Wyatt Earp

Wyatt Berry Stapp Earp (March 19, 1848 - January 13, 1929) was an American Old West gambler, a deputy sheriff in Pima County, and deputy town marshal in Tombstone, Arizona Territory, who took part in the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, during which lawmen killed three outlaw Cochise County Cowboys. He is often mistakenly regarded as the central figure in the shootout in Tombstone, although his brother Virgil was Tombstone city marshal and deputy U.S. marshal that day, and had far more experience as a sheriff, constable, marshal, and soldier in combat.

Earp lived a restless life. He was at different times a constable, city policeman, county sheriff, deputy U.S. marshal, teamster, buffalo hunter, bouncer, saloon-keeper, gambler, brothel keeper, miner, and boxing referee. Earp spent his early life in Pella, Iowa. In 1870, he married his first wife, Urilla Sutherland Earp, who contracted typhoid fever and died shortly before their first child was to be born, they lived in Lamar, Missouri at the time. Urilla is buried in Milford, MO, near Lamar. During the next two years, Earp was arrested for stealing a horse, escaped from jail, was sued twice, and was arrested and fined three times in 1872 for "keeping and being found in a house of ill-fame". His third arrest was subject of a lengthy account in the Daily Transcript, which referred to him as an "old offender", and nicknamed him the "Peoria Bummer", another name for loafer or tramp.

By 1874, he arrived in the boomtown of Wichita, Kansas, where his brother had opened a brothel. On April 21, 1875, Earp was appointed to the Wichita police force and developed a solid reputation as a lawman. On April 2, 1876, his boss, City Marshal Michael Meagher, was running for office when an opponent said some things about his brothers that Earp took offense to. He confronted and beat the man in a fistfight. Earp was fined $30 and dismissed from the Wichita force. Earp immediately left Wichita, following his brother James to Dodge City, Kansas, where he became an assistant city marshal. In winter 1878, he went to Texas to track down an outlaw and met John "Doc" Holliday, whom Earp later credited with saving his life.

Earp moved constantly throughout his life from one boomtown to another. He left Dodge City in 1879 and moved with his brothers, James and Virgil, to Tombstone--where a silver boom was underway. There, the Earps clashed with a loose federation of outlaws known as the Cowboys. Wyatt, Virgil, and their younger brother Morgan held various law-enforcement positions that put them in conflict with Tom and Frank McLaury, and Ike and Billy Clanton, who threatened on several occasions to kill the Earps. The conflict escalated over the next year, culminating on October 26, 1881, in the gunfight at the O.K. Corral, in which the Earps and Holliday killed three of the Cowboys. In the next five months, Virgil was ambushed and maimed, and Morgan was assassinated. Pursuing a vendetta, Wyatt, his brother Warren Earp, Holliday, and others formed a federal posse which killed three of the Cowboys whom they thought responsible. Wyatt was never wounded in any of the gunfights in which he took part, unlike his brothers Virgil and Morgan, or his friend Doc Holliday, which only added to his mystique after his death.

Earp was a lifelong gambler and was always looking for a quick way to make money. After leaving Tombstone, Earp went to San Francisco, where he reunited with Josephine Earp. She became his common-law wife. They joined a gold rush to Eagle City, Idaho, where they owned mining interests and a saloon. They left there to race horses and open a saloon during a real estate boom in San Diego, California. Back in San Francisco, Wyatt raced horses again, but his reputation suffered irreparably when he refereed the Fitzsimmons-Sharkey boxing match and called a foul that led many to believe that he fixed the fight. They moved briefly to Yuma, Arizona, before joining the Nome Gold Rush in 1899. In partnership with Charlie Hoxie, they opened a two-story saloon called the Dexter and made an estimated $80,000 (about $2 million in 2017 dollars). Returning to the lower 48, they opened another saloon in Tonopah, Nevada, the site of a new gold find. Around 1911, Earp began working several mining claims in Vidal, California, retiring in the hot summers with Josephine to Los Angeles. Earp made friends among early Western actors in Hollywood, and tried to get his story told. He was portrayed in film only once before he died, and very briefly, in the 1923 film Wild Bill Hickok.

Earp died on January 13, 1929. He was known as a Western lawman, gunfighter, and boxing referee. He had a notorious reputation for both his handling of the Fitzsimmons-Sharkey fight and his role in the O.K. Corral gunfight. This only began to change after his death when the extremely flattering biography Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal was published in 1931. It became a bestseller and created his reputation as a fearless lawman. Since then, Earp has been the subject of, and model for, numerous films, television shows, biographies, and works of fiction that have increased his notoriety. Long after his death, he has many devoted detractors and admirers. Earp's modern-day reputation is that of the Old West's "toughest and deadliest gunman of his day".

Early life

Wyatt Berry Stapp Earp was born on March 19, 1848, the fourth child of Nicholas Porter Earp and his second wife, Virginia Ann Cooksey. He was named after his father's commanding officer in the Mexican-American War, Captain Wyatt Berry Stapp, of the 2nd Company Illinois Mounted Volunteers. Some evidence supports Wyatt Earp's birthplace as 406 South 3rd Street in Monmouth, Illinois, though the street address is disputed by Monmouth College professor and historian William Urban. Wyatt had seven siblings: James, Virgil, Martha, Morgan, Baxter Warren, Virginia, and Adelia; as well as an elder half-brother from his father's first marriage, Newton.

In March 1849 or in early 1850, Nicholas Earp joined about 100 other people in a plan to relocate to San Bernardino County, California, where he intended to buy farmland. Just 150 miles (240 km) west of Monmouth on the journey, their daughter Martha became ill. The family stopped and Nicholas bought a new 160-acre (65 ha) farm 7 miles (11 km) northeast of Pella, Iowa. Martha died there on May 26, 1856.

Nicholas and Virginia Earp's last child, Adelia, was born in June 1861 in Pella. Newton, James, and Virgil joined the Union Army on November 11, 1861. Their father was busy recruiting and drilling local companies, so Wyatt and his two younger brothers, Morgan and Warren, were left in charge of tending 80 acres (32 ha) of corn. Wyatt was only 13 years old, too young to enlist, but he tried on several occasions to run away and join the army. Each time, his father found him and brought him home. James was severely wounded in Fredericktown, Missouri, and returned home in summer 1863. Newton and Virgil fought several battles in the east and later followed the family to California.


On May 12, 1864, Nicholas Earp organized a wagon train and headed to San Bernardino, California, arriving on December 17, 1864. By late summer 1865, Virgil found work as a driver for Phineas Banning's stage coach line in California's Imperial Valley, and 16-year-old Wyatt assisted. In spring 1866, Wyatt became a teamster, transporting cargo for Chris Taylor. From 1866 to 1868, he drove cargo over the 720 miles (1,160 km) wagon road from Wilmington, through San Bernardino then Las Vegas, Nevada, to Salt Lake City, Utah Territory.

