Testimony of William F. Claiborne
in the Preliminary  Hearing in the Earp-Holliday Case,
Heard before Judge Wells Spicer

November 8, 1881

On this eighth day of November, 1881, on the hearing of the above entitled cause, on the examination of Wyatt Earp and J. H. Holliday; William F. Claiborne, a witness of lawful age, being produced and sworn, deposes and says:

My name is William F. Claiborne. I reside in Hereford. My occu­pation is driving buggy and working at the smelter for Mr. Herring! and the Neptune Mining Company. I was in Tombstone, Cochise County, Arizona Territory, on the 26th day of October, 1881. I am acquainted with Doc Holliday, Wyatt Earp, and Morgan Earp. Am acquainted with Virgil Earp by sight. I knew Tom and Frank McLaury and Billy Clanton in their lifetime and know Ike Clanton. I saw a little shooting between Doc Holliday, Wyatt Earp, Morgan Earp, Marshal Earp, one party, and Frank McLaury and Billy Clanton. No one else did any shooting; Tom McLaury and Ike Clanton were there. I was present and saw the shooting. The day the shooting commenced, I was standing there with Ike Clanton and Billy Clanton, Tom and Frank McLaury, and Johnny Behan. We were standing between the photograph gallery and the little house next to it. The photograph gallery is on Fremont Street in Tombstone City. I was talking with Billy Clanton and Sheriff Behan was talking with Tom and Frank McLaury and Ike Clanton and Johnny Behan turned his back and walked up Fremont Street and then in a minute or two, I looked up the street and saw Morgan Earp, Wyatt Earp, Marshal Earp and Doc Holliday coming down the street. Behan met the Earps and Holliday as they were coming down.

Something was said by Behan. I think it was, "Hold on, boys, don't go down there!" The Earps made no reply that I heard. They brushed right on by and did not stop. They came within ten feet of where we were standing. When they got to the comer of Fly's building, they had their six shooters in their hands, and Marshal Earp said, "You sons-of-bitches, you've been looking for a fight, and you can have it!" And then said, "Throw up your hands."

Billy Clanton threw up his hands; Ike Clanton threw up his; and Tom McLaury threw open his coat and said, "I haven't got anything, boys, I am disarmed." [Shows action of Tom McLaury in throwing open his coat.] Then the shooting commenced, right then, in an instant, by Doc Holliday and Morgan Earp-the two shots were fired so close together it was hard to distinguish them. I could not, I saw them shoot. Doc Holliday shot at Tom McLaury and Morgan Earp shot at Billy Clanton. When Doc Holliday fired that shot, Tom McLaury staggered backwards and Billy Clanton fell up against the comer of the window and laid himself down on the ground. Frank McLaury had hold of a horse, about the comer of a post. Ike Clanton was dodging when I saw him and trying to get away.

There were about six or eight fired by the Earp party-they were fired in very quick succession, Billy Clanton drew his six-shooter and threw across his leg as he lay on the ground and commenced shooting.3 Frank McLaury at that time was out in the middle of the street with his six-shooter. I did not see him draw his six-shooter I only saw it in his hand. Frank McLaury drew, or had his six-shooter in his hand after the shots were fired by the Earp party. Frank McLaury was about in the middle of Fremont Street, when I first saw him with his six-shooter in his hand. He left the middle of the street after Billy Clanton and Tom McLaury were killed, and ran across the street. He was killed. He was not exactly run­ning, but was getting around pretty lively when he was shot the last time. He was going away from the Earp party. I saw him shortly after he was dead. I don't know how many times he was wounded. I saw one wound in his head and one in his belly.

In using the expression that Frank McLaury ran out into the street after Billy Clanton and Tom McLaury were killed, I mean after they were shot down. I saw Billy Clanton after he was dead. He was shot about the left nipple. That was the only wound I saw. I did not notice any wounds on his hands or arms. Billy Clanton fell up against the window and slid down against the house. Billy was standing at one comer and Morgan Earp stood at the other comer and put his pistol toward him,4 right up against him, almost, the pistol was almost a foot from him, and fired, and I saw Billy Clanton fall up against the window and the house supported him and slid down.

