Wyatt Earp - Page
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One night, while Doc was dealing Faro in the Long Branch Saloon a number of Texas
cowboys arrived with a herd of cattle. After many weeks on the trail, the rowdy
cowboys were ready to "let loose.”
Leading the cowboy mob was a man named Ed Morrison, whom Wyatt had humiliated in Wichita, Kansas, and a man named Tobe Driskill. The cowboys rushed the town, galloping down Front Street with guns blazing, and blowing out shop windows. Entering the Long Branch Saloon, they began harassing the customers.
When Wyatt came through the front door, he came face to face with several awaiting gun barrels. Stepping forward, Morrison sneered "Pray and jerk your gun! Your time has come Earp!”
Suddenly, a voice sounded behind Morrison. "No, friend, you draw – or throw your hands up!” It was Doc,
his revolver to Morrison’s temple. Doc had been in the back room, his card game interrupted by the havoc out front.
"Any of you bastards pulls a gun and your leader here loses what’s left of his brains!" The cowboys dropped their arms. Wyatt rapped Morrison over the head with his long barrel Colt, then relieving Driskill and Morrison of their arms, he ushered them to the Dodge City Jail.
Wyatt never forgot the fact that Doc Holliday saved his life that night in Dodge City. Responding later, Wyatt said. "The only way anyone could have appreciated the feeling I had for Doc after the Driskill-Morrison business would have been to have
stood in my boots at the time Doc came through the Long Branch doorway."
While in Dodge City, Wyatt met a saloon girl named
Celia Anne Blalock, whom he affectionately called "Mattie.” Though the two never married, they lived as husband and wife. At first, the couple was happy, but Mattie had acquired a laudanum dependency due to a prior illness, and this would soon put a strain on their relationship.
Later, Big Nose Kate and Doc Holliday,
in their constant love-hate relationship, had one of their frequent, violent
quarrels. Holliday soon saddled his horse and headed out to Colorado, leaving Big Nose Kate behind.
An often written about event was the 1878 "showdown" between Wyatt Earp and Clay Allison, the self-proclaimed "shootist" from New Mexico. According to the stories, Allison planned to protest the treatment of his men by the Dodge City marshals and was willing to back his arguments with gun smoke. The Dodge City lawmen had gained a reputation for being hard on visiting cattle herders, with stories circulating that cattlemen had been robbed, shot, and beaten over the head with revolvers. George Hoyt, who had, at one time, worked for Clay Allison, had been shot to death while shooting a pistol in the air in the streets of Dodge City.
There are several versions of the story of the showdown. Some say that Allison and his men terrorized Dodge City, while Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson fled in fear. Others say that Wyatt Earp pressured Allison into leaving. And yet others say that Allison was talked into leaving by a saloon keeper and another cattleman, with little or no contact with Wyatt Earp
In any case, there is no evidence of any serious altercation ever having happened. Historians basically surmise that Allison might have come to Dodge City looking for trouble, but nothing really happened. While Allison and his men went from saloon to
saloon fortifying themselves with whiskey, Earp and his marshals began to assemble their forces. But in the end, Dick McNulty, owner of a large cattle outfit and Chalk Beeson, co-owner of the Long Branch Saloon, intervened on behalf of the town, talking the gang into giving up their guns.
By 1879, Dodge City had been tamed and Wyatt was spending more time at the gaming tables than he was marshalling. So, when brother Virgil wrote him about the new city of Tombstone, Arizona, Wyatt, along with brothers James and Morgan, and common-law wife, Mattie headed West.
Big Nose Kate would follow and when Doc Holliday returned to Dodge City and found everyone gone, he too headed to Arizona.
When Wyatt arrived in Tombstone
in December of 1879, he planned to establish a stage line but soon discovered there were already two in the town. Instead, he acquired the gambling concession at the Oriental Saloon for a quarter percentage of the proceeds. He also took a side job as a
shotgun rider on the stage lines for
shipments. James established a saloon
on Allen Street. Virgil was already deputy marshal of Tombstone
went to with work with his brother as a lawman. Doc Holliday met up with Big Nose Kate in Prescott, Arizona, and the pair soon joined the Earps in Tombstone.
Tombstone was the last of the wide-open hellholes, teaming with rustlers, thieves, gunmen, gamblers and prostitutes. The outlaw Clanton Gang had been running roughshod over the territory and immediately resented the Earps arrival. "Old man" Clanton, his sons, Ike, Phin, and Billy; the McLaury brothers, Frank and Tom; Curly Bill Brocius, John Ringo and their followers lost no time in expressing their displeasure.
had long been involved in rustling cattle from Old Mexico, moving their plunder
northward to their ranch on the San Pedro River. Keeping Cochise County Sheriff
John Behan on their payroll, their operation was extremely successful until the arrival of the Earps.
