George Washington Earp was a first cousin to Wyatt Earp and also served as a lawman in Kansas.
George was born in Montgomery County, Missouri on December 13, 1864. At the age of 18, having a burning ambition to be a cowboy, he went to Dodge City, Kansas just about the time Wyatt was ready to head southwest to Tombstone, Arizona. Wyatt; however, wouldn’t help him in Dodge City, determining that the town was too tough for him and sent him to the more “civilized” Garden City, where George got his wish and worked as a cowboy. In June 1883, George married Anna Maxwell in Marion County, Kansas. The couple would eventually have three children. He then went to work for the Garden City government land office.
The Ulysses Townsite Company was organized in Garden City and George was made manager of the company. By the spring of 1885, George was surveying the townsite of Old Ulysses in Grant County, Kansas. He soon became one of the town’s first promoters and the same year, at the age of 21, he became the first postmaster. Earp and other early settlers built the first structure — a hotel. At 23 he was elected mayor and constable, and according to legend, was just as “free with his gun” as Wyatt and his bunch.
After Grant County was established in 1887, Ulysses found itself embroiled in a fierce county seat battle with nearby Tilden (later called Appomattox.) Though Ulysses was named the temporary county seat, an official election was held on October 16, 1888, to determine the permanent location. The county seat fight was corrupt and vicious like many others at the time. George would later say that the Ulysses Town Company imported several noted gunmen “to protect the security of the ballot” at the elections. Among them were Bat Masterson, Luke Short, Ed Dlathe, Jim Drury, Bill Wells, Ed Short, and others.
The men built a lumber barricade across the street from the polling place, stationing themselves behind it with their Winchesters and six-shooters, in case of trouble or attempt to steal the ballot box. But, no trouble erupted and in the end, the election resulted in a win for Ulysses.
In 1893, Earp was appointed as a U.S. Deputy Marshal in Wichita and later worked for the field office of the United States Revenue Service. In 1933, he moved to Joplin, Missouri where he worked as an income tax consultant. He didn’t retire until the age of 91. A few years later, he suffered a stroke and died on December 21, 1960, at the age of 96. He was the last of the line of the “Fighting Earps.”
By Kathy Weiser-Alexander, updated September 2020.
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