occupied in the courtroom at that time. Ike Clanton sat down on a bench, with his face fronting to the north wall of the building. I myself sat down on a bench that was against the north wall right in front of Ike. Morgan stood up against the north wall with his back against the north wall, two or three feet to my right. Morgan had Ike Clanton's Winchester in his left hand and his six-shooter in his right hand; one end of the rifle was on the floor. Virgil was not in the court room any of the time, and Virgil came there after I walked out. I was tired of being threatened by Ike Clanton and his gang.
I believed from what they had said to others, and to me, and from their movements, that they intended to assassinate me the first chance they had, and I thought if I had to fight for my life against them, I had better make them face me in an open fight. So I said to Ike Clanton, who was then sitting about eight feet away from me, "you damned dirty cur thief, you have been threatening our lives, and I know it. I think I should be justified shooting you down any place I should meet you, but if you are anxious to make a fight, I will go anywhere on earth to make a fight with you, even over to the San Simon among your own crowd." He replied, "all right, I will see you after I get through here. I only want four feet of ground to fight on." I walked out and just then outside the court room, near the justice's office, I met Tom McLowry. He came up to me and said: "If you want to make a fight, I will make a fight with you anywhere." I supposed at the time he had heard what had first transpired between Ike Clanton and me. I knew of his having threatened me and I felt just as I did about Ike Clanton, that, if the fight had to come, I had better have it come when I had an even show to defend myself, so I said to him all right "make a fight right here", and at the same time I slapped him in the face with my left hand, and drew my pistol with my right. He had a pistol in plain sight on his right hip, but made no move to draw it. I said to him: "Jerk your gun and use it." He made no reply, and I hit him on the head with my six-shooter and walked away down to Hafford's. I went into Hafford's and got a cigar, and came out and stood by the door. Pretty soon after, I saw Tom McLowry, Frank McLowry, and William Clanton. They passed me and went down Fourth Street to the gunsmith shop. I followed down to see what they were going to do. When I got there, Frank McLowry's horse was standing on the sidewalk with his head in the door of the gunshop. I took the horse by the bit, as I was deputy city marshal, and commenced to back him off the sidewalk. Frank and Tom McLowry and Billy Clanton came to the door. Billy Clanton had his hand on his six-shooter. Frank McLowry took hold of the horse's bridle. I said: "You will have to get this horse off the sidewalk." He backed him off on the street. Ike Clanton came up about that time and they all walked into the gunsmith's shop. I saw them in the shop changing cartridges into their belts. They came out of the shop and walked along Fourth Street to the corner of Allen Street. I followed them as far as the corner of Fourth and Allen Streets, and then they went down Allen Street and over to Dunbar's corral. Virgil was then city marshal; Morgan was a special policeman for six weeks, wore a badge, and drew pay. I had been sworn in Virgil's place to act for him while Virgil was gone to Tucson about Stillwell and Spence on the charge of robbing the Bisbee stage. Virgil had been back several days, but I was still acting. I know it was Virgil's duty to disarm those men. He suspected he would have trouble in doing so; and I followed up to give assistance if necessary, especially as they had been threatening us, as I have already stated. About ten minutes afterwards, while Virgil, Morgan, Doc Holliday and myself were standing in the center of Fourth and Allen Streets, several persons said: "There is going to be trouble with those fellows", and one man named Coleman said to Virgil: "They mean trouble. They have just gone from Dunbar's corral into the O.K. Corral, all armed. I think you had better go and disarm them." Virgil turned around to Doc Holliday, Morgan, and myself and told us to come and assist him in disarming them. Morgan said to me: "They have horses; had we not better get some horses ourselves, so that if they make a running fight we can catch them?" I said: "No, if they try to make a running fight we can kill their horses, and then capture them." We four then started through Fourth to Fremont Street. When we turned the corner of Fourth and Fremont Streets, we could see them standing near or about the vacant space between Fly's photograph gallery and the next building west. I first saw Frank McLowry, Tom McLowry, Billy Clanton, and Sheriff Behan standing there. We went down the left hand side of Fremont Street. When I got within about a hundred and fifty feet of them I saw Ike Clanton, Billy Claiborne, and another party. We had walked a few steps further when I saw Behan leave the party and come towards us; every few steps he would look back, as if he apprehended danger. I heard Behan say to Virgil: "For God's sake, don't go down there or you will get murdered." Virgil replied: "I am going to disarm them", he, Virgil, being in the lead. When Morgan and I came up to Behan, he said: "I have disarmed them." When he said this I took my pistol, which I had in my hand, under my coat, and put it in my overcoat pocket. Behan then passed up the street, and we walked on down. We came up on them close, Frank McLowry, Tom McLowry, and Billy Clanton standing all in a row against the east side of the building on the opposite side of the vacant space west of Fly's photography gallery. Ike Clanton and Billy Claiborne and a man I did not know were standing in the vacant space about halfway between the photograph gallery and the next building west. I saw that Billy Clanton and Frank McLowry and Tom McLowry had their hands by their sides and Frank McLowry's and Billy Clanton's six-shooters were in plain sight. Virgil said: "Throw up your hands. I have come to disarm you." Billy Clanton and Frank McLowry had their hands on their six-shooters. Virgil said: "Hold! I don't mean that; I have come to disarm you." They, Billy Clanton and Frank McLowry, commenced to draw their pistols, at the same time Tom McLowry threw his hand to his right hip and jumped behind a horse.
