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Wyatt Earp (1848)

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Wyatt Berry Stapp Earp (March 19, 1848 – January 13, 1929) was an American gambler, investor, and law enforcement officer who served in several Western frontier towns. He was also at different times a farmer, teamster, bouncer, saloon-keeper, miner and boxing referee. He is most well known for his part in the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral during which three outlaw Cowboys were killed. The 30-second gunfight would define the rest of his life. Earp's modern-day reputation is that of Old West's "toughest and deadliest gunman of his day."

Earp spent his early life in Iowa. After his first wife, Urilla Sutherland Earp, died, he was arrested, sued twice, escaped from jail, then was arrested three more times for "keeping and being found in a house of ill-fame". He landed in the cattle boomtown of Wichita, Kansas where he became a deputy marshal for one year and developed a solid reputation as a lawman. In 1876 he followed his brother James to Dodge City, Kansas where he became an assistant marshal. In the winter of 1878 he went to Texas to gamble where he met John Henry "Doc" Holliday whom Earp credited with saving his life.

Continually drawn to boomtowns and opportunity, Earp left Dodge City in 1879 and with his brothers James and Virgil, moved to Tombstone, Arizona. The Earps bought an interest in the Vizina mine and some water rights. There, the Earps clashed with a loose federation of outlaw Cowboys. Wyatt, Virgil and their younger brother Morgan held various law enforcement positions that put them in conflict with Tom and Frank McLaury and Ike and Billy Clanton, who threatened to kill the Earps. The conflict escalated over the next year, culminating on October 26, 1881 in the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, during which the Earps and Holliday killed three of the Cowboys. In the next five months, Virgil was ambushed and maimed and Morgan was assassinated. Wyatt, his brother Warren, Holliday, and others pursued the Cowboys they thought responsible in a vendetta.

After leaving Tombstone, Earp continually invested in various mining interests and saloons. He and his third wife in their later years moved between Los Angeles and the Mojave Desert, where the town of Earp, California was named after him. Although his brother Virgil had far more experience as a sheriff, constable, and marshal, because Wyatt outlived Virgil and due to a largely fictionalized biography written by Stuart Lake that made Wyatt famous, he has been the subject of and model for a large number of films, TV shows, biographies and works of fiction.


 early life
Wyatt Earp was born in Monmouth, Illinois, on March 19, 1848, to widower Nicholas Porter Earp and Virginia Ann Cooksey. From his father's first marriage, Wyatt had an elder half-brother, Newton, and a half-sister Mariah Ann, who died at the age of ten months. 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. In March 1849, the Earps left Monmouth for California but settled in Iowa. Their new farm consisted of , northeast of Pella, Iowa.

On March 4, 1856, Earp's father Nicholas sold his farm and returned to Turtle, Illinois, where he was elected the municipal constable, serving at this post for about three years. He was caught and convicted in 1859 for bootlegging. Nicholas was unable to pay the fines and a lien was put against the Earp's property. It was sold at auction in November 1859, and the family left again for Pella, Iowa. After their move, Nicholas returned to Monmouth throughout 1860 to sell his other properties and to resolve several lawsuits for debt and accusations of tax evasion.

During the family's second stay in Pella, the American Civil War began. Newton, James, and Virgil joined the Union Army on November 11, 1861. While his father was busy recruiting and drilling local companies, Wyatt, along with his two younger brothers, Morgan and Warren, were left in charge of tending corn crop. Only 13 years old, Wyatt was too young to enlist, but he tried on several occasions to run away and join the army. Each time his father found him and brought him home. James was severely wounded in Fredericktown, Missouri, and returned home in the summer of 1863. Newton and Virgil fought several battles in the east and later returned. On May 12, 1864, the Earp family joined a wagon train heading to California.


By late summer 1865, Virgil found work as a driver for Phineas Banning's Stage Coach Line in California's Imperial Valley, and 16 year old Wyatt assisted. In the spring of 1866, Wyatt Earp became a teamster, transporting cargo for Chris Taylor. His assigned trail for 1866–1868 was from Wilmington, through San Bernardino and Las Vegas, Nevada, to Salt Lake City, Utah Territory.

In the spring of 1868, Earp was hired by Charles Chrisman to transport supplies for the construction of the Union Pacific Railroad. He learned gambling and boxing while working on the railhead in Wyoming, and refereed a fight between John Shanssey and Mike Donovan.


