Tombstone Silver

Gunfights

Despite the Hollywood mythos, there were very few gunfights in Tombstone. This is a listing of those who died by gunshot between 1878 and 1890.


Introduction

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Despite the Hollywood mythos, there were very few gunfights in Tombstone where men faced off and shot each other out in the streets. This page contains a listing of those who died in Tombstone by gunshot between 1880 and 1890. Some of these deaths were gunfights, but most were the result of ambushes, drunken fights, or even suicide. As a note, I am constantly researching Tombstone’s history, and if I come across other gunfights, I will add them to this list.


Gunfights

July 10, 1879: John Hicks was killed by Jeremiah McCormick in a saloon brawl. The fight started when a drunk McCormick and his friend claimed that they could beat any man in a fistfight. They later beat a man named Quinn, who then left the saloon to get his two friends, the Hicks brothers. The brothers came back to the saloon with rifles but were outgunned by McCormick and his friend. John Hicks was killed, and his brother was permanently blinded in the gunfight.

February 25, 1881: Charley Storms was killed by Luke Short in front of Oriental Saloon. Short was a faro dealer at the Oriental, and one day, Storms accused him of cheating. They got into an argument, and Milt Joyce, the owner of the Oriental, made them “take it outside.” Once on the street, Storms offered Short the first shot, and Short put two bullets in his chest. As he fell, Storms shot back but failed to hit Short.

October 26, 1881: Billy Clanton, Frank McLaury, and Thomas McLaury were killed by the Earps and Doc Holliday. These three men died at the Gunfight at the OK Corral. There have been scholarly articles, books, and movies made about this gunfight, and there is nothing new to add here, but it was one of the few gunfights in Tombstone where the combatants faced each other and opened fire.

March 29, 1882: John Gillespie (deputy sheriff), Billy Grounds, and Zwing Hunt were killed during an arrest. Grounds and Hunt had killed an innocent man, M. Robert Peel. Gillespie and a posse tracked the two men to a ranch near Tombstone. A gunfight broke out during the arrest where Gillespie and Grounds were killed. Hunt was severely wounded but managed to survive. While he was recovering from his injuries in the hospital in Tombstone, a stranger later identified as Hunt’s brother managed to help him escape custody. Ironically, Hunt was then killed by the Apache as he left Cochise County on his way to Texas and freedom.

November 14, 1882: Billy Claiborne was killed by Frank Leslie. Claiborne was already drunk when he came to Tombstone from Charleston early in the morning. He stopped at the Oriental Saloon, where Leslie was a bartender. Claiborne became obnoxious and called Leslie some names. Leslie physically threw him out of the saloon and told him not to return. About an hour later, Claiborne was back with a rifle and threatened to kill Leslie on sight. Leslie slipped out the side door of the Oriental and shouted down the street for Claiborne to go home. Claiborne spun and fired the rifle, but he missed; Leslie drew his pistol and did not miss. Claiborne was treated by both Drs Willis and Goodfellow but died at the county hospital a short time later.


Death By Gunshot

While these deaths involved guns, they were not gunfights since they resulted from an ambush, a drunken fight, or a lover’s quarrel. In each case, the “fight” was one-sided.

June 28, 1878: Martin Sweeney was killed by Oliver Boyer in a drunken quarrel.

June 27, 1880: Mike Killeen was killed by Frank Leslie over Mike’s wife, May. Mike and May Killeen were separated when she began seeing Frank Leslie. One night, Killeen showed up at the Cosmopolitan Hotel, where May had a room. Leslie and May were sitting on the balcony in front of the hotel. The next few minutes are somewhat disputed. Leslie said that Killeen began shooting, and the two men struggled over the gun. Leslie was able to take the gun and used it to shoot Killeen three times. In the struggle, Leslie’s head was grazed by a bullet. On his deathbed, Killeen told a much different story. He said that one of Leslie’s friends, a man named Perine, fired the three shots that killed Killeen before the fight even began. A few months after Mike Killeen’s death, Frank Leslie and May Killeen were married.

