By Wyatt Earp | April 22, 2010
How freakin’ awesome is this?
A missing handwritten transcript from a coroner’s inquest done after the legendary gunfight at the OK Corral has resurfaced in a dusty box more than 125 years after the most famous shootout in Wild West history.
The document resurfaced when court clerks stumbled on the box while reorganizing files in an old jail storage room in Bisbee, about 20 miles south of Tombstone. Stuffed inside was a modern manila envelope marked “keep” with the date 1881.
Wow, talk about unbeatable security. Taking an irreplaceable document, stuffing it into a manila envelope, and writing “Keep” on it. And people wonder how it got lost? Idiots.
Court officials turned the document over to state archivists on Wednesday. Experts will immediately begin peeling away tape, restoring the paper and ink, and digitizing the pages.
But history buffs said the transcript is enlightening nonetheless, clearing up fuzzy points in the copies and revealing small notes that might not have appeared on the photocopies.
“They were handled by the people of that moment, and they’re the actual artifact that encapsulated that time period,” said GladysAnn Wells, Arizona State Librarian.
I would give anything to take a look at the originals. Never happen, but a man can dream.
The document has been missing for decades — last seen when it was photocopied in the 1960s. The pages include verbatim testimony from eyewitnesses to the shootout.
The document is legible, but the paper has darkened to an amber beer color and is brittle like a potato chip, said Cochise County Court Clerk Denise Lundin. The handwriting can be difficult to read because the court reporter was rapidly taking notes, she said.
Lundin is convinced that somewhere in her courthouse are records of the inquest for Johnny Ringo, another legendary outlaw.
As much as this story excites me – both as a history buff and a blogger who swiped Wyatt’s name – I cannot help but feel really angry at the same time. Far too many people in this country couldn’t care less about American history. That’s fine, since it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. But the lackadaisical attitude of people in the business of history is to blame for the loss of these documents.
People should be searching high and low for artifacts like these. They should be cataloging and re-cataloging valuable items in storage. In short, people should treat these articles like they treat their family photos: as the priceless treasures they are.