Based on the testimony of Pete Spence's
wife, Marietta, at the coronerís inquest on the killing of
Morgan, the coroner's jury concluded that Spence, Stilwell,
Frederick Bode, and Florentino "Indian Charlie" Cruz were the
prime suspects in the assassination of Morgan Earp. Spence
turned himself in so that he would be protected in Behan's jail.
On Sunday, March 19,
the day after Morgan's murder, Wyatt, his brother James, and a
group of friends took Morgan's body to the railhead in Benson.
They put Morgan's body on the train with James, to accompany it
to the family home in Colton, California. There, Morgan's wife
waited to bury him.
The next day, it was
Virgil and his wife Allie's turn to be escorted safely out of
Tombstone. Wyatt had gotten word that trains leaving from Benson
were being watched in Tucson, and getting the still invalid
Virgil through Tucson to safety would be more difficult. Wyatt,
Warren Earp, Holliday, Turkey Creek Jack Johnson, and Sherman
McMasters took Virgil and Allie in a wagon to the train in
Benson, leaving their own horses in Contention City and boarding
the train with Virgil. As the train pulled away from the Tucson
station in the dark, gunfire was heard. Frank Stilwell's body
was found on the tracks the next morning.
What Stilwell was doing
on the tracks near the Earps' train has never been explained.
Ike Clanton made his case worse by giving a newspaper interview
claiming that he and Stilwell had been in Tucson for Stilwell's
legal problems and heard that the Earps were coming in on a
train to kill Stilwell. According to Clanton, Stilwell then
disappeared from the hotel and was found later, blocks away, on
the tracks. Wyatt, many years later, in the Flood biography,
said that he and his party had seen Clanton and Stilwell on the
tracks with weapons, and he had shot Stilwell.
After killing Stilwell
in Tucson and sending their train on its way to California with
Virgil, the Earp party was afoot. They hopped a freight train
back to Benson and hired a wagon back to Contention, riding back
into Tombstone by the middle of the next day (March 21). They
were now wanted men, because once Stilwell's killing had been
connected to the Earp party on the train, warrants had been
issued for five of the Earp party. Ignoring Johnny Behan and now
joined by Texas Jack Vermillion, the Earp posse rode out of town
the same evening.
On March 22, the Earps
rode to the woodcamp of Pete Spence at South Pass in the Dragoon
Mountains, looking for Spence. They knew of the Morgan Earp
inquest testimony. Spence was in jail, but at the woodcamp, the
Earp posse found Florentino "Indian Charlie" Cruz. Wyatt and the
others shot and killed Cruz.
Two days later, in Iron
Springs, the Earp party, seeking a rendezvous with a messenger
for them, stumbled upon a group of cowboys led by "Curley Bill"
William Brocious. Curley Bill and Wyatt exchanged gun fire, and
Curley Bill was hit in the chest by Wyatt's shotgun and died.
The Earp party spent
the next two weeks riding through the rough country near
Tombstone. They did not encounter a posse led by Cochise County
Sherrif John H. Behan's which was looking for Earps, and the
brothers left the territory for good. In the middle of April
1882, Wyatt Earp left the Arizona Territory.
After killing Curley Bill, the Earps left
Arizona for Colorado. Sherman McMasters traveled with the Earps
to Colorado. In a stopover in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Wyatt and
Holliday had a disagreement and the group split. Holliday headed
to Pueblo and then Denver. The Earps and Texas Jack set up camp
on the outskirts of Gunnison, Colorado, where they remained
quietly at first, rarely going into town for supplies.
Eventually, Wyatt took over a faro game at a local saloon.
All of the Earp assets
in Tombstone were slowly sold to pay back-taxes, and the stake
the family had amassed in Tombstone was gradually erased. Wyatt
and Warren joined Virgil in San Francisco in late 1882. Wyatt's
common-law wife, Celia Anne "Mattie" Blaylock, a former
prostitute and reported laudanum addict, waited for him in
Colton but eventually accepted that Wyatt was not coming back.
Wyatt had left Mattie their house when he left Tombstone. Wyatt
left San Francisco with Josie in 1883, and she was his
common-law wife for the next forty-six years. They represented
themselves as man and wife, which in the Old West was all that
was necessary for a common-law marriage. Earp and Marcus
returned to Gunnison where they settled down, and Wyatt
continued to run a faro bank.
Many years later Earp
claimed George Hoyt was attempting to assassinate him at the
behest of Robert Wright, with whom he claimed an ongoing feud.
Earp said the feud between himself and Wright started when Earp
arrested Bob Rachals, a prominent trail leader who had shot a
German fiddler. According to Earp, Wright tried to block the
arrest because Rachals was one of the largest financial
contributors to the Dodge City economy.
In 1883, Earp returned
along with Bat Masterson to Dodge City to help a friend deal
with a corrupt mayor. What became known as the Dodge City War
started when the Mayor tried to run Luke Short first out of
business and then out of town. Short appealed to Masterson who
contacted Earp. While Short was discussing the matter with
Governor George Washington Glick in Kansas City, Earp showed up
with Johnny Millsap, Shotgun John Collins, Texas Jack
Vermillion, and Johnny Green.
