The Earps and the OK Corral | tutor2u History
Study notes

The Earps and the OK Corral

  • Levels: GCSE
  • Exam boards: Edexcel

In the cow town of Tombstone in Arizona, cowboys often drank and gambled. The northern businessmen did not agree with this behaviour, as they wanted Arizona to be a peaceful place where people could do business. These businessmen therefore wanted sheriffs and lawmen to police the town and control the cowboy’s behaviour. They elected Vigil Earp as sheriff and his two brothers, Wyatt and Morgan Earp, served as deputies.

In the cow town of Tombstone in Arizona, cowboys often drank and gambled. The northern businessmen did not agree with this behaviour, as they wanted Arizona to be a peaceful place where people could do business. These businessmen therefore wanted sheriffs and lawmen to police the town and control the cowboy’s behaviour. They elected Vigil Earp as sheriff and his two brothers, Wyatt and Morgan Earp, served as deputies.

Rivalry between the Earps and a group of ranchers and cowboys, led by the Clanton and McLaury families, grew. This rivalry came to a head on the 26 October 1881 when Virgil Earp disarmed Clanton. Clanton was fined for carrying a gun, as the town had created a law banning weapons.

Clanton was angry, and he met with his family and the McLaurys. By 3pm a gunfight had broken out at the OK Coral between the Earps, and the Clanton and McLaury families. In just minutes, three men had been killed and two were injured.

A series of tit-for-tat killings continued and, in 1882, Morgan Earp was murdered. Wyatt Earp then shot two cowboys who he believed to be responsible for his brother’s murder. Public opinion turned against the Earps, and they decided to leave town for their own safety.

The story of Wyatt Earp and the OK Corral is another example of the continuation of lawlessness n the American West.

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