Tombstone Silver

Inquest Into Morgan Earp's Death

This is the report printed in the Epitaph about the Coroner's Inquest concerning Morgan Earp's death.


Introduction

Morgan Earp was assassinated at the Campbell & Hatch Billiard Parlor as he played a game of billiards with Bob Hatch, a friend and the owner of the business. The shot that killed Morgan was fired from an alley through a glass pane in the parlor's back door. There have been countless words written and scores of movies and videos depicting Morgan's death. This article reproduces the account of the coroner's inquest as published in the Tombstone Epitaph on March 27, 1882.


Coroner's Inquest

On the Body of the Late Morgan S. Earp
Spence, Stillwell, Freis and Two Indians alleged to be Implicated in the Assassination.

The coroner's jury having finished its labor of investigating into the killing of Morgan S. Earp, on Saturday night last, and Coroner Matthews having filed his report of the same, with a transcript of the evidence and verdict of the jury, with the clerk of the district court, as required by law, the Epitaph publishes the same in connected form for the benefit of its numerous readers and the public generally. It is seldom that a jury of investigation are enabled to bring out so strong an array of evidence upon a preliminary examination as in the present case. Unfortunately for the cause of law and order, the violent taking off of Stillwell, at Tucson, on Monday night, has put him beyond the reach of earthly tribunals. Peter Spence has surrendered himself to the sheriff and is now in custody. His examination will come up before Judge Wallace at 10 o'clock tomorrow morning.

Certificate of the Coroner

Territory of Arizona, county of Cochise, ss: I hereby certify that the following and annexed papers contain a transcript of the testimony submitted to a jury of inquest empaneled by me as coroner of Cochise county, A. T., in the town of Tombstone, A. T, on March 19, 1882, to inquire into when, where and by what means one Morgan S. Earp came to this death, and that the finding of said jury was that his death was caused, as they believe, from the effect of a gunshot or pistol wound on the night of March 17, 1882, by Peter Spence, Frank Stillwell, one John Doe Freeze and an Indian called Charley, and another Indian, name unknown.
H. M. MATHEWS,
Coroner Cochise County, A. T.

Evidence In The Case

Dr. G. E. Goodfellow was the first witness who was called in this case and testified to seeing Morgan S. Earp on the floor of Campbell & Hatch's saloon after he was shot. The doctor also stated as to the nature of the wound, and the probable cause of death. Witness knew nothing of the circumstances which led to the wound. The wounded man lived from half to three-fourths of an hour after he arrived.

Dr. W. S. Miller saw Mr. Earp before Dr. Goodfellow, and corroborated all the remarks of the last named.

Robert Hatch was then sworn and testified to having been at the theater on the night of the killing; that he went from there to his place of business and met Morgan Earp at the door, who said, "I will play you a game of pool," and they went to the back end of the billiard room and commenced to play; they played one game and started on the second. Witness had the cue in his hand, in the act of making a play, was at the end of the table next to the back of the saloon. Earp was at his right and close to him with his back to the door. Just at that time there were two gun or pistol shots almost simultaneously, did not know at that moment where they came from, got out of range of the door, just at that moment witness saw Earp fall. In about eight or ten seconds witness passed through the card room into the back yard but could not see any one as it was very dark.

Sherman W. McMasters

was present in the saloon at the time the shooting was done. saw the shooting, but did not see Earp fall, as witness dropped on the floor at the time, expecting more shots would be fired. Afterward witness went with Mr. Holland out into the back yard, but could see no one. He stated to having his own theory as to the gang who did the shooting, but might be mistaken.

D.G. Tipton

was next called, who testified to being in the saloon, sitting near the table where Morgan was playing pool, that on hearing shots witness ran to the front door, supposing them to have come from that way, he afterward went back and assisted in looking after Morgan. They had had no trouble with anyone during the day; had been at the theater, also had been warned to look out, as some of them would catch it that night. Witness had been warned several times before, by business men especially.

Pat Holland

was in the card room at the time, sitting in a chair close to the side door leading to the passage. On hearing the shot he ran into the passage way but could see no one; on coming back three men came out from the saloon armed, and fearing they might take him for one of the men who did the shooting, he went around through the Occidental. He did not think anyone could have gone down the alley way to Fremont street, as he did not see them, and was out not out over eight seconds after the shooting.

Isaac Isaacs

was in the saloon near the stove talking to some gentlemen. Saw Earp fall immediately after the shooting, and rushed out with the crowd to see what was the matter.

