Wyatt Earp; Thief, Marshall, Gold Miner was never injured in a gunfight.
As often the case of many old time lawmen, many of the best and most famous came from checkered backgrounds. Wyatt was one of those.Wyatt was born in Montmouth, Illinois, in 1848. His father moved the entire family to San Bernardino, and as a teen, joined his older brother, Virgil, as a freighter-teamster between Wilmington to Prescott, Arizona during the 1860's.
In 1870 Earp was elected constable of Lamar, Missouri. Later that year he married his first wife, Urilla Sutherland, but she died about 3 months later of typhoid. His job as constable came to an end when Earp was arrested for horse theft which he denied but the local citizens decided they needed a change from his heavy fisted tactics when dealing with people. He managed to escape and became a buffalo hunter in Kansas. Earp then moved to Wichita where he married a local prostitute. He also joined the Wichita police force. However, he was fired again in April 1876 after a fight with a fellow officer over his previous indiscretions.
A few months later Earp joined the police force in Dodge City. In 1878 he was appointed assistant city marshal under Charles Bassett. While in the city he became friends with the former dentist and now a professional gambler, Doc Holliday.Earp's record as a marshal was unimpressive and in September 1879 the mayor and city council asked Wyatt to resign as Marshall. He left Dodge City and three months later reached Tombstone where he became a farmer. Earp's brothers, Virgil Earp, Morgan Earp and James Earp also lived in Tombstone.
Earp's best friend, Doc Holliday, was forced to leave Dodge when he and his side kick Big Nose Kate were accused of cheating and Doc shot his accuser. Several weeks later they rode into Dodge greeted by Wyatt but scorned by James.Virgil Earp eventually became city marshal of Tombstone. Soon afterwards he recruited Wyatt Earp and Morgan Earp as special deputy's. In 1880 the Earp family came into conflict with two families, the Clantons and the McLaurys. Ike Clanton, Phineas Clanton, Billy Clanton, Tom McLaury and Frank McLaury sold livestock to Tombstone. Virgil Earp brothers believed that some of these animals had been stolen from farmers in Mexico.Wyatt Earp also came into conflict with John Behan, the sheriff of Cochise County. At first this started as a quarrel over Josephine Sarah Marcus, who eventually would marry Wyatt, When she had arrived in Tombstone. Earp also wanted Behan's job and planned to run against him in the next election.
On 25th October, Ike Clanton and Tom McLaury arrived in Tombstone. Later that day Doc Holliday got into a fight with Ike Clanton in the Alhambra Saloon. Holliday wanted a gunfight with Clanton, but he declined the offer and walked off.
The following day Ike Clanton and Tom McLaury were arrested by Virgil Earp and charged with carrying firearms within the city limits. After they were disarmed and released, the two men joined Billy Clanton and Frank McLaury, who had just arrived in town. The men gathered at a place called the OK Corral in Fremont Street.
Virgil Earp now decided to disarm Billy Clanton and Frank McLaury and recruited Wyatt Earp, Morgan Earp, James Earp and Doc Holliday to help him in this dangerous task. Sheriff John Behan was in town and when he heard what was happening he raced to Fremont Street and urged Billy Clanton and Frank McLaury to hand over their guns to him. They replied: "Not unless you first disarm the Earp's". Behan then ran back up the street to the approaching foursome and told them that he had disarmed the men at the Corral. The four just ignored him and pushed him aside.At the Corral, Virgil Earp said: "I want your guns". Billy Clanton responded by firing at Wyatt Earp. He missed and Morgan Earp successfully fired two bullets at Billy Clanton and he fell back against a wall. Meanwhile Wyatt Earp fired at Frank McLaury. The bullet hit him in the stomach and he fell to the ground.
Ike Clanton and Tom McLaury were both unarmed and tried to run away. Clanton was successful but Doc Holliday shot McLaury in the back. Billy Clanton and Frank McLaury, although seriously wounded, continued to fire their guns and in the next couple of seconds Virgil Earp, Morgan Earp and Doc Holliday were all wounded. Wyatt Earp was unscathed and he managed to finish off Billy Clanton and Frank McLaury.Sheriff John Behan tried to arrested Virgil, Wyatt, and Morgan and Doc for murder of Billy Clanton, Tom McLaury and Frank McLaury. But Wyatt threatened to shoot him on the spot if he didn't get out of his way. But they did go to trial and after a 30 day trial Judge Wells Spicer, who was related to the Earp's, decided that the defendants had been justified in their actions.
Over the next few months the Earp brothers struggled to retain hold control over Tombstone. Virgil Earp was seriously wounded by an attempted assassination and Morgan Earp was killed when he was playing billiards with Wyatt Earp on 18th March, 1882. Eyewitnesses claimed that Frank Stairwell was seen running from the scene of the crime. Wyatt went hunting for Stillwell and killed him at a Stage stop run by a Mexican family. The Mexican tried to interfere and was also killed in the short gun battle.After making sure all of the wives and Virgil were safely on a train bound for Colton, Earp having run down the rest of the killers was now forced leave Tombstone and took Doc to a rest home in Colorado. After leaving Doc, he moved to Arkansas where he ended up in jail for petty theft charges that were later dropped. In 1885 Earp was once again imprisoned for theft. After his release he opened a saloon in San Diego. He also attempted to breed racehorses in San Francisco with Josie financing him as they were now married.In 1896 Earp agreed to referee the Bob Fitzsimmons-Tom Sharkey heavyweight fight in Oakland, California. Earp insisted that he should be allowed to carry a gun. This was needed when he controversially declared Tom Sharkey the winner, after he had taken a terrible beating and appeared on the verge of being knocked out. Earp also owned a saloon in Tonopah and Goldfield in Nevada before settling in Colton in 1906.
Wyatt Earp died on 13th January, 1929 with Josie and other family members at his side. He was buried in San Bernardino and several old time cowboys and film actors paying their respects. It was said that Tom Mix cried at his casket was lowered into the ground. Wyatt Earp, Frontier Marshall,supposed thief, salon owner, gambler and gold miner never was injured in his many gun fights. He still remains one of the largest western icons to have ever lived.
Gary Hall, theghostpainter