Happy Birthday Gunfight at the OK Corral – 131 Years Young This Week !
Every time October 26th rolls back around, I find myself wondering: what would it have been like, to be an eyewitness to the most famous gunfight in history?
At one point there was footage readily available on the internet of a reenactment from the late 20’s or early 30’s, which reportedly placed the participants in the gunfight, in various areas on large expanse of Fremont Street where they had actually been seen, by a handful of living witnesses. That footage along with a few stills from it, has long since vanished from the internet. But my memory of that footage lingers. It was so curious and intriguing, it mesmerized me that much. Somewhat like that widely circulated YouTube footage “appearing” to show a woman talking with a cell phone to her ear, around the turn of the last Century. A trick of the mind, that for about 48 hours or so, had several members of the media believing time travel might actually be possible, and taking it seriously. LOL And that reminded me of why I wrote Western Legend in the first place. In 1992, I started working on material for a time travel story, and the bygone era time traveling romp within the larger science fiction story, got bigger and spiraled out of control. In fact, it took on a life of its own, eventually generating a separate screenplay, and then a book called, WESTERN LEGEND.
Sometimes I remember how the story came to be, and the original intention of that material. And I’m left wondering. If the motion picture camera had been in use and present in Tombstone, Arizona, on October 26th, 1881 … what would have been more fascinating: the shocking reality of what we are watching ? Or the mystery of how we are seeing it ?
And thus, for stimulating my imagination, I wish a Happy Birthday to the infamous streetfight in Tombstone. Otherwise known as The Gunfight at the OK Corral.
(Below are some photos I discovered on the Internet, related to the incident in Tombstone)
This photo was taken from Fremont Street, and features the vacant lot located between the little house formerly owned by William A. Harwood (still present on the right,) and the former location of the Boarding House operated by Mollie Fly. (In back of which was located Camillius Fly’s Photographic Studio.) By the time this photo had been taken (sometime in the 1940’s,) Harwood’s House was decrepit, and Fly’s Boarding House and Photographic Studio, was long gone. Having been replaced by what appears to be a barn. In fact, almost half the lot space formerly occupied by Fly’s is seen vacant in this photo, somewhat extending the original 18 foot wide vacant lot, where the infamous street fight began.
This much earlier photo, however — taken from “behind” the Vacant lot, instead of the street — appears to show Camillius Fly’s Studio at right, and Harwood’s little House on the left, with the 18 foot wide vacant lot intact, in-between. The donkey, of course, is unrelated. The photo is said to have been taken sometime in the 1920’s, or perhaps earlier.
This photo of Fremont Street, was taken by someone standing near the Vacant Lot where the street fight began, and shows Grid Block on the left, followed by the Court House where the Wells Spicer hearing was later held. Best guess for a date would be the early 1900’s.
This photo was taken in 1931 looking down Fremont from the other direction. The white building on the left is the Post Office (Notice the Flag pole,) still in its original location from 1881, located at the intersection of Fremont and Allen. Beyond, would be the Court House and Grid Block, and far down on the right, and out of sight, would be the location of the Vacant Lot where the street fight started.
The real OK Corral, taken sometime between the early 1900’s and 1930’s. It was located one block over from where the gunfight actually took place. When newspapers around the Country initially picked up the story, they had been told that the gunfight had occurred, “… at the West End of the OK Corral, in a Vacant Lot that served as an exit, out back.” Thoroughly confused and without a confident geography of the area, the newspaper men shorted that description to simply, The OK Corral. Thus, for many years, even before John Sturges’ film, Gunfight at the OK Corral, the street fight in Tombstone was known under the aforementioned monicker, in print all over the world.
This illustration gives one a general idea of the size of the street, and how the fight spread out and quickly — and also the general location of the buildings. Though the the size of the lot is misrepresented as being much larger than the acknowledged 18 ft. width, and the corner of Third Street is erroneously represented as being far closer to the melee than it actually was. (Please Note: the Telegraph Pole at right was several yards further from Harwood’s House, than represented here.) Also, none of the citizens present in the street that day, are represented. But the illustration does give a certain perspective, with it’s bird’s-eye view of the incident.
A very interesting “authenticated” photo of Virgil Earp when he was 19 years old. Many years before the incidents in Tombstone, Arizona.
A blow-up of one individual in a photograph taken of the dedication of the Tombstone Engine Co. No. 1, in the summer of 1881. It is believed by some to be Wyatt Earp.
Another “authenticated” photo, this one of Morgan Earp, taken shortly before the events in Tombstone.
And a photo of Allen Street in Tombstone, around the early 1900’s. (This was the street the actual OK Corral was located on, one block over.) Notice the board (plank) sidewalk running through the dirt. This is the style of walk that remained prominent all over town, well into the early 20th Century. It is this style of sidewalk which originally stretched in front of the Vacant Lot between Harwood’s House, and Fly’s Boarding House and Photographic Studio. Morgan Earp was standing on a walk just like this one, facing the men in that lot, alongside his brothers and John “Doc” Holiday, when the shooting began.