(Q) You say that Billy Clanton was standing at one comer of the house, and Morgan Earp was standing at the other comer of the house. Now do you mean that they were standing at the opposite comers of the house when Morgan Earp shot Billy Clanton, or what do you mean?

(A) [Here, witness raises and explains how they were standing, by showing that Billy Clanton was standing near the comer of one side of it, and Morgan Earp near the same comer on the other side-they were about three feet apart, and Morgan Earp poked his pistol around the comer and fired. As Morgan Earp fired, Billy Clanton fell backwards, and the window supported him as he fell.]

(Q) What was Virgil Earp doing all this time; from the time the first shot was fired?

(A) He was shooting first at one of them, then at the other.

(Q) Did you see him shoot?

(A) Yes sir.

(Q) What was Doc Holliday doing after the first shots were fired?

(A) He was shooting at Frank McLaury out in the street.

(Q) What was Wyatt Earp doing all the time after the first shots were fired?

(A) He was shooting.

(Q) Can you tell who those shots fired by Wyatt Earp were aimed at, that you saw?

(A) At Frank McLaury.

(Q) Did you or not, at any time during the shooting, see Tom McLaury with any weapon in his hands, and if so, what kind of arms or weapon?

(A) I did not see any at all.

(Q) Did you see Tom McLaury after the shooting had ceased, and if so where did you first see him, and how soon after the shooting had ceased?

(A) I saw them bringing him in the house about four or five minutes after the shooting had ceased.

(Q) Do you know who brought him into the house?

(A) No sir, I do not.

(Q) Did you see Tom McLaury after he was brought into the house, and if so, did you see any arms upon him?

(A) I saw him after he was brought into the house. I helped put him into a wagon, and there were no arms on him at all.

(Q) When you saw Tom McLaury in the house, did you see any cartridge belt or other belt about his person?

(A) No sir, I did not.

(Q) When did you last see, during the shooting, Ike Clanton?

(A) The last time I saw him, he ran into Fly's photograph gallery. He went into the front door.

(Q) Did you see him after that, during the shooting?

(A) No.

(Q) Did you, at any time during the shooting, and prior to the time you saw Ike Clanton run into Fly's photograph gallery, see any arms in his hands or about his person of any kind, and if so, of what kind?

(A) I did not see any of any kind.

(Q) Do you or not, know where Ike Clanton's arms were, just before the time of the shooting, of your own knowledge?

(A) I do not.

(Q) Were you or not at Judge Wallace's court on Fourth Street on the day of the shooting?

(A) No sir, I was not.

(Q) Did you or not, see the arms of Ike Clanton in the possession of either Virgil Earp, Wyatt Earp, or Morgan Earp on that day before the shooting?

(A) No, sir, I did not.

(Q) Do you know where the arms of Tom McLaury were before the shooting on that day?

(A) No sir, I do not.

(Q) Did you not, immediately before or during the progress of the shooting, see either of the McLaurys or Billy Clanton with a horse or horses?

(A) Yes sir, Frank McLaury and Billy Clanton had horses. I just saw them standing in front of Brown's Hotel on Fourth Street. There was one horse there during the shooting, Frank McLaury had it.

(Q) State now, whether there were any arms on the horse that you saw at the shooting, and how they were fixed on, if you saw any?

(A) There was a Winchester rifle on the horse, pushed down into the scabbard.

(Q) Do you know what became of the horse during the shooting, or immediately after?

(A) It was in the middle of the street during the shooting, and after the shooting I could not tell what became of it.

(Q) Did anybody have hold of that horse during the shooting, and if so, who?

(A) Frank McLaury had hold of the bridle reins.

(Q) State, if you know, when Frank McLaury separated from that horse, and where?