They marched up Front
Street into Short's saloon where they were sworn in as deputies
by constable "Prairie Dog" Dave Marrow. The town council offered
a compromise to allow Short to return for ten days to get his
affairs in order, but Earp refused to compromise. When Short
returned, there was no force ready to turn him away. Short's
Saloon reopened, and the Dodge City War ended without a shot
Earp spent the next
decade running saloons and gambling concessions and investing in
mines in Colorado and Idaho, with stops in various boom towns.
In 1884, Earp and two younger brothers entered the Murray-Eagle
mining district in Idaho. Within six months their substantial
stake had run dry, and they left the Murray-Eagle district. In
about April 1885, Wyatt Earp joined a band of claim jumpers in
Embry Camp, Washington, modernly known as Chewelah. It is said
that Earp also jumped the Old Dominion claim further North in
In 1886, Earp and Josie
moved to San Diego and stayed there about four years. Earp ran
several gambling houses in town and speculated in San Diego's
real estate boom. He also judged prize fights and raced horses.
On July 3, 1888, Mattie, who always considered herself to be
Wyatt's wife, committed suicide in Pinal, Arizona Territory, by
taking an overdose of laudanum.
The Earps moved back to
San Francisco during the 1890s so Josie could be closer to her
family and Wyatt took a job managing a horse stable in Santa
Rosa. During the summer of 1896, Earp wrote his memoirs with the
help of a ghost writer (Flood). On December 3, 1896, Earp was
the referee for a high-profile boxing match. During the fight
Bob Fitzsimmons, clearly in control, allegedly landed a low blow
against Tom Sharkey. Earp awarded the victory to Sharkey and was
accused of committing fraud.
Fitzsimmons had an
injunction put on the prize money until the courts could
determine who the rightful winner was. The judge in the case
decided that because fighting, and therefore prize fighting, was
illegal in San Francisco, that the courts would not determine
who the real winner was. The decision provided no vindication
In the fall of 1897,
Earp and Josie joined in the gold rush to Alaska, and for the
following few years Earp ran several saloons and gambling
concessions in Nome. Controversy continued to follow Earp, and
he was arrested several times for different minor offenses.
By 1906, Earp and Josie had settled in the
Sonoran Desert town of Vidal, California where he staked claims
in both copper and gold mines near the Whipple Mountains.
Although it never actually boasted a town, the townsite of Earp,
California is located at the site of those mining claims.
Earp eventually moved
to Hollywood, where he met several famous and soon to be famous
actors on the sets of various movies. On the set of one movie,
he met a young extra and prop man who would eventually become
John Wayne. Wayne later told Hugh O'Brian that he based his
image of the Western lawman on his conversations with Earp. And
one of Earp's friends in Hollywood was William S. Hart, a
well-known cowboy star of his time. In the early 1920s, Earp
served as deputy sheriff in a mostly ceremonial position in San
Bernardino County, California. Wyatt lived out his last years
reading the Bible.
Wyatt Earp died at home in the Earps' small
apartment at 4004 W 17th Street, in Los Angeles, of chronic
cystitis (some sources cite prostate cancer) on January 13, 1929
at the age of 80. Western actors William S. Hart and Tom Mix
were pallbearers at his funeral. His wife Josie was too
grief-stricken to attend.
Josie had Earp's body
cremated and buried Earp's ashes in the Marcus family plot at
the Hills of Eternity, a Jewish cemetery (Josie was Jewish) in
Colma, California. When she died in 1944, Josie's ashes were
buried next to Earp's. The original gravemarker was stolen in
1944 but has since been replaced by a new standing stone.
Fattig, Timothy W. (2005). Wyatt Earp: The
Biography. Talei Publishers. pp. 596.
Barra, Allen (1998). Inventing Wyatt Earp:
His Life and Many Legends. New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers.
Barra takes a look at the Earp legend and its place in American
mythology, fiction, and film.
Earp, Josephine Sarah
Marcus (1976). I Married Wyatt Earp: The Recollections of
Josephine Sarah Marcus Earp. University of Arizona Pr.
Criticized for the imagination of the editor.
Gatto, Steve (2000).
The Real Wyatt Earp: A Documentary Biography. Silver City:
Lake, Stuart N. (1994).
Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal. Pocket.
Marks, Paula Mitchell
(1989). And Die in the West: the story of the O.K. Corral
gunfight. New York: Morrow. Extensive examination not only of
the gunfight and vendettas, but also of the myth-making that
took place surrounding the OK Corral incident. Marks writes from
a socioeconomic perspective.
Reidhead, SJ (2005).
Travesty: Frank Waters Earp Agenda Exposed. Roswell, NM:
Jinglebob Press & Wyatt Earp Books. Travesty is based on the
original manuscript for Frank Waters' "The Earp Brothers of
Tombstone", completely debunking the Waters' book. It is 527
pages with 2223 footnotes. Travesty also includes an Annotated
Bibliography of Earp & Tombstone related books.
(1997). Wyatt Earp: The Life Behind the Legend. New York: John
Wiley & Sons. A careful biography with unusual attention to
Wyatt's post-Tombstone life.
Turner, Alford E.
(1981). The OK Corral Inquest. College Station, Texas: Creative
Publishing company. The authoritative trial documents from Judge
Wells Spicer's famous hearing, with extensive notes by the
editor, Alford E. Turner, considered by many to be the leading
authority on the Earps.