Wyatt Earp was a man of contradictions, hell-raiser, brawler, gambler, miner, saloon owner and most famously known as a lawman with a vendetta!
Wyatt was born on March, 19th 1848 in Monmouth, Illinois to Nicholas Porter Earp and Virginia Ann Cooksey. The Earp’s moved around a lot and a young Wyatt worked as a stage driver at 17 and became a teamster at 18 years of age.
In 1868 the family moved to Lamar, Missouri when Wyatt’s father became local constable and later in 1869 when promoted to Justice of the Peace helped get Wyatt his first lawman job as Constable in his place.
In 1870 he married Urilla Sutherland who died later that same year of natural causes. In 1871 Wyatt was accused of horse theft and fled Missouri.
Dodge City Kansas
The years between 1871 and 1875 are a bit bleary with many different accounts in the life of Wyatt Earp. The charges against him were dropped in Lamar, Missouri for lack of evidence but it wouldn’t be the last time Wyatt would have problems with the law.
In 1875 he again became a lawman in Wichita, Kansas, but was fired and arrested, and developed a name as a hot-head after an incident of brawling in 1876 with former Marshal Bill Smith after Smith insulted him.
In 1876 he became deputy Marshall of Dodge City, Kansas where he remained for a year before resigning and going to Texas where he would meet a man who would become his best friend, “Doc Holliday.”
He returned to Dodge City in 1878 and once again became a deputy under a different marshal where he once again served for a year in that capacity and where he gained a reputation as a tough lawman
Wyatt Earp moved to Tombstone in 1879 and was followed there by his brothers Virgil, Morgan, James, and his friend Doc Holliday. Almost immediately they got off on the wrong foot with local cowboys after Wyatt’s brother Virgil was appointed city Marshal of Tombstone.
The problems began when the Earp’s clashed with two popular local “Cowboy” families, the McLaury’s and the Clanton’s. They were known ruffians and thieves but were well liked in the community because the local cowboys were free with their money and the local merchants depended on their business.
The feud escalated when Wyatt’s horse was stolen by Ike Clanton and later Virgil caught Frank McLaury in possession of stolen army mules. The situation went from bad to worse when a McLaury and Clanton friend “Curly Bill” Brocius shot and killed the town marshal Fred White.
The shooting was declared an accident and Curly Bill was released from custody. The Clanton’s and McLaury’s along with Curly Bill and several other friends and associates continued to be suspected in hold-ups and stage coach robberies.
The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral
The most famous gunfight in the history of the old West took about thirty seconds and with about 30 shots fired. It would forever vault the name “Wyatt Earp” into the annals of western lore.
On October, 26 1881 the top blew off the powder keg that had been brewing for over two years. All the insults were over, the arguments said, and eight men met each other face to face with bad intentions.
Wyatt Earp, Virgil Earp, Morgan Earp, and Doc Holliday marched down the streets of Tombstone to disarm and arrest Frank McLaury, Tom McLaury, Ike Clanton (who was unarmed) and Billy Clanton.
When the smoke cleared, Frank, Tom, and Billy were dead and Virgil and Doc Holliday were wounded. Wyatt Earp was unscathed along with Ike Clanton who had bolted for safety.
This incident although a very short violent chapter in Wyatt’s life would be what people remembered about him. The aftermath was far more bloodier when “The Cowboys” murdered Morgan Earp in retaliation.
The blood feud that insued made the O.K. Corral look like a cake walk. Wyatt along with Doc Holliday exacted vengeance upon the responsible parties and their friends, killing Curley Bill, Frank Stilwell, Johnny Ringo and many others.
Wyatt fled Arizona and wandered to varies places including Alaska, but eventually settled down in California with his long time companion Josie Marcus and died on January, 13th 1929 at the age of 80.