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Wyatt Earp Trial: 1881

Trouble Brewing

On October 25, Ike Clanton and teenaged Tom McLaury came to Tombstone in a wagon. As the law required, both men checked their guns at a saloon designated as a check point. McLaury came to do business. Clanton came to drink. He was thoroughly potted when he saw Doc Holliday and Morgan Earp in a lunchroom. Holliday challenged him to fight. Clanton said he had checked his guns on entering town. He went outside; Wyatt and Morgan Earp joined Holliday in taunting him. Clanton stumbled off to drink some more. In the morning, Clanton, drunk out of his mind, picked up his guns, saying he was leaving town. He didn't leave. He went staggering through the streets, uttering threats against Holliday and the Earps. Virgil and Morgan Earp sneaked up behind him, bashed him on the head, took his guns and arrested him for carrying weapons.

A little later, Wyatt Earp saw Tom McLaury.

"Are you heeled or not?" Earp asked the teenager.

McLaury said he had no gun. Earp slapped his face, then hit him on the head with his revolver. McLaury went down. When he got up, Earp knocked him down again with the gun.

Billy Clanton and Frank McLaury arrived early in the afternoon to meet their brothers. They had come to help Tom McLaury get Ike Clanton into the wagon: they knew what Ike could be like after a night of drinking. Billy and Frank each had a revolver in a holster and a rifle in a saddle scabbard on his horse. As soon as they got Ike squared away, they'd be leaving, so they saw no need to check their weapons. When the four cowboys met, Sheriff Behan tried to take their guns. Ike Clanton and Tom McLaury said they had no guns. Tom's were still checked, and Ike's had been confiscated. Behan searched them to make sure. Billy Clanton and Frank McLaury were carrying guns openly, but they said they were just about to leave town.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1833 to 1882Wyatt Earp Trial: 1881 - A Mysterious Stage Coach Robbery, Trouble Brewing, Shootout, The Hearing, Aftermath, Suggestions For Further Reading