In the spring of 1868, the Earps moved east again to Lamar, Missouri, where Wyatt's father Nicholas became the local constable. Wyatt rejoined the family the next year. When Nicholas resigned on November 17, 1869 as constable to become the justice of the peace, Wyatt was appointed constable in his place. On November 26 and in return for his appointment, Earp filed a bond of $1,000. His sureties for this bond were his father, Nicholas Porter Earp; his paternal uncle, Jonathan Douglas Earp (April 28, 1824–October 20, 1900); and James Maupin.


In late 1869, Wyatt met Urilla Sutherland (1849–c.1870), the daughter of hotel-keeper William and Permelia Sutherland, formerly of New York City. They married in Lamar on January 10, 1870 and in August 1870 bought a lot on the outskirts of town for $50. Urilla was pregnant with and about to deliver their first child when she died from Typhoid fever later that year. In November, 1870 Wyatt sold the lot and a house on it for $75. He ran against his elder half-brother Newton for the office of constable, winning by 137 votes to Newton's 108.

  Lawsuits and charges

After Urilla died Wyatt began having a number of problems. On March 14, 1871, Barton County, Missouri filed a lawsuit against Earp and his sureties. He was in charge of collecting license fees for Lamar which were used to fund the local schools. Earp was accused of failing to turn in the fees. On March 31, James Cromwell filed a lawsuit against Wyatt, alleging that Wyatt had falsified court documents about the amount of money Earp had collected from Cromwell to satisfy a judgment. To make up the difference between what Earp turned in and Cromwell actually owed , the court seized Cromwell's mowing machine and sold it for $38. Cromwell's suit claimed Earp owed him $75, the estimated value of the machine.

On March 28, 1871 Wyatt, Edward Kennedy and John Shown were each charged with stealing two horses, "each of the value of one hundred dollars", from William Keys while in the Indian Country. On April 6, Deputy United States Marshal J. G. Owens arrested Earp for the horse theft. Commissioner James Churchill arraigned Earp on April 14 and set bail at $500. On May 15, an indictment against Earp, Kennedy and Shown was issued. Anna Shown, John Shown's wife, claimed that Earp and Kennedy got her husband drunk and then threatened his life to persuade him to help. On June 5 Edward Kennedy was acquitted while the case against Earp and John Shown remained. Earp didn't wait for the trial. He climbed out through the roof of his jail and headed for Peoria, Illinois.

  Peoria, Illinois

Wyatt's biographer Lake reported that Wyatt took to hunting buffalo during the winter of 1871-72, but Earp was arrested three times in the Peoria area during that period. Earp is listed in the city directory for Peoria during 1872 as a resident in the house of Jane Haspel, who operated a brothel. In February 1872, Peoria police raided the brothel, arresting four women and three men: Wyatt Earp, Morgan Earp, and George Randall. Wyatt and the others were charged with "Keeping and being found in a house of ill-fame." They were later fined twenty dollars plus costs for the criminal infraction. He was arrested for the same crime in May 1872 and late September 1872. It’s not known if he was a pimp. He may have been an enforcer or bouncer. He may have hunted buffalo during 1873-74 before he went to Wichita.

  Wichita, Kansas

Like Ellsworth, Wichita was a train terminal which was a destination for cattle drives originating in Texas. Such cattle boomtowns on the frontier were raucous places filled with drunken, armed cowboys celebrating at the end of long drives. When the summer-time cattle drives ended and the cowboys left, Earp was searching for something to do. In October 1874, he earned a bit of money helping an off duty police officer find thieves who had stolen a man’s wagon. He got his name in the paper. Earp officially joined the Wichita marshal's office on April 21, 1875, after the election of Mike Meagher as city marshal or police chief, making $100 per month. He also dealt faro at the Long Branch Saloon.

In late 1875, the local paper published this story:

On last Wednesday , policeman Earp found a stranger lying near the bridge in a drunken stupor. He took him to the 'cooler' and on searching him found in the neighborhood of $500 on his person. He was taken next morning, before his honor, the police judge, paid his fine for his fun like a little man and went on his way rejoicing. He may congratulate himself that his lines, while he was drunk, were cast in such a pleasant place as Wichita as there are but a few other places where that $500 bank roll would have been heard from. The integrity of our police force has never been seriously questioned.

