Wyatt Earp was a famous lawman and gunslinger of the wild west. Much of his life is steeped in legend and has been reproduced into a barrage of movies and books. Some of what we now think we know about Wyatt Earp has never been proven or is certainly false. Nonetheless, his life really was filled with adventure. He was involved in several gunfights in the name of the law and a few that may have been a little unlawful. He was also arrested a few times himself for some questionable deeds. He was the quintessential man of the wild west.
Wyatt Earp was the third son of Nicholas Earp and Victoria Ann Cooksey. He was born on March 19, 1848 in Monmouth, Louisiana. He would eventually become one of nine children born to the couple. He had five brothers and three sisters. The Earps lived in Illinois, Iowa and California during Wyatt’s youth. Not much is known for sure about how he spent his time in these places. By the time he was in his early twenties, the Earps had moved to Lamar, Missouri.
It was while in Lamar that Wyatt Earp first became a lawman; he was made the constable of Lamar when he was 21 years old. On January 10, 1870, Wyatt married the Lamar Hotel owner’s daughter, Urilla Sutherland. She died in November of that same year. The cause of death is uncertain, but it is believed to have been natural. The following year, Wyatt Earp began finding himself on the other side of the law.
In 1871, two lawsuits were filed against Wyatt, both of which involved money. The first accused him of stealing funds that were meant for the town school, the second accused him of falsifying court documents so that he could take a share of the fine payed to him by a citizen. He faced neither charge in court; after the first was filed, he left town. It is still unknown whether he was guilty of the charges, but he did make himself look rather suspicious.
That very same year, Wyatt Earp was arrested for stealing a horse. He escaped the authorities and was, once again, never brought to trial. His guilt in this case is still uncertain. In 1872, he found himself in Peoria, Illinois where he got himself into a whole lot of trouble. He was arrested for being in a house of ill-repute (a brothel) twice and charged a fine. Then, on the Illinois River, he was arrested during a raid on what was called a “floating brothel.” It is now thought that Wyatt Earp may have been a pimp during his years in Peoria.
By 1874, Wyatt was back on the right side of the law. He served on the police force in Wichita, Kansas from 1874 to 1876 and then again in Dodge City from 1876 to 1879. Earp managed to stay out of trouble in Wichita, but in Dodge City, he was fined one dollar for slapping a woman. Aside from that, he managed to keep his nose clean for the most part. In 1879, he left Dodge City for Tombstone, Arizona with his common law wife, Celia Ann Blaylock, his brothers, James and Virgil and his friend, Doc Holliday. Morgan Earp soon followed.
Wyatt became Deputy Sheriff of Tombstone in 1880. He met his third wife “Josie” around the same time. Wyatt, his friend Doc and two of the other Earp brothers soon found themselves in a feud with the “cowboys.” The feud culminated with the famous shootout at the OK Corral on October 26, 1881. Morgan Earp was killed by an unnamed gunman a few months later, in Tombstone.
Wyatt eventually left Tombstone with Josie. He spent the bulk of the remainder of his life operating saloons and prospecting for gold and silver with his wife. He died in Los Angeles California on January 13, 1929 at the age of eighty.
Wyatt Earp History Page, retrieved 8/22/09, wyattearp.net