If you have ever watched movies about Wyatt Earp you are always of the impression that he and his brothers came from the East or the Midwest....Truth be known his family had moved to Colton when Wyatt, James and Virgil were very young....They went east to find there fortunes....what they found was fame, death and some gold and silver along the way....This is the story of the Earps Of Colton.
Wyatt Berry Stapp Earp was born to Nicholas Earp and Virginia Earp in Monmouth, Illinois on March 19, 1848.....His father was a lawyer and a farmer who had served in the Army.....Older brothers James and Virgil were ages seven and five by the time Wyatt came along.....He also had an older sister named Martha who was three.
In 1864 the family moved to Colton.....Along the way, Wyatt was given his first weapon, a combination shotgun and rifle, to help protect the family against attacking Indians.....Young Wyatt soon acquired a six-gun and practiced every day, becoming a deadly marksman.
In the 1870's Wyatt, James and Virgil headed for Texas to do some cattle driving, a little gold hunting and what ever else suited there fancy....Wyatt and James had a knack for getting into trouble and fled Texas for Arizona to escape the long arm of the law....Along the way they managed to make some friends and a lot of enemies....Doc Holiday and Big Nose Kate were among the friends....The Cowboys of South West took an instant dislike to the Earp Brothers, for reasons that will become self evident as you read on....And even though the Gunfight at the Ok Corral took place in Tombstone Arizona, The Brothers and there wives all came back to Colton and San Bernardino.
Fast forward to Tombstone Arizona....1881....The day the legends were born....All of the characters are real, there stories a part of the fabric of the western frontier.....
On Tuesday, October 25th, Ike Clanton spent the day getting drunk, moving from one saloon to the next, and making threats against the Earps and Holliday to any who would listen......That night, he made his way to the Occidental Saloon for a card game with Tom McLaury.
An angry Doc Holliday, who had heard of the boasts, confronted him. "I heard you’re going to kill me, Ike," he said. "Get out your gun and commence." Virgil, a US Deputy Marshal, Wyatt, and an appointed an acting city marshal by Virgil, and Morgan, also a sworn officer, were present during this confrontation. Virgil told Doc and Ike that he would arrest both of them if they continued the argument. Though boasting violence throughout the day, Clanton was unarmed and finally, Virgil drew Holliday away. But Clanton followed, promising "to kill you tomorrow when the others come to town."
Spotting Wyatt on the streets, the fired-up Clanton continued. "Tell your consumptive friend, your Arizona nightin’gale, he’s a dead man tomorrow!" To which, Wyatt just turned and replied "Don’t you tangle with Doc Holliday, he’ll kill you before you’ve begun."
Ike’s parting shot was "Get ready for a showdown!"
Wednesday, October 26, 1881 was an overcast and windy day....The Earps, woke early....As Virgil watched from his hotel window, he saw Billy Clanton ride into town, accompanied by Billy Claiborne. They met the McLaury brothers and Ike Clanton on Allen Street......Ike was looking for Holliday but before he could find him, Virgil and Morgan confronted him....Ike, bracing a shotgun, exchanged words with the two but when Clanton raised his rifle, Virgil subdued him, impounded his rifle, and dragged him before Justice of the Peace Wallace, who fined Ike $27.50 for carrying firearms in the city.
Wyatt and Tom McLaury, both hearing what had happened, met at the judge’s door at the same time, literally bumping into each other.,,,,Though Wyatt apologized, McLaury insulted him and, in return, Wyatt brought his gun down on McLaury's head.
Later that morning, the cowboys met at Spangenbergs, a gunsmith shop. Then Frank McLaury rode his horse onto the boardwalk, frightening pedestrians off its path outside the gunsmith shop.....Wyatt grabbed the reins of the horse, leading it to the streets as McLaury yelled profanities......After this latest confrontation, the outlaws retreated in a group around the corner off Allen Street, next door to the OK Corral.....With all of the tension, there was bound to be a fight......Several members of the town’s Citizens’ Committee offered their assistance to the Earp brothers, but thanking them, Wyatt said it was his and his brothers’ responsibility as law officers to take care of the Cow Boy Gang.