In spring 1868, Earp was hired to transport supplies needed to build the Union Pacific Railroad. He learned gambling and boxing while working on the rail head in the Wyoming Territory. Earp developed a reputation officiating boxing matches and refereed a fight in front of 3000 spectators between John Shanssey and Mike Donovan on July 4, 1869, in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Lawman and marriage

In the spring of 1868, the Earps moved east again to Lamar, Missouri, where Wyatt's father Nicholas became the local constable. Wyatt rejoined the family the next year. Nicholas resigned as constable on November 17, 1869, to become the justice of the peace, and Wyatt was appointed constable in his place.

In late 1869, Earp courted 20-year-old Urilla Sutherland (c. 1849-1870), the daughter of William and Permelia Sutherland, who operated the Exchange Hotel in Lamar. They were married by his father Nicholas in Lamar on January 10, 1870, and in August 1870, Wyatt bought a lot on the outskirts of town for $50, where he built a house. Urilla was pregnant and about to deliver their first child when she suddenly died from typhoid fever. In November, Earp sold the lot and a house on it for $75. Hoping to keep the office to which he had been appointed, he ran against his elder half-brother Newton for the office of constable. The Earps may have hoped to keep the job in the family one way or another. Wyatt won by 137 votes to Newton's 108, but their father Nicholas lost the election for justice of the peace in a very close four-way race.

Lawsuits and charges

After Urilla's death, Wyatt went through a downward spiral and had a series of legal problems. On March 14, 1871, Barton County filed a lawsuit against Earp and his sureties. Earp was in charge of collecting license fees for Lamar, which funded local schools, and he was accused of failing to turn in the fees. On March 31, James Cromwell filed a lawsuit against Earp, alleging that Earp had falsified court documents about the amount of money collected from Cromwell to satisfy a judgment. To make up the difference between what Earp turned in and Cromwell owed (which he claimed to have paid), the court seized Cromwell's mowing machine and sold it for $38. Cromwell's suit claimed that Earp owed him $75, the estimated value of the machine.

On March 28, 1871, Earp, Edward Kennedy, and John Shown were charged with stealing two horses, "each of the value of one hundred dollars", from William Keys while in the Indian country. On April 6, Deputy United States Marshal J. G. Owens arrested Earp for the horse theft. Commissioner James Churchill arraigned Earp on April 14, and set bail at $500. On May 15, an indictment was issued against Earp, Kennedy, and Shown. Anna Shown, John Shown's wife, claimed that Earp and Kennedy got her husband drunk and then threatened his life to persuade him to help. On June 5, Edward Kennedy was acquitted while the case against Earp and John Shown remained. Earp did not wait for the trial. He climbed out through the roof of his jail and headed for Peoria, Illinois.

Arrests in Peoria

Years afterward, Wyatt's biographer Stuart N. Lake wrote that Wyatt was hunting buffalo during the winter of 1871-1872, but Earp was arrested three times during 1872 in the area around Peoria, Illinois for activity related to a brothel. Local constables in Peoria, Illinois, likely considered Earp to be a pimp.

Earp was listed in the Peoria city directory during 1872 as a resident in the home of Jane Haspel. In February 1872, Peoria police raided her home and arrested four women and three men: Wyatt and Morgan Earp, and George Randall. The men were charged with "Keeping and being found in a house of ill-fame." They were later fined $20 plus costs for the criminal infraction. Earp was arrested for the same crime on May 11, and in September the Peoria Daily National Democrat reported that Earp had been arrested once more on September 10, 1872. This time he was aboard a floating brothel he owned named the Beardstown Gunboat. Arrested with him was a woman named Sally Heckell, who called herself Wyatt Earp's wife.

Some of the women are said to be good looking, but all appear to be terribly depraved. John Walton, the skipper of the boat and Wyatt Earp, the Peoria Bummer, were each fined $43.15. Sarah Earp, alias Sally Heckell, calls herself the wife of Wyatt Earp.


By calling Earp the "Peoria Bummer", the newspaper was including him in a class of "contemptible loafers who impose on hard-working citizens," a "beggar," and worse than tramps. They were men of poor character who were chronic lawbreakers.

Wichita, Kansas

Wyatt and Sally moved to the growing cow town of Wichita in early 1874. Local arrest records show that Sally Earp operated a brothel with Nellie "Bessie" Ketchum, the wife of his brother James, from early 1874 to the middle of 1876. Wyatt may have been a pimp, but historian Robert Gary L. Roberts believes he more likely was an enforcer, or a bouncer for the brothel. He possibly hunted buffalo during 1873-74 before he went to Wichita. When the Kansas state census was completed in June 1875, Sally was no longer living with Wyatt, James, and Bessie.

Wichita was a railroad terminal and a destination for cattle drives from Texas. Like other frontier railroad terminals, when the cowboys accompanying the cattle drives arrived, the town was filled with drunken, armed cowboys celebrating the end of their long journey. Lawmen were kept busy. When the cattle drives ended and the cowboys left, Earp searched for something else to do. The Wichita City Eagle reported on October 29, 1874 that he had helped an off-duty police officer find thieves who had stolen a man's wagon. Earp officially joined the Wichita marshal's office on April 21, 1875, after the election of Mike Meagher as city marshal (or police chief), making $100 per month. He also dealt faro at the Long Branch Saloon. In late 1875, the Wichita Beacon newspaper published this story:

On last Wednesday (December 8), policeman Earp found a stranger lying near the bridge in a drunken stupor. He took him to the 'cooler' and on searching him found in the neighborhood of $500 on his person. He was taken next morning, before his honor, the police judge, paid his fine for his fun like a little man and went on his way rejoicing. He may congratulate himself that his lines, while he was drunk, were cast in such a pleasant place as Wichita as there are but a few other places where that $500 bank roll would have been heard from. The integrity of our police force has never been seriously questioned.


Earp was embarrassed on January 9, 1876, when he was sitting with friends in the back room of the Custom House Saloon when his loaded single-action revolver fell out of his holster. It discharged when the hammer hit the floor. "The ball passed through his coat, struck the north wall then glanced off and passed out through the ceiling." Wyatt was so red-faced by the incident that years later, he persuaded biographer Stuart Lake to omit it from his book Wyatt Earp, Frontier Marshal.

Wyatt's stint as Wichita deputy came to a sudden end on April 2, 1876, when Earp took too active an interest in the city marshal's election. According to news accounts, former marshal Bill Smith accused Wyatt of using his office to help hire his brothers as lawmen. Wyatt got into a fistfight with Smith and beat him. Meagher was forced to fire Earp and arrest him for disturbing the peace, which ended a tour of duty that the papers called otherwise "unexceptionable". Meagher won the election, but the city council was split evenly on rehiring Earp. His brother James opened a brothel in Dodge City, and Wyatt left Wichita to join him.

