Joseph Isaac "Ike" Clanton B. 1847 D. 06.01/1887

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About Doc Holiday
About Wyatt Earp

About Virgil Earp

About Morgan Earp

About James Earp

About Warren Earp

About Newton Earp

About William "Curley Bill" Brocius (outlaw)

About Billy Claiborne (outlaw)

About Pete Spence (outlaw)

About Ike Clanton (outlaw)

About Phin Clanton (outlaw)

About Johnny Ringo (outlaw)

About "Old Man" Clanton" (outlaw)

Frank Stillwell (outlaw)

About Frank McLaury (outlaw killed at the OK Corral)
About Tom McLaury (outlaw killed at the OK Corral)

About Billy Clanton (outlaw killed at the OK Corral)

About Johnny Behan (Sheriff)

William Breckinridge (Deputy Sheriff)

About Fred White (Marshal)
About George Parson

About Wells Spicer (Judge)

About George Goodfellow MD

About Nellie Cashman (Angel Of Mercy)

About Big Nose Kate (prostitute & Doc Holiday's girlfriend)

About Ed Schieffelin

About John Clum (editor/publisher of Tombstone Epitaph)


Morgan Earps Death In The Tombstone Epitaph
Tombstone Epitaph Story The Day After The OK Corral Shootout

Tombstone Pioneers Burial Place
Mistakes In The Movie Tombstone

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He 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.

Ike Clanton was one of five sons (four survived to adulthood) and two daughters born to Mariah Sexton Clanton nee Kelso and Newman Haynes Clanton (known as Old Man Clanton, 1816-1881). His father was a frontiersman who worked at times as a day laborer, gold miner, farmer, and by the late 1870s, a cattleman in Arizona Territory.

Ike's mother died in 1866. He stayed with the family well into their move to the area around Tombstone, Arizona Territory, about 1877 (before Tombstone became a town, and indeed before it was even a mining operation). At that time, Newman Clanton was living with his sons Phineas ("Fin"), Ike, and Billy. By 1878 Ike was running a small meal counter ("lunch counter") at the Tombstone Mill Site (now Millville on the San Pedro River—not in modern Tombstone). By 1881, however, Ike was involved with his father's ranch, located at Lewis Springs, about 12 miles (19 km) east of Tombstone and 5 miles (8 km) from Charleston.

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

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 Charleson, 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 Cow-boys, 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 Cow-boys 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 testifed 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 Hauchita, New Mexico to kill two brothers, William and Isaac Haslett, in revenge for the deaths of Clanton Cow-boy 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 Cow-boy 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 Guadalupe Canyon Massacre in August 1881, probably by Mexicans in retaliation for an earlier ambush committed by rustlers associated with the Clanton's. Following Old Man Clanton's death, Curly Bill took over as the new leader of the Cow-boys. However, the Cow-boys 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 Cow-boys to live and work there. Although history has often portrayed the Cow-boys 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 boasting, most of the Cow-boys were seen as harmless or merely a small nuisance. They also, generally, got along quite well with the town marshal, Fred White, who was respected and well liked by most of the Cow-boys, 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 Cow-boys he had the support of other members of the gang in doing so, to include Brocius, who liked White.

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 and Ike's younger brother Billy arrived in town fully-armed, on horseback. They soon learned of their brothers' beatings at the hands of the Earps. That afternoon Wyatt saw the Cow-boys were loading up on ammunition, and later, witnesses reported to the Earps that the Cow-boys 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.

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.

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.

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 defence 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. However, no money was reported missing from the stage since the stage had not stopped and the robbery 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 stealing of money from Wells Fargo. Since the 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 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 Cow-boys had not been shot while trying to surrender—the murder charges were dismissed.

Afterward, Ike Clanton was accused 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 Cow-boys, attempted another ambush, this time in Tucson, Arizona, where Virgil would be passing though on the train to 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, in Springerville, Arizona. Fin Clanton surrendered, but Ike resisted and was shot dead.


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