Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Wyatt Earp: Knight With A Six-Shooter

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"Wyatt and I were discovering new things about each other (such as) an insatiable desire to see new people and places..."

Josephine Sarah Marcus Earp, wife of Wyatt Earp

Wyatt and Josie were married in Denver shortly after she joined up with him.

For awhile Wyatt worked as a private investigator and as a driver for Wells Fargo. Occasionally the couple prospected in the mountains. Bat Masterson, whom Josie called "a gentleman," joined the couple often on their jaunts. And, of course, Wyatt and Josie visited with Doc Holliday from time to time.

Whenever the two men were together Wyatt and Doc they captured the attention of the press who badgered them about details involving the OK Corral. At first it was aggravating to Wyatt; it wasnt a moment in his life he was especially proud of. But, as time passed he began to understand the public interest in it as a piece of the Western Americana he was, after all, proud to have helped create.

After a return visit to Dodge City in 1883 torenew old acquaintances, Wyatt took Josie on a tour of Texas and northern Mexico. From there they crossed the familiar southwest and, on their way to California, passed through Arizona. The warrant for his arrest still being active, even after several years, Josie was nervous. "I didnt draw a relaxed breath during our entire time there," she wrote.

She tells of an amusing incident that took place while they were in the town of Globe. Wyatt returned to their hotel suite one evening after a night of gambling, wearing a wide smile. Josie inquired as to why the grin. With great excitement, like a schoolboy describing a great game of baseball, he related how he had come across an old friend of theirs on the street John Behan. "I told him I owed him something," Wyatt laughed, "and then let him have a fist across his face, right there in public."

Spending several years in California, they often visited their respective families, the Earps in San Bernadino and the Marcuses in San Francisco. While in the latter city, Wyatt fell in with some of the top sports promoters. He served as guest referee at the famous Sharkey-Fitzimmons boxing match of 1896. Josie and he also became regulars at the San Diego Race Track where they eventually raced their own prize horse.

Wyatt Earp poses for photo (CORBIS)
Wyatt Earp poses for photo

When gold fever broke in Alaska, the Earps rushed to the call. They panned for gold throughout the Yukon, from Dawson to Rampart to Saint Michael, where they amassed a small fortune enough to build a fine saloon, the Dexter, in Nome. Here they reacquainted John Clum, long retired from the newspaper business and, like them, seeing the world.

In 1901, they returned to the states and lived between Nevada and California, prospecting in Nevadas mountains all summer then spending the winters in their little cottage at Vidal.

Wyatts final years didnt find him idle. Settling in Los Angeles, he became an advisor for Hollywood westerns in the zenith of the silent movie days. From this experience he befriended popular movie cowboys Tom Mix and William S. Hart

The end came peacefully to Wyatt Earp. He died in bed on January 13, 1929, just short of his 81st birthday. With him at the end was Josie and his long-time friend John Clum, who would pass away soon thereafter. Doc Holliday had died of tuberculosis in Colorado in 1887 and Josie would live until 1944.

Wyatt Earp's last photograph, 1927 (Margerie Macartney)
Wyatt Earp's last
photograph, 1927
(Margerie Macartney)

Because Wyatt Earp was one of those very, very rare examples of the man equaling the legend, one wonders if perhaps the legend and the man have somewhere united, too strong to dwindle away. Maybe in the ethereal cornucopia of the brightest moments of mankinds honor, he is marching along Allen Street to the OK Corral.

Only this time, he and Doc, and Josie, and Morgan, and Virgil know the outcome. And are proud.



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