Dodge City and Deadwood

After 1875, Dodge City became a major terminal for cattle drives from Texas along the Chisholm Trail. Earp was appointed assistant marshal in Dodge City under Marshal Lawrence "Larry" Deger around May 1876. Earp spent the winter of 1876-1877 in the gold rush boomtown of Deadwood, Dakota Territory. He and his brother Morgan left Dodge for Deadwood on September 9, 1876, with a team of horses. Finding that all the land was already tied up in mining claims, Morgan decided to return to Dodge. Instead of gambling, Wyatt made a deal to buy all the wood a local individual had cut and put his horses to work that winter hauling firewood into camp. He made about $5,000 in profit, but unable to file any mining claims, he returned in the spring to Dodge City.

Wyatt rejoined the Dodge City police in spring 1877 at the request of Mayor James H. "Dog" Kelley. The Dodge City newspaper reported in July 1878 that Earp had been fined $1 for slapping a muscular prostitute named Frankie Bell, who (according to the papers) "heaped epithets upon the unoffending head of Mr. Earp to such an extent as to provide a slap from the ex-officer". Bell spent the night in jail and was fined $20, while Earp's fine was the legal minimum.

In October 1877, outlaw Dave Rudabaugh robbed a Sante Fe Railroad construction camp and fled south. Earp was given a temporary commission as deputy U.S. marshal and he left Dodge City, following Rudabaugh over 400 miles (640 km) through Fort Clark, Texas, where the newspaper reported his presence on January 22, 1878, and on to Fort Griffin, Texas.

He arrived at the frontier town on the Clear Fork of the Brazos River. Earp went to the Bee Hive Saloon, the largest in town and owned by John Shanssey, whom Earp had known since he was 21. Shanssey told Earp that Rudabaugh had passed through town earlier in the week, but he did not know where he was headed. Shanssey suggested that Earp ask gambler "Doc" Holliday, who had played cards with Rudabaugh. Holliday told Earp that Rudabaugh had headed back into Kansas.

By May 11, 1878, the Dodge newspapers reported that Wyatt had returned to Dodge City and on May 14 the Times noted that Wyatt had been appointed assistant marshal for the salary of $75 per month, serving under Charlie Bassett. Doc Holliday with his common-law wife Big Nose Kate also showed up in Dodge City during the summer of 1878. During the summer, Ed Morrison and another two dozen cowboys rode into Dodge and shot up the town, galloping down Front Street. They entered the Long Branch Saloon, vandalized the room, and harassed the customers. Hearing the commotion, Wyatt burst through the front door into a bunch of guns pointing at him. In another version, only three to five cowboys were there. In both stories, Holliday was playing cards in the back and put his pistol at Morrison's head, forcing him and his men to disarm. Earp credited Holliday with saving his life that day, and Earp and he became friends.

While in Dodge City, Earp became acquainted with James and Bat Masterson, Luke Short, and the prostitute Celia Anne "Mattie" Blaylock. Blaylock became Earp's common-law wife until 1881.

George Hoyt shooting

At about 3:00 in the morning of July 26, 1878, George Hoyt (spelled in some accounts as "Hoy") and other drunken cowboys shot their guns wildly, including three shots into Dodge City's Comique Theater, causing comedian Eddie Foy to throw himself to the stage floor in the middle of his act. Fortunately, no one was injured. Assistant Marshal Earp and policeman Bat Masterson responded and "together with several citizens, turned their pistols loose in the direction of the fleeing horsemen". As the riders crossed the Arkansas River bridge south of town, George Hoyt fell from his horse after he was wounded in the arm or leg. Earp told Stuart Lake that he saw Hoyt through his gun sights against the morning horizon and fired the fatal shot, killing him that day, but the Dodge City Times reported that Hoyt developed gangrene and died on August 21 after his leg was amputated.

Move to Tombstone, Arizona

Dodge City had been a frontier cowtown for several years, but by 1879 it had begun to settle down. Wyatt received a letter from his older brother Virgil that year, who was the town constable in Prescott, Arizona Territory. Virgil wrote Wyatt about the opportunities in the silver-mining boomtown of Tombstone. Later in life, Wyatt wrote, "In 1879, Dodge was beginning to lose much of the snap which had given it a charm to men of reckless blood, and I decided to move to Tombstone, which was just building up a reputation."

Earp resigned from the Dodge City police force on September 9, 1879. Along with his common-law wife Mattie Blaylock, his brother Jim, and Jim's wife Bessie, Earp traveled in Las Vegas in New Mexico Territory where they reunited with Doc Holliday and his common-law wife Big Nose Kate. In late November, the six of them then went to Prescott, Arizona Territory. On November 27, 1879, three days before they left for Tombstone, such was Virgil's reputation that he was appointed deputy U.S. marshal for the Tombstone mining district by U.S. Marshal for the Arizona Territory Crawley Dake. Virgil was to operate out of Tombstone, some 280 miles (450 km) from Prescott. His territory included all of the southeast area of the Arizona Territory. Wyatt, Virgil, and James Earp with their wives arrived in Tombstone on December 1, 1879, although Doc remained in Prescott, where the gambling afforded better opportunities.

When the city of Tombstone was founded, on March 5, 1879, it had about 100 people living in tents and a few shacks. By the time the Earps arrived nine months later on December 1, it had grown to about 1,000 residents. Wyatt brought horses and a buckboard wagon, which he planned to convert into a stagecoach, but on arrival, he found two established stage lines already running.

Instead, on December 6, 1879, the three Earps and Robert J. Winders filed a location notice for the First North Extension of the Mountain Maid Mine. They also bought interest in the Vizina mine and some water rights.

Jim worked as a barkeep. When none of their business interests proved fruitful, Wyatt was hired in April or May 1880 by Wells, Fargo & Co. agent Frederick James Dodge as a shotgun messenger on stagecoaches when they transported Wells Fargo strongboxes. In summer 1880, younger brother Morgan arrived from Montana, and Warren Earp moved to Tombstone, as well. In September, Wyatt's friend Doc Holliday arrived from Prescott with $40,000 (about $1,014,345 today) in gambling winnings in his pocket.

First confrontation with the outlaw Cowboys

On July 25, 1880, U.S. Army Captain Joseph H. Hurst asked Deputy U.S. Marshal Virgil Earp to assist him in tracking outlaw Cowboys, who had stolen six U.S. Army mules from Camp Rucker. Virgil requested the assistance of his brothers Wyatt and Morgan, along with Wells Fargo agent Marshall Williams, and they found the mules at the McLaurys' ranch. McLaury was a Cowboy, a term which in that time and region was generally used to refer to a loose association of outlaws, some of whom also were landowners and ranchers. Legitimate cowmen were referred to as cattle herders or ranchers. They found the branding iron used to change the "U.S." brand to "D.8." Stealing the mules was a federal offense, because the animals were U.S. government property.

