They Went Looking for Stilwell
30" x 38", Limited edition print
Oct 26, 1881. Tombstone, AZ. Tensions between the Earp's and Clantons come to a head and during a 27-second shootout on Fremont Street (not far from the rear entrance to the OK Corral) 3 members of the Clanton "gang" (Frank & Tom McLaury, and 18-year old Billy Clanton) are killed. Ike Clanton charges the Earp's with first-degree murder and after the longest preliminary hearing in Arizona history, Judge Wells Spicer finds the Earp's innocent of the charge. (Had Ike charged the Earp's with manslaughter it might have been a whole other story. But for first-degree murder you have to prove "intention to kill" as in premeditation and Spicer could not believe that the town Marshall, Virgil Earp, was capable of cold-blooded murder).
Due to their wounds during the gunfight, Morgan Earp and Virgil were bed-ridden. On the night of December 28, 1881, the cowboys made an attempt to kill Virgil. Although he survived the assassination attempt, Virgil lost the use of his left arm, which dangled from his shoulder, useless, for the rest of his life.
On March 18, 1882, while playing a game of pool, Morgan Earp was murder by shots fired through a window.Wyatt Earp along with Doc Holliday and a few other friends, took Morgan's dead body to Tucson to put it on a train to California where the Earp's parents lived. A crippled Virgil Earp was also put on the train.
While they were in the train yard, Wyatt spotted suspected assassin, Frank Stilwell, lurking about with a shotgun. Wyatt ran him down and killed him (hence the train tracks in the print).
Strangely enough, the Earp's gunfire didn't draw any attention and this was because for the first time in Tucson's history there were lights installed to brighten the streets at night; thus Earp's gun shots were thought to be celebratory in nature....as if someone was shooting his gun off to celebrate the new lighting system!
The next day a yard worker stumbled on to the body of Stilwell and when asked about it later, he said that Stilwell "was the most shot up man" he had ever seen. (The attached photo was one I took in the old Tucson train yard and the figures of Wyatt and Doc Holliday represent where Stilwell was killed).
Wyatt began a vendetta ride in which he and his chums killed 2 or 3 other men suspected of shooting Virgil and/or Morgan.
They then fled Arizona for Colorado where Wyatt's friend, Bat Masterson, was the sheriff go Trinidad.
When the governor of Arizona put out warrants for the arrest of Wyatt and his pals, the governor of Colorado, friendly with Masterson, disregarded the warrants and Wyatt was free.
A few years later, the body of Johnny Ringo was found in an oak tree in the Chiricahua Mountains and it was thought that maybe Wyatt had crept back into Arizona with the intention to kill more of the suspected cowboy killers.....Ringo being one of them.
But the mature of his fatal wound suggested that Ringo had killed himself.
Eventually the silver mines in and around Tombstone flooded and the town faded into memory; but with the advent of the movie industry and several books written about these bloody events, the town came roaring back to life as part of our mythic past.