Saturday, March 21, 2009

Belle Plaine's Connection to the Gunfight at OK Corral

Many a tale lies on or near the coveted 42N latitude. One historical connection is that of Belle Plaine, Iowa (41°53′48″N, 92°16′39″W) to the most famous gunfight of the Old West - the Gunfight of OK Corral. Recall that the shootout between the Earp brothers with Doc Holliday, who within a matter of 30 seconds, on October 26, 1881 in Tombstone, Arizona Territory killed Billy Clanton and brothers, Frank and Tom McClaury. For over 125 years the story has been told many times in print and in movies (such as the 1957 movie of the same name) and was even an episode of the original Star Trek series (Spectre of a Gun) which aired in 1968 - a 42N favorite.

The connection is that of the McClaury family. One of Frank and Tom's brothers, Edmond McClaury was a Union soldier serving in the 14th Regiment, Company G of the Iowa Volunteer Infantry. As a private, McClaury fought at the Battle of Shiloh, where he was captured and later transferred to the prisoner camps located in Macon, Georgia. Following a prisoner exchange, Edmond returned to his home in Iowa, but soon died from the effects of his imprisonment. He was 22 years old. His military tombstone is on display at the Belle Plaine Area Museum as part of a donation by the McClaury family, who once lived in the area.

Edmond was buried in Belle Plaine's Wright Cemetery (see link) where you can view the newer military tombstone that replaced this marker. Had McClaury survived the war he could have participated in the legendary Tombstone gunfight with his brothers and perhaps have changed the outcome.