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Nantan: The Life and Times of John P. Clum, Volume 1, Claverack to Tombstone 1851-1882

by Gary Ledoux, Trafford Pub., Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, 2007, $39 paperback.

Although his Tombstone Epitaph office was only a few feet away from the famous O.K. Corral street fight, editor John P. Clum missed the action on the afternoon of October 26, 1881, because he was writing about the morning events involving Ike Clanton and Tom McLaury. “I was busy with my story…and did not notice them,” is how he later put it. Even though he missed that famous 30-second adventure, Clum had plenty of adventures of his own. In fact, Clum was also Tombstone’s mayor at the time of the fight, and, as a Wyatt Earp supporter, he was at risk from Earp’s Cowboy opponents.

Called a “Nantan” by the Apaches, Clum was an Indian agent before Tombstone even existed—an agent who often related to his Apache wards better than he did to the soldiers. One particular Clum act, though, is a unique incident that most Wild West aficionados site when mentioning his multifaceted career: In April 1877, Clum and his Indian police captured the renegade Apache Geronimo at gunpoint. In the first volume of his biography of this “man of many parts,” Gary Ledoux covers Clum’s early years (he was born in 1851 near Claverack, N.Y.); his 1871 venture west to Santa Fe to become a weather observer for the U.S. Signal Corps; his time at the San Carlos Apache Reservation (1874-77) in Arizona Territory; his career as a newspaperman in the territory beginning in 1877; his arrival in Tombstone sometime in March 1880; and his turbulent days in the town. The first volume includes 475 text-heavy pages (with only a few black-and-white photos). Volume 2 is due out in October 2008.


Originally published in the June 2008 issue of Wild West. To subscribe, click here