Cowboy Frank Patterson "made some kind of a compromise" with Captain Hurst, who persuaded the posse to withdraw, with the understanding that the mules would be returned. The Cowboys showed up two days later without the mules and laughed at Hurst and the Earps. In response, Capt. Hurst printed a handbill describing the theft, and specifically charged Frank McLaury with assisting with hiding the mules. He also reproduced the flyer in The Tombstone Epitaph, on July 30, 1880. Frank McLaury angrily printed a response in the Cowboy-friendly Nuggett, calling Hurst "unmanly", "a coward, a vagabond, a rascal, and a malicious liar", and accused Hurst of stealing the mules himself. Capt. Hurst later cautioned Wyatt, Virgil, and Morgan that the Cowboys had threatened their lives. Virgil reported that Frank accosted him and warned him, "If you ever again follow us as close as you did, then you will have to fight anyway." A month later, Earp ran into Frank and Tom McLaury in Charleston, and they told him if he ever followed them as he had done before, they would kill him.

Becomes deputy sheriff

On July 28, 1880, Wyatt was appointed deputy sheriff for the eastern part of Pima County, which included Tombstone, by Democratic County Sheriff Charlie Shibell. Wyatt passed on his Wells Fargo job as shotgun messenger to his brother Morgan. Wyatt did his job well, and from August through November, his name was mentioned nearly every week by The Tombstone Epitaph or the Nugget newspapers.

The deputy sheriff's position was worth more than US$40,000 a year (about $1,014,345 today) because he was also county assessor and tax collector, and the board of supervisors allowed him to keep 10% of the amounts paid. While Wyatt was deputy sheriff, former Democrat state legislator Johnny Behan arrived in September 1880.

Town marshal shot

On October 28, 1880, popular Tombstone town marshal Fred White attempted to break up a group of five late-night, drunken revelers shooting at the moon on Allen Street in Tombstone. Deputy Sheriff Wyatt was in Owens Saloon a block away, though unarmed. When he heard the shooting, he ran to the scene, borrowed a pistol from Fred Dodge, and went to assist White. He saw White attempt to disarm Curly Bill Brocius and the gun discharged, striking White in the groin. Wyatt pistol-whipped Brocius, knocking him to the ground. Then he grabbed Brocius by the collar and told him to get up. Brocius protested, asking, "What have I done?"

Fred Dodge arrived on the scene. In a letter to Stuart Lake many years later, he recalled what he saw.

Wyatt's coolness and nerve never showed to better advantage than they did that night. When Morg and I reached him, Wyatt was squatted on his heels beside Curly Bill and Fred White. Curly Bill's friends were pot-shooting at him in the dark. The shooting was lively and slugs were hitting the chimney and cabin ... in all of that racket, Wyatt's voice was even and quiet as usual.


Wyatt altered his story later on, telling John H. Flood that he did not see Brocius's pistol on the ground in the dark until afterward. The pistol contained one expended cartridge and five live rounds. Brocius waived a preliminary hearing so he and his case could be transferred to Tucson District Court. Virgil and Wyatt escorted Brocius to Tucson to stand trial, possibly saving him from a lynching. White, age 31, died of his wound two days after his shooting.

On December 27, 1880, Wyatt testified that White's shooting was accidental. Brocius expressed regret, saying he had not intended to shoot White. Gunsmith Jacob Gruber testified that Curly Bill's single-action revolver was defective, allowing it to be discharged at half-cock. A statement from White before he died was introduced stating that the shooting was accidental. The judge ruled that the shooting was accidental and released Brocius. Brocius, however, remained intensely angry about how Wyatt had pistol-whipped him and became an enemy to the Earps. Virgil was also appointed acting town marshal of Tombstone.

Loses reappointment

Wyatt only served as deputy sheriff for eastern Pima County for about three months because, in November, Democrat Shibell ran for re-election against Republican challenger Bob Paul. The region was strongly Republican and Paul was expected to win. Republican Wyatt expected he would continue in the job. Given how fast eastern Pima County was growing, everyone expected that it would be split off into its own county soon with Tombstone as its seat. Wyatt hoped to win the job as the new county sheriff and continue receiving the plum 10% of all tax moneys collected. Southern Pacific was the major landholder, so tax collection was a relatively easy process.

On election day, November 2, Precinct 27 in the San Simon Valley in northern Cochise County, turned out 104 votes, 103 of them for Shibell. Shibell unexpectedly won the election by a margin of 58 votes under suspicious circumstances.

James C. Hancock reported that Cowboys Curly Bill Brocius and Johnny Ringo served as election officials in the San Simon precinct. However, on November 1, the day before the election, Ringo biographer David Johnson places Ringo in New Mexico with Ike Clanton. Curly Bill had been arrested and jailed in Tucson on October 28 for shooting Marshal Fred White, and he was still there on election day.

The home of John Magill was used as the polling place. The precinct only contained about 10 eligible voters (another source says 50), but the Cowboys gathered nonvoters like the children and Chinese and had them cast ballots. Not satisfied, they named all the dogs, burros, and poultry and cast ballots in their names for Shibell. The election board met on November 14 and declared Shibell as the winner.

Earp resigned from the sheriff's office on November 9, 1880, and Shibell immediately appointed Behan as the new deputy sheriff for eastern Pima County. Democrat Johnny Behan had considerably more political experience than Republican Wyatt Earp. Behan had previously served as Yavapai County sheriff from 1871 to 1873. He had been elected to the Arizona Territorial Legislature twice, representing Yavapai Country in the 7th Territorial Legislature in 1873 and Mohave County in the 10th in 1879. Behan moved for a time to the northwest Arizona Territory, where he served as the Mohave County recorder in 1877 and then deputy sheriff of Mohave County at Gillet, in 1879.

Paul filed a lawsuit on November 19 contesting the election results, alleging that Shibell's Cowboy supporters Ike Clanton, Curly Bill Brocius, and Frank McLaury had cooperated in ballot stuffing. Chief Justice of Arizona C.G.W. French ruled in Paul's favor in late January 1881, but Shibell appealed. His lawsuit was finally resolved by April 1881. The election commission found that a mysterious "Henry Johnson" was responsible for certifying the ballots. This turned out to be James Johnson, the same James K. Johnson who had been shooting up Allen Street the night Marshal White was killed. Moreover, he was the same Johnson who testified at Curly Bill's preliminary hearing after he shot Fred White. James Johnson later testified for Bud Paul in the election hearing and said that the ballots had been left in the care of Phin Clanton. None of the witnesses during the election hearing reported on ballots being cast by dogs. The recount found Paul had 402 votes and Shibell had 354. Sixty-two were kept from a closer examination. Paul was declared the winner of the Pima County sheriff election, but by that time, the election was a moot point. Paul could not replace Behan with Earp because on January 1, 1881, Cochise County was created out of the eastern portion of Pima County.

