Arizona state librarian GladysAnn Wells reveals an original eyewitness account of the gunfight at OK Corral. The documents from 1881 were recently discovered in a storage closet in the Cochise County courthouse.
Arizona state librarian GladysAnn Wells reveals an original eyewitness account of the gunfight at OK Corral. The documents from 1881 were recently discovered in a storage closet in the Cochise County courthouse. Peter O'Dowd
You may have watched the Hollywood version of the shootout at the OK Corral, but you probably haven't seen the original testimony from eyewitnesses who were in Tombstone, Ariz., on that infamous day in 1881.
Historians say documents from the coroner's inquiry into the gunfight were lost until now.
The documents are handwritten. Time has turned the papers a pale yellow, and for decades, they had been gathering dust in the Cochise County courthouse. Then, on March 31, clerks Bonnie Cook and Michelle Garcia found an envelope in a storage closet.
"It was buried in a corner," Cook said. "We dug it out. It was dirty."
Inside were 36 pages: firsthand accounts of the legendary shootout on Oct. 26, 1881, between the Earp brothers and a band of cattle rustlers. In movie-script fashion, one witness recalls the moments just before the gunfire broke out.
"Mr. Holliday was standing next to the buildings," the witness is quoted as saying. "On the inside he had a gun under his coat. He had a long coat. The way I noticed the gun is that his coat would blow open, and he tried to keep it covered."
State librarian GladysAnn Wells says it's a huge discovery.
"I would bet you your next lunch, if you were to handle them and touch them, with your white gloves on, that you would feel the magic of history," she said.
Cochise County Superior Court Clerk Denise Lundin says she did have an old photocopy of these documents from the 1960s, but the replicas were hard to read. She says they failed to capture the intimacy of the court reporter's hand. The real thing is held precariously together by an old version of Scotch tape — thick, beer-colored strips.
"They certainly weren't put together in any kind of way that anyone would want to properly preserve them," Lundin said.
Wells said the fragile paper will be stabilized and scanned. Within a week, the first pages should be published on the Internet for history buffs all over the world to see.