(A) He separated from the horse near the middle of the street. There were probably eight or ten shots fired before he separated from the horse. Frank McLaury went straight across the street.

(Q) Where did you see him soon after he separated from his horse, and in what condition?

(A) On the opposite side of the street, bent down in a stooping position, with his hand on his belly, during the shooting-near the last part of it.

(Q) Referring to the gun that you said was on the horse about the middle of the street, was it or not drawn from the scabbard by Frank McLaury before he separated from the horse?

(A) It was not.

(Q) How did you happen to be with the Clanton party just before and at the time of the shooting?

(A) Well, because I met Frank McLaury and Billy Clanton. I have known them quite a while, and was with them for the simple reason that I knew them and [was] talking with them. I met them close to Brown's Hotel, southeast corner of Fourth and Allen Streets. I went down, to Johnny Behan's Corral with Billy Clanton, and there we went through Benson's Corral. We went from there to where this difficulty occurred and was there until it happened.

(Q) What object and motive did the boys have for going down there, if you know?

(A) Well, the McLaury boys had business at the butcher shop to attend to, and the Clan tons went there to get their horses to go out home. [Question and answer objected to by the defense and moves to have them stricken out on grounds that the witness cannot be interrogated as to the motive of another party. Objection overruled by the Court.]

(Q) State to the Court, if you know, whether the McLaurys or Clan tons or either of them, had ordered their horses.

(A) I don't know.

(Q) State whether or not you remained on the ground where the shooting occurred during its entire occurrence?

(A) All the time, except a couple of shots, as well as I can remember.

(Q) Did any of the bullets strike you?

(A) Yes sir, one in the knee of my pants.

(Q) You say there were two shots fired after you left the ground. Where did you go?

(A) Went into the photograph gallery-at least, was put in it by Johnny Behan.

(Q) About how many shots were fired before you went into the photograph gallery and about how many were fired after you went in?

(A) There were some 16 or 18 shots fired before I was put in there, as near as I can remember, and about two afterwards, as near as I can remember.

(Q) You stated before that you were present, when Mr. Behan, the sheriff, was there talking to the Clan tons and McLaurys. State whether or not you saw him examine them or any of them to see if they were armed.

(A) I saw Sheriff Behan examine Ike Clanton to .see if he had any arms, and Tom McLaury threw open his coat, thus; [showing how it was done] to show the Sheriff that he had no arms. [Answer objected to and motion made by defense to strike it out on the grounds that the answer should be confined to the fact and not a deduction from the fact. Objection overruled.]

(Q) State whether or not the Sheriff on his examination of Ike Clanton found any arms on him, to your knowledge.

(A) He did not.

(Q) Did you have or not, any arms on your person at any time during the day of the shooting?

(A) I did not.




(Q) With the rifle upon the McLaury horse or the horse held by the bridle by Frank McLaury in the scabbard, as you say, how did you know it was a Winchester?

(A) Well, I am not positive it was a Winchester rifle, but I think it was.

(Q) Did you not testify before the Coroner's Jury sitting on the bodies of Tom and Frank McLaury and Billy Clanton?

(A) I did.

(Q) Did you not state there, under oath, that there were 16 shots fired before you went into the photograph gallery and that you thought there were 28 or 30 shots fired altogether?

(A) I stated there were 16 or 18, as well as I could remember. Probably there were 28 or 30 shots fired altogether, I ain't positive.

(Q) How was Doc Holliday dressed that day as to his outside coat or garment?

(A) I cannot say. I was not watching his clothing. I was watching the six-6hooter he had in his hand.

(Q) Did you watch him from the first moment of his appearance down the street toward the Clanton party?

(A) No sir, not altogether.

(Q) Did you see him when he first drew any weapon from his person?

(A) I did not see him draw any. He had one in his hand when he came there.

(Q) Did you see him at any time have a shotgun in his hand?

(A) I did not, that I remember.

(Q) What kind of a pistol did he have in his hand?

(A) A nickel-plated pistol.