Behan wins election

Earp and Behan both applied to fill the new position of Cochise County sheriff, which like the Pima County sheriff job, paid the office holder 10% of the fees and taxes collected. Earp thought he had a good chance to win the position because he was the former undersheriff in the region and a Republican, like Arizona Territorial Governor John C. Fremont. However, Behan had greater political experience and influence in Prescott.

Earp improbably testified during the preliminary hearing after the gunfight at the O.K. Corral that he and Behan had made a deal. If Earp withdrew his application to the legislature, Behan agreed to appoint Earp as undersheriff. Behan received the appointment in February 1881, but did not keep his end of the bargain, and instead chose Harry Woods, a prominent Democrat, as undersheriff. Behan testified at first that he had not made any deal with Earp, although he later admitted he had lied. Behan said he broke his promise to appoint Earp because of an incident that occurred shortly before his appointment.

This incident arose after Earp learned that one of his prize horses, stolen more than a year before, was in the possession of Ike Clanton and his brother Billy. Earp and Holliday rode to the Clanton ranch near Charleston to recover the horse. On the way, they overtook Behan, who was riding in a wagon. Behan was also heading to the ranch to serve an election-hearing subpoena on Ike Clanton. Accounts differ as to what happened next. Earp later testified that when he arrived at the Clanton ranch, Billy Clanton gave up the horse even before being presented with ownership papers. According to Behan's testimony, however, Earp had told the Clantons that Behan was on his way to arrest them for horse theft. After the incident, which embarrassed both the Clantons and Behan, Behan testified that he did not want to work with Earp and chose Woods instead.

Relationship to Sadie Marcus

Thirty-two-year-old Wyatt Earp and 35-year-old Johnny Behan apparently shared an interest in the same 18-year-old woman, Josephine Sarah Marcus. She said she first visited Tombstone as part of the Pauline Markham Theatre Troupe on December 1, 1879, for a one-week engagement, but modern researchers have not found any record that she was ever part of the theater company. Behan owned a saloon in Tip Top, Arizona, where he maintained a prostitute named Sadie Mansfield. In September 1880, Behan moved to Tombstone. Sadie may have returned to San Francisco and then joined Behan in Tombstone, where she and Behan continued their relationship. Sadie was a well-known nickname for Sarah, and prostitutes commonly changed their first names. Wyatt had a sadistic sense of humor. When they became a couple in 1882, he knew his wife preferred the name "Josephine" and detested "Sadie", but early in their relationship, he began calling her Sadie.

Sadie Mansfield and Sadie Marcus had very similar names and initials and were both known by their friends as Sadie. Both made a stagecoach journey from San Francisco to Prescott, Arizona Territory; both traveled with a black woman named Julia; both were sexual partners with Behan; both were 19 years old, born in New York City, and had parents from Prussia. The only difference noted in the 1880 census is their occupation: Sadie in San Francisco is listed as "At home", while Sadie in Tip Top is recorded as a "Courtesan". Josephine said that her parents hid her activities, and they may have been covering for her when the census taker, a neighbor who knew the family, appeared on their doorstep.

In spring 1881, Marcus found Behan in bed with the wife of a friend and kicked him out, although she still used the Behan surname through the end of that summer. Earp had a common-law relationship with Mattie Blaylock, who was listed as his wife in the June 1880 census. She suffered from severe headaches and became addicted to laudanum, a commonly used opiate and painkiller. There are no contemporary records in Tombstone of a relationship between Josephine and Earp. Tombstone diarist George W. Parsons never mentioned seeing Wyatt and Josephine together and neither did John Clum in his memoirs. But Earp and Marcus certainly knew each other, as Behan and Earp both had offices above the Crystal Palace Saloon.

A letter written by former New Mexico Territory Governor Miguel Otero in 1940 appears to indicate that Earp had strong feelings for Josephine in April 1882. After leaving Tombstone following the Earp Vendetta Ride, the Earp posse went to Albuquerque, New Mexico, for two weeks. While there, Wyatt stayed with prominent businessman Henry N. Jaffa, who was also president of New Albuquerque's Board of Trade. Like Josephine, Jaffa was Jewish.

Wyatt and Holliday had been fast friends since Holliday saved Earp's life in Dodge City during 1878. During their stay in Albuquerque, the two men ate at the Retreat Restaurant owned by "Fat Charlie". Otero wrote in his letter, "Holiday said something about Earp becoming 'a damn Jew-boy.' Earp became angry and left.... [Henry] Jaffa told me later that Earp's woman was a Jewess. Earp did mezuzah when entering the house." Wyatt was staying with prominent businessman Henry N. Jaffa, who was also president of New Albuquerque's Board of Trade. Jaffa was also Jewish, and based on the letter, Earp had, while staying in Jaffa's home, honored Jewish tradition by performing the mezuzah upon entering his home.

Earp's anger at Holliday's ethnic slur may indicate that his feelings for Josephine were more serious at the time than is commonly known. The information in the letter is compelling because at that time in the 1940s, the relationship between Wyatt Earp and Josephine Marcus in Tombstone was not public knowledge. Otero could know these things only if he had a relationship with someone who had personal knowledge of the individuals involved.

Marcus went to great lengths to sanitize her own and Wyatt's history. For example, she worked hard to keep both her name and the name of Wyatt's second wife Mattie out of Stuart Lake's 1931 book, Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal, and Marcus threatened litigation to keep it that way. Marcus also told Earp's biographers and others that Earp never drank, did not own gambling saloons, and that he never provided prostitutes to customers, although strong evidence to the contrary exists.

Interest in mining and gambling

Losing the undersheriff position left Wyatt Earp without a job in Tombstone; however, Wyatt and his brothers were beginning to make some money on their mining claims in the Tombstone area. In January 1881, Oriental Saloon owner Mike Joyce gave Wyatt Earp a one-quarter interest in the faro concession at the Oriental Saloon in exchange for his services as a manager and enforcer. Gambling was regarded as a legitimate profession, comparable to a doctor or member of clergy, at the time. Wyatt invited his friend, lawman and gambler Bat Masterson, to Tombstone to help him run the faro tables in the Oriental Saloon. In June 1881, Wyatt also telegraphed another friend and gambler from Dodge, Luke Short, who was living in Leadville, Colorado, and offered him a job as a faro dealer.

Bat remained until April 1881, when he returned to Dodge City to assist his brother Jim. On October 8, 1881, Doc Holliday got into a dispute with John Tyler in the Oriental Saloon. A rival gambling concession operator hired someone to disrupt Wyatt's business. When Tyler started a fight after losing a bet, Wyatt threw him out of the saloon. Holliday later wounded Oriental owners Milt Joyce and his partner William Parker and was convicted of assault.

