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First Posted: May 5, 2010
Oct 11, 2010

Newman Haynes Clanton or Old Man Clanton

Newman Haynes "Old Man" Clanton

Newman Haynes "Old Man" Clanton, circa 1880. Newman Haynes Clanton (1816-1881) was a successful cattle rancher and the father of the four Clanton brothers of Tombstone, Arizona Territory, including Billy Clanton and Ike Clanton, who became involved in the events that developed into the Gunfight at the OK Corral.

Early Life

Newman Clanton was born in Davidson County, Tennessee, and married Mariah Sexton Kelso in Callaway County, Missouri on January 5, 1840. Together the couple would have five sons and two daughters; John Wesley, Phineas Fay (Phin), Joseph Isaac (Ike), William Harrison (Billy), Mary Elise, Ester Ann, and Alonzo Peter. Alonzo died as an infant. For almost twenty years, the family moved repeatedly, trying to find a place where employment or business could bring the family profits.

In 1853 Newman moved the family to Dallas, Texas, where they ranched for a time, and where their last two children, Ester and Alonzo were born. Both Newman and his oldest son John enlisted in the Confederate Home Guard at the outbreak of the American Civil War. Newman was eventually released due to his age. Newman moved the family to Arizona Territory in 1865, at the wars end, settling for a time near Fort Bowie, by Willcox, Arizona. In 1866, he moved the family to San Buena Ventura, California, and shortly thereafter his wife Mariah died. Her death profoundly affected the family, as Newman Clanton was now left with four boys and two girls to manage and provide.

In 1871, he moved the family to Port Hueneme, California, then in 1873 he returned them to Arizona. By 1877 the Clanton's owned a ranch on the San Pedro River, some five miles outside of Charleston, Arizona, and in a short amount of time and with a lot of work, the Clanton Ranch became one of the most successful in Arizona. The recent Silver mine strikes in the area caused a cattle beef demand, and the timing could not have been better for the Clanton's. Although, for the most part, the cattle ranch was legitimate, they did utilize cattle they rustled in Mexico often. While this is what led to him being considered by some to be an outlaw, by all indications he simply considered it business, since the acts of cattle rustling he was conducting were not taking place inside the United States.

It was during this time that several notables of the Old West came to work on the Clanton Ranch. These included Pony Diehl, William Brocius, and Frank and Tom McLaury. Johnny Ringo became associated with them around this time, fresh off his participation in the Mason County War, during which he'd sided with Texas Ranger and gunman Scott Cooley. However, it is not believed that Ringo officially worked for the ranch as much as he was merely friends with Brocius, and Ike Clanton.

The Clantons

At worst, those in his employ were known to steal livestock (Cattle rustling) from across the U.S.--Mexico border, as well as other acts of banditry. Although history has since portrayed him as a leader of an outlaw gang, this was not the case. For all practical purposes, he ran his cattle ranch with great financial success, and didn't involve himself in other matters. There also is no evidence at all that he ever met any members of the Earp faction.

Despite Hollywood's portrayals in film, the "Cowboys" themselves, as a group, were loosely connected, and not organized. Often portrayed as being tightly-knit and clannish, they in reality were little more than an association of friends and/or coworkers. Men who considered themselves members of the Cowboys were often participants in robberies and cattle rustling, but this was rarely, if ever, an organized planned out affair, and was most often without the knowledge of "Old Man" Clanton until after the fact. It was though, ironically, most likely due to one of these disorganized criminal acts that led to his demise.

"Old Man" Clanton was killed along with four other men in August, 1881, in what was dubbed the Guadalupe Canyon Massacre, probably by Mexicans in retaliation for an earlier ambush by rustlers associated with the Clantons. His youngest son, Billy Clanton, would be killed two months later in the O.K. Corral gunfight, and buried in Tombstone's "Boot Hill" Cemetery beside the McLaury brothers. In 1882, two of Clanton's surviving sons removed the elder Clanton's body from its original grave in Guadeloupe Canyon, and re-buried it next to Billy Clanton in Boot Hill. By 1887, another son, outlaw Ike Clanton, was killed in a gunfight with lawmen. The Cowboys for all practical purposes ceased to exist following the now famous Earp Vendetta Ride in 1882.