July 24, 1880: T.J. Waters was killed over the color of his shirt. During that day, several men on Allen Street had teased Waters about the color of his shirt. At one point, he loudly proclaimed that he would beat the next man who said anything about his shirt. About that time, his friend, E. L. Bradshaw, walked into the saloon where Waters was drinking and immediately commented on the color of the shirt. Sure enough, Waters hit him hard enough to drop him to the floor. Bradshaw left the saloon and retrieved the gun from his cabin. A few minutes later, he found Waters on Allen Street and shot him four times.

July 30, 1880: Wilson was killed by Roger King. There was some bad blood between these men due to an election where King ran for office as an anti-Chinese agitator. For an unknown reason, King shot at Wilson through a crack in the door at the Headquarters Saloon. Wilson later shot at King as he walked down Allen Street. Still later, King entered the Headquarters Saloon and killed Wilson.

October 30, 1880: Fred White was killed by Curly Bill in an attempt to take his gun. This incident has been analyzed in journal articles and portrayed in the movies; there is nothing new to add here.

March 18, 1882: Morgan Earp was shot by an unknown assailant while playing pool at the Campbell & Hatch Saloon. This incident has been analyzed in journal articles and portrayed in the movies; there is nothing new to add here.

March 22, 1882: Florentino Cruz (“Indian Charlie”) was killed during Wyatt Earp’s vendetta ride when the posse found him at a camp in the Dragoon Mountains.

May 30, 1882: Seymour Dye and Harry Curry were killed by an Apache party while transporting a load of hay for some cattle.

July 5, 1882: Deputy Kiv Phillips and Filomino Orante shot and killed each other. Orante was drunk and disorderly in the Moses & Mehan Saloon. One of the customers there went to get a law officer, and Phillips responded. Phillips met Orante outside the saloon and began to disarm him. Orante stumbled and fired his gun as he fell. The round hit Phillips in the shoulder but passed through his windpipe. Phillips was able to return fire and hit Orante in the hip. Orante died four days later.

July 16, 1882: William Bobier was shot in self-defense by Albert Young. The two men were partners in a business that provided chickens for cockfights that took place every Sunday afternoon in the back room of Walsh’s Saloon. The two men argued about the outcome of one fight when Young, as the referee, called the fight a draw, and all bets were off. While returning to their ranch later in the evening, the two men began arguing when Bobier picked up a rock and threatened to kill Young. Young ran away and fired a 22-caliber pistol toward Bobier as he ran. The round managed to hit Bobier in the chest and killed him.

November 1, 1882: Joseph Ziegler was killed by Ed Williams. These men were miners and quarreled at work. They brought their quarrel to Tombstone and ended it with a gunshot.

February 14, 1889: Fortino was killed by Wes Fuller, his brother-in-law. Fuller had been heavily drinking all day and shot Fortino for an unknown reason late in the evening.

July 10, 1889: Molly Williams (“Blonde Molly”) was killed by Frank Leslie in a drunken rage over her affair with Jim Neal. Leslie also tried to shoot Neal, but he escaped and testified against Leslie, who was sentenced to 25 years at Yuma.

October 6, 1890: Patrick Dawson was killed by McGowan. This murder was a property dispute, but the particulars are confusing. It seems that McGowan owned a ranch, but Dawson had driven him out of his own house for some unknown reason. McGowan hid around a corner of his house, and when Dawson came out the door, he shot him. One of the witnesses at the coroner’s hearing stated that Dawson “threatened to kill McGowan if he did not divide his property with him.”


Other Notable Gunshot Injuries

December 28, 1881: Virgil Earp was ambushed as he crossed the street at 5th and Allen. He did not die but lost the use of his left arm. This incident has been analyzed in journal articles and portrayed in the movies; there is nothing new to add here.

May 2, 1882: Pat O’Neil was shot by John Fleming during an argument at a shoemaker’s shop on Allen Street. These two men were miners who knew each other, but Fleming shot O’Neil two times, one in the groin and the other in the knee.


Final Note

Several other graves in Boothill indicate someone was shot, but it is not possible to determine the date, location, or circumstances of those deaths. For example, Charley Broncho was “Shot by Ormsby,” but there is no date or other information. None of those incidents are included in this document since it is impossible to ascertain any information about the circumstances surrounding the death.