Earp was embarrassed in early 1876 when his loaded single-action revolver fell out of his holster while he was leaning back on a chair and discharged when the hammer hit the floor. The bullet went through his coat and out through the ceiling.

Wyatt's stint as Wichita deputy came to a sudden end on April 2, 1876, when Earp took too active an interest in the city marshal's election. According to news accounts, former marshal Bill Smith accused Wyatt of using his office to help hire his brothers as lawmen. Wyatt got into a fistfight with Smith and beat him. Meagher was forced to fire and arrest Earp for disturbing the peace, the end of a tour of duty which the papers called otherwise "unexceptionable." When Meagher won the election, the city council was split evenly on re-hiring Earp. When his brother James opened a brothel in Dodge City, Kansas, Wyatt joined him.

  Dodge City, Kansas

After 1875, Dodge City, Kansas became a major terminal for cattle brought up from Texas along the Chisholm Trail. Earp was appointed assistant marshal in Dodge City under Marshal Larry Deger in 1876. There is evidence that Earp spent the winter of 1876–77 in another boomtown, Deadwood, Dakota Territory. He was not on the police force in Dodge City in late 1877, and rejoined the force in the spring of 1878. The Dodge newspaper reported in July 1878 that he had been fined $1.00 for slapping a muscular prostitute named Frankie Bell, who "...heaped epithets upon the unoffending head of Mr. Earp to such an extent as to provide a slap from the ex-officer..." Bell spent the night in jail and was fined $20.00, while Earp's fine was the legal minimum.

In October 1877, Earp left Dodge City to gamble throughout Texas. He stopped at Fort Griffin, Texas before returning to Dodge City in 1878 to become the assistant city marshal, serving under Charlie Bassett. He may have met John Henry "Doc" Holliday while in Texas. In the summer of 1878, Holliday assisted Earp during a bar room confrontation when Wyatt "was surrounded by desperadoes." Earp credited Holliday with saving his life that day. They became friends as a result.

While in Dodge City, he became acquainted with Bat Masterson, Luke Short, and Celia Anne "Mattie" Blaylock who worked as a prostitute. She became Earp's companion until 1881. When Earp resigned from the Dodge City police force on September 9, 1879, she accompanied him to Las Vegas, New Mexico, and then Tombstone, Arizona.

  George Hoyt shooting

At about 3:00 in the morning of July 26, 1878, George Hoyt (spelled in some accounts as "Hoy") and other drunken cowboys shot their guns wildly, including three shots into the Comique Theater, causing comedian Eddie Foy to throw himself to the stage floor in the middle of his act. Fortunately, no one was injured. Assistant Marshal Earp and Policeman James Masterson responded and "together with several citizens, turned their pistols loose in the direction of the flying horsemen." As the riders crossed the Arkansas river bridge south of town, George Hoyt "fell from his horse from weakness caused by a wound in the arm which he had received during the fracas. Hoyt developed gangrene and died on August 21. Earp claimed to have sighted on Hoyt against the morning horizon and to have fired the fatal shot, but Hoyt could easily have been shot by Masterson or one of the citizens in the crowd.

The last surviving Earp brother and the last surviving participant of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, Wyatt Earp died at home in the Earps' small apartment at 4004 W 17th Street, in Los Angeles, of chronic cystitis on January 13, 1929 at the age of 80. His pallbearers were prominent men: George W. Parsons, Charles Welch, Fred Dornberge, Los Angeles Examiner writer Jim Mitchell, Hollywood screenwriter Wilson Mizner, Earp's good friend from his days in Tombstone, John Clum, and Western actors William S. Hart and Tom Mix. Mitchell wrote Wyatt's obituary. The newspapers reported that Tom Mix cried during his friend's service. His wife Josie was too grief-stricken to attend. Josie had Earp's body cremated and buried Earp's ashes in the Marcus family plot at the Hills of Eternity, a Jewish cemetery in Colma, California.

Although it never was incorporated as a town, the settlement formerly known as Drennan located near the site of some of his mining claims was renamed Earp, California in his honor when the post office was established there in 1930.

When she died in 1944, Josie's ashes were buried next to Earp's. The original gravemarker was stolen on July 8, 1957 but was later recovered. Their gravesite is the most visited resting place in the Jewish cemetery.

