About Robert Findley McLaury
Killed by Wyatt Earp, Morgan Earp, Virgil Earp and Doc Holiday in the Gunfight at the OK Corral, October 26, 1881 along with his brother Tom McLaury and Billy Clanton
Frank McLaury (1848-1881) - The eighth of eleven children, McLaury was born in Korthright, New York in 1848. Several years later the family moved to Iowa where they settled in Belle Plaine. In 1878, Frank, along with his brother, Tom moved to Hereford, Arizona, where they met the Clanton family. Three years later they would find themselves embroiled in the bitter dispute between the Clantons and the Earps in Tombstone , Arizona. On October 26, when Virgil Earp attempted to arrest Ike Clanton, Frank and Tom McLaury, Billy Clanton and Billy Claiborne for disturbing the peace, all hell broke loose.
In what has since forever been known as the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, Frank McLaury and Billy Clanton made the mistake of cocking their pistols when approached by the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday. It is not really known who fired the first shot, but Doc’s bullet was the first to hit home, tearing through Frank McLaury’s belly and sending McLaury’s own shot wild through Wyatt’s coat-tail. The 30-second shootout left three Billy Clanton, Frank McLaury and Tom McLaury dead. Virgil Earp took a shot to the leg and Morgan suffered a shoulder wound. Frank and Tom McLaury are both buried at Tombstone's Boothill.
Frank McLaury (March 3, 1848 - October 26, 1881) was a ranch hand of the Old West. He is best known for being a member of group of outlaw Cowboys that faced off against lawmen Wyatt, Virgil and Morgan Earp in the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral in the boomtown of Tombstone, Arizona Territory during which he was killed. Although he has been dubbed a gunfighter by some accounts, he was not. The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral is believed to have been his only violent confrontation.
Born Robert Findley McLaury in Kortright Center, New York, and while still a child his family moved to Belle Plaine, Iowa. His older brother William McLaury completed college and later became a judge in Fort Worth, Texas, and both Frank and his younger brother Tom McLaury studied pre-law. In 1878, he moved with his brother Tom to Hereford, Arizona, where they first met Ike Clanton, and became associated with the Clanton family. At the time, the Clanton family owned one of the largest cattle operations in Arizona.
Move to Arizona
By 1879 the two brothers were seeing success in the cattle business, and they purchased land and built a house at Soldiers Hole, near Tombstone, Arizona, which was just beginning to see its population explode due to the silver rush. They also, along this time, became associated with "Curly Bill" Brocius. While with Brocius, on October 27, 1880, the two brothers were briefly detained following Brocius accidentally shooting and killing Tombstone Marshal Fred White. The shooting occurred when White went to disarm Brocius, grabbing the pistol Brocius held by the barrel and pulling it, at which time it discharged due to it being cocked. White stated before his death that the shooting was not intentional, and Brocius, who liked White, regretted the shooting greatly by accounts written afterward.
The McLaury brothers were suspected of stealing cattle from Sonora, Mexico and re-selling them to Old Man Clanton and local butchers.
Stolen mules found
On July 25, 1880, Lieutenant Joseph H. Hurst requested the assistance of Deputy U.S. Marshal Virgil Earp, who brought Wyatt and Morgan Earp, as well as Wells Fargo agent Marshall Williams, to track the thieves of six U.S. Army mules stolen from Camp Rucker. This was a federal matter because the animals were U.S. property. Acting on a tip, they found the animals on the McLaury's Ranch on the Babacomari River and the branding iron used to change the "US" brand to "D8".
To avoid bloodshed, Cowboy Frank Patterson promised to return the mules so the posse withdrew. The Cowboys showed up two days later without the mules and laughed at Captain Hurst and the Earps. Hurst responded by printing and distributing a handbill describing the theft and promising a reward for the "trial and conviction" of the thieves. It said, "It is known that the stolen animals were secreted at or in the vicinity of the McLaury Brothers ranch, and it is also believed that they were branded on the left shoulder over the Government brand." Hurst specifically charged Frank McLaury with assisting with hiding the mules. It was reprinted in the Epitaph on July 30, 1880. Frank McLaury angrily printed a response in the Cowboy-friendly Nuggett, calling Hurst "unmanly," "a coward, a vagabond, a rascal, and a malicious liar," accusing Hurst of stealing the mules himself. Virgil reported that Frank accosted him and warned him "If you ever again follow us as close as you did, then you will have to fight anyway." McLaury was apparently relying on the anti-government sentiment in the area.
However, when arrested for the shooting, Brocius had been "pistol whipped" by Wyatt Earp, which only escalated an already tense dislike that had developed between the outlaw "Cowboys and the Earp faction. Although there is no direct evidence that the McLaury brothers ever participated in any illegal acts, their association with Brocius and the Clantons put them at odds with the Earps. They had likely dealt in the selling of stolen cattle, but they were never arrested and definite proof of that has never been presented beyond some doubt. In early 1881, a stolen horse was recovered on their ranch, with allegations that the tip to law enforcement that the horse was there came from Ike Clanton. Whether Clanton told law officials the horse was on their ranch or not has never been confirmed. They were, however, not arrested for possessing the horse, as the suspect in that horse theft was Sherman McMasters, who was sometimes loyal to Cowboys, but also joined Wyatt Earp in his pursuit and murder of these he believed responsible for Morgan's death.
At that time, the tension between the Earp and Cowboys reached a fever pitch. On October 26, 1881, Frank and Tom, along with Billy Claiborne, faced off against the Earps and Doc Holiday in the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Some witnesses testified that Frank and Billy Clanton drew their weapons first, while others loyal to the Cowboys supported their version of events in which Tom opened his coat to show he was unarmed.
Ike Clanton had been cited earlier in the day for carrying a weapon in town, after which Tom McLaury had arrived to get Ike. Wyatt Earp and McLaury faced off in a heated exchange outside the courtroom. Wyatt later testified he saw a pistol in Tom's waistband and buffaloed Tom with his pistol's barrel. Tom left his pistol at a nearby saloon at some point that afternoon, but the Earps had no way of knowing that. The Earps and Holiday killed Frank and Tom McLaury along with Billy Clanton. All three were buried in Tombstone's Boot Hill cemetery. Their brother William McLaury spent most of his finances in pursuing charges against the Earps and Doc Holliday.
Tom McLaury had $3,000 in his possession at the time of their deaths, which was emphasized during the trial that followed. Their brother William later wrote in a letter that his brothers had just sold their herd of cattle, and were leaving Tombstone shortly to come be with him in Fort Worth. He said that they were in Tombstone on business, with plans to depart shortly afterward to visit him in Texas. They may have been arranging a cattle deal with their neighbor E. B Frink with butchers Bauer & Kehoe.