Then John Behan, the County Sheriff, who just happened to be insanely jealous of Wyatt because of his like for Josie, the young actress he had claimed for himself since she first came into town by stage, appeared pronouncing, "Ike Clanton and his crew are on Fremont Street talking gun-talk." Evidently, Ike Clanton, the two McLaurys, Billy Clanton and Billy Claiborne were meeting at the OK Corral, planning to kill Doc Holliday, which turned out to be a lie..
Virgil, as Chief Marshal, agreed to go down there to break them up, but contended that Behan should accompany him. Behan only laughed. "Hell, this is your fight, not mine."
However, the cowboys were surprised when the Earps showed up and Doc was with them.....As they made their way to the OK Corral, witnesses said that the three Earp brothers were all dressed in black with firm, mean grimaces on their faces while Doc was nattily clad in grey....Where the two forces finally met was actually 90 yards down an alley from the OK Corral.....The actual gunfight took place off Fremont Street between Fly’s Photo Gallery and Jersey’s Livery Stable....The Earps passed by the OK Corral, but cut through the alley where they found the troublemakers waiting at the other end.
"You are under arrest for attempting to disturb the peace," Virgil announced......He displayed only a non-threatening walking stick, having given his shotgun to Doc to carry.....The rustlers stood ready for a fight and Morgan and Doc did the same. "Hold on, I don’t want that!" Virgil yelled out.
The shooting started when Billy Clanton and Frank McLaury cocked their pistols..... Doc’s bullet was the first to hit home, hitting Frank McLaury's in the belly and sending McLaury’s own shot through Wyatt’s coat-tail....Billy Clanton fired at Virgil, but was hit when Morgan shot him through his rib cage before he could do any more damage.
Billy Claiborne ran as soon as shots were fired and was already out of sight. Ike Clanton, too, panicked and threw his gun down, pleading for his life......"Fight or get out like Claiborne!" Wyatt yelled and watched Ike desert his brother Billy, as he ran towards the door of the photography shop......But, Ike then withdrew a hidden gun firing one more round towards Wyatt before disappearing. The sound distracted Morgan, enough so that Tom McLaury sent a bullet into Morgan's shoulder.....Doc returned fire, blowing Tom away with blasts from both barrels of his shotgun.....Billy Clanton fired blindly into the gun smoke encircling him, striking Virgil's leg. Wyatt responded by shooting Billy 7 more times.
Then it was silent and the townspeople ran from their homes and shops, wagons were to convey wounded Morgan and Virgil to their respective homes, and doctors followed.....The entire event took about 30 seconds.
The shootout left Billy Clanton, Frank McLaury and Tom McLaury dead.....Virgil Earp took a shot to the leg and Morgan suffered a shoulder wound.....As Wyatt stood, still stunned, Sheriff Behan appeared advising him he was under arrest.....Wyatt just stood and looked at the Sheriff and told him to go to hell....Beham arrested all of the Earps and Doc Holliday the next day with the aid of several Cowboys made deputies and had them tried for murder but none of the picked jury would convict the Earps nor Doc....They said the men had all acted within the law.
On March 18, 1882, the cowboy gang struck again while Morgan Earp was playing pool at Campbell and Hatch's Saloon. A shot was fired from the darkness of the alley striking Morgan in the back killing him Instantly. After the Funeral, Morgan's body was shipped to his parents in Colton, for burial. All of the Earps, wives and Mattie, Wyatt long time girl friend party, made the pretense of accompanying Morgan's body back to Colton....However, in Tucson, Wyatt, Warren and Doc Holliday hopped off the train in search of Frank Stilwell, who supposedly worked in the railroad yards.....The train went on to California without them.
Spotting Stilwell, Wyatt chased him down the track, killing him with his double shotgun.....Sheriff Behan once again set up a Coroner's Jury and had them name Wyatt and Warren Earp, Doc Holliday, Texas Jack, and Bat Msterson as the men who killed Stillwell and had warrants issued for their arrests.
