Wyatt Earp was an incredibly colorful character! To be honest, with a person with a story like this, I'm not even sure where to start! Wyatt Earp was a jack of many trades. He was a deputy marshal, a sheriff, a constable, a Marshall, a soldier. He was a professional gambler, a teamster, a buffalo hunter, a saloon owner, a brothel maintainer, a silver miner, a gold miner, a boxing match referee, and a horse racer! He was a horse thief, a jail escape artist, a murderer, a troublemaker, a justice enforcer (although usually by his own means, lawful or not), a convict, an outlaw, and a hero. He was a member of a federal posse, he took part in the gunfight at the OK corral, he acted in movies, and, adding to his famous legend, even though he took part in an insanely large number of gun fights, never once, was he injured! Even though his comrades in arms in these gun fights were injured, whether that means simply winged by a bullet, or a shot in the shoulder or something like that, Wyatt was never once injured! He had bullet holes in his coat tails, on his boot heel he had scuffs where bullets had winged it, his saddle horn was blown clear off by a bullet, and he even had bullet holes straight through his pants or through the sleeve of his coat! Yet never once was the great legend Wyatt Earp struck by a bullet, or nicked by a knife!
Wyatt Earp was born Wyatt Berry Stapp Earp, in Monmouth, Illinois, the fourth child of Nicholas Porter Earp and Nicholas' second wife, Virginia Ann Cooksey. Wyatt was named after his father's commanding officer in the Mexican American war, Captain Wyatt Berry Stapp, of the 2nd Company Illinois Mounted Volunteers. Wyatt had seven siblings: James, Virgil, Martha, Morgan, Baxter Warren, Virginia, and Adelia; as well as an older half brother from his father's first marriage, Newton. Virgil, James, and Morgan will appear several more times in Wyatt's story. In 1849, the family decided to move to California, but they stopped and settled in Pella, Iowa when Martha became ill. On November 11, 1861 Newton, James, and Virgil joined the union army. Nicholas was busy recruiting and drilling local companies, so Wyatt, and his two younger brothers Morgan and (Baxter) Warren were left in charge of tending 80 acres of corn. Wyatt tried on several occasions to run away and join the army, but, at 13 years old, he was too young to enlist. Each time he tried to run away with the army, his father would find him and bring him home. In Fredricktown, Missouri, James was severely wounded, returning home in the summer of 1863. Newton and Virgil stayed with the army, fighting several battles in the East, and later following the family to California. While in California, Wyatt assisted his brother Virgil when Virgil became a driver for a stage coach line, then later Wyatt became a teamster transporting cargo for Chris Taylor. In the spring of 1868, Wyatt was hired to transport supplies needed to build the Union Pacific Railroad. While working on the rail head in the Wyoming territory, he learned gambling and boxing, and developed a reputation officiating boxing matches. In the spring of 1868, the family moved again to Lamar, Missouri, where Wyatt's father Nicholas became the local constable. Wyatt quit his job as a teamster and re-joined the family the next year. On November 17, 1869, Nicholas resigned as the as the constable to become the justice of the peace, and Wyatt became constable in his place. Wyatt married Urilla Sutherland in 1870, although she died of typhoid fever when she was about to deliver their first child. He ran against his half brother Newton for the office of constable, and won. After Urilla's death, Wyatt went through a downward spiral, and had quite a series of legal problems. In1871 he was sued for collecting license fees (for Lamar) which funded local schools and he was accused of failing to turn them in, later he was sued for not paying James Cromwell enough. That same year he was charged with stealing two expensive horses from William Keys. After being locked up on the charge of stealing the horses, he escaped the jail, and fled to Peoria, Illinois. While there, both he and his brother Morgan were arrested multiple times for running a brothel. After being arrested multiple times for running a brothel, he went to Wichita, Kansas, and eventually joined the Wichita Marshall's office. On January 9, 1876, Earp was embarrassed when sitting with friends in the back room of the custom house saloon. His single action revolver fell out of its holster and discharged when the hammer hit the floor. "The ball passed through his coat, struck the north wall then glanced off and passed out through the ceiling." On April 2, 1876 Earp's career as Wichita's deputy came to a sudden end, when former Marshall Bill Smith accused him of using his office to help hire his brothers as lawmen. Earp beat Smith in a fistfight and was fined $30. After that, the city Council voted against rehiring Earp as deputy. His brother James had opened a brothel in Dodge city, so Earp left Wichita to join him. Wyatt and his brother Morgan left Dodge city for Deadwood, which was in the Dakota territory, to take part in the gold rush. They arrived there to find that all the land was already taken in mining claims, so Morgan decided to return to Dodge city. Wyatt, however, made a deal to buy all the wood that a local individual had cut and put his horses to work that winter hauling firewood into camp. He made about $5000 in profit, but was unable to file any mining claims, so he ended up returning to Dodge city in the spring. In 1877 he joined the Dodge city police at the request of the mayor. Following outlaws, he traveled from Dodge city to Texas, and from Texas to the frontier town on the Clear Fork of the Brazos River. While there, he went to the Bee Hive saloon, and met Doc Holliday, who would prove to be a lifelong friend. By May 11th, 1878 Wyatt returned to Dodge city, and was appointed assistant marshal. Doc Holliday came to Dodge city in the summer. Ed Morrison and another 2 Dozen cowboys rode into Dodge that summer and shot up the town. They entered the Long Branch saloon, vandalized the room, and harassed the customers. Hearing the commotion, Earp burst through the front door to find numerous guns pointing at him; Holliday was playing cards in the back of the room and he put his pistol at Morrison's head, forcing him and his men to disarm and back down. Wyatt credited Holliday with saving his life that day, and the two became fast friends. While in Dodge city, Wyatt also became acquainted with none other than Bat Masterson, who certainly seems to have a habit of showing up in these stories. He also met prostitute Mattie Blaylock, who became his common-law wife until 1881.
