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Wild West Outlaws and Lawmen

Wyatt Earp

Lawman Wyatt Earp was born Wyatt Berry Strapp Earp in Monmouth, Illinois in 1848.  He was, perhaps, the west's most celebrated lawman even though only six of his 80 years were spent in that capacity.

He stood over six feet tall and was blond and blue-eyed. An impeccable dresser, he was known to never have left his house without coat and tie.

His first law-related job was in Lamar, Missouri in 1870 when he was appointed constable. But he left town in 1871 after his first wife, Urilla Sutherland, died of typhoid fever.

He traveled to Kansas, Texas and New Mexico where he earned his living as a gambler, teamster, buffalo hunter, a section hand on the Union Pacific Railroad and, of course, lawman.

He served as a policeman in Wichita, Kansas in 1875 and then in 1878 he became assistant city marshal in Dodge City, where he met Bat Masterson and John "Doc" Holliday. He also met his second wife there, Cecelia "Mattie" Blaylock.

This is how Bat Masterson described Wyatt: "one of the few men I personally knew in the West in the early days whom I regarded as absolutely destitute of physical fear ... a quiet unassuming man, not given to brag or bluster, but at all times and under all circumstances, a loyal friend and an equally dangerous enemy."

He and his wife traveled to Tombstone, Arizona in December of 1879. It was a mining boomtown back then and he was eventually joined by his brothers Virgil, Morgan, James and Warren. His brother Virgil was appointed town marshal in 1880 while Wyatt worked at the Oriental Saloon on the faro concession and sometimes for Wells Fargo as a stagecoach guard. He also filled in occasionally as Virgil's deputy.

One factor that precipitated the famed hatred between the Earps and the Clantons, (eventually leading to the gunfight at the O.K. Corral) was Wyatt's involvement with a San Francisco actress named Josephine Sarah Marcus, who arrived in Tombstone to perform Gilbert and Sullivan's "H.M.S. Pinafore". Marcus had been the girlfriend of a pro-Clanton sheriff of Cochise County, by the name of John Harris "Johnny Behan. She and Wyatt remained close and when Wyatt's wife died, he and Josie were married.

The shootout at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone occurred on October 26, 1881 between the Earps, the Clantons (Newman or "Old Man Clanton" and his sons Ike, Phin and Billy) and the McLaury brothers (Tom and Frank) who were known cattle rustlers. It resulted in the deaths of the McLaury's and Billy Clanton and the woundings of Virgil and Morgan Earp. Morgan was killed on March 28, 1882 while playing billiards in a Tombstone saloon.

Wyatt and Josie traveled throughout the west on gambling and mining ventures and from 1906 until 1929, they traveled from their Los Angeles home to mining claims in the Mojave Desert and Arizona. While in Los Angeles, Earp became friends with movie actors William S. Hart and Tom Mix (a fellow lawman who had, in fact, been a marshal in Colorado and Oklahoma.

Wyatt Earp died on January 13, 1929. Books prevailed about his life. In 1931 there was a pro-Earp book written by Stuart Lake called "Wyatt Earp, Frontier Marshal. Then came a number of anti-Earp books in which he was portrayed as a paid killer, claim jumper and card sharp, among other distasteful credits.

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