I had my pistol in my overcoat pocket where I had put it when Behan told us he had disarmed the other party. When I saw Billy and Frank draw their pistols, I drew my pistol. Billy Clanton leveled his pistol at me, but I did not aim at him. I knew that Frank McLowry had the reputation of being a good shot and a dangerous man, and I aimed at Frank McLowry. The two first shots which were fired were fired by Billy Clanton and myself; he shot at me, and I shot at Frank McLowry. I do not know which shot was first; we fired almost together. The fight then became general. After about four shots were fired Ike Clanton ran up and grabbed my arm. I could see no weapon in his hand and thought at the time he had none, and so I said to him: "The fight has now commenced; go to fighting or get away." At the same time I pushed him off with my left hand. He started and ran down the side of the building and disappeared between the lodging house and the photograph gallery. My first shot struck Frank McLowry in the belly. He staggered off on the sidewalk but first fired one shot at me. When we told them to throw up their hands, Claiborne held up his left hand, and then broke and ran. I never saw him afterwards until later in the afternoon, after the fight. I never drew my pistol or made a motion to shoot until after Billy Clanton and Frank McLowry drew their pistols. If Tom McLowry was unarmed, I did not know it. I believe he was armed and that he fired two shots at our party before Holliday, who had the shotgun, fired at and killed him. If he was unarmed there was nothing to the circumstances or in what had been communicated to me, or in his acts or threats, that would have led me even to suspect his being unarmed.
I never fired at Ike Clanton, even after the shooting commenced, because I thought he was unarmed and I believed then, and believe now, from the acts I have stated, and the threats I have related, and other threats communicated to me by different persons, as having been made by Tom McLowry, Frank McLowry, and Isaac Clanton, that these men, last named, had formed a conspiracy to murder my brothers Morgan and Virgil and Doc Holliday and myself. I believe I would have been legally and morally justified in shooting any of them on sight, but I did not do so or attempt to do so; I sought no advantage. When I went as deputy marshal to help disarm them and arrest them, I went as a part of my duty and under the direction of my brother the marshal.
I did not intend to fight unless it became necessary in self defense, and in the performance of official duty. When Billy Clanton and Frank McLowry drew their pistols, I knew it was a fight for life, and I drew and fired in defense of my own life and the lives of my brothers and Doc Holliday.
I have been in Tombstone since 1 December 1879. I came here from Dodge City, Kansas, where, against the protest of business men and officials, I resigned the office of City Marshal, which I had held from 1876. I came to Dodge City from Wichita, Kansas. I was on the police force in Wichita from 1874 until I went to Dodge City.
The testimony of Isaac Clanton that I had anything to do with any stage robbery, or any criminal enterprise, is a tissue of lies from beginning to end. Sheriff Behan made me an offer in his office on Allen Street, and in the back room of the cigar store, that if I would withdraw and not try to get appointed sheriff of Cochise county, that we would hire a clerk and divide the profits. I done so; and he never said another word to me afterward in regard to it. The reasons given by him here for not complying with his contract, are false.
I give here as a part of this statement, a document sent me from Dodge City since my arrest, and marked Exhibit A, and another document sent me from Wichita, since this arrest, which I wish attached to this statement. and marked Exhibit B.