By 1879, Dodge city began to settle down. Virgil Earp was the town constable in Prescott, Arizona territory, and he wrote to Wyatt, telling him about the opportunities in the silver mining boom town of none other than Tombstone. Wyatt later wrote, "in 1879, Dodge was beginning to lose much of the snap which had given it a charm to men of reckless blood, and I decided to move to Tombstone, which was just building up a reputation." So he resigned from the Dodge city police force, and traveled to Las Vegas. There he reunited with Doc Holliday, and they went on to Prescott, Arizona territory. Here's an interesting story: on October 28, 1880, Tombstone town Marshal Fred White attempted to break up a group of five drunken revelers who were shooting at the moon. Deputy Sheriff Earp was in Owens saloon a block away, but he was unarmed. He heard the shooting and ran to the scene, borrowing a pistol from Fred Dodge, and dashing to assist White. He saw White try to disarm Curly Bill Brocius, and watched the gun discharge, striking White in the groin. Wyatt pistol whipped Brocious, knocking him to the ground. Then Wyatt grabbed Brocious by the collar and told him to get up. Brocious asked, "what have I done?!" Fred Dodge arrived on the scene, and he recalled what he saw in a letter to Stewart Lake years later:
" Wyatts coolness and nerve never showed to better advantage than they did that night. When Morg and I reached him, Wyatt was squatted on his heels beside Curly Bill and Fred White. Curly Bill's friends were pot shooting at them in the dark. The shooting was lively and slugs were hitting the chimney and cabin... In all of that racket, Wyatts voice was even and quiet as usual."
In 1882, Earp's common-law wife, Mattie Blaylock, told him she wanted a divorce, having fallen in love with a gambler. Wyatt did not believe in divorce, so he refused. Mattie ran away with the gambler anyway. Eventually she became addicted to Laudanum, and she ended up committing suicide, in 1888. After Mattie left him, Wyatt fell in love with a woman named Josephine Sarah Marcus. Josephine was Jewish, and it was because of this that Wyatt and Doc Holliday ended up falling apart as friends. "Holliday said something about Earp becoming 'a d*** Jew-boy.' Earp became angry and left [the restaurant]..... [Henry] Jaffa told me later that Earp's woman was a Jewess. Earp did mezuzah when entering the house." Said the former New Mexico territory governor, Miguel Otero.
Wyatt lost his position as sheriff of Tombstone, and the man who became sheriff, even though he had promised to make Wyatt undersheriff, did not go through with his promise. This left Wyatt without a job. However, Wyatt and his brothers began to make some money on their mining claims in the area. Then, the owner of the Oriental saloon, Mike Joyce gave Wyatt a 25% interest in the faro concession at the saloon, in exchange for Wyatts services as a gambler and manager. At that point in time, gambling was regarded as a legitimate profession. Wyatt invited Bat Masterson to help him run the tables, and he also invited Luke Short, offering him a job as well.
Wyatt and Holliday met again in June 1882, in Gunnison. Wyatt intervened to keep his friend from being arrested on murder charges, which they all had pending against them for killing Frank Stillwell in Tucson. Wyatt saw Holliday for the final time, in late winter of 1886, where they met in the lobby of the Windsor Hotel. Josephine Marcus described the now-skeletal Holliday as having a "continuous cough" and standing on "unsteady legs."
Wyatt did many things. He faced down a lynch mob, he rode in the Earp vendetta ride, he took part in the gunfight at the OK corral, he tracked down robbers, arrested murderers, saved men's lives, took a stand for Justice, and became a national hero and idol. Yet at the same time, Wyatt had a dark side. He was charged with murder, and robbery. He was a gambler, and a brothel maintainer, and a bad man to cross. His story is incredibly colorful (and incredibly long, there's still forty years of stories that I'm not telling y'all because I just can't. It would take me ages.). He was a horse racer, a gambler, a soldier, a sheriff, a Marshall, a friend, and an enemy, and many more, most of which are listed at the top. :)
Ok, that is a very, very long blog post, so congratulations (and thank you) to those of you who read it all the way to the end! I am glad I wrote this over the course of the week, otherwise my fingers would be hurting very badly right now. :)
Wyatt Earp, Wikipeda
Wyatt Earp, duckduckgo.comHollywood's Greatest Westerns
Also, I realized that there is no bibliography in the Ben Thompson one (I forgot again, my bad), so here it is:Ben Thompson, WikipediaBen Thompson, duckduckgo.comHollywood's Greatest Westerns (basically its the same, just for a different person)