On this day in 1882, Billy “The Kid” Claiborne was shot dead by gunslinger Franklin “Buckskin” Leslie in Tombstone, Arizona.
During the 1880s, Tombstone was the home of many infamous outlaws and law men including Wyatt Earp and Doc Holiday. While Leslie wasn’t the most notorious of the Tombstone outlaws, he sure racked up his fair share of trouble.
His early life remains a bit of a mystery. He claimed to have been born in both Texas and Kentucky which is not entirely possible, to have studied medicine in Europe and to have been an army scout in the war against the Apache Indians – none of these claims have been confirmed, or denied.
The first official documentation of Leslie’s life surfaces in 1877 when he became an Arizona scout. After this, Leslie became drawn to the money-making prospects in the mining town of Tombstone. Once he got there he opened the Cosmopolitan Hotel in 1880 and later that year he killed Mike Killeen and went on to marry his wife.
When another gunslinger by the name of John Ringo was found dead in 1882, Leslie was suspected of being the culprit. One of the Tombstone folk to suspect him was Billy “The Kid” Claiborne. This might have been what led to Claiborne’s demise in a shootout with Leslie.
Leslie’s life continued along a road of senseless violence. He divorced Killeen in 1887 and then took up with a prostitute, whom he murdered a few years later while in a drunken rage. Leslie served 10 years in prison for this and was released on parole in 1896. Accounts of what happened to him after this vary; in one account he is said to have made a small fortune in the gold fields in the Klondike region, while another says he died a pauper but officially he had, once again, disappeared from record.
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