Wyatt Earp – Frontier Lawman

In just over a year, the Earp “posse” along with Doc Holliday eliminated “Old Man” Clanton, Billy Clanton, Frank McLaury, Tom McLaury, Frank Stilwell, Indian Charlie, Dixie Gray, Florentino Cruz, Johnny Barnes, Jim Crane, Harry Head, Bill Leonard, Joe Hill, Luther King, Charley Snow, Billy Lang, Zwing Hunt, Billy Grounds and Hank Swilling. Pete Spence turned himself into the authorities where he could “hide” in the penitentiary.

In May 1882, Wyatt and Doc left Tombstone, swearing they would never return, but still vowing vengeance on Ringo, Clanton, Spence, and Swilling if they could ever find them. Riding their horses to Silver City, New Mexico, they sold them, rode a stage to Deming, and boarded a train for Colorado. Josie soon joined Wyatt in Denver where they were married.

Though Mattie had traveled with the Earps to California Wyatt’s parents, at some point she left them and ended up in Globe, Arizona where she lived a life of prostitution. She told her friends that her husband had destroyed her life when he deserted her. Tragically, she died of a laudanum overdose on July 3, 1888, in Pinal City, Arizona.

While in Colorado, Wyatt initially worked as a private investigator and as a driver for Wells Fargo. He and Josie also occasionally prospected in the mountains. Sometimes Bat Masterson would visit the couple and the pair would see Doc Holliday who had settled down in Leadville, Colorado when they could.

Wyatt and Josie Earp

Wyatt and Josie Earp

Wyatt and Josie returned to Dodge City, Kansas in 1883 for a time and then he took his new bride on a tour of Texas and northern Mexico before they made their way to California.

In the meantime, Doc Holliday’s health was badly deteriorating and he soon migrated from Leadville to Denver in the winter of 1885. Though he did not improve in Denver, he was able to see his old friend, Wyatt Earp in the late winter of 1886, where they met in the lobby of the Windsor Hotel. Sadie Marcus described the skeletal Holliday as having a continuous cough and standing on “unsteady legs.”

Holliday’s health continued to get worse. As a realist, Doc was not one to believe in miraculous cures, but hoping that the Yampah hot springs and sulfur vapors might improve his health, he headed for Glenwood Springs, Colorado in May 1887. Registering at the fashionable Hotel Glenwood, he grew steadily worse, spending his last fifty-seven days in bed at the hotel and was delirious fourteen of them.

On November 8, 1887, Doc awoke clear-eyed and asked for a glass of whiskey. It was given to him and he drank it down with enjoyment. Then, looking down at his bare feet he said, “This is funny”, and died. He always figured he would be killed with his boots on.

Spending several years in California, Wyatt and Josie spent time with the Earps in San Bernardino and Josie’s family in San Francisco. While in California, Wyatt acted as a referee in boxing matches, continued to gamble, and invested in real estate, saloons and a rracehorse

In 1897 the gold fever broke in Alaska and the couple headed to Nome where they opened a Saloon during the height of the gold rush. The pair also panned for their own gold throughout the Yukon, and did very well. They returned to California 1901 with an estimated $80,000. However, their stay was short-lived when they heard about the gold strike in Tonopah, Nevada.

Taking up prospecting in earnest, Wyatt staked several claims in the Mojave Desert, where he discovered several veins of gold. Near Vidal, California he discovered copper, where the spent winters in a small cottage.

Spending summers in Los Angeles, he befriended several early Hollywood actors and became an advisor for several Hollywood westerns during the silent movie days.

On Jan. 13, 1929 Wyatt Earp died in Los Angeles at the age of 80 of prostate cancer. Cowboy actors Tom Mix and William S. Hart were among his pallbearers. Wyatt’s cremated ashes were buried in Josie’s family plot in Colma, California, just south of San Francisco. When Josie died in 1944, she was buried there beside him.

As to the other Earp brothers, Virgil was taken to the family homestead in Colton, California where he recovered from his wounds suffered at the O.K. Corral. Later he prospected with his wife and, still later, was elected city marshal of Colton. He then returned to prospecting with his wife Allie and died of pneumonia in Goldfield, Nevada in 1905. Virgil is buried in the Riverview Cemetery in Portland, Oregon.

After helping Wyatt in tracking down the Morgan’s killers, Warren served as a stage driver and did some prospecting in Globe, Arizona. He then moved to Wilcox, Arizona and in 1900 got into a drunken fight with a cowboy named Johnny Boyet. Boyet shot and killed Warren, who was unarmed at the time. Boyet was acquitted on grounds of self-defense, the jury believing that even an Earp without a gun was more dangerous than most men with a gun in their hand. He is buried in the Wilcox Pioneer Cemetery in Wilcox, Arizona.

When Morgan was killed, James traveled with Virgil and the Earp women to Colton, California for Morgan’s burial. Later he lived in Shoshone County, Idaho before settling in permanently in California in 1890. James Earp died on January, 25th 1926 and is buried in Mountain View Cemetery, in San Bernardino, California.


© Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated December 2018.

Also See:

Earp Vendetta Ride

The Earps Role in Tombstone

My Friend Wyatt Earp by Bat Masterson

Tombstone – The Town Too Tough to Die

Tales of the Shotgun-Messenger Service by Wyatt Eap

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