Billy Clanton (OK Corral)

Billy Clanton Image
Billy Clanton born William Harrison Clanton, youngest of four brothers

Billy Clanton (1862 - October 26, 1881) was a cowboy and rancher of the Old West. He is best known for being a member of the Clanton faction that faced off against the Earp faction in the events that eventually led up to the Gunfight at the OK Corral, in which Billy Clanton and two others were killed. Although sometimes described as being a gunman, that is not correct. By all legitimate accounts, Billy Clanton was a rancher and cowboy, and his first gunfight was the Gunfight at the OK Corral.

Born William Harrison Clanton, in Hamilton County, Texas, he was the youngest of four brothers, the other three being John, Phin, and Ike Clanton. He also had two sisters, Mary and Ester. His father, Newton Haynes Clanton, moved his wife Mariah and their six children to California after the end of the Civil War, where they moved several times over the next decade. He then moved the entire extended family to Pima County, Arizona, then later to Charleston, Arizona, and started the "Clanton Ranch" in 1877, which would quickly become one of the most successful in the territory. That same year, silver was discovered near their ranch, and the boomtown of Tombstone, Arizona was born. This led to an immediate population boom, with saloons and gambling houses opening, along with many other businesses. This only added to the success of the Clanton's ranch.

By most accounts, the Clantons were simply hard working cattlemen, with the exception of Ike Clanton. Billy Clanton was young, and although not what could be classified as an "outlaw," he was often in the company of men who were involved in outlaw activities, such as "Curly Bill" Brocius and Johnny Ringo. By 1879 he had befriended Frank and Tom McLaury, two cowboys who had started their own ranch, which also was seeing success.

Ike and Billy Clanton would often travel into Tombstone on weekends, and also Billy did business in Tombstone associated with the ranch, alongside the two McLaury brothers. By most accounts, Ike was not well liked in and around Tombstone due to his habit of bragging and talking loudly while intoxicated. Billy, on the other hand, was well liked, and looked upon as hard working and level headed.

On October 27, 1880, the first trouble with the Earp faction occurred when "Curly Bill" Brocius accidentally shot and killed Marshal Fred White. Although the film industry later exploited this into a murder, it was in fact, by White's own words prior to his death, an accident. Brocius regretted the incident greatly, and White had in fact been well liked by the Clanton faction. Brocius was arrested by Wyatt Earp, along with Tom and Frank McLaury, Pony Deal, Frank Patterson and Billy Clanton. When arrested, Brocius was "pistol whipped" by Earp, which caused the first real tension between the Earp's and the Clanton faction. Later that same year Wyatt Earp caught Billy Clanton on a stolen horse, but Clanton returned the horse and the issue was dropped altogether.

On March 15, 1881, a stagecoach of the Kinnear & Co. Stage was robbed, with driver Bud Philpot and passenger Peter Roerig being murdered. A posse quickly captured Luther King, who admitted his accomplices were Bill Leonard, Harry Head, and Jim Crane. Rumors indicated gunman and gambler Doc Holliday was involved also, but there is no evidence to support that. Ike Clanton later claimed Doc Holliday told him that he was involved in the robbery, but this is believed to have been false.

Holliday was later arrested for threatening in Tombstone, and also was being investigated for a shooting incident unrelated to the stagecoach robbery. By this time, Ike Clanton's talking about Holliday being involved in the robbery was causing tension between him and Holliday, along with the Earp's. On August 13, 1881, Newton Clanton was killed during a shootout in Mexico, most likely by rustlers. The Clanton sons continue operating the ranch, which by this time is seeing remarkable financial success. On October 25th, 1881, Ike, Billy, and the McLaury brothers head to Tombstone after working to gather scattered cattle, lost during an earlier Apache raid. The events that transpired over that night and the next day have various versions.