The character of Wyatt Earp has been a central figure in at least 10 films and a secondary figure in many others. Among the best-known actors that have portrayed him are Randolph Scott, Guy Madison, Henry Fonda, Joel McCrea, Burt Lancaster, James Garner, Jimmy Stewart, Hugh O'Brian, Kevin Costner, and Kurt Russell. His character has influenced the way in which many others are presented as well as how law enforcement in the Old West is depicted on the screen.

Earp's life gained nationwide attention with the publication of Stuart Lake's book, Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshall. But it was the popular movie Gunfight at the O.K. Corral that cemented his actions and character in popular consciousness. The movie and accompanying mythologizing altered the way the public thought of cowboys. In Earp's time, they had been the outlaws. In the movies, they became the good guys, always ready to assist the lawmen in arresting the outlaws.

With the widespread sales of television sets after World War II, producers spun out a large number of western-oriented shows. At the height of their popularity in 1959, there were more than two dozen "cowboy" programs on each week. At least six of them were directly or indirectly connected with Wyatt Earp: The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, Tombstone Territory. Broken Arrow, Johnny Ringo, and Gunsmoke. Hugh O'Brian portrayed Earp on the namesake show, Wyatt Earp, which ran for six seasons.

  The Earp legend in film and television
  • Frontier Marshal – The first film adaptation of Stuart N. Lake's novel. George O'Brien plays "Michael Earp".
  • Frontier Marshal – Randolph Scott as Wyatt Earp
  • Tombstone, the Town Too Tough to Die – Stars Richard Dix
  • My Darling Clementine – Stars Henry Fonda and directed by John Ford.
  • Wichita – Stars Joel McCrea.
  • The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp TV series (1955–1961) – Starring Hugh O'Brian as Wyatt Earp.
  • Gunfight at the O.K. Corral – Stars Burt Lancaster.
  • Hour of the Gun – Stars James Garner in the first of two movies with Garner as Earp.
  • Doc – Gunfight of the O.K. Corral from Doc Holliday's point of view. Stacy Keach as Doc and Harris Yulin as Wyatt.
  • Tombstone – Stars Kurt Russell.
  • Wyatt Earp: Return to Tombstone – Film combines colorized footage of The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp with new scenes filmed in Tombstone.
  • Wyatt Earp – Stars Kevin Costner.
  • Black Hats - Stars Harrison Ford
  • The First Ride of Wyatt Earp - Stars Val Kilmer

  Earp as a character or adaptation of the legend
  • Law and Order Walter Huston as Frame Johnson, a character inspired by Wyatt Earp.
  • Dodge City – Errol Flynn as Wade Hatton, inspired by Wyatt Earp.
  • Winchester '73 – James Stewart wins a rare Winchester rifle that is stolen. Will Geer portrays Wyatt Earp.
  • Gun Belt – Outlaw Billy Ringo tries to go straight.
  • Masterson of Kansas – Bat Masterson is assisted by Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday
  • Badman's Country – Pat Garrett catches up to Butch Cassidy's gang and calls in Wyatt Earp.
  • Alias Jesse James – Bob Hope stars and Hugh O'Brian briefly appears as Wyatt Earp.
  • The Secret World of Eddie Hodges – TV musical starring Jackie Gleason Hugh O'Brien as Wyatt Earp
  • Cheyenne Autumn has a sequence featuring James Stewart as Earp and Arthur Kennedy as Doc Holliday in Dodge CIty.
  • Desafío en Rio Bravo – Guy Madison as Wyatt Earp.
  • "The Gunfighters" Doctor Who episode – The TARDIS materializes in Tombstone, where the characters become embroiled in the events leading up to the famous gunfight.
  • "Spectre of the Gun" Star Trek: The Original Series episode – The officers aboard the USS Enterprise reenact the roles of the Clanton gang. Ron Soble plays Wyatt Earp as a criminal.
  • Which Way to the OK Corral? Alias Smith and Jones – Cameron Mitchell as Wyatt Earp and Bill Fletcher as Doc Holliday
  • I Married Wyatt Earp – Television docudrama based on the fictionalized memoirs of Josephine Marcus Earp, played by Marie Osmond.
  • Sunset – Bruce Willis as Tom Mix and James Garner as Wyatt Earp team up to solve a murder at the 1929 Academy Award
  • Deadwood – Wyatt and Morgan appear in two episodes. Gale Harold as Wyatt Earp.

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Whole or part of the information contained in this card come from the Wikipedia article "Wyatt Earp", licensed under CC-BY-SA full list of contributors here.