Wyatt and his party headed straight for the Spence ranch as soon as he left Tombstone on his campaign of revenge. He found only the Mexican when he reached the ranch, and after making some inquiry as to the whereabouts of Spence, and learning that he had left early that morning for Tombstone by a different route from the one the Earps had traveled, preceded, without further ceremony, to shoot the Mexican to pieces with buck shot. They left the greaser’s body where it fell, and returned to Tombstone, where they expected to find Spence. He was there all right enough, but seeming to anticipate what Wyatt intended doing, had gone to the sheriff, who was not on friendly terms with the Earp faction, and surrendered, having himself locked up in jail.
Of course, Wyatt had to let him go for the time being, and was getting ready to start out on another expedition when he received word from Tucson that Frank Stillwell and Ike Clanton were there. Wyatt and Doc Holliday immediately started for Benson, where they took the train for Tucson which was about sixty miles farther south. Both were armed with shot guns, and just before the train came to a stop at the Tucson station, Wyatt and Holliday, from the platform of the rear coach saw Clanton and Stillwell standing on the depot platform. They immediately jumped off and started for the depot, intending to kill them both, but they were seen coming by the quarry who had evidently been made aware of Earps’ movements and were on the lookout at the station. Clanton and Stillwell started to run as soon as they saw Wyatt and Holliday approaching, Stillwell down the railroad track and Clanton towards town. Wyatt and Holliday immediately gave chase to Stillwell and succeeded after a short run in overtaking him. He threw up his hands and begged not to be killed, but it was too late. Besides, Wyatt had given instructions that no prisoners should be taken, so they riddled his body with buck shot and left it lay where it fell, just as they had the Mexican. Wyatt and Holliday then returned to Tombstone, thinking there might still be a chance to get a crack at Pete Spence, but the latter still clung to the jail.
Defying the Sheriff of Tombstone
Meanwhile the sheriff of Tombstone had received telegraphic instructions from the sheriff of Tucson to arrest Wyatt and Holliday as soon as they showed up, for the murder of Stillwell. When Wyatt got back to town he hustled his men together for the purpose of going out after Curly Bill, whom he believed to be the man who had shot Virgil from ambush. When the sheriff and his posse reached Wyatt, the latter and his crowd were about to mount their horses preparatory to going on the “Curly Bill” expedition.
“Wyatt, I want to see you,” said the sheriff.
“You will see me once too often,” replied Wyatt as he bounded into the saddle. “And remember,” continued Wyatt to the sheriff, “am going to get that hound you are protecting in jail when I come back, if I have to tear the jail down to do it.”
The sheriff made no further attempt to arrest Wyatt and Holliday. The next night Wyatt killed Curly Bill at the Whetstone Springs, about thirty miles from Tombstone, and just to make his word good with the sheriff, he and his party returned to town. The sheriff, however, had during his absence released Spence and told him to get across the Mexican border with as little delay as possible if he valued his life, for the Earp gang would surely kill him if he didn’t.
This ended the Earp campaign in Arizona for the time being. Much has been written about Wyatt Earp that is the veriest rot, and every once in a while a newspaper article will appear in which it is alleged that some person had taken a fall out of him, and that when he had been put to the test, had shown the white feather. Not long ago a story was published in the different newspapers throughout the country that some little Canadian police officer somewhere in the Canadian Northwest had given Wyatt an awful call-down; had, in fact, taken his pistol from him and in other ways humiliated him. The story went like wild-fire, as all such stories do, and was printed and reprinted in all the big dailies in the country. There was not one word of truth in it, and the newspaper fakir who unloaded the story on the reading public very likely got no more than ten dollars for his work. Wyatt, to begin with, was never in the Canadian Northwest, and therefore was never in a position where a little Canadian police-officer could have taken such liberties with him as those described by the author of the story. Take it from me, no one has ever humiliated this man Earp, nor made him show the white feather under any circumstances whatever. While he is now a man past sixty, there are still a great many so-called bad men in this country who would be found, if put to the test, to be much easier game to tackle than this same lean and lanky Earp.
Wyatt Earp, like many more men of his character who lived in the West in its early days, has excited, by his display of great courage and nerve under trying conditions, the envy and hatred of those small-minded creatures with which the world seems to be abundantly peopled, and whose sole delight in life seems to be in fly-specking the reputations of real men. I have known him since the early seventies and have always found him a quiet, unassuming man, not given to brag or bluster, but at all times and under all circumstances a loyal friend and an equally dangerous enemy.
By W.B. “Bat” Masterson, 1907. Compiled/Edited by Kathy Weiser-Alexander, updated October, 2017.
About the Author and Articles Notes: Though most of us know that W.B. “Bat” Masterson was famous as a gunfighter and friend of such characters as Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, and Luke Short, many may not know that he was also a writer. After his many escapades in the American West, he accepted a post of U.S. Marshal in New York state. However, by 1891 he was working as a sports editor for a New York City newspaper. In 1907 and 1908 he wrote a series of articles for the short-lived Boston magazine, Human Life. This tale of Doc Holliday, was just one of several of those articles. Masterson died in 1921 of a heart attack. The article that appears on these pages is not verbatim, as it has been very briefly edited, primarily for spelling and grammatical corrections.
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