The Many Adventures of Wyatt Earp

April 13, 2010
By Kat Lutsey BRONZE, Amery, Wisconsin
Kat Lutsey BRONZE, Amery, Wisconsin
3 articles 0 photos 0 comments

The subject of a good deal of Western movies, Wyatt Earp, attained a legendary aura. But the man was definitely real. One might consider the movies detailing him to embellish his character. Earp was a fearless law enforcer, a shrewd gambler, and foremost in the gunfight at the OK Corral in Tombstone, Arizona (and in avenging the death and serious injury of his brothers, James and Virgil, afterwards). Wyatt Earp fascinates me. Because of the many different hats he wore, he became almost fearless; and soon just about nothing and no one stood in his way.
Wyatt Berry Stapp Earp was born on March 19, 1848 at Monmouth, Illinois, during the California gold rush. He had two older brothers named James and Virgil, two younger brothers, Morgan and Warren, and an older sister named Martha. When Wyatt was little, he was restricted to only working on the farm. That somewhat boring routine was dramatically ended in 1863. Earp had had enough of the droll existence on the quiet farm, and, hearing tales of his father’s exploits as a captain of the Union Army in the Mexican War, and seeing his two older brothers leave to enroll, he fled to join also, but was immediately brought back home when his father found out about it.
The family moved from place to place many times, because Wyatt’s father, Nicholas, was an alcoholic and couldn’t keep a job for more than a few months, but in 1864, the family was back on the road. Wyatt was given his first gun to protect himself from the dangers of being on the road when he moved. By 1869, he had arrived with his brother, Virgil, at Lamar, Missouri. They both ran for the post of Constable of the Lamar Police Force. Wyatt won the vote and so his long career in law enforcement began. A year later he fell in love with and married Urilla Sutherland. Unfortunately that same year, she died, possibly because of typhoid or due to complications in childbirth. This led to her family falling out of contact with Wyatt Earp. They accused him of stealing horses and he was locked up in a Cherokee jail. Wyatt paid his bail himself and escaped the area to Kansas before his case came to trial.
Wyatt then became a buffalo hunter, possibly to avoid the public eye and to clear his mind concerning the death of his first wife. Before long though, the call of the law caused him to travel to the unruly cattle town of Wichita in Kansas. He became a law enforcement officer there in 1875, staying for approximately a year.
He then moved on to Dodge City, Kansas, and met Bat Masterson, who he became good friends with. He also became acquainted with John Henry ‘Doc’ Holliday, the hard drinking sharpshooter and gambler. Although Wyatt Earp never became official Marshall of Dodge City, he was at the forefront of police work. Judging from press cuttings of the time, Earp was respected by the community for his bravery and ability to defuse awkward situations with malevolent characters, without excessive use of violence.
Earp made his living primarily from gambling, another area in which he was respected by fellow professionals. If one could cheat well in those days, it was considered part of the game. Wyatt Earp was an expert and made more than his fair share of money this way.
In November of 1879, Earp, his three brothers (Morgan, Virgil and Warren) and ‘Doc’ Holliday entered Tombstone, Arizona, lured there by the prospect of finding gold because it was a thriving “gold boomtown”. In 1880, Wyatt Earp was appointed Pima County Deputy Sheriff, although the reputation of him and his “gang” as strict law enforcers had gone before them. Local villains performed numerous robberies, stole cattle, and tried to carry out other acts of terrorism at free will, but now that the Earp’s were in town, they were on a collision course with the law.
The two factions squared up in the now famous Gunfight at the OK Corral. Wyatt Earp was the only person to avoid injury in the dispute. His brother Morgan was shot dead and Virgil was crippled. After the fight, Wyatt hunted down many of the cowboys responsible for his brothers’ misfortunes and killed them.
He then returned to Dodge City for a while, teaming up again with Bat Masterson and other law enforcers in the famous peace commission. When he was 60, he married again, to Josephine Marcus. The couple went prospecting to Alaska where Earp refereed boxing matches. Later in life, he advised Western movie producers on authenticity. Wyatt Earp died in his Los Angeles cottage in 1929, aged eighty years, but his legend will live on for many, many more years.

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