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My Friend Wyatt Earp - Page 2

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n Incident not on the Program


The building in which the show was being given was one of those pine-board affairs that were in general use in frontier towns. A bullet fired from a Colts 45 caliber pistol would go through a half-dozen such buildings, and this the cowboy knew. Whether it was Foy's act that angered him, or whether he had been jilted by one of the chorus we never learned; at any rate he commenced bombarding the side of the building directly opposite the stage upon which Eddy Foy was at that very moment reciting that beautifully pathetic poem entitled "Kalamazoo in Michigan."  The bullets tore through the side of the building scattering pieces of the splintered pine-boards in all directions. Foy evidently thought the cowboy was after him, for he did not tarry long in the line of fire.


Dodge City, Kansas, 1876

Dodge City, Kansas, 1876. This image available for photographic prints HERE!




The cowboy succeeded in firing three shots before Wyatt got his pistol in action. Wyatt missed at the first shot, which was probably due to the fact that the horse the cowboy was riding kept continually plunging around, which made it rather a hard matter to get a bead on him. His second shot, however, did the work, and the cowboy rolled off his horse and was dead by the time the crowd reached him.

Wyatt's career in and around Tombstone, Arizona, in the early days of that bustling mining camp was perhaps the most thrilling and exciting of any he ever experienced in the thirty-five years he has lived on the lurid edge of civilization. He had four brothers besides himself who waggoned it into Tombstone as soon as it had been announced that gold had been discovered in the camp.

Jim was the oldest of the brothers. Virgil came next, then Wyatt, then Morgan, and Warren, who was the kid of the family. Jim started in running a saloon as soon as one was built. Virgil was holding the position of U.S. Deputy Marshal. Wyatt operated a gambling house, and Morgan rode as a Wells Fargo shot-gun messenger on the coach that ran between Tombstone and Benson, which was the nearest railroad point. Morgan's duty was to protect the Wells Fargo coach from the stage robbers with which the country at that time was infested.

Stage Robbers of San Simon Valley

The Earps and the stage robbers knew each other personally, and it was on this account that Morgan had been selected to guard the treasure the coach carried. The Wells Fargo Company believed that so long as it kept one of the Earp boys on the coach their property was safe; and it was, for no coach was ever held up in that country upon which one of the Earp boys rode as guard.

A certain band of those stage robbers who lived in the San Simon Valley, about fifty miles from Tombstone and very near the line of Old Mexico, where they invariably took refuge when hard pressed by the authorities on the American side of the line, was made up of the Clanton brothers, Ike and Billy, and the McLaury brothers, Tom and Frank. This was truly a quartette of desperate men, against whom the civil authorities of that section of the country at that time were powerless to act. Indeed, the United States troops from the surrounding posts, who had been sent out to capture them dead or alive, had on more than one occasion returned to their posts after having met with both failure and disaster at the hands of the desperadoes.

Morgan Earp

Morgan Earp was shot and killed by Ike Clanton while playing pool in Tombstone, Arizona on March 18, 1882.  This image available for photographic prints and downloads HERE!


Those were the men who had made up their minds to hold up and rob the Tombstone coach; but in order to do so with as little friction as possible, they must first get rid of Morgan Earp. They could, as a matter of course, ambush him and shoot him dead from the coach; but that course would hardly do, as it would be sure to bring on a fight with the other members of the Earp family and their friends, of whom they had a great many. They finally concluded to try diplomacy. They sent word to Morgan to leave the employ of the Wells Fargo Express Company, as they intended to hold up the stage upon which he acted as guard, but didn't want to do it as long as the coach was in his charge.


Morgan sent back word that he would not quit and that they had better not try to hold him up or there would be trouble. They then sent word to Wyatt to have him induce Morgan, if such a thing was possible, to quit his job, as they had fully determined on holding up the coach and killing Morgan if it became necessary in order to carry out their purpose.


Wyatt sent them back word that if Morgan was determined to continue riding as guard for Wells Fargo he would not interfere with him in any way, and that if they killed him he would hunt them down and kill the last one in the bunch. Just to show the desperate character of those men, they sent Virgil Earp, who was City Marshal of Tombstone at the time, word that on a certain day they would be in town prepared to give him and his brothers a battle to the death.


Sure enough, on the day named Ike and Billy Clanton and Tom and Frank McLaury rode into Tombstone and put their horses up in one of the city corrals. They were in town some little time before the Earps knew it. They never suspected for a moment that the Clantons and McLaurys had any intention of carrying out their threat when they made it. When Virgil Earp fully realized that they were in town he got very busy. He knew that it meant a fight and was not long in hustling up Wyatt and Morgan and "Doc" Holliday, the latter as desperate a man in a tight place as the West ever knew. This made the Marshal's party consist of the Marshal himself, his brothers Wyatt and Morgan, and "Doc" Holliday. Against them were the two Clantons and the two McLaurys, an even thing so far as numbers were concerned. As soon as Virgil Earp got his party together, he started for the corral, where he understood the enemy was entrenched, prepared to resist to the death the anticipated attack of the Earp forces.


The Town Turned out for the Battle


Everybody in Tombstone seemed to realize that a bloody battle was about to be fought right in the very center of the town, and all those who could, hastened to find points of vantage from which the impending battle could be viewed in safety. It took the City Marshal some little time to get his men together, as both Wyatt and Holliday were still sound asleep in bed, and getting word to them and the time it took for them to get up and dress themselves and get to the place where Verge and Morgan were in waiting, necessarily caused some little delay. The invaders, who had been momentarily expecting an attack, could not understand the cause of this delay, and finally concluded that the Earps were afraid and did not intend to attack them, at any rate while they were in the corral. This conclusion caused them to change their plan of battle.


They instantly resolved that if "The mountain would not come to Mahomet-Mahomet would go to the mountain." If the Earps would not come to the corral, they would go and hunt up the Earps. Their horses were nearby, saddled, bitted and ready for instant use. Each man took his horse by the bridle-line and led him through the corral-gate to the street where they intended to mount.


tombstone-allenstreet-1882.jpg (351x236 -- 7860 bytes)

Tombstone, Arizona  in 1882


But, just as they reached the street, and before they had time to mount their horses, the Earp party came round the corner. Both sides were now within ten feet of each other. There were four men on a side, every one of whom had during his career been engaged in other shooting scrapes and were regarded as being the most desperate of desperate men. The horses gave the rustlers quite an advantage in the position. The Earps were in the open street, while the invaders used their horses for breast-works. Virgil Earp, as the City Marshal, ordered the Clantons and McLaurys to throw up their hands and surrender.

This order they replied to with a volley from their pistols. The fight was now on. The Earps pressed in close, shooting as rapidly as they could. The fight was hardly started before it was over, and the result showed that nearly every shot fired by the Earp party went straight home to the mark.


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