Brief summation of the life and legacy of Wyatt Earp
|ok...at the risk of loosing all my cool points and sounding TOTALLY like a history DWEEB lol...i have got to got to GOT TO make an entry regarding a few Icons of the American West. Specifically....United States Marshall Wyatt Earp and his brothers. Soooo..even though i KKNOW i'll henceforth be known as a total nerd lol...here goes.....a mini term paper if u will. Bear in mind that the "legend" status of his law-man days accounts for only about a half-dozen years of his life....i find that to be fascinating...along with the fact that he is the only gunfighter of the American West to ever live long enough to die of old age.
Wyatt Berry Stapp Earp was born in Monmouth, Il. on March 19, 1848. He moved, along with his parents, in 1864 to Colton, CA., located near San Bernadino, where he worked as a teamster and railroad employee. He went back east and married in 1870, but quickly lost his new bride to Typhoid Fever. After that, overcome with grief, he burned all their belongings and drifted across the Indian Territory working as a buffalo hunter and stage coach-driver. He arrived in Wichita,KS in 1875 where he joined the police force, and made quite a name for himself as a lawman.
It was in 1876 that he moved to Dodge City, Ks, and became a faro dealer at the famous Long Branch Saloon, as well as Asst. Marshall of the town. It was here that he met and forged life-long friendships with William Barclay "Bat" Masterson, and Doctor Jonh Henry "Doc" Holiday, as well as established his reputation as a notable law-man and gambler. He left Dodge City, and his second wife, Mattie (who, incidentally was no more than a prostitute he had taken up with on a permanent basis, and allowed to use his name), in 1878, he went to California and New Mexico, working as a Wells-Fargo Agent for a short time, and in 1879, joined his brothers, Virgil, and Morgan, along with their wives, in the new silver-mining town of Tombstone, AZ. He had plans of establishing a stage line there, but, upon learning there were already two in town, he procured a gambling concession at the Oriental Saloon. His older brother, Virgil, became the town marshall, while younger brother, Morgan, took a job with the police department. It was here that Wyatt met his third, and final, wife, Josie (Josephine Marcus Earp), who remained with him until his death. Doc Holiday had also followed Wyatt to Tombstone, he was infected with Toberculosis, a then absolutely fatal disease, and referred to rudely as a "lunger". He was told that the dry desert climate would ease it some, so he and his prostitue-companion, "Big-Nosed" Kate Fisher, followed the Earps there in hopes of a better life.
On October 26th, 1881, a feud that had errupted between the Earps and a gang led by Ike Clanton and Frank McClowery culminated in the infamous "Gunfight at the OK Corral", probably the single-most celebrated gun-fight in the history of Western Folklore. Three of the Clanton gang were killed, while Ike and another wounded member escaped. The three Earp brothers, along with Doc Holiday, survived. Morgan and Virgil were both wounded, and Virgil was later terminated as Marshall for his role in the homicides.
In March, 1882, Morgan Earp was gunned down by unknown assassins, shot in the back while playing pool at the Oriental. On the same night, elder brother Virgil was seriously wounded by the same assassins, who lay in ambush while he was en-route to Morgan's aid. A few days later, Wyatt loaded Virgil, his wife Allie, Morgan's widow, Lou, and Morgan's body onto a train bound for Touscon. He, along with youngest brother Warren, and Doc Holiday accompanied them to Toucscon, where Frank Stillwell lay in ambush. Wyatt gunned him down with both barrels of his Wells-Fargo Shot-gun, then proceeded to empty all six rounds of his .45 Long Colt Peacemaker revolver into his lifeless body. He, along with Warren and Doc, then returned to Tombstone on Horseback. Once there they met up with Sherm Johnson, Texas Jack Vamillion, and Turkey Creek Jack Johnson..known by all as "the two jacks".. and headed out on a rampage vendetta, during which all four suspects, Curly Bill Brociouis, John Ringo, Pete Spence, and "Indian" Charlie, were killed. The most famous of these battles occured at Sulfur Springs Canyon, in which Wyatt stood tall amidst a barrage of gunfire and cut down Curly Bill Brocious at point-blank range, without sustaining a single wound himself, although his riding jacket was riddled with bullets. Soon afterward, one of the Jacks asked where Wyatt was, and Doc responded solemnly, "He's down by the creek, walkin' on the water." Incidentally, members of the Clanton gang continued to die mysteriously for years after that.
Virgil and his wife, Mattie, as well as Lou, returned to CA and lived out their days as barmen and lawmen. Mattie proved the strongest, passing away on November 17, 1947...21 days after her 100th birthday.
After being accused of the murders of the Clanton gang, Wyatt and Josie fled to Colorado and began to make rounds of the mining camps, and then, in 1886, settled briefly in boom-town San Diego where Wyatt gambled and invested in real estate and saloons.
In 1897,at the height of the Alaska Gold Rush, they headed for Nome, Alaska, where they operated a saloon until 1901, when they headed for the gold strike in Tonopah, Nevada, with an already estimated $80,000.00 in assets. In Tonopah, saloon, gambling, and mining interests once again proved profitable.
After that, Wyatt took up prospecting in earnest, staking claims just outside Death Valley and elsewhere in the Mojave Desert. In 1906 he discovered multiple copper and gold-containing veins near Vidal California on the Colorado River and filed many claims at the base of the Whipple Mountains.
Wyatt spent the winters of his remaining years working these claims and living with Josie in their Vidal cottage. They summered in Los Angeles where they befriended many early actors and lived off real estate and mining investments.
On January 13th, 1929, Wyatt Earp died in Los Angeles at the age of 80. He had never so much as been grazed by a single, solitary bullet. Among the pall bearers at his funeral were early western actors Tom Mix and William S. Hart. Tom Mix wept.
His cremated ashes were buried in Josie's family plot in Colma, CA, just south of San Franscisco. When Josie died in 1944 at the age of 75, she was buried there beside him. Today, his grave marker stands proud with the inscription "...that nothing's so sacred as honor...and nothing so loyal as love!".
Earp's irrepresible legacies include shaping the American West as a frontiersman, gambler, lawman, and prospector. Near his Mojave Desert mining claims along the Colorado River, a Post Office on Route 62 bears his name..."Earp, California 92242".
There is no way to deny his place in the anals of history, nor to deny the greatness, if not brutality of this man who, even now, 76 years after his death, truly remains....an ICON OF THE AMERICAN WEST.