Stands down lynch mob

Michael O'Rourke (Johnny Behind the Deuce) killed Henry Schneider, chief engineer of the Tombstone Mining and Milling Company--he said in self defense. Henry was well-liked, and a mob of miners quickly gathered, threatening to lynch O'Rourke on the spot. Stuart Lake told a story in his book about how Earp single-handedly stood down the large crowd. But the Epitaph gave primary credit to Ben Sippy for calming the crowd, assisted by Virgil Earp, Wyatt Earp, and Johnny Behan. The story by Lake giving credit to Earp added to Earp's modern legend as a lawman.

Stagecoach robbers kill two

Tensions between the Earps and both the Clantons and McLaurys increased through 1881. On March 15, 1881, at 10 pm, three cowboys attempted to rob a Kinnear & Company stagecoach reportedly carrying US$26,000 in silver bullion (or about $659,324 in today's dollars). (The amount of bullion the stagecoach actually carried is questioned by modern researchers, who note that at the then-current value of US$1.00 per ounce, the bullion would have weighed about 1,600 pounds (730 kg), a significant weight for a team of horses. According to Wells Fargo agent John Q. Jackson, a stagecoach typically carried an Express Box containing bullion weighing only 100 to 150 pounds (45 to 68 kg).)

The holdup took place near Benson, during which the robbers killed popular driver Eli "Budd" Philpot and passenger Peter Roerig.

The Earps and a posse tracked the men down and arrested Luther King, who confessed he had been holding the reins while Bill Leonard, Harry "The Kid" Head, and Jim Crain robbed the stage. They arrested King and Sheriff Johnny Behan escorted him to jail, but somehow King walked in the front door and almost immediately out the back door.

During the hearing into the gunfight at the O.K. Corral, Wyatt testified that he offered the US$3,600 in Wells Fargo reward money ($1,200 per robber) to Ike Clanton and Frank McLaury in return for information about the identities of the three robbers. Wyatt testified that he had other motives for his plan, as well; he hoped that arresting the murderers would boost his chances for election as Cochise County sheriff. Wyatt told the court that he had taken the extra step of obtaining a second copy of a telegram for Ike from Wells Fargo assuring that the reward for capturing the killers applied either dead or alive.

According to testimony given by Wyatt and Virgil, both Frank McLaury and Ike Clanton agreed to provide information to assist in capturing Leonard, Head, and Crain, but they never had a chance to fulfill the agreement. All three suspects were killed when attempting other robberies.

In his testimony at the court hearing, Clanton said Wyatt did not want to capture the men, but to kill them. Clanton told the court that Earp wanted to conceal the Earp family's involvement in the Benson stage robbery. He said Wyatt swore him to secrecy, and the next day, Morgan Earp asked him whether he would make the agreement with Wyatt. He said that four or five days afterward, Morgan had confided in him that he and Wyatt had "piped off $1,400 to Doc Holliday and Bill Leonard", who were supposed to be on the stage the night Bud Philpot was killed. During his testimony, Clanton told the court, "I was not going to have anything to do with helping to capture--" and then he corrected himself "--kill Bill Leonard, Crane and Harry Head". Clanton denied having any knowledge of the Wells Fargo telegram confirming the reward money.

September stagecoach robbery

Meanwhile, tensions between the Earps and the McLaurys increased when Cowboys robbed the passenger stage on the Sandy Bob Line in the Tombstone area on September 8, bound for nearby Bisbee. The masked robbers shook down the passengers and robbed the strongbox. They were recognized by their voices and language. They were identified as Deputy Sheriff Pete Spence (an alias for Elliot Larkin Ferguson) and Deputy Sheriff Frank Stilwell, a business partner of Spence's. Stilwell was fired a short while later as a deputy sheriff for Sheriff Behan (for county tax "accounting irregularities").

Wyatt and Virgil Earp rode with the sheriff's posse attempting to track the stage robbers. Wyatt discovered an unusual boot heel print in the mud. The posse checked with a shoemaker in Bisbee and found a matching heel that he had just removed from Stilwell's boot. A further check of a Bisbee corral turned up both Spence and Stilwell, who were arrested by sheriff's deputies Billy Breakenridge and Nagel.

Spence and Stilwell were arraigned on the robbery charges before Justice Wells Spicer, who set their bail at $7,000 each. They were released after paying their bail, but Spence and Stilwell were rearrested by Virgil for the Bisbee robbery a month later, on October 13, on the new federal charge of interfering with a mail carrier. The newspapers, however, reported that they had been arrested for a different stage robbery that occurred (October 8) near Contention City. Occurring less than two weeks before the O.K. Corral shootout, this final incident may have been misunderstood by the McLaurys. While Wyatt and Virgil were still out of town for the Spence and Stilwell hearing, Frank McLaury confronted Morgan Earp, telling him that the McLaurys would kill the Earps if they tried to arrest Spence, Stilwell, or the McLaurys again.

Gunfight on Fremont Street

On Wednesday, October 26, 1881, the tension between the Earps and the Cowboys came to a head. Ike Clanton, Billy Claiborne, and other Cowboys had been threatening to kill the Earps for several weeks. Tombstone city Marshal Virgil Earp learned that the Cowboys were armed and had gathered near the O.K. Corral. He asked Wyatt and Morgan Earp and Doc Holliday to assist him, as he intended to disarm them. Wyatt had been deputized by Virgil a few days prior as a temporary assistant marshal, Morgan was a deputy city marshal, and Virgil also summoned Holliday to help. Around 3 pm, the Earps and Holliday headed towards Fremont Street, where the Cowboys had been reported gathering.

They found five Cowboys in a vacant lot adjacent to the O.K. Corral's rear entrance on Fremont Street. The lot between the Harwood House and Fly's Boarding House and Photography Studio was narrow--the two parties were initially only about 6 to 10 feet (1.8 to 3.0 m) apart. Ike Clanton and Billy Claiborne fled the gunfight. Tom and Frank McLaury, along with Billy Clanton, stood their ground and were killed. Morgan was clipped by a shot across his back that nicked both shoulder blades and a vertebra. Virgil was shot through the calf, and Holliday was grazed by a bullet.

Charged with murder

On October 30, as permitted by territorial law, Ike Clanton filed murder charges against the Earps and Holliday. Justice Wells Spicer convened a preliminary hearing on October 31 to determine if enough evidence existed to go to trial. In an unusual proceeding, he took written and oral testimony from about 30 witnesses over more than a month.

Sheriff Behan, testifying for the prosecution, said the Cowboys had not resisted, but had thrown up their hands and turned out their coats to show they were not armed. He said that Tom McLaury threw open his coat to show that he was not armed and that the first two shots were fired by the Earp party. Sheriff Behan insisted Doc Holliday had fired first using a nickel-plated revolver, although other witnesses reported seeing him carrying a messenger shotgun immediately beforehand.