Earp sought vengeance on the men who shot Virgil and killed Morgan and killing Stillwell was just his first step and Doc Holliday rode beside him all the way......Wyatt heard that Pete Spencer was at his wood camp in the Dragoons and on March 11, 1882, he and his men quickly headed out, finding not Pete Spencer, but Florentino Cruz.....The frightened Cruz named all the men who had murdered Morgan, himself included. Earp and his men filled Cruz with bullet holes.....The Earp "posse" rode out once again and on March 24, 1882, they ran into Curly Bill Brocius and eight of his men near Iron Springs.....A gunfight ensued where Curly Bill was killed and Johnny Barnes.
In just over a year, the Earp "posse" along with Doc Holliday eliminated "Old Man" Clanton, Billy Clanton
, Frank McLaury, Tom McLaury Frank Stilwell, Indian Charlie, Dixie Gray, Florentino Cruz, Curly Bill, Johnny Barnes, Jim Crane, Joe Hill, Luther King, Charley Snow, Billy Lang, Zwing Hunt, Billy Grounds and Hank Swilling. Pete Spencer turned himself in to the authorities where he could "hide" in the penitentiary.
In May, 1882, Wyatt and Doc left Tombstone, swearing they would never return, but still vowing vengeance on Ringo, Clanton, Spencer and Swilling if they could ever find them.....Riding their horses to Silver City, New Mexico, they sold them, rode a stage to Deming, and boarded a train for Colorado......Josie soon joined Wyatt in Denver where they were married.
Though Mattie had traveled with the Earps to California where they joined up with Wyatt's parents, at some point she left them and ended up in Globe, Arizona where she lived a life of prostitution.....Tragically, she died of a laudanum overdose on July 3, 1888 in Pinal, Arizona.
While in Colorado, Wyatt initially worked as a private investigator and as a driver for Wells Fargo.....He and Josie also occasionally prospected in the mountains......Sometimes Bat Masterson would visit the couple and the pair would see Doc Holliday who had settled down in Leadville, Colorado, when they could.....Eventually, Wyatt and Josie made their way to his parents home in Colton.
On November 8, 1887, Doc awoke clear-eyed and asked for a glass of whiskey.....It was given to him and he drank it down with enjoyment.....Then, looking down at his bare feet he said, "This is funny", and died.....He always figured he would be killed with his boots on.
Spending several years in California, Wyatt and Josie spent time with the Earps in San Bernardino, where Virgil was Sheriff, at his family home in Colton and Josie’s family in San Francisco.....Never wanting to put on a badge again, Wyatt acted as a referee in boxing matches, continued to gamble, and invested in real estate, saloons and a race horse.
In 1897 the gold fever broke in Alaska and the couple headed to Nome where they opened a Saloon during the height of the gold rush. The pair also panned for their own gold throughout the Yukon, and did very well. They returned to California 1901 with an estimated $80,000. However, their stay was short lived when they heard about the gold strike in Tonopah, Nevada.
Taking up prospecting in earnest, Wyatt staked several claims in the Mojave Desert, where he discovered several veins of gold. Near Vidal, California he discovered copper, where they spent winters in a small cottage.
Spending summers in Los Angeles, he befriended several early Hollywood actors and became an advisor for several Hollywood westerns during the silent movie days.
On Jan.13, 1929 Wyatt Earp died in Los Angeles at the age of 80 of prostate cancer. Cowboy actors Tom Mix and William S. Hart were among his pallbearers. Wyatt's cremated ashes were buried in Josie's family plot in Colma, California, just south of San Francisco.....When Josie died in 1944 at the age of 75, she was buried there beside him.
As to the other Earp brothers, Virgil was taken to the family homestead in Colton, California where he recovered from his wounds suffered at the OK Corral. Later he prospected with his wife and, still later, was elected city marshal of Colton.....He then returned to prospecting with his wife Allie and died of pneumonia in Goldfield, Nevada in 1905.....Virgil is buried in the Riverview Cemetery in Portland, Oregon.
When Morgan was killed, James traveled with Virgil and the Earp women to Colton, California for Morgan's burial. Later he lived in Shoshone County, Idaho before settling in permanently in California in 1890. James Earp died on January, 25th 1926 and is buried in Mountain View Cemetery, in San Bernardino, California.
Additional Source: Legends of America, and personal visits with my dad to the grave sites of the Earps and there Wives.