(Q) Locate exactly, on this diagram, the position of Holliday.

(A) [Witness does so-that is, placed Holliday in about the center of the sidewalk.]

(Q) You are certain, are you not, that it was Marshal Earp who said, "You son-of-bitches, you have been looking for a fight!" and that Marshal Earp also said, "Hold up your hands!"

(A) I am not positive it was one of the Earp brothers who said, "You sons-of-bitches have been looking for a fight and you can have it. Hold up your hands!" I am not positive whether the same man made use of both expressions.

(Q) Have you not shown that it was Marshal Earp that made use of both expressions, upon your present direct examination, and also before the Coroner's Jury?

(A) No sir, I did not. I was not positive of the fact.

(Q) At what point was it, on Fremont Street, that the Earp party brushed right on by the Sheriff, as you say?

(A) I do not know the exact point. It was about 18 or 20 feet from where the shooting occurred.

(Q) Who, in the Earp party, shot first?

(A) Doc Holliday.

(Q) Who shot second?

(A) Morgan Earp.

(Q) Who shot third?

(A) One of the Earp brothers, I don't know which?

(Q) Who shot fourth?

(A) One of the Earp party.

(Q) Who shot fifth?

(A) One of the Earp party.

(Q) How rapid were these shots together?

(A) The first two shots could hardly be distinguished one from the other. The other three were one right after another.

(Q) Knowing so accurately who discharged these shots, arid knowing from whence they came, your attention was directed to the Earp party, was it not?

(A) I was looking right at them.

(Q) How much time was occupied between the Earp party brushing by the Sheriff, and the firing of the last of these five shots?

(A) I can't say positively the time. I do not think it was more than five or six seconds. It might have been a little more, or a little less.

(Q) How much time was occupied from the firing of the first to the 16th shot?

(A) I can't say positive. Probably eight or ten seconds.

(Q) How long after the 16th shot was fired, were the other two shots fired?

(A) I guess probably a second or so.

(Q) At what point of these shots, at what shot, did Sheriff Behan "fire" you into the photograph gallery?

(A) It was the 16th or 18th shot, as well as I can remember.

(Q) Now you have said you heard only two shots after [you] got into the photograph building, then there could have been 18 or 20 shots, couldn't there?

(A) I said I heard only two shots after I was put in. I could not remember.

(Q) What do you mean by Behan "firing" you into the photograph gallery how did he "fire" you?

(A) I was standing about four or five feet from the comer of the house, as near as I can judge the distance, within the vacant lot, as near as I can recollect.

(Q) And how near to the house?

(A) About a foot from the house, as near as I can recollect.

(Q) And how long had you been standing there?

(A) I could not say. Probably a second or so.

(Q) Where did you come from before you got to that point?

(A) I just backed right from where the boys were killed.

(Q) Well, where did you commence backing from?

(A) I was standing up against the little building, just beyond Fly's in the vacant lot, on the side of the boys, away from the street.

(Q) Was it not the same place where you stood when you had the conversation with Billy Clanton, as you have detailed?

(A) Not exactly in the same inch-1ibout the same place.

(Q)Don't you pass sometimes under the name of "The Kid?"

(A) Yes sir, sometimes I do.

(Q) How old are you?

(A) I was 21, the 21st day of last October.

(Q) What state are you from?

(A) From Mississippi.

(Q) Do you like the Earps?

(A) I have nothing against them.

(Q) Were you not in a killing scrape sometime ago in Charleston, for which you are now held under bonds? [Objection by prosecution. Question objected to on the ground that it is immaterial, irrelevant, and not pertinent to the issue before the Court, and in no manner tends to impair the credibility of the witness for truth or veracity, or show his bias.  Objection overruled and accepted to.]

(A) I decline to answer.

(Q) Do you decline to answer under the rule expounded by the Court?

(A) I do.

(Q) Are you not on terms of friendship and intimate with the Clanton and the McLaury boys, before the death of some of them?

(A) I like the boys, not more than I do any other of my acquaintances.

