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Wyatt Earp - Page
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In the spring of 1874, Wyatt moved on to Wichita, Kansas, yet another
town. In Wichita, Wyatt worked as a part-time lawman and city maintenance man, making about $60.00 per month. However, he was fired from the police force after getting into a fight with William Smith, who was running for city marshal against
Mike Meagher, who was a friend of Wyatt's.
Furthermore, Wyatt was almost arrested himself for discharging his weapon in public. Though the incident was an accident, it didn't speak well of a lawman. When he was sitting in a local saloon with his feet up on a table, his pistol fell out of it's holster and hit the floor and the gun went off. The bullet went through his coat and into the wall. Before, moving on to Dodge City, Wyatt and his brother, James, were almost arrested for vagrancy and some reports have it that Wyatt stole city tax money before hightailing it to Dodge.
By the spring of 1876 the cattle trade had shifted west to Dodge City and soon Wyatt was offered the position of Chief Deputy Marshal from Dodge City's mayor.
In the burgeoning settlement, Dodge City had already acquired its infamous stamp of lawlessness and gun slinging. As the many buffalo hunters, railroad workers, drifters and soldiers streamed into the town after long excursions on the prairie, they quickly found the many saloons, gambling houses and brothels in the lawless town. Inevitably, gunfights were common and the people of Dodge feared for their lives.
Marshal Larry Deger, the last of a long line of officers who had been run out of town or shot in the back by the lawless forces of Dodge, was overwhelmed and heartily welcomed Wyatt. Soon, four assistant deputies were hired -- Bat Masterson, Wyatt’s old buffalo hunting friend; Charlie Basset; Bill Tilghman; and Neal Brown.
Intending to restore order, one of the first things the new lawmen did was to initiate a "Deadline” north of the railroad yards on Front Street to keep the commercial part of the city quiet. On the north side, the city passed an ordinance that guns could not be worn or carried. On the south side of the "deadline”, those who supported the lawlessness continued to operate as usual, with a host of saloons, brothels, and frequent gunfights. The gun-toting rule was in effect around the clock and anyone wearing a gun was immediately jailed. Soon, Dodge City’s jail was filled.
In his new role, Earp would go after famed train robber, Dave Rudabaugh, following the outlaw’s trail for 400 miles to
Fort Griffin, Texas. When he arrived Wyatt went first to the largest saloon in town, Shanssey’s, asking about Rudabaugh. Owner John Shanssey said that Rudabaugh had been there earlier in the week, but didn’t know where he was bound. He directed Wyattto Doc Holliday who had played
cards with Rudabaugh.
Wyatt was skeptical about talking to Holliday, as it was well known that Doc hated lawmen. However, when Wyattfound him that evening at Shanssey’s, he was surprised at Holliday’s
willingness to talk. Doc told Wyatt that he thought that Rudabaugh had back-trailed to Kansas. Wyatt wired this information to
Bat Masterson, Sheriff in Dodge City, and the news was instrumental in apprehending Rudabaugh. The unlikely pair formed a friendship in Shanssey’s that would last for years.
In the fall of 1876, Wyatt and his brother Morgan left Dodge for a while, traveling for the Black Hills outside of Deadwood, South Dakota in search of gold. However, he returned to Dodge in May of 1877 after James H. "Dog” Kelley, Dodge City’s new mayor, wired him, asking him to help with the Texas cowboys who were shooting up the town.
When he returned, Wyatt was made the new town marshal and deputized his brother
Morgan. Almost immediately he began to plague the courts for harsher sentences, banned some men from even entering the town, and organized a citizen committee to help the law enforcers to watch the streets.
It wasn’t long after Wyatt returned to
Doc Holliday turned up with "Big Nose” Kate.
Doc, after having killed a man in
Fort Griffin, Texas, was running from a lynching party. At first
Doc hung out his doctor’s shingle but soon
went back to gambling, frequenting the Alhambra and dealing cards at the Long Branch Saloon. Though
Dodge City citizens thought the friendship between Wyatt and Doc was strange, Wyatt ignored them and Doc kept the law while in Dodge City.
Continued Next Page
"Dodge City is a wicked little town. Indeed, its character is so clearly and egregiously bad that one might conclude, were the evidence in these later times positive of its possibility, that it was marked for special Providential punishment."
-- A letter that appeared in the Washington D.C. Evening Star, January 1, 1878.
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