Page last updated at 11:04 GMT, Thursday, 22 April 2010 12:04 UK

OK Corral documents discovered in court storeroom


The transcript, found in a dusty box, has been described as a "significant find" by historians

Records from an inquest into the notorious 1881 shootout at the OK Corral in Tombstone, Arizona, have been discovered in a court storeroom.

The scrawled notes are a transcript of a witness statement about the shootout between lawmen including Wyatt Earp and three outlaws, who were killed.

The documents were last seen about 1960 when they were photocopied.

Researchers hope that restoration by archivists will reveal margin notes not visible on the reproductions.

But the notes are unlikely to shed much new light on the incident, as researchers already had access to the copies.

The pages will soon be digitised and made available online to researchers and Wild West history buffs.

Thirty-second firefight

The yellowed pages, said to be as brittle as potato crisps, were discovered in a manila envelope by court staff assigned to clean out a storage room at Cochise County superior court in Bisbee, Arizona, about 23 miles (37km) south of Tombstone, the Arizona Daily Star newspaper reported.

On 26 October, 1881, Wyatt, Virgil and Morgan Earp and Doc Holliday confronted Ike and Billy Clanton and Frank and Tom McLaury behind the OK Corral.

A stagecoach rolls through Tombstone, Arizona
The town of Tombstone celebrates its part in Wild West history

The McLaurys and Billy Clanton were killed in the ensuing 30-second firefight. The incident and subsequent investigation were covered heavily in the news media at the time.

The fight entered the folklore of the Wild West and made heroes of the Earps. It has been portrayed numerous times in film and in literature.

Nearly 130 years after the shootout, it remains unclear which party fired first and whether all of the outlaws were armed.

The Earps and Holliday said they were defending themselves, but supporters of the dead men said they were murdered.

The document appears to include testimony by William Claiborn, who a historian identified as a friend of the three dead men, according to the Associated Press news agency.

It was recorded as part of an inquiry by a local official into the shootout.

The document indicates that Doc Holliday was carrying a weapon concealed under a long coat.

The town of Tombstone celebrates its part in Wild West history, attracting tourists with re-enactments of the gun battle.

Earlier this month Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, a Republican, signed into law a measure allowing Arizonans to carry concealed firearms without a permit.

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