The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral has come to symbolize the Wild West, as renegade outlaws known as the Cowboys faced the town marshals of Tombstone, Arizona. The gunfight is regularly re-enacted, above, for tourists in Tombstone.

Photograph by James G. Howes, copyright James G. Howes, courtesy Wikimedia. The copyright holder of this file, allows anyone to use it for any purpose, provided that the copyright holder is properly attributed.

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  • On October 26, 1881, lawmen and outlaws faced off in the famous “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.” The Tombstone, Arizona, gunfight has come to symbolize the “Wild West” of the American frontier in the late 1800s. 
    The famous gunfight did not actually take place in Tombstone’s O.K. Corral. It happened in a vacant lot next to a boarding house where gunfight participant John Henry “Doc” Holliday was staying. There, town marshal Virgil Earp met with his brothers Morgan and Wyatt, and their friend Doc. The Earps and Holliday all had criminal backgrounds, but represented “law and order” business interests in Tombstone.
    On the other side of the conflict were five members of the Cowboys, a loosely organized rural gang. The Cowboys were accused of being thieves and cattle rustlers, although several were also landowners and legal ranchers. The Cowboys represented the “untamed” interests of the Old West, and had the unofficial support of the county sheriff
    The competing economic interests of the urban town and rural county were represented by competing newspapers—the Epitaph (which generally supported the Earps) and the Nugget (which generally supported the Cowboys).
    The Earps and Holliday walked away from the gunfight, which lasted about 30 seconds. Three Cowboys were killed, and the Earps and Holliday were found not guilty in their deaths. The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral began a series of attacks that lasted more than a year. Eventually, the Earps left Arizona for the even wilder New Mexico Territory. Over the years, the Cowboys were arrested, killed in violent conflicts with other outlaws or lawmen, or simply forced out of business as infrastructure and governmenttamed” the Wild West.
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    accuse Verb

    to blame or charge with a fault or crime.

    arrest Verb

    to take into legal custody.

    business Noun

    sale of goods and services, or a place where such sales take place.

    cattle rustler Noun

    person who steals cattle. Also called a cattle raider or (in Australia) a duffer.

    conflict Noun

    a disagreement or fight, usually over ideas or procedures.

    corral Noun

    enclosed area, usually for livestock.

    county Noun

    political unit smaller than a state or province, but typically larger than a city, town, or other municipality.

    Encyclopedic Entry: county
    criminal Noun

    person convicted of a crime.

    economic Adjective

    having to do with money.

    frontier Noun

    largely unpopulated area that is slowly being opened up for settlement.

    gang Noun

    group of people gathered for a criminal enterprise.

    government Noun

    system or order of a nation, state, or other political unit.

    infrastructure Noun

    structures and facilities necessary for the functioning of a society, such as roads.

    law Noun

    public rule.

    marshal Noun

    federal law-enforcement officer.

    outlaw Verb

    to make illegal or against the law.

    rancher Noun

    person who owns or manages a livestock farm (ranch).

    represent Verb

    to stand for a person, community, or idea.

    rural Adjective

    having to do with country life, or areas with few residents.

    sheriff Noun

    law enforcement officer, usually of a county.

    symbolize Verb

    to represent an object, idea, organization, or geographical region.

    tame Verb

    to domesticate or make useful for humans.

    territory Noun

    land an animal, human, or government protects from intruders.

    town Noun

    human settlement larger than a village and smaller than a city.

    urban Adjective

    having to do with city life.

    vacant Adjective

    empty or abandoned.

    violent Noun

    strong, destructive force.