While gambling, in the early morning hours of October 26th, Ike and Doc Holliday have a disagreement, and Holliday threatens Ike Clanton, saying allegedly "The next time we see you Ike, you'd better be armed cause we're gonna kill you." Later that same morning, Virgil Earp and Ike Clanton play poker together. Ike Clanton is arrested later that morning by Morgan Earp and Virgil for carrying a weapon, paid a fine, and is released. Shortly after this Tom McLaury arrives to get Ike, and has a heated verbal dispute with Wyatt Earp, resulting in Earp hitting Tom over the head with his pistol, but no arrest being made. Billy Clanton and Frank McLaury ride into town after this. When Billy learns of the trouble, he makes attempts at calming his brother, to avoid more trouble.

The Gunfight at the OK Corral followed, which has numerous versions as to what actually happened and who fired first. Although history would eventually slant the facts in the favor of the Earp faction, in reality there were no indications that Billy Clanton ever instigated the fight that followed. In fact, by most factual accounts, he did try to avoid trouble, and tried to calm his brother into leaving town. It was later claimed by William McLaury, a judge, and the older brother to Frank and Tom McLaury, that his two brothers and Billy Clanton were preparing to come to Fort Worth, Texas to be with him for a visit after having sold their cattle.

Graves of Billy Clanton, Frank McLaury and Tom McLaury in Boothill Cemetery, Tombstone, Arizona. What is known is that Ike Clanton had run away in the opening moments, along with Billy Claiborne. Billy Clanton empties his gun during the fight, and is killed along with both McLaurys. Doc Holliday and Virgil and Morgan Earp were wounded. The town was divided, with many supporting the Clantons, and others supporting the Earps. The funeral that followed was the largest in Tombstone's history, with more than 2,000 people in attendance, and the three were buried in the Boothill cemetery. The town of Charleston, where the "Clanton Ranch" was located, is now a ghost town.

Ike Clanton

Ike Clanton

Ike Clanton, Tombstone, about 1881. Photo by C. S. FlyJoseph Isaac (Ike) Clanton (1847 - June 1, 1887) was born in Callaway County, Missouri, and grew up to be one of the pivotal players in the gunfight at the O.K. Corral, one of the most famous events of the American Old West.

Early Life

Ike Clanton was one of seven children born to Newman Haynes Clanton (known as Old Man Clanton, 1816-1881) and his wife Maria Sexton (Kelso) Clanton. His father worked at times as a day laborer, a gold miner, a farmer, and by the late 1870s, a cattleman in Arizona Territory. He was very smart.

Clanton's mother died in 1866. Ike stayed with the family when they moved to Tombstone, Arizona Territory, about 1877 (before Tombstone became a town or even a mining center). At that time, Newman Clanton was living with his sons Phineas ("Fin"), Ike, and Billy. By 1878 Ike was running a small "lunch counter" at the Tombstone Mill site (now Millville on the San Pedro River-not in modern Tombstone). By 1881, however, he was working on his father's ranch at Lewis Springs, about 12 miles (19 km) west of Tombstone and 5 miles (8 km) from Charleston.

The Clantons and their ranch hands and associates were known as the "Cowboys," and they had a reputation for reckless behavior. They were accused of cattle rustling from across the U.S.-Mexico border, as well as other acts of banditry and murder.

Notoriety, clashes with the Earp Faction

Ike Clanton's notoriety is based largely on his conflict with the Earp brothers, especially Wyatt Earp and Wyatt's friend Doc Holliday. The Earps and the Clantons had several political, economic, and philosophical reasons to hate each other, and the animosity grew throughout 1881. Helping to fuel this conflict was Ike Clanton's reputation as loudly boasting in public, drinking heavily, and having a quick temper. He was well known for talking too much.

In November 1879, shortly after arriving in Tombstone, Wyatt Earp had a horse stolen. More than a year later, probably sometime in December 1880, Wyatt was told the horse was being used near Charleston, and Wyatt and Holliday were forced to ride to the Clanton's ranch near Charleston to await ownership papers in order to legally recover it. According to Wyatt's testimony later, 18 year-old Billy Clanton asked him insolently if he had any more horses to "lose," but he gave the horse up without first being shown the ownership papers, demonstrating to Wyatt that Billy knew to whom the horse belonged. Sheriff Johnny Behan later testified that the incident had angered Ike Clanton. It also angered Wyatt Earp.