The Earps hired an experienced trial lawyer, Thomas Fitch, as defense counsel. Wyatt testified that he drew his gun only after Billy Clanton and Frank McLaury went for their pistols. He detailed the Earps' previous troubles with the Clantons and McLaurys and explained that they intended to disarm the cowboys. He said they fired in self defense. Fitch managed to produce testimony from prosecution witnesses during cross-examination that was contradictory, or appeared to dodge his questions, or in which they said they could not remember.

After extensive testimony, Justice Spicer ruled on November 30 that there was not enough evidence to indict the men. He said the evidence indicated that the Earps and Holliday acted within the law and that Holliday and Wyatt had been deputized temporarily by Virgil. Though the Earps and Holliday were free, their reputations had been tarnished. The Cowboys in Tombstone looked upon the Earps as robbers and murderers and plotted revenge.

Cowboys' revenge

On December 28, while walking between saloons on Allen Street in Tombstone, Virgil was ambushed and maimed by a shotgun round that struck his left arm and shoulder. Ike Clanton's hat was found in the back of the building across Allen Street from where the shots were fired. Wyatt wired U.S. Marshal Crawley P. Dake asking to be appointed deputy U.S. marshal with authority to select his own deputies. Dake granted the request in late January and provided the Earps with some funds he borrowed from Wells, Fargo & Co. on behalf of the Earps, variously reported as $500 to $3,000.

In mid-January, when Earp ally Rickabaugh sold the Oriental Saloon to Earp adversary Milt Joyce, Wyatt sold his gambling concessions at the hotel. The Earps also raised some funds from sympathetic business owners in town. On February 2, 1882, Wyatt and Virgil, tired of the criticism leveled against them, submitted their resignations to Dake, who refused to accept them because their accounts had not been settled. On the same day, Wyatt sent a message to Ike Clanton that he wanted to reconcile their differences, which Clanton refused. Clanton was also acquitted that day of the charges against him in the shooting of Virgil Earp, when the defense brought in seven witnesses who testified that Clanton was in Charleston at the time of the shooting.

The Earps needed more funds to pay for the extra deputies and associated expenses. Contributions received from supportive business owners were not enough. On February 13, Wyatt mortgaged his home to lawyer James G. Howard for $365.00 (about $9,256 today) and received $365.00 in U.S. gold coin. (He was never able to repay the loan and in 1884 Howard foreclosed on the house.)

After attending a theatre show on March 18, Morgan Earp was assassinated by gunmen firing from a dark alley through a door window into a room where he was playing billiards. Morgan was struck in the right side. The bullet shattered his spine, passed through his left side, and lodged in the thigh of George A. B. Berry. Another round narrowly missed Wyatt. A doctor was summoned and Morgan was moved from the floor to a nearby couch. The assassins escaped in the dark and Morgan died 40 minutes later.

Wyatt Earp felt he could not rely on civil justice, and decided to take matters into his own hands. He concluded that the only way to deal with Morgan's assassins was to kill them all.

Earp vendetta ride

The day after Morgan's assassination, Deputy U.S. Marshal Wyatt Earp formed a posse made up of his brothers James and Warren, Doc Holliday, Sherman McMaster, Jack "Turkey Creek" Johnson, Charles "Hairlip Charlie" Smith, Daniel "Tip" Tipton, and John Wilson "Texas Jack" Vermillion to protect the family and pursue the suspects, paying them $5.00 a day. They took Morgan's body to the railhead in Benson. James was to accompany Morgan's body to the family home in Colton, California, where Morgan's parents and wife waited to bury him. The posse guarded Virgil and Allie through to Tucson, where they had heard Frank Stilwell and other Cowboys were waiting to kill Virgil. The next morning, Frank Stilwell's body was found alongside the tracks riddled with buckshot and gunshot wounds. Wyatt and five other federal lawmen were indicted for murdering him, and Tucson Justice of the Peace Charles Meyer issued warrants for their arrest.

The Earp posse briefly returned to Tombstone, where Sheriff Behan tried to stop them. The heavily armed posse brushed him aside. Hairlip Charlie and Warren remained in Tombstone, and the rest set out for Pete Spence's wood camp in the Dragoon Mountains. They found and killed Florentino "Indian Charlie" Cruz. Two days later, near Iron Springs (later Mescal or possibly Cottonwood Springs), in the Whetstone Mountains, they were seeking to rendezvous with a messenger for them. They unexpectedly stumbled onto the wood camp of Curly Bill Brocius, Pony Diehl, and other outlaw Cowboys.

According to reports from both sides, the two sides immediately exchanged gunfire. Except for Wyatt and Texas Jack Vermillion, whose horse was shot, the Earp party withdrew to find protection from the heavy gunfire. Curly Bill fired at Wyatt with a shotgun, but missed. Eighteen months prior, Wyatt had protected Curly Bill against a mob ready to lynch him, and then provided testimony that helped spare Curly Bill from a murder trial for killing Sheriff Fred White. Now, Wyatt returned Curly Bill's gunfire with his own shotgun and shot Curly Bill in the chest from about 50 feet (15m) away. Curly Bill fell into the water by the edge of the spring and died.

After emptying his shotgun at Curly Bill, Wyatt fired his revolver, mortally wounding Johnny Barnes in the chest and wounding Milt Hicks in the arm. Vermillion tried to retrieve his rifle wedged in the scabbard under his fallen horse, exposing himself to the Cowboys' gunfire. Doc Holliday helped him get to cover.

According to Lake, Earp told him both sides of his long coat were shot through, and another bullet struck his boot heel. Ed Colburn wrote in a letter published in the Ford County Globe on May 23, 1882 that he had visited with Wyatt and Warren Earp in Gunnison, Colorado. In the letter he relayed Earp's story about how his overcoat was hit on both sides of his body by a charge of buckshot and that his saddle horn was shot off. John Flood wrote,

The saddle-horn had been splintered, his coat hung in shreds, there were three holes through the legs of his trousers, five holes through the crown of his sombrero, and three through the brim.


Earp was finally able to get on his horse and retreated with the rest of the posse. Some modern researchers have found that most saddlehorns were by this time made of steel, not wood. Wyatt told several versions of the story in which he had trouble remounting his horse because his cartridge belt had slipped down his legs. Earp was never wounded in any of his confrontations, which added to his mystique.

Leaving the Cowboys behind, the Earp party rode north to the Percy Ranch, but were not welcomed by Hugh and Jim Percy, who feared the Cowboys; after a meal and some rest, they left around 3:00 in the morning of March 27. The Earp party slipped into the area near Tombstone and met with supporters, including Hairlip Charlie Smith and Warren Earp. On March 27, the posse arrived at the Sierra Bonita Ranch owned by Henry Hooker, a wealthy and prominent rancher. That night, Dan Tipton caught the first stage out of Tombstone and headed for Benson, carrying $1,000 from mining owner and Earp supporter E. B. Gage for the posse. Hooker congratulated Earp on the killing of Curly Bill. Hooker fed them and Wyatt told him he wanted to buy new mounts. Hooker was known for his purebred stallions and ran over 500 brood mares that produced horses that became known for their speed, beauty, and temperament. He provided Wyatt and his posse with new mounts, but refused to take Wyatt's money. When Behan's posse was observed in the distance, Hooker suggested Wyatt make his stand there, but Wyatt moved into the hills about three miles (5 km) distant near Reilly Hill.

The federal posse led by Wyatt Earp was not found by the local posse, led by Cochise County Sheriff John Behan, although Behan's party trailed the Earps for many miles. In the middle of April 1882, the Earp party left the Arizona Territory and headed east into New Mexico Territory and then into Colorado.

The coroner reports credited the Earp party with killing four men--Frank Stilwell, Curly Bill, Indian Charlie, and Johnny Barnes--in their two-week-long ride. In 1888, Wyatt Earp gave an interview to California historian H. H. Bancroft during which he claimed to have killed "over a dozen stage robbers, murderers, and cattle thieves" in his time as a lawman.

Deals Faro in Colorado

After killing the four Cowboys, Wyatt and Warren Earp, Holliday, McMaster, "Turkey Creek" Jack Johnson, and Texas Jack Vermillion left Arizona. Wyatt never returned to Tombstone. The group stopped in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where they met Deputy U.S. Marshal Bat Masterson, Wyatt's friend. Masterson went with them to Trinidad, Colorado, where Masterson opened a faro game in a saloon and later became marshal.

Wyatt dealt faro at Masterson's saloon for several weeks before McMaster, Vermillion, Warren Earp, and he left in May 1882 for Gunnison, Colorado. The Earps and Texas Jack set up camp on the outskirts of Gunnison, where they remained quietly at first, rarely going into town for supplies. In Gunnison, they were reported to have pulled a "gold brick scam" on a German visitor named Ritchie by trying to sell him gold-painted rocks for $2,000.

Wyatt and Holliday had a serious disagreement "when Holiday said something about Earp becoming 'a damn Jew-boy.'" They parted ways in Albuquerque. Holliday and Dan Tipton rode on to Pueblo, Colorado, while the rest of the group headed for Gunnison.

Holliday and Wyatt met again in June 1882 in Gunnison after Wyatt intervened to keep his friend from being arrested on murder charges they all had pending against them for killing Frank Stillwell in Tucson. Earp saw Holliday for a final time in the late winter of 1886, where they met in the lobby of the Windsor Hotel. Josephine Marcus described the skeletal Holliday as having a continuous cough and standing on "unsteady legs."

Reunites with Josephine in San Francisco

Josephine, traveling as either Mrs. J. C. Earp or Mrs. Wyatt Earp, left Tombstone for her family in San Francisco via Los Angeles on March 25, 1882. This was one week after Morgan Earp was assassinated and five days after Wyatt set out in pursuit of those he believed responsible.

In July, Wyatt traveled from Colorado to San Francisco, where Josephine was living with her half-sister Rebecca and husband Aaron Wiener, and where his brother Virgil was seeking treatment for his arm. Wyatt remained in San Francisco for about nine months until early 1883, when Josephine and he left San Francisco together for Silverton, Colorado, where silver and gold mining were flourishing. It was the first of many mining camps and boomtowns in which they lived. Josephine, or Sadie as Wyatt liked to call her, was Wyatt's common-law wife until his death 46 years later.

Mattie asks for divorce

Wyatt still owned a house in Tombstone with his common-law wife Mattie Blaylock, but she waited for him in Colton, where his parents and Virgil were living. During the summer of 1882, she sent Wyatt a letter saying she wanted a divorce. She had met a gambler from Arizona and he had asked her to marry him. Wyatt, who did not believe in divorce, refused. She ran away with the gambler anyway, and he later abandoned her in Arizona.

She moved to Pinal City, Arizona, where she resumed life as a prostitute. Mattie struggled with addictions and committed "suicide by opium poisoning" on July 3, 1888.

Dodge City War

During what became known as the Dodge City War, the mayor tried to run Earp's friend Luke Short, part owner of the Long Branch saloon, first out of business and then out of town. Short appealed to Masterson, who contacted Earp. On May 31, 1883, Earp and Josephine went with Bat Masterson, Johnny Millsap, Shotgun John Collins, Texas Jack Vermillion, and Johnny Green to Dodge City to help Short.

Short was in Kansas City to appeal to Governor George Washington Glick for help, but to no avail. When he returned, Short's allies marched up Front Street into Short's saloon, where they were sworn in as deputies by constable "Prairie Dog" Dave Marrow. The town council offered a compromise to allow Short to return for 10 days to get his affairs in order, but Earp refused to compromise. When Short returned, there was no one ready to turn him away. Short's Saloon reopened, and the Dodge City War ended without a shot being fired.

Idaho mining venture

In 1884, Wyatt, his wife Sadie, his brothers Warren and James, and James' wife Bessie arrived in Eagle City, Idaho, another new boomtown created as a result of the discovery of gold, silver, and lead in the Coeur d'Alene area (it is now a ghost town in Shoshone County). Wyatt joined the crowd looking for gold in the Murray-Eagle mining district. They paid $2,250 for a 50 feet (15 m) diameter white circus, in which they opened a dance hall and saloon called The White Elephant. An advertisement in a local newspaper suggests gentlemen "come and see the elephant".

Earp was named deputy sheriff in the area including newly incorporated Kootenai County, Idaho, which was disputing jurisdiction of Eagle City with Shoshone County. There were a considerable number of disagreements over mining claims and property rights, which Earp had a part in. On March 28, several feet of snow were still on the ground. Bill Buzzard, a miner of dubious reputation, began constructing a building when one of Wyatt's partners, Jack Enright, tried to stop the construction. Enright claimed the building was on part of his property. Words were exchanged and Buzzard reached for his Winchester. He fired several shots at Enright and a skirmish developed. Allies of both sides quickly took defensive positions between snowbanks and began shooting at one another. Deputy Sheriff Wyatt Earp and his brother James stepped into the middle of the fray and helped peacefully resolve the dispute before anyone was seriously hurt. Shoshone County Deputy W. E. Hunt then arrived and ordered the parties to turn over their weapons.

Around April 1885, Wyatt Earp was reported to have used his badge to join a band of claim jumpers in Embry Camp, later renamed Chewelah, Washington. Within six months, their substantial stake had run dry, and the Earps left the Murray-Eagle district. About 10 years later, after the Fitzimmons-Sharkey fight, a reporter hunted up Buzzard and extracted a story from him that accused Wyatt of being the brains behind lot-jumping and a real-estate fraud, further tarnishing his reputation.

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