My Friend Wyatt Earp

He was not very long on the force before one of the alderman of the city, presuming somewhat on the authority his position gave him over a police officer, ordered Wyatt one night to perform some official act that did not look exactly right to him, and Wyatt refused point blank to obey the order. The alderman, regarded as something of a scrapper himself, walked up to Wyatt and attempted to tear his official shield from his vest front where it was pinned. When that alderman woke up he was a greatly changed man. Wyatt knocked him down as soon as he laid his hands on him, and then reached down and picked him up with one hand and slammed a few hooks and upper-cuts into his face, dragged his limp form over to the city calaboose, and chucked it in one of the cells, just the same as he would any other disturber of the peace. The alderman’s friends tried to get him out on bail during the night, but Wyatt gave it out that it was the calaboose for the alderman until the police court opened up for business at nine o’clock the following morning, and it was. Wyatt was never bothered any more while he lived in Dodge City by aldermen.

While he invariably went armed, he seldom had occasion to do any shooting in Dodge City, and only once do I now recall when he shot to kill, and that was at a drunken cowboy, who rode up to a Variety Theatre where Eddie Foy, the now famous comedian, was playing an engagement. The cowboy rode right by Wyatt, who was standing outside the main entrance to the show shop, but evidently he did not notice him else he would not in all probability have acted as he did.

An Incident not on the Program

Dodge City, Kansas 1876

Dodge City, Kansas 1876

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.

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

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.

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