In October 1880, outlaw and gunman William Brocius, known as "Curly Bill" and a member of the Cowboys, was arrested for the murder of Tombstone marshall Fred White. Wyatt Earp had arrested him, further fueling hostilities between the Clanton and Earp factions. Later, when Brocius was found not guilty, the tensions intensified.

In March 1881, a bungled stagecoach robbery near Benson, Arizona, that resulted in the killing of two men on the stage divided the two factions, with the Earps believing the Cowboys were involved, but with Ike Clanton later publicly claiming Doc Holliday was one of the robbers and that Holliday had fired the shot that killed the stage driver. Wyatt testified that both Frank McLaury and Ike Clanton had agreed to provide information on the capture of the three supposed robbers, named Leonard, Head, and Crane. Later, after the last of these men had died in separate incidents, Wyatt claimed that word of this secret deal began leaking out. Ike Clanton, in contrast, claimed that word of Doc Holliday's involvement, as well as the rest of the Earps' involvement in the robbery, was what was beginning to leak out.

In July 1881, "Curly Bill"Brocius and gunfighter Johnny Ringo were said to have gone to Huachita, New Mexico to kill two brothers, William and Isaac Haslett, in revenge for the deaths of Clanton Cowboy members Bill Leonard and Harry Head, who had attempted to rob the Haslett brothers' general store weeks earlier. Later, also in July, Brocius led an ambush attacking a Mexican trail herd in the San Luis Pass, killing six vaqueros and torturing the remaining eight men. All of these combined events fueled the reputation of the Cowboy gang and added to the tensions around the town of Tombstone.

"Old Man" Clanton was the leader of the group since their base of operation was on his ranch, but he was killed in the Guadeloupe Canyon Massacre in August 1881, probably by Mexicans in retaliation for an earlier ambush committed by rustlers associated with the Clantons. Following Old Man Clanton's death, Curly Bill took over as the new leader of the Cowboys. However, the Cowboys faction was not a close knit group, and even when Old Man Clanton was alive, acts of violence, rustling or robbery were not usually committed as an organized plan but in a random manner. Old Man Clanton, as later discovered, was never the leader in the sense that he organized crimes. He simply operated his ranch and allowed the Cowboys to live and work there. Although history has often portrayed the Cowboys as being ruthless and the town of Tombstone living in fear of them, this was not the case. In fact, with the exception of Ike Clanton who was widely disliked because of his big mouth, most of the Cowboys were seen as harmless or merely a minor nuisance. They also, generally, got along quite well with the town marshal, Fred White, who was respected and well liked by most of the Cowboys, despite later film portrayals, and much to this credit, they rarely committed crimes inside the town limits, and usually when White was forced to arrest Cowboys he had the support of other members of the gang in doing so, to include Brocius, who liked White.

Gunfight in Tombstone

By October 25, 1881, Ike Clanton was reported in Tombstone, drunken and very loud, after Holliday accused him of lying about the whole stagecoach robbery matter. A fight between Ike and Holliday was averted at first only because Clanton was either not armed (Wyatt said he had a concealed pistol) or not yet prepared to fight. After Morgan and Virgil threatened to arrest both Doc and Ike if they did not stop arguing, Clanton left and Wyatt and Holliday left to sleep.

Ike, however, did not go home, but instead stayed up all night in a card game with Tom McLaury and Virgil Earp. After the game broke up at dawn and Virgil went to bed, Ike kept drinking, and by many reports of witnesses at trial, by noon of the next day was seen about town with a Winchester rifle and sidearm, allegedly looking for Holliday or one of the Earps.

By this time, all of the Earps had gotten out of bed and started looking for Ike. Virgil and Morgan Earp, as city police officers, caught Ike unaware and "buffaloed" him (knocking him unconscious with the butt or barrel of a pistol). Ike was held at the recorder's office until a judge appeared to fine him for disorderly conduct and carrying of a concealed weapon in the city.