(Q) Have you not been employed or stopped lengths of time at their ranches?

(A) I never was in their employ in my life. I have stopped at their ranches and stayed there all night, once or twice.

(Q) Do you not know that the Clantons and McLaurys were on the most intimate terms?

(A) I do not.

(Q) Were you fired into the same door by Behan that Ike Clanton entered when he ran from the field of battle?

(A) I was not.

(Q) He entered, as I understood, the front door of the building on the street, did he not?

(A) He did.

(Q) At what point, as near as you can recollect, was Ike Clanton when he started to run, at what point, and what shot?

(A) I cannot say at what point. He was on the edge of the sidewalk, there by Fly's building. I don't know at what shot, probably at the 6th or 7th shot.

(Q) Were not you as much exposed to danger as Ike Clanton?

(A) I couldn't say.

(Q) Why did you not run to escape the danger, instead of being "fired" by Sheriff Behan?

(A) Because I thought there was more danger in running than in standing there.

(Q) Were you not somewhat frightened at the shots flying about you so promiscuously?

(A) Oh yes, a little frightened.

(Q) Were you not a great deal frightened?

(A) Oh, no sir.

(Q) Didn't you rather enjoy the scene, than otherwise?

(A) I did not.

(Q) Where was that horse you speak of-1iS you say, Frank McLaury was in the middle of the street?

(A) The horse was close to the middle of the street.

(Q) Had Frank McLaury led him out there?

(A) I guess he did.

(Q) Did you see that horse at any time in the vacant space where the Clan tons and McLaurys were?

(A) I did not. I saw it on the sidewalk near the corner of that little house.

(Q) At that time, if you know, did Frank McLaury and Billy Clanton arrive in Tombstone on the day of the shooting?

(A) I couldn't say, to save my life.

(Q) Where was Billy Clanton's horse during the fight, the horse you say you saw in front of Brown's Hotel?

(A) I think he was hitched up near the butcher shop, am not positive.

(Q) How many drinks had you taken that day with the McLaurys, Clantons, and other parties around town before the shooting?

(A) I had not taken any with the Clantons and McLaurys that day. I had taken probably two or three glasses of beer myself.

(Q) Did you see any powder marks on Billy Clanton's body after his decease?

(A) Not that I remember of.

(Q) Have you conversed with Sheriff Behan at any time since the difficulty about what occurred at this fight, and if so, how many conversations have you had?

(A) I have not had any.

(Q) Is it not a fact that at the first shot you ran to the point where Sheriff Behan "fired" you into the photograph shop, and that you did not see any of the event that you have detailed before the Coroner and during this examination?

(A) I did not run to the point. I saw it all. The fact is, I did see it.

(Q) How many shots did Holliday fire at Frank McLaury?

(A) I could not say, I don't know.

(Q) Did Holliday remain in the same position all the time he was firing at the Clanton and McLaury party?

(A) He did not.

(Q) What position did he first occupy and what position did he last occupy?

(A) When he fired the first shot, he stood opposite the corner of the photograph gallery, about the middle of the sidewalk. When he fired the last shot that I saw, he was about five feet from the sidewalk, in the street.




(Q) You were asked, in your cross-examination, if one of the Earps arrested you in Charleston sometime ago upon a criminal charge. If you were arrested upon any charge, was it by Virgil Earp, Wyatt Earp, or Morgan Earp? [Objected to by the Defense. Objection sustained.]

(Q) You were asked in your cross-examination if [you] were not sometimes called "The Kid." Please explain how you came to be called by that name.

(A) Well, I came to Arizona when I was small, when Tombstone was first struck. John Slaughter's men called me "The Kid," because I was the smallest one in the outfit. That is the way the name originated with me.

(Q) When did you first come to Tombstone?

(A) About two and a half, or three years ago.

(Q) How much smaller were you then, than you are now?

(A) I have grown nearly two feet since then, in height.


[Signed] William F. Claiborne

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