One of the most famous lawmen in American history, the story of Wyatt Earp has endured for over a century. He’s inspired movies, songs, and countless touristy reenactments—but who was the man behind the myth? Was he really as great as the stories make him seem? We’ve all heard about his legendary deeds, but there was a chilling darkness to this heroic figure. Dive into the violent history of Wyatt Earp, Tombstone’s infamous marshal.
1. His Dad Was Not a Nice Man
Wyatt Earp was born into a wild family. His parents were Nicholas Earp and Virginia Cooksey, and he was the fourth of eight siblings. His father was, to put it lightly, an unbearable human being. By all accounts, he hated children, and he would explode into profane rants at the smallest amount of backtalk. It’s little wonder that so many of his children went on to rule the Wild West.
2. He Was a Rambling Man
Earp spent almost his entire life on the move—even from the very beginning. Not long after he was born, his foul-mouthed father packed the family up and joined a caravan of people heading west to California. The state offered vast swaths of fertile farmland, and Nicholas hoped to give his family a fresh start. However, though he had the best of intentions, this trip would end in utter tragedy.
3. His Family Suffered a Tragic Loss
A mere 150 miles into their massive trek, Earp’s sister Martha suddenly fell seriously ill. The family had made it as far as Iowa, but Martha was too weak to go any further. Cutting his losses, Nicholas bought a farm near the small town of Pella and the family settled in, hoping that Martha would recover and that they could eventually continue on their journey west. Sadly, it wasn’t meant to be.
Martha never truly recovered from her illness, and a few years after the Earps settled in Iowa, she passed. She was just 11 years old.
4. He Wanted to Fight
The Civil War broke out while the Earps were living in Pella, and three of Wyatt’s brothers enlisted in the Union Army. Wyatt himself desperately wanted to join them, but he was only 13 years old. Still, he tried his best—Earp ran away from home several times to try and enlist, but each time, his cantankerous father tracked him down and hauled him back home.
5. He Started Off on the Wrong Side of the Law
As a young Wyatt Earp grew older, he fell in with a group of roughnecks and criminals. By his mid-20s, he found himself on the wrong side of the law more often than not. Eventually, the authorities caught up with him, and Earp was charged with horse theft. A U.S. Marshall apprehended him and threw him in jail to await trial, but Earp wasn’t about to sit around and wait for his fate.
Not long before his sentencing, Earp escaped from his cell and headed for Peoria, Illinois. But his troubles were far from over…
6. He Lived in a House of Ill Fame
Later, Earp would claim that he spent the following winter out in the wild, hunting buffalo—but in reality, he was just hiding the salacious truth. He was actually living in Peoria, in the home of a woman named Jane Haspel. But this wasn’t your typical lodging house. In February 1872, police raided Haspel’s home and apprehended Earp, his brother Morgan, and four women. The Earps’ were charged with “keeping and being found in a house of ill-fame.” The women’s charges were…slightly different.
7. He May Have Married a 16-Year-Old
Earp quickly became an infamous figure around Peoria—for all the wrong reasons. After getting busted in Haspel’s house of ill-repute a second time, the cops caught him on an infamous love-boat called the Beardstown Gunboat. This time, when he got hauled to jail, a 16-year-old named Sally Heckel was brought in with him. When the police asked her who she was, she made a shocking confession: She claimed she was Earp’s wife!
8. He Was Hated by the Locals
We can’t actually say for sure whether or not Earp actually did marry a 16-year-old working girl, but what’s clear is that people around Peoria considered him to be bad news. He earned the nickname “the Peoria Bummer” and the regular, law-abiding citizens of the town came to hate his guts. He was seen as the figurehead of a certain class of skeezy loafer who made an embarrassment of their otherwise respectable village.
Little did they know, this no-good bum would go on to be one of the most famous lawmen in the history of the Wild West.
9. He Found Work as a Bouncer
Clearly, Earp wasn’t about to win any “Man of the Year” awards in Peoria, so when he heard his brother James was running his own, er, house of ill repute, in Wichita, he saddled up and headed for Kansas tout-suite—with his teenage “bride” in tow, of course. He made a living as his brother’s bouncer/enforcer at first, but it turned out that a frontier town like Wichita provided ample opportunities for a man with his unique talents.
10. He Made a Name For Himself in Wichita
Wichita was an important railroad terminal at the time, and a key stop for rangers driving their cattle up from Texas. The journey was long and hard, and when they finally made it to Wichita, these men, who were almost always armed and dangerous, loved to celebrate with a drink or two…or 10. Unsurprisingly, the lawmen in town needed all the help they could get—and this is where Earp got his first taste of authority.
After helping an off-duty police officer find a group of wagon thieves, Earp joined the marshal’s office soon after. Suddenly, he had a respectable job and a steady paycheck. But still, life as a lawman was anything but simple.
11. He Settled Arguments With His Fists
Earp inherited his father’s wild temper, and it ended up costing him his job in Wichita. In 1876, a former marshal accused him of impropriety—so Earp beat the ever-loving tar out of him. This encounter, plus the allegations of improper conduct, lost Earp his gig with the marshals soon after. So, Earp did what he did best: He left town and went to join his brother