At the courtroom on Fifth Street, Ike Clanton and the Earps traded deadly threats as Ike was leaving. Tom McLaury had arrived to get Ike, after which Wyatt and McLaury had a heated exchange outside the courtroom that led to Wyatt hitting Tom over the head with his pistol as Tom stepped towards him. A short while later, Tom was found to have left a pistol in a nearby saloon, showing he was indeed carrying it in violation of city law at the time of his altercation with Wyatt.

At nearly the same time Tom was getting rid of his firearms, Tom's older brother Frank McLaury and Ike's younger brother Billy Clanton arrived in town fully-armed, on horseback, to do final business before heading to Fort Worth, Texas, to visit with Judge William McLaury, the older brother to the McLaury brothers. They soon learned of their brothers' beatings at the hands of the Earps. Billy Clanton attempted to calm his brother. That afternoon Wyatt saw the Cowboys were loading up on ammunition, and later, witnesses reported to the Earps that the Cowboys were gathering at a vacant lot on Fremont street, through the block and in back of the O.K. Corral. This location was next to the boarding house where Holliday was staying. Several witnesses told the Earps that the men gathered in the vacant lot were overheard making threatening comments regarding the Earps.

Hearing that, the three Earp brothers, now joined by Doc Holliday, marched down the streets of Tombstone to the vacant lot for the purpose of disarming their armed opponents. A few minutes later, the most famous gunfight in American history took place at the O.K. Corral. Although the McLaurys and Billy Clanton were armed, it has been disputed as to whether their "disarming" was necessary, as they were near the corral, and possibly leaving town soon afterward. By the town ordinance, when enroute to a corral the possession of firearms was legal. They were technically not at the corral, though, which can be a claim in the favor of the Earps.

Whether the men were preparing to leave town is another point of dispute; the wagon and horses driven into town by Ike Clanton and Tom McLaury was at the West End Corral, one and a half blocks west of the vacant lot. They would not have had reason to go to the OK Corral that day. However, they were standing right next door to his boarding house under the window to his rented room, if Ike (and possibly the other men) were waiting for Doc Holliday to show up to ambush him. (Holliday's "lady friend," Big Nose Kate, was waiting in Holliday's room, and reportedly saw the entire gunfight.) Holliday had reason to fear that the gang would kill him that day or soon after, and so was motivated to join the Earps on their way to the vacant lot to confront the Clantons and McLaurys. It is even said that Holliday fired the first shot in the confrontation.

Based on testimony from the pro-Earp eyewitnesses, Ike Clanton had spent all day, even after his arrest and disarming, threatening to gun down the Earps. However, when the gunfight began, Ike was unarmed and managed to flee the shooting unscathed. And he was not present during the actual shootout; he fled as soon as the first shots were fired. In the days prior to the gunfight, Ike had enlisted the help of fellow Cow-boy Billy Claiborne, who was reputed to be good with a gun, to help even the odds when the inevitable fight came. Claiborne, when the gunfight finally came, also fled the scene, stating later that he too was unarmed. Ike's boasting and threats had left his younger brother Billy Clanton, and his two friends the McLaurys, dead, victims of gunfire from the Earps and Holliday. There are no known documents claiming that the McLaurys and Billy Clanton had any clashes with the Earps prior to that day.

Spicer Hearing

Afterwards, Ike testified in a preliminary hearing (the Spicer hearing) to his behavior before and during the gunfight, trying to paint the Earps and Holliday as calculating murderers. Murder charges were brought against Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp at Clanton's instigation.

Ike Clanton proved a better witness for the defense than the prosecution. Clanton claimed in his testimony that Holliday had "piped off" money from the stagecoach which was supposed to have been robbed, and had told Ike about it. Ike claimed Holliday had also directly told him of shooting the stage driver (two men on the stage were killed). However, no money was reported missing from the stage since the stage had not stopped and the robbery in fact had not succeeded. Thus, Ike's story regarding the money was not credible. Moreover, Ike testified that Doc Holliday, Virgil Earp, Wyatt Earp, and Morgan Earp had all separately confessed to him their roles in the stage robbery incident. Since the attempted-robbery-murders were hanging offenses, Clanton further hurt his credibility in claiming that the three Earps and Holliday-none of them friends of Clanton-had jeopardized themselves telling him about their roles in the crime.

