WYATT EARP, WYATT EARP, BRAVE, COURAGEOUS AND BOLD.
LONG LIVE HIS FAME, LONG LIVE HIS LEGEND AND LONG MAY HIS STORY BE TOLD.
So went the theme song for the mid 1950’s television series Wayett Earp. Stariing Hugh O’Brian, as tall , slender, squeaky clean, Wyatt Earp. Dressed in his flat crowned, wide brimed black hat, long tailed frock coat, with his stripped pants tucked into his polished high topped boot,s. With his city Marshal’s badge pinned on his gold broaked black gamblers vest, he depensed justic with a even , fair hand in the Arazonia, rough frontier silver town of Tombstone, the town too tough to die. (It exists today as a rebuilt tourist attraction, used occasionally as a movie set. rebuilt because it sets in the middle of the Arazonia desert and burned down completly for lack of water to fight the fire).
WYATT EARP (for real)
Born as Wyatt Berry Stapp Earp in Monmouth, Illiniois, on March 19, 1848. The Earp family lived for awhile in Iowa, the Missouri on to California and back to Missouri. A family of farmers Wyatt grew to a six foot two inch chunk of muscle and bone, lean and wiry individual. He weighed in around 185#. He developed a dark, bushy, thick moustache that drooped under his blue eyes and straight nose. The Earps were known as “The Fighting Earp’s” since most of the boys had fought for the Union during the civil War, Wyatt was to young to be involved. all the brothers were scrappers and even though they occasionally had their differences they allways stuck to gether in a fight.
Wyatt took a bride when he was 21, a Miss Sutherland. Unfortunatly she died after only a few months of marriage, quite likely of typhoid. Wyatt tried his hand at law enforcement for awhile, a calling that pulled at him most of the rest of his life. And like many men of the day law enforcement and outlawery was a thin line. Wearing a badge allowed him to live a life of excitement with out the threat of going to jail. After the job proved to be dull and unexciting , he quit and drifted south.
Leaving Missouri he headed into the Indian territory (later Oklahoma) There in 1870 with two companions became horse thieves. They rode day and night to avoid capture, but were caught byfederal lawmen. Earp paid a $500 bond to be released and fled the territory.
For the next three years he settled in Kansas and kept a low profile. Gambling, booze and girls became his way of life as he moved from Hays City to Ellsworth and on to Wichita in 1874. These citys owed their existence to the railroad and Texas trail herds. From 1867 to 1885, millions of longhorn cattle trailed north from Texas to Kansas. cowboys rode for their brand fought indians drougth, stampeeds and all the other dangers of the trail. At the end of the drive they recieved their pay and hell broke loose. They whored, drank, fought and gambled, in other words they were ready “to See The Elephant”. And Wyatt saw a opportuniity for all sorts of business adventures. He wired his brothers Jim and Morgan to bring their mistresses and join him. In no time at all they had girls working for them in the better known “hotels and estableshments”. Several of the ladies worked under the Earp name.
Earp gambled for his living, and on one occasion rode with a Wichita policeman to run down a fellow who left town with a wagon he negelected to pay for. After seventyfive miles they caught up with their quarry, and at gun point relieved him of $146 in payment and expenses. Wyatt saw this a real possibality and on april 21, 1875 he joined the Wichita police force as a ordinary policeman.
Now tradition has established that cattle towns were policed by a marshal oppertating single handedly, with dedication and a stelly nerve to enforce the law and keep the peace. This makes for a great ledgend but, reality sets in when you find most towns in the west had a five man police force, mostly hired, with the exception of the cheif who was usually called the marshal (sometimes elected or often appointed by the mayor or city counsel).
At $60 a month Wyatt did not exbit any traits that drew attention to himself. Through the Wichita night filled with railroad workers, army scouts, soldiers, and the assortment of drifters like buffalo hunters, liquor dealers. strode the Wichita police force making a occasional arrest usually for drunkness and disordly conduct. There is no record of Wyatt ever using his gun in Wichita .
Earning $60 a month could not keep Earp in the style he desired so he made his money gambling, running his prostitutes and shaking down other prostitutes a common pratice among policemen in those times. No one ever thought of the girls having any rights, they were just two legged cattle to them.
Wyatt and his brother Morgan hit Dodge City, Kansas in May of 1876. Wyatt hired on as a $75 a month deputy he and the Marshal named Deger were the entire police force. Many say Wyatt ran the town as Deger weighrd over 300#. there is not much of a record of his tenture as a lawman there. He became fast friends with Bat Masterson who would later gain fame as a sheriff. He also renewed his frindship with Doc Holliday After a year he left for the Black Hills of South Dokota, returning to Dodge in July of 1877. Leaving again he returned in May of 1887 in the company of a young woman named Matilda “Mattie” Baylock. (see a earlier chapter for more of her). Were they ever married? Although she used the Earp name and claimed to be Wyatt never admitted it and no records exist to confirm the event.
Records do not show Wyatt to have been a paticulary hard working lawman. Some have called him a fighting pimp. He was a product of his time in that most lawmen were on the verge of lawlessness themselves. they shook down saloon owners for protection money and prostitutes for money and gambled more often than not. The truth is in the early days of these wild towns they wanted a policeman who was as tough as the element that thay wanted tamed. a little larcney on the side could be tollerated as long as they kept things safe for the residents who lived and worked the town. (untill things tamed down then they wanted them gone also). Wyatt was envolved in two minor shooting scrapes between some wild cowboys and a fellow police officers, but no walk down the street shootouts like on TV.
By Sep. of 1879 Dodge had grown too tame for Wyatt so he and Mattie headed to Texas. In Mobeetie Texas Wyatt and Mysterious Dave Mather (his story to come later) rode into town in a wagon with a load of gold painted bricks. They proceeded to sell the bricks for $100 apeice. The story went that they had located a old Spanish hidden gold catch, and they were selling the gold bricks at a discount so they could raise enough money fast to return and excavate the catch properly. they sold one to the sheriff, who at the bank discovered the swindle and retrived his money and ran then out of town.
Hearing of the silver strikes in tumbstone, Arazonia wyatt talked his brothers Jim, Morgan and Virgil into joining him there.
Like so many of these chapters this one is getting too long so I’m gonna take a break for now.