PHOENIX — 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 shoot-out in Wild West history.
The document had been missing for decades — last seen when it was photocopied in the 1960s.
It was found when court clerks stumbled on the box while reorganizing files in an old jail storage room in Bisbee, about 20 miles south of Tombstone, the Arizona frontier town where the gunbattle took place.
Stuffed inside the box was a modern manila envelope marked "keep" with the date 1881.
The inquest was done after lawmen Wyatt Earp, his two brothers and Doc Holliday confronted a gang of drunken outlaws, sparking a 30-second gunbattle in the streets of Tombstone that killed Frank and Tom McLaury and Bill Clanton.
It made folk heroes of Earp and Holliday and inspired numerous movies about the untamed Old West.
Officials showed off just one page of the transcript on Wednesday — a thick sheet of paper with blue lines and sloppy cursive writing in dark ink. It appeared to contain the beginning of testimony by William Claiborn, identified by a historian as a friend of the three dead outlaws.
"I was present on the afternoon of Oct. 26th '81 when the shooting commenced between outlaw parties," the testimony reads.
Court officials have turned the document over to state archivists. Experts will immediately begin peeling away tape, restoring the paper and ink, and digitizing the pages.
The first pages could show up on the library's website, www.lib.az.us/, for historians to review as soon as next week.
It's unlikely the transcript will provide any shattering revelations about the gunfight, since historians have already reviewed photocopies and the inquest was covered in detail by newspapers at the time.
Still, historians have long argued over who fired first and whether Tom McLaury was armed when he was shot. Earp and the other lawmen said they were defending themselves. Friends of the outlaws called it murder.