The most famous gunfight in the history of the “Old West” is best known as the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. It took place on Wednesday, October 26, 1881, at 3:00 in the afternoon, and lasted only 30 seconds.
The gunfight was located in Tombstone, Arizona. Tombstone is near the Mexican border. The area was experiencing a mining boom, and the great frontier was known to be teeming with outlaws who didn’t have any regard for the law.
Opposing parties at the famous gunfight were only about six feet apart when the shooting began, and more than thirty shots were fired. Most of the shots appeared to be from Doc Holliday’s gun. Three people were killed, and three survived with injuries (Morgan Earp, Virgil Earp, and Doc Holliday). Wyatt Earp was unhurt.
The feud was basically between the law (the Earps) and the outlaws (a gang called the Cowboys). Cowboys were considered the cattle rustlers and outlaws, not to be confused with legitimate cowmen who were called ranchers or herders.
So how does a 30-second brawl become such a famous historical event?
Actually, the fight was relatively unknown until 1931, when a biography of Wyatt Earp was published. The Earps were very tough characters, and even though they were supposedly upholding the law, they did not have complete support from other frontiers.
It is suggested that this biography contains a great deal of fiction. In 1957, the movie Gunfight at the O.K. Corral was released, and the shootout became glorified history. The accuracy of the gunfight seems to vary in many of the accounts.
The gunfight did not end on that day. On December 28, 1881, Virgil Earp was maimed in an assassination attempt by outlaw Cowboys; and on March 19, 1882, they assassinated Morgan Earp. Doc Holliday died from tuberculosis at the age of 35.
Today, Tombstone, Arizona, is considered one of the most historic towns in the Old West. Much of the town fell into disrepair but was restored and rebuilt as Tombstone became a popular tourist attraction.