A decade prior to the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, “Doc” John Henry Holliday was graduating with a degree in dentistry. No sooner had he set up practice in Atlanta, than he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. In order to ease his symptoms, Holliday headed west, toward a more arid climate.
Along his journey, Holliday befriended Wyatt Earp, supposedly saving Earp’s life when he was drawn upon by a gang of outlaws. In 1881, Holliday was deputized to assist Earp and his brothers, Virgil and Morgan, in disarming some outlaws in Tombstone, Arizona. The confrontation resulted in the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, which claimed the lives of three of the five outlaws present.
Following the shootout, Morgan was murdered and Virgil maimed. Earp and Holliday organized a posse in retaliation, killing four outlaws over the course of the next several months. These killings made Holliday an outlaw himself and he was apprehended in Denver in May 1882. With the help of Earp, Holliday was acquitted and spent the remainder of his life in Colorado. He died from tuberculosis at age 36.
Billy the Kid
Billy the Kid (aka Henry McCarty) committed his first murder at only 17-years-old. The young outlaw fled from Arizona Territory to New Mexico in the late 1870s and joined up with a posse called the Regulators, fighting alongside them in the Lincoln County War.
By 1880, Billy the Kid had killed at least four people. He was arrested in December of that year, tried, convicted, and sentenced to hang. In April 1881, he killed two sheriff’s deputies in a daring escape from jail, beginning an eleven week flight from the authorities.
Billy the Kid was ultimately discovered, shot, and killed on July 14, 1881. He was 21-years-old.
Jesse James and his brother, Frank, were skilled guerillas by the end of the Civil War. Their talents as ambush artists served them after the war as well, allowing the brothers – particularly Jesse – to become renowned outlaws.
Jesse first became famous for his involvement in an 1869 bank robbery, in which he shot and killed a cashier. Later, the James brothers joined outlaw Cole Younger and his brothers to form the James-Younger Gang. The outlaws went on a string of bank, stagecoach, and train robberies, earning them notoriety.
In 1882, Jesse was killed by a new recruit who shot him in the back of the head. Five months later, Frank boarded a train to Jefferson City, Missouri and turned himself in to the governor, saying, “I have been hunted for twenty-one years, have literally lived in the saddle, have never known a day of perfect peace. It was one long, anxious, inexorable, eternal vigil.”