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The Phillips Collection featuring

Ike Clanton

By Cathleen Briley

Newman Haynes Clanton, also known as "Old Man Clanton" moved part of his large family into Arizona Territory from California in the early 1870's. Toward the end of 1879, the Earp brothers and their women started to arrive in Tombstone. In my opinion, much like Wyatt Earp himself, Clanton was there because he was an opportunist.

Clanton saw an opportunity in the Territory to make a go of farming. He then saw an opportunity to make more money raising cattle. In that venture he was quite successful, and eventually had the largest cattle ranch in the area. But, his herds were mostly populated with cattle stolen from Sonora, Mexico. Apparently, the ease of stealing cattle from Sonora rather than purchasing was far too opportune to pass up. The cattle were right there, just a few miles across the Mexican border, and the herds were vast. No, there was no flashing neon sign on the Mexican cattle ranches that said "steal me, steal me now" but there might as well have been because Clanton and his eventual cohorts (a band of thieves and outlaws known as the Cowboys that included his sons, the McLaury brothers, Curly Bill Brocius, Johnny Ringo, Frank Stillwell and others) made a habit of taking every advantage of that opportunity.

The Clanton sons that lived in Arizona Territory (Phin, Ike, and Billy) learned from their father how to take advantage of an opportunity. But, we will focus currently on Ike, who was born Joseph Isaac Clanton. As well as helping his father with the cattle business (which also included raids into Mexico), when silver ore was discovered in what would become Tombstone in 1877, Ike took advantage of the opportunity by opening a restaurant to serve the hungry growing population.

The members of the Clanton family were often in Tombstone since they lived nearby. The Clanton's and the Earp's were much like oil and water. No matter what stimulation was applied, they just weren't going to mix. Ike Clanton survived the shootout at the O.K. Corral on October 26, 1881, which is ironic since he was one of the main reasons it happened in the first place.

From the onset of their coexistence, the Clanton's were a continual thorn in the Earp's sides through their cooperative and varied criminal efforts, their direct hostile threats, their drunken tirades, election fraud efforts, and various forms of intimidation. Even though their leader, Old Man Clanton, was shot and killed in August of 1881 (and buried in what would become known as Boot Hill Cemetery), that didn't ease the tension between the factions. When push came to shove in October of 1881, it was Billy Clanton and the McLaury brothers who didn't survive the volley of bullets on that fateful day at the O.K. Corral. Ike ran away from the fight, saving his own skin. But, that wasn't the end of the Clanton's confrontation with the Earp's.

After the death of his brother Billy at the shootout, Ike Clanton made sure that murder charges were filed against the Earp's and Doc Holliday. Ike then personally testified against them during the trial. But, the Earp's and Doc Holliday were exonerated. Judge Spicer particularly mentioned during his ruling that the night before the shootout, an unarmed Ike Clanton said openly that the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday had insulted him, and that when he was armed he intended to shoot them or fight them on sight.

Two months after the shootout at the O.K. Corral, Ike and Phin Clanton were accused of attempting to kill Virgil Earp when they ambushed him on Allen Street in an act of vengeance. They didn't succeed in killing him, but they did maim Virgil's left arm with the buckshot. Ike's hat had been found at the scene, but his friends swore before the judge that Ike wasn't even in Tombstone that night, so the charges were eventually dropped.

We can now take a look at the likenesses of Ike Clanton. For comparison purposes, the famous picture of Ike Clanton taken at C.S. Fly's studio, borrowed from Wikipedia, is on the left. The picture on the right is a photo of Clanton from the Phillips Collection.

Ike Clanton
Ike Clanton
Ike got lucky yet again when he wasn't found (and subsequently shot and killed) by Wyatt Earp's "Vendetta Posse" in early 1882 like a lot of his friends were. But, Ike's luck finally did run out when he was shot and killed by Detective Jonas Brighton on June 1, 1887 at Pegleg Wilson's ranch near Eagle Creek. Brighton had been pursuing Ike and Phin with arrest warrants for . . . can you guess? . . . cattle rustling. What else? It is said that Ike was buried pretty much where his body fell. According to one newspaper at the time, Brighton and his colleague Miller had "rid Arizona of Ike Clanton."

Over a century later, during the summer of 1996, a Clanton descendant accompanied by a grave expert searched the area near Eagle Creek in order to find Ike's grave. They believe that they were successful. They then petitioned Tombstone city officials to exhume the remains and re-inter them in Tombstone's famous Boot Hill graveyard so that he could rest alongside his father and brother. The Tombstone officials respectfully refused.
Sources:
Ike Clanton. (2015, July 14). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 19:08, July 27, 2015, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Ike_Clanton&oldid=671477868

http://apcrp.org/CLANTON,%20Ike/1_CLANTON_IKE_AZ_Pioneer_INT_MAST.htm, July 27, 2014

http://clantongang.com/oldwest/gangike.html, July 27, 2015

The Clifton clarion. (Clifton, Graham County, A.T., Ariz.), 15 June 1887. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn94050557/1887-06-15/ed-1/seq-3/, July 27, 2015

© Cathleen Briley
August 14, 2015 Feature


The Phillips Collection :

Introduction | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10

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