Wyatt wasn’t spending all of his time working, as he met Josephine "Josie” Sarah Marcus while in Tombstone. The small 18-year old woman had arrived in Tombstone with a traveling theatre troupe in 1879 prior to Wyatt’s arrival. She
hooked up with Sheriff John Behan and stayed in Tombstone.
However, shortly after Wyatt appeared on the scene, Sheriff Behan made the mistake of introducing Josie to Wyatt and the two instantly hit it off. The relationship between Wyatt and
Mattie had continued to deteriorate as
Mattie’s laudanum dependency grew worse. Josie thought that Wyatt was the best-looking man in Tombstone and she began to be seen with him almost every night at his faro table while
Mattie lingered at home.
Behan refused to accept Josie’s apologies and fell in deeper with the Clantons to thwart the Earps at every turn. Now holding a personal grudge, he vowed to help the rustlers rid Tombstone of the bothersome Earp brothers as soon as possible.
So, when in July, 1880, John Behan
offered him a job as deputy sheriff under Chief Marshal Fred White, he was
suspicious. Wyatt finally came to the conclusion that the offer was designed to keep him to busy too guard the
Wells Fargo stage, allowing the Clantons
access once again to this lucrative plunder. Wyatt accepted the job, but Behan’s plan failed when Wyatt convinced
Wells Fargo to hire brother Morgan as the new guard in his place. Their plan having been a "bust”, the Clantons were furious.
It was Curly Bill Brocius, who first tangled with Wyatt Earp in October, 1880. One day Brocius, along with Billy Clanton, and Frank and Tom McLaury were riding up and down Allen Street firing their weapons and harassing anyone walking along the board walks. When Sheriff White tried to stop the cowboys, Brocius
drew his gun, White grabbed it, and in the fracas the gun went off, hitting White in the groin.
Just then Earp arrived on the scene and brought his six gun down on Curly Bill’s head, knocking him unconscious. White was taken to the doctor and Brocius was taken to jail.
In the doctor’s office White made a death bed statement that he had been shot by his own carelessness. After White’s death, Wyatt confronted the gunmen, stating he would kill any one of them who reached for a weapon, and ordered them out of town. Soon, Curly Bill was released, thanks to White’s dying statement.
Meanwhile, one night while Doc Holliday was gambling at the Oriental Saloon,
John Behan accused Doc
of manipulating a faro game. Doc, never one to back down, quickly challenged Behan,
who retreated in haste. Behan’s public embarrassment added more to fuel to the fire.
Through the early months of 1881, the Clantons continued to rustle cattle from Mexico, a crime that the Earp lawmen could do nothing about. Their hands were tied since cattle rustling was
officially a county matter and
John Behan was the county. The gap between the law and the outlaw faction grew wider and the town divided into two camps. While most of Tombstone’s citizens supported the Earps, the politically strong outlaw element, with Behan in control, supported the Clantons.
In the meantime Doc and "Big Nose” Kate continued to live together, but when Kate got drunk, they had serious arguments. Often, her drunkenness would escalate to abuse, and finally Doc had had enough and threw her out. The Clantons used this separation to their advantage.
On March 15, 1881, four masked men attempted a hold up on a stagecoach near Contention and in the attempt, killed the stage driver and a passenger. The Cowboy faction immediately seized upon the opportunity and accused Doc Holliday of being one of the holdup men. Sheriff Behan, who was investigating the hold-up, found Kate on one of her drunken binges, still berating Doc for throwing her out. Feeding her yet even more whiskey, the Behan persuaded her to sign an affidavit that Doc had been one of the masked highwaymen and had killed the stage driver.
Kate was sobering up, the Earps were rounding up witnesses who could verify
Doc's whereabouts on the night in question. When
Kate realized what she had done, she repudiated her statement and the charges were thrown out. But, for
Doc, this was the "last straw” for
and giving her some money, he put her on a stage out of town.
and his deputies had gone after the robbers, for that matter, and had arrested a
Clanton hanger-on named Luther King who, under pressure, had confessed to taking
part in the crime. But, after the arrest,
John Behan argued that King was his prisoner, since the crime was territorial, not city. Suspiciously, King escaped from Behan’s jail. And it was then apparent to Wyatt that
Doc had been shanghaied as an intended sacrificial lamb, and that King was released as to not implicate the real perpetrators of the holdup.
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