Saturday, January 27, 2018

Stumbling onto Phineas "Phin" Clanton's Gravesite

Globe Cemetery, Arizona
(c) 2018 MJ Miller

Historical research is, at its best, full of serendipitous finds and surprising epiphanies. Rarely have I visited a site or buried myself in archives and not had the sudden goosebumps that accompany the discovery of an unexpected and exciting nugget. Sometimes it's the key to unraveling a mystery I've been working on; other times, it's recognizing a connection between places or people; often, it's something as tangible as happening across a grave you weren't looking for, but that's somehow relevant to the search you were on. When you're open to detours and digressions, one line of research always links to another in the most wonderful ways whether you're interviewing an old-timer or turning brittle pages of a dusty document.

I've been trying to verify the details of a relatively unknown 1877 shooting that occurred in Yavapai County for my current book-in-progress. The victim in that shooting had, a few months earlier, killed a man in Globe. After chasing down some worthwhile details last night, the incident was fresh in my mind as we made a trip to a gun show in Globe today. My other-half Russ wanted to look for the grave of Mattie Blaylock, Wyatt Earp's common-law wife; I wanted to look for any familiar names in the less-than-focused, spontaneous, laissez faire method of research I do.  Some might call it haphazard, even. (Some might even be accurate in doing so.)

Short of time after a few side trips, we stopped at the Globe Cemetery rather than verifying which plot of land held ill-fated Mattie's remains. Russ wandered in one direction, I wandered in another, and we found many of the nuggets I'd hoped for. One of the more interesting was Phin Clanton's grave.

Phineas Fay "Phin" Clanton's Gravesite, Globe Cemetery, Arizona
(c) 2018 Marcy J. Miller

The graves the cemetery had determined to be of greatest historical significance were clearly marked with signage - Al Sieber, Glenn Reynolds, and so forth. In contrast, Phin's grave had no additional marker to call attention to it, no sign indicating his relevance to the historian. 

Phineas Fay "Phin" Clanton was one of the seven children of "Old Man" Clanton, Newman Haynes Clanton.  Phin, along with his brothers Ike and Billy, was involved in the conflicts in Tombstone culminating in the gunfight at the O.K. Corral. For those of you who need a brief refresher, Billy (William Harrison Clanton) was killed in the gunfight, while Ike (Joseph Isaac Clanton) was uninjured. Phin and Ike were suspects in the attempted revenge murder of Virgil several weeks after the gunfight as well as the successful murder of Morgan Earp two months after that.

Phin danced in the grey throughout his life. He was known to be a cattle rustler. He also was tried and did time for crimes he was apparently innocent of; on one occasion, he was acquitted of burglary after it was determined he'd been framed by the actual embezzler of the money. On another he completed nearly a year and a half of a ten-year sentence in the notorious Yuma Territorial Prison for larceny until being released when it came to light the star witness had falsely and perjuriously accused him for the reward money. Whether guilty or not, Phin was later arrested in an armed robbery of a Chinese man - and again, Phin was acquitted.

Copyright (c) 2018 MJ Miller

As he approached 60 years old, Phineas Clanton ultimately married and settled down. He never celebrated his third anniversary, contracting pneumonia in January, 1906, and succumbing. Phin left behind a widow and stepson, William.  He was buried in Globe, where he and his friend, fellow outlaw and Yuma Penitentiary alum Pete Spence, raised goats. In an apparent jab at the lawmen who'd fought his family and friends, Phin's grave marker bears the quote, "Not all good men wore badges." 

Spence married Phin's widow, Laura, and after his 1914 death was buried beside Phin. There is no marker for Spence's grave. 

Copyright (c) 2018 Marcy J. Miller * All rights reserved * No part of this content, including photographs, may be used without the express permission of the author * Links, however, are enthusiastically encouraged * Thank you for linking, liking, tweeting, sharing, and otherwise helping grow my audience * Most of all, thank you for stopping by!

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