Myself and Doc Holliday happened to go to Charleston the night that Behan happened to go down to subpoena Ike Clanton. We went there for the purpose of getting a horse that had been stolen from us a few days after I came to Tombstone. I had heard several times that the Clantons had him. When I got there that night, I was told by a friend of mine that the man that carried the dispatch from Charleston to Ike Clanton's ranch had my horse. At this time I did not know where Ike Clanton's ranch was. A short time afterward I was in the Huachucas, locating some water rights. I had started home to Tombstone, and had got within twelve or fifteen miles of Charleston, when I met a man named McMasters. He told me that, if I would hurry up, I would find my horse in Charleston. I drove to Charleston, and saw my horse going through the streets toward the corral. I put up for the night at another corral. I went to Barnett's office, to get out papers to recover the horse. He was not at home, having gone to Sonora to see some coal fields that had been discovered. I telegraphed to Tombstone, to James Earp, and papers were made out and sent to Charleston that night. While I was in town, waiting for the papers, Billy Clanton found out I was there. He went and tried to take the horse out of the corral. I told him that he could not take him out, that it was my horse. After the papers came he gave the horse up without the papers being served, and asked me "if I had any more horses to lose". I told him I would keep them in the stable after this, and not give him a chance to steal them.
In one of the conversations I had with Ike Clanton about giving away Leonard, Head, and Crane, I told him one reason why I wanted to catch them was to prove to the citizens of Tombstone that Doc Holliday had nothing to do with it, as there were some false statements circulated to that effect. In following the trail of Leonard, Head, and Crane we struck it at the scene of the attempted robbery, and never lost the trail or hardly a footprint from the time that we started from Drew's ranch on the San Pedro, until we got to Helm's ranch, in the Dragoons. After following about eight miles down the San Pedro river and capturing one of the men, named King, that was supposed to be in with them, we then crossed the Catalina mountains within fifteen miles of Tucson, following their trail around the front of the mountain after they had crossed over to Tres Alamos, on the San Pedro river. We then started out from Helm's ranch and got on their trail. They had stolen fifteen or twenty head of stock so as to cover their trail. Morgan, R.H. Paul, Breckenridge, Johnny Behan, and myself and one or two others still followed the trail up into New Mexico. Their trail never led south from Helm's ranch, as Ike Clanton has stated. We used every effort we could to capture these men. I was out ten days. Virgil and Morgan were out sixteen days, and we done all we could to capture these men, and I safely say if it had not been for myself and Morgan, they would not have got King, as he started to run when we rode up to his hiding place, and was making for a big patch of brush on the river, and would have got in it if it had not been for us.
Defense Exhibit A
To All Whom It May Concern, Greetings:
We, the undersigned citizens of Dodge City in Ford County, Kansas, and vicinity do by these presents certify that we are personally acquainted with Wyatt Earp, late of this city; that he came here in the year 1876; that, during the years of 1877, 1878, and 1879 he was Marshal of our city; that he left our place in the fall of 1879; that during his whole stay here he occupied a place of high social position and was regarded and looked upon as a high-minded, honorable citizen; that, as Marshal of our city, he was ever vigilant in the discharge of his duties, and, while kind and courteous to all, he was brave, unflinching, and on all occasions proved himself the right man in the right place.
Hearing that he is now under arrest, charged with complicity in the killing of those men termed "Cow Boys". From our knowledge of him, we do not believe that he would wantonly take the life of his fellow man, and that if he was implicated, he only took life in the discharge of his sacred trust to the people; and earnestly appeal to the citizens of Tombstone, Arizona, to use all means to secure him a fair and impartial trial, fully confident that when tried he will be fully vindicated and exonerated of any crime.
R.M. Wright, Lloyd Shinn, M.W. Sutton, George F. Hinkle, J.W. Liellow, F.C. Zimmerman, G.W. Potter, Thomas S. Jones, A.B. Weber, C.M. Beeson, Geo. Emerson, A.H. Boyd, J.H. Philips, R.G. Cook, Wright, Beverly & Co., Herman F. Fringey, O.W. Wright, March and Son, W.W. Robins, H.P. Weiss, Fred T. M. Wenir, R.C. Burns, H.M. Bell, T.L. McCarty, D.E. Frost, Beeson and Harris, Representative, Ford County, Probate Judge, Ford County, Kansas, County Attorney, Ford County, Kansas, Sheriff, Ford County, Kansas, Ford County Commissioner, Ford County Treasurer and Tax Collector, Clerk of Ford County, Police Judge and Attorney at Law, Mayor of Dodge City, Kansas, City Council of Dodge City, Kansas, Deputy County Treasurer of Ford County, U.S. Commissioner, Dodge City Merchants, Postmaster of Dodge City, Kansas, Pastor of the Presbyterian Church, Merchants, Grocers, Shoemaker, Notary Public and Insurance Agent, Attorney, Deputy United States Marshal, M.D., Ex-Police Judge, Liquor Dealers, and 35 other citizens signed the paper.