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Humpday History Highlight

By Wyatt Earp | July 14, 2010

July 14, 1882 – Gunfighter John Ringo Found Dead

[Ringo] was not involved in the infamous gunfight at the O.K. Corral in 1881, but he did later challenge Doc Holliday (one of the survivors of the O.K. Corral fight) to a shootout. Holliday declined and citizens disarmed both men.

The manner of Ringo’s demise remains something of a mystery. He seems to have become despondent in 1882, perhaps because his family had treated him coldly when he had earlier visited them in San Jose. Witnesses reported that he began drinking even more heavily than usual. On this day in 1882, he was found dead in Turkey Creek Canyon outside of Tombstone. It looked as if Ringo had shot himself in the head and the official ruling was that he had committed suicide. Some believed, however, that he had been murdered either by his drinking friend Frank “Buckskin” Leslie or a young gambler named “Johnny-Behind-the-Deuce.” To complicate matters further, Wyatt Earp later claimed that he had killed Ringo. The truth remains obscure to this day. (H/

Ringo has been immortalized in films many times, but for my money, no one played him better in Tombstone.

Topics: HHH | 9 Comments »

9 Responses to “Humpday History Highlight”

  1. Andrew Says:
    July 14th, 2010 at 1:48 pm

    Is this the same Ringo portrayed in the old Spaghetti Westerns? Was just wondering if that character was based off of the real Ringo or not.

  2. USAdmiral Says:
    July 14th, 2010 at 2:16 pm

    I am going to have watch Tombstone again now. (Power of suggestion.)

    I agree. Biehn played that role like he was made for it.

    Why would Wyatt Earp lie about Ringo’s death?

  3. Robert B. Says:
    July 14th, 2010 at 2:37 pm

    Tombstone remains one of my favourite westerns, although not exactly historically accurate.

    After Wyatt Earp (The First) left Arizona, and after a few more adventures, he wound up in California where he met a “Dime Novel” writer. This writer took Wyatt’s version of the shootout and immortalised it. Hollyweird based most of their films upon this one-sided story.

    Yet, to this day, there are descendants of the Clantons who villify Wyatt and his brothers. As my (real) brother told me, as best as he could determine from books, stories, and the records of the day, the Earp-Clanton feud was a falling-out amonst theives.

  4. John D Says:
    July 14th, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    Biehn’s Ringo, while not historically accurate, was an impressive piece of acting. He played Ringo as a complicated and conflicted character, rather than the hollow 2 dimensional movie villain he could have been.

    On another western history note, today is also the anniversary of Billy the Kid’s death at the hands of Pat Garret.

  5. Wyatt Earp Says:
    July 14th, 2010 at 3:55 pm

    Andrew – He’s been played by a few actors in lots of movies – including The Gunfight at the OK Corral with Burt Lancaster. Ringo was real enough, though. Born and raised in Indiana.

    USAdmiral – I’m currently reading “Wyatt Earp Speaks,” which is a collection of stories about his life through his words and interviews with him and others. The editor is very fair and does his best to discern fact from exaggeration. Most historians believe the suicide angle, or the Tommy Behind the Deuce story. Few think Wyatt killed him.

    Robert B. – When this blog was at its blogspot address, I had a descendant of Ike rip me for my pseudonym. Apparently the hatred still runs deep. Wyatt was an anti-hero at best, but I wouldn’t call him a villain.

    John D – Case in point. The actor who played him in Costner’s “Wyatt Earp” did a terrible job. One-dimensional at best. “Wyatt Earp Speaks” discusses Ringo at times and says he was probably more educated than most at the time, but wasn’t quoting Shakespeare a la Biehn.

  6. EnanoSiniestro Says:
    July 14th, 2010 at 6:03 pm

    Over the past 13 years, my patrols have taken me many times to Tombstone and the San Pedro River Valley, but most of the time I work in the area of Sulphur Springs Valley, east of Tombstone. It is there, off Highway 181 where it turns north, that you find Turkey Creek Canyon Rd. and the burial site for Johnny Ringo. It is not accessible to the public (private land). The Clantons operated mainly in the Sulphur Springs area.

    Near there, to the southeast in Skeleton Canyon (off Highway 80), Geronimo surrendered. And to the west, going back towards Tombstone, you find Cochise’s Stronghold. A lot of history in the area.

  7. Richard McEnroe Says:
    July 14th, 2010 at 8:23 pm

    His sci-fi novels rock,too.

  8. Robert B. Says:
    July 15th, 2010 at 10:38 am


    Sounds like a good trip. I do plan on taking the missus the the SW USA next year. I plan going no farther than the californicate border, in protest of their anti-Arizona protest. If we do head out that way, I’ll make it a point to swing by Tombstone and take in the history of the area.


    I see you have had an encounter (albeit, via internet) with someone who didn’t buy into Wyatt the First’s version of the story. It would be interesting to read what he sent you abck then.

  9. Wyatt Earp Says:
    July 15th, 2010 at 11:06 am

    Enano – And gorgeous area, to boot.

    Robert B. – I’ll see if I can find the response.