Marietta D. Spence

being sworn, testified as follows: Reside in Tombstone, and am the wife of Peter Spence; on last Saturday, the 18th of March, was in my house on Fremont street; for two days my husband was not home, but in Charleston, but came home about 12 o'clock p. m. Saturday. He came with two parties, one named Freis, a German; I don't know the others name, but he lives in the house of Manuel Acusto. Each one had a rifle. Immediately after arriving, he sent a man to take care of the horses and take them to the house of Manuel Acusto. They then entered the front room and began to converse with Frank Stilwell. When they finished, Frank Stilwell went out and Spence went to bed. This is all that happened that night. Spence remained in bed until 9 o'clock a. m. Sunday. Freis slept there. The other man went to his house on Friday and stayed all day; went out Friday night, but returned in a short time to sleep. Saturday he was out all day and up to 12 o'clock at night, when Spence came in. There was an Indian with Stilwell called Charley. He was armed with a pistol and carbine. He left Saturday morning with Stilwell and came back with him at 12 o'clock at night, and left about two hours after Stilwell did. Both Charley and Stilwell were armed with pistols and carbines when they returned to the house Saturday night. The conversation between Spence and Stilwell and the others was carried on in a low tone. They appeared to be talking some secret. When they came in I got out of bed to receive them, and noticed they were excited; why, I don't know. Stilwell came in the house about an hour before Spence and the other two. Stilwell brought me a dispatch from Spence, saying he would be up from Charleston that night (Saturday); received it about 2 o'clock in the city. Think Spence left last night (the 20th) for Sonora. Don't know positively that he went. 0n Sunday morning Spence told me to get breakfast about 6 o'clock, which I did -- after we had a quarrel, during which he struck me and my mother, and during which he threatened to shoot me, when my mother told him he would have to shoot her too. His expression was, that if I said a word about something I knew about he would kill me; that he was going to Sonora and would leave my dead body behind him. Spence didn't tell me so, but I know he killed Morgan Earp; I think he did it, because he arrived at the house all of a tremble, and both the others who came with him. Spence's teeth were chattering when he came in. I asked it he wanted something to eat, and be said he did not. Myself and mother heard the shots, and it was a little after when Stilwell and the Indian, Charley, came in, and from one half to three-quarters of an hour after Spence and the other two men came. I think that Spence and the other two men, although they might have arrived during the night, had left their horses outside of town, and after the shooting, had gone and got them. I judged they had been doing wrong from the condition, white and trembling, in which they arrived. Spence and the two men had been for several days in the habit of leaving home in the middle of the day and returning in the middle of the night, but they never returned in the same condition as they did on that night, and, after hearing the next morning, of Earp's death, I came to the conclusion that Spence and the others had done the deed. Have not seen the Indian, Charley, since that night; do not know where he is. Four days ago, while mother and myself were standing at Spence's house, talking with Spence and the Indian, Morgan Earp passed by, when Spence nudged the Indian and said, "That's him; that's him." The Indian then started down the street so as to get ahead of him and get a good look at him. Freis is a German who works for Acusto as teamster. Think he was with Spence Saturday night and assisted in killing Earp, also Stilwell and Indian Charley.

Mrs. Francisco Castro

was sworn and testified as follows: I have heard the testimony of my daughter, Mrs. Spence. It is all true. Know Nothing more than what she testified, and I fully corroborate all that she has said.

Briggs Goodrich

On the 18th, Wyatt Earp said to me: “I think they were after us last night. Do you know anything about it?" I replied, "No." I was not down there. He then said: "Do you think we are in any danger?" I said they were liable to get it in the neck at any time. He said, "I don't notice any body particularly in town now -- any of the crowd." I said, "I think I see some strangers here that I think are after you." I said, “By the way, John Ringo wanted me to say to you, that if any fight came up between you all, that be wanted you to understand that he would have nothing to do with it; that he was going to look out for himself, and anybody else could do the same." I think, from what Frank Stilwell said, that there would be some trouble. He said there were some boys in town who would toe the mark, and the worst of it was the Earps would think he was in it, as they did not like him. I told him I would tell them the same for him as I had for John Ringo, and he said no, that he would rather die than let them know that he cared a damn what they thought. I advised him to keep off the street of nights, and then he would be able to prove an alibi. I saw two men on Saturday night, after the theater was out, standing on the opposite corner of the street. They appeared to be watching some one. They then went up Fremont street to Fifth street -- at least, one did; the other went down street. I could not recognize them.

Coroner's Verdict

The following is the verdict of the jury: We, the undersigned, a jury empaneled by the Coroner of Cochise county, Territory of Arizona, to inquire whose body is that submitted to our inspection, when, whom, and by what means he came to his death, after viewing the body and bearing such testimony as has been brought before us, find that his name was Morgan S. Earp age about 29 years, a native of Iowa, and that he came to his death in the city of Tombstone on the 18th day of March, 1882, in the saloon of Campbell & Hutch, in said town, by reason of a gunshot or pistol wound inflicted at the hands of Pete Spence, Frank Stilwell, a party by the name of Freis, and two Indian half breeds, one whose name is Charlie, but the name of the other was not ascertained. Signed, J. B. McGowan, Wm. Bourland, Thomas R. Sorin, E. D. Leigh, W. H. Ream, Robert Upton and P. L. Seamans.


Location

The original Campbell and Hatch Billiard Parlor building was located at 412 E. Allen Street. It now houses the Red Buffalo Trading Company and there is a painted sign on the front window of that business indicating that is where Morgan was killed. Because the business is on a part of Allen Street that is closed to traffic, the Goodenough Historic Trolley Tour does not pass the location, but I point it out near the beginning of the tour and encourage my guests to visit it later.