Later in the hearing, the Earps were able to provide a strong defense, pointing out that Ike had not been harmed in his initial confrontation with Holliday when Ike was unwilling to fight, and he had not even been shot by Virgil and Morgan when he was fully-armed, the next day, and they had a perfect opportunity and excuse to shoot him down. Also, Ike had escaped during the gunfight without harm because he was thought to be unarmed. With these facts-along with at least two unbiased eyewitnesses to the beginning of the fight (H.F. Sills and A. Bauer) who backed up the Earp claims that the Cowboys had not been shot while trying to surrender-the murder charges were dismissed.

Afterward, Ike Clanton was accused, along with his brother Phin Clanton and friend Pony Diehl, of being involved in an attempted assassination of Virgil Earp in December 1881, which crippled the lawman for life. Though Ike's hat was found at the scene where the ambushers waited, his friends provided an alibi, and the case was dismissed. This incident taught Wyatt Earp that no help would likely be coming from the law on matters where gangs could always provide alibis for any act at which they were not caught red-handed.

A second assassination attempt in March, 1882 against Wyatt and Morgan Earp left Morgan dead, and soon afterwards the Earp faction left Tombstone in order to get Virgil Earp to safety. Wyatt later said that Ike Clanton, along with Frank Stilwell and other Cowboys, attempted another ambush, this time in Tucson, Arizona, where Virgil would be passing though on the train to his father's home in Colton, California. However, the Earps were prepared, and Wyatt killed Stilwell. Clanton and the others fled and soon found themselves targeted by the Earp Vendetta Ride, led by Wyatt against those he blamed for Morgan's death. Although most likely a prime target for Wyatt's vengeance, Ike survived the vendetta, with Wyatt, Holliday and their associates leaving Arizona Territory for good by April, 1882.


Ike Clanton's run-ins with the law were not over, however. Charged with cattle-rustling, Ike and his brother Phineas (Fin/Phin) were cornered by detective Jonas V. Brighton on June 1, 1887, at Jim Wilson's Ranch, on Eagle Creek, south of Springerville, Arizona. Fin Clanton surrendered, but Ike resisted and was shot dead.

Here is the detailed story of Brighton's killing of Ike as retold by a reporter who corresponded with him in late June 1887:

The next morning, while they were at breakfast, Ike Clanton came riding up to the door. Mr. Brighton got up from the table, walked to the door, and was familiarly saluted by him. Just at this time, Mr. Miller stepped to the door, to be ready to render any assistance needed, and when Ike saw him he wheeled his horse and attempted to get under cover of the thick cover which grows close to Wilson's home, at the same time pulling his Winchester from its scabbard. Both Brighton and Miller ordered him to halt but instead of doing so, when about twenty yards distant where the trail took a turn to the left, he threw his rifle over his left arm attempting to fire; at this instance Detective Brighton fired, the ball entering under the left arm and passing directly through the heart and out under the right arm. Ike reeled in his saddle and fell on the right side of his horse, his rifle falling on the left.

Before the fall, Brighton fired a second shot which passed through the cantle of the saddle and grazed Ike's right leg. When Brighton and Miller walked up to where Ike lay they found he was dead. Mr. Wilson, at whose ranch the shooting occurred, notified the nearest neighbors and four men came over and identified the deceased and assisted in giving him as decent a burial as circumstances would admit.

In late June 1996 one of Ike's remaining relatives, Terry "Ike" Clanton, along with former Citadel professor and grave expert James A. Browning, began a search of the area where Ike was reportedly buried. This area is near Eagle Creek in what is now Greenlee County, Arizona. They quickly discovered a shallow grave under a large tree, that they believed contains the remains of Ike Clanton.

Since their discovery, Terry has repeatedly contacted the city officials of Tombstone in an attempt to interest the town in exhuming the remains and re-burying them in Tombstone's famous Boothill Graveyard. So far, he has met with much resistance from town officials who believe it is best to "let the dead rest where they lie." Ike's remains, if that is really what was found, remain where they were first discovered in 1996.