Gunfight at the O.K. Corral in October, 1881, and
Morgan Earp's murder on March 18, 1882, in a
Arizona pool hall,
Warren Earp, along with
Jack Johnson and Sherman McMasters escorted the
Earp family out of Tombstone to Tucson,
Arizona on March 20th.
Frank Stillwell, who he suspected of having been involved in the killing of
Morgan and had
heard was now seeking revenge on Virgil. The next morning a very dead,
bullet-ridden Frank Stillwell was found on the tracks next to the depot. This
was the first death in what would become known as the Earp Vendetta Ride.
Wyatt would later tell his biographers that he had spied Frank Stillwell and Ike
Clanton lying prone on a
flatcar with shotguns and that he had killed Stillwell but that Ike had
image available for photographic prints
The Earp group quickly returned
but by March 21st, a warrant had been issued for the arrest of Wyatt Earp,
"Turkey Creek" Jack Johnson and Sherman McMasters as suspects in the murder of
Pima County justice of the
peace, Charles Meyer sent a telegram to
Johnny Behan indicating that the men should
be arrested. However, the manager of the telegraph office was a friend of the
Earps and showed the message to Wyatt before delivering it to Behan. He agreed
to hold on to it for a little while, allowing the Earp group some time to get
out of Tombstone. However, just as they were leaving, Behan approached Wyatt,
saying that he wanted to see him. To this, Wyatt replied, "Johnny if you're not
careful you'll see me once too often" and the group left. Later, it would be
said that Earp's group had resisted arrest and pulled their guns on Behan.
For the next three weeks, Wyatt and
Warren Earp, along with several of their friends, namely
Sherman McMasters, "Turkey Creek" Jack Johnson, and "Texas Jack" Vermillion would
form a "posse” and go after those they felt responsible for Morgan’s death, as
well as others that supported the
Clanton faction. More men were also thought to
have supported the Earps in their revenge including Dan Tipton. Charlie Smith,
Fred Dodge, Johnny Green, and Lou Cooley.
Sometimes called the Arizona
War or Cochise County War,
Earp had been deputized as a
U.S. Deputy Marshal
and led his force under federal jurisdiction with a warrant for
William "Curly Bill" Brocious. This, however; did not stop Earps "posse” being pursued by a Cochise County sheriff’s posse
consisting of Sheriff
Johnny Behan, deputies Fin Clanton
Johnny Ringo, along with some 20 other Clanton "Cowboys”, in an effort to
arrest the Earps for the killing of Frank Stillwell. The Behan posse
deliberately failed to include Pima County Sheriff Bob Paul, who actually had
jurisdiction for the Tucson killing of Stillwell. Behan's group, though much larger, never caught up with the
The first man to be killed by the Earp
faction was Florentino Cruz, also known as Indian Charlie. Cruz, along
Spence, Frank Stillwell,
Curly Bill, and others, had been prime suspects in Morgan's killing.
Pete Spence had
earlier turned himself in so that he could be protected in Behan's jail, but the
faction was unaware of this. On March 22nd, the Earps rode into Pete
Spence's ranch at South Pass in the Dragoon Mountains,
looking for Spence. There, they found instead, "Indian Charlie,” who,
according to a later account by Wyatt, confessed to acting as a lookout while the others killed
Morgan. Wyatt shot
Two days later, the
faction caught up with several of the "cowboys” at Iron Springs,
by Curly Bill Brocius,
others of the "cowboy” faction included Pony Deal, Johnny Barnes, Frank
Patterson, Milt Hicks, Bill Hicks, Bill Johnson, Ed Lyle, Johnny Lyle, and by
"Dirty Dave" Rudabaugh. Inevitably, a
shoot-out ensued, but the Earps were heavily outnumbered and began to retreat.
However, before they did so, Wyatt
allegedly killed both Curly Bill and Johnny Barnes.
Though some said that Curly Bill survived, he was never seen again.
This account is often questioned as accurate as it came from Wyatt Earp himself, who was known to exaggerate his exploits.