Billy Clanton: the Youngest Outlaw Brother

Born in 1862 in Hamilton County, Texas, William Harrison Clanton would go by his nickname Billy and forever chiseled in the history books for his part in the Gunfight of the O.K. Corral. His father was Newman Haynes Clanton and went by the moniker “Old Man Clanton”. Along with his wife Mariah they raised five boys and two girls and moved the family to California after the civil War ended.

The family was forever moving but settled in Charleston in the Arizona Territory in 1873. By 1877 the Clanton Ranch was up and running, the same year Ed Schieffelin discovered silver in the Goose Flats, less than 15 miles from the Clanton Ranch. Schieffelin founded Tombstone, a place where the Clanton boys often frequented.

Billy, along with the McLaury brothers, Tom and Frank, usually went to town for business. He was well liked by the folks living in town unlike his brother Ike. People saw Billy as a hard worker but Ike was revered as a nasty drunk, constantly shooting off his mouth and pistols.

When the Earps came to town, things changed for young Billy. He, along with his father and Ike, were accused of murder and being horse thieves. It was the year 1881 which would change everything for good. On August 13th, his father was murdered in an ambush by Mexican Rurales in the Guadalupe Canyon. Billy and his brothers continued taking care of the ranch and business. On October 25th, Billy, along with the McLaury brothers rode to Tombstone for a shot or two of whiskey after a long day of gathering up scattered cattle.

The next day’s event would go down in history. After an exchange of words with the Earps and Doc Holliday, Billy, Ike, Billy Claiborne and the McLaury brothers gathered behind the O.K. Corral. The Earps were told the gang was rowdy and carrying weapons. The Earps and Holliday walked down to the corral where the famous gun battle ensued. When the dust finally settled, Billy Clanton and the McLaury brothers lay dead in the bloody dirt.

Half the town of Tombstone sided with the Clantons while the other half stood behind the Earps. The outlaws’ funeral was the largest in Tombstone’s history. All three were buried at the Boot Hill cemetery. It was told that Billy’s father’s remains were later moved by his brothers, Ike and Phin, and buried next to Billy.


  1. Thanks for the history! I've always wondered about this stuff. I know Eastern history a lot, but western is still a big blank.

  2. I like the outlaw's story more than the lawmen's. I will be posting about his brother Phin next month. He is the lesser known of the brothers and buried in Globe. The three Clanton brothers will be in my book.

  3. Interesting reading. Again, the OK Corral is just one of the many places that I'd like to see for myself, but just never will be able to. Thanks for sharing the story of History.

  4. This was very interesting. I didn't know much about the outlaws involved. I was surprised to hear that half the town sided with them. So the pictures you posted are of two separate tombstones for Billy? I noticed the phrasing on each grave marker was different.

  5. Les; I have a feeling if you got the chance to come out west, you would love it. Lots of things for you to take pictures of.

    Justine; I find the outlaws much more interesting. I was surprised so many followed them but maybe some of it was fear. Ike was a crazy S.O.B. At Boothill, there is one marker near all three graves with each of their names on it and then there are individual headstone markers showing where each of the men were buried.

  6. I LOVE the West...

    It would be interesting for a movie to be made from the Clanton standpoint... after all, as we all know, the victors tend to get to write the history... and over time, the truth becomes either blurred, or lost.

    Thanks for this, and I look forward to your follow up!


  7. Red Shoes, my hubby said the same thing, they need to make a movie from the point of view of the Clantons. If there is one out there, I haven't seen it.

  8. This is actually not true. The towns people asked the Clanton brothers to take out Doc Holiday because of what he was doing to the town. They paid the Clantons and the Clantons were on their way to The OK Corral. Doc Holiday and police surrounded them and executed them all. Except One of the Clanton brothers made it out. I know his great great grandsons. Their name's are Nathaneal and Josiah Clanton. Doc Holiday went to the New York papers after and told them to make it seem like the Clantons were the bad guy but in reality they were just trying to help the town. Thats why in this article it says "Half the town of Tombstone sided with the Clantons while the other half stood behind the Earps" But really most of the town sided with the Clantons. Throughout history due to Doc Holiday, The Clantons have been made out to look like bad guys. But they weren't. Even the ones I know to this day are great people. Hope you enjoyed my lesson on what really happened.

  9. Awesome! Thanks for giving me the Clantons story. I knew there was more to this interesting family. I would love to sit down with their relatives and hear what they have to say.


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