Western Life

Wyatt Earp – Legendary Gunslinger and Lawman

Wyatt Berry Stapp Earp has remained one of the most well-known lawmen from the Wild West. During his career, Earp served as Pima County Deputy Sheriff and Deputy Town Marshal in Tombstone, Arizona. He also played a key role in one of the most famous gunfights of all time, the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, where he helped to kill three outlaws. Although best known as a lawman, Wyatt Earp had a restless spirit and moved frequently, having many different occupations during his lifetime. These included: gambler, miner, brothel keeper, bouncer and boxing referee.

In 1870, Wyatt Earp married his first wife who died from typhoid fever, shortly before their child was due. His devastation caused him to wreak havoc over the next two years, and he was arrested several times, escaped from jail twice and labelled as ‘Peoria Bummer,’ meaning tramp, by a popular newspaper. Earp eventually moved to the cattle boomtown, Wichita, Kansas, after his brother opened a brothel, where he was appointed to their police force, in 1875. He quickly developed a solid reputation, which instantly deteriorated in April 1876, when Earp confronted an opponent who had disrespected his brother. Earp won the fistfight, costing him a $30 fine and his position in the force.

After this, Wyatt Earp moved with his brother to Dodge City, Kansas, where he was appointed Assistant City Marshal. During the hunt for an outlaw in 1878, he met John ‘Doc’ Holliday, who he later credited with saving his life. Earp’s restless spirit prevented him from staying in the same place for an extended period, and in 1879 he moved to Tombstone, Arizona, with two of his brothers, to join the silver boom. Here, the brothers’ lives were threatened by a group known as The Outlaws, because of the law enforcement positions Wyatt and two of his brothers held. The conflict escalated, ending with The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, on October 26, 1881. During the shootout, three of The Cowboys were killed.

Intent on revenge, over the next five months the remaining members of the gang killed two of Wyatt’s brothers, Virgil and Morgan. He formed a federal posse, along with Doc Holliday and his other brother Warren, that tracked down and killed three more Cowboys, whom they believed were responsible for the deaths. During his numerous gunfights, Wyatt Earp was never wounded, giving him an air of invincibility. He continued to follow the trail of the western boom, living in San Francisco, San Diego and Yuma, Arizona before his death on January 13, 1929. The biography Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal was published in 1931, portraying him as a fearless lawman. The book became a bestseller, and reference for many TV shows, and films, about Earp and the Wild West.

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