My Cousin Wyatt Earp

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By Reba Young

Jonathan Douglas Earp was the younger brother of Wyatt's father, Nicholas Porter Earp. Jonathan was the great-grandfather of Reba Young. She had done extensive research on the Earp family, tracing the line back to the fifteenth century in England. Many were teachers, preachers, and lawyers. Six Earps fought in the Revolutionary War, and many helped in the opening of the West.
Wyatt Earp had many enemies among the early writers. Many untruths were written about him. Stuart Lake, who wrote Frontier Marshall, was one whose work was highly imaginative, not based on facts. One writer who can be relied on is Glenn Boyer.
Born in Monmouth, Illinois, March 19, 1848, Wyatt was the son of Virginia Cooksey Earp and Nicholas Porter Earp. He had four brothers, Jim, Virgil, Morgan, and Warren, and one sister, Adelia. Nick Earp had "itchy feet" and moved often. When Wyatt was two, the family moved to Pella, Iowa. (The home there is now a museum as is the one in Monmouth.) The family later returned to the Monmouth area at the time of the Civil War. Nick Earp and his older sons fought in the Civil War. Wyatt was left to care for his mother and the rest of the family. It was at this time that he was given his first gun, an old muzzle loader, to use for hunting.
In January 1869 Wyatt's family moved to Barton County, Missouri. That same year the trustees of Lamar chose Wyatt to be the first constable. He was 21 years old. He met Eurilla Sutherland, whose parents owned the Exchange Hotel in Lamar. Soon the young couple were married at the hotel by Wyatt's father, who was a justice of the peace. Unfortunately, Eurilla died before they had been married a year. Her grave is in the southeast corner of Howell Cemetery, Barton County, Missouri. Soon after her death, Wyatt and a friend stole two horses and left Lamar.
In 1873 Wyatt was a police officer in Ellsworth, Kansas. Next he was a deputy marshal in Dodge City, Kansas, where he was also a church deacon. Here he married his second wife, Celia Blalock. From Dodge City he went to Tombstone, Arizona, intending to start a stage line. However, there were several lines there, so he joined the police force instead.
Josie, the sheriff's Jewish wife, fell in love with Wyatt. Celia Earp committed suicide, and later Josie and Wyatt were married. They remained together until his death.
The "Fight at the O.K. Corral" actually took place 90 feet west of the corral. The Earps fought the McLaurys and Clantons, who were cattle rustlers. Not an Earp was killed. Later three men shot Virgil in the arm and three months later killed Morgan. Wyatt was given a warrant to kill all three, which he did. The Earps eventually cleared Arizona and the surrounding states of cattle rustlers, but it took eight years.
Wyatt was six feet tall, handsome, with blonde hair and blue eyes. He did not smoke and rarely drank. He was a life-long Republican. He regretted his lack of education. He loved the theater and especially enjoyed Shakespeare.
He served as a body guard for Senator George Hearst, father of William Randolph Hearst. He rode shotgun for Wells-Fargo Express. There was never a holdup while he was on duty. He owned race horses and gambling houses. He also prospected for gold and refereed the Fitzsimmons-Sharkey fight.
On January 13, 1929 he died at the age of 81. His home was then in Los Angeles, California. William S. Hart and Tim Mix were two of his pall bearers. He was buried in Colma, California in a Jewish cemetery. He said, "After I'm gone, I hope I get the peaceful obscurity I have not been able to get in life."

Presented to the Barton County Historical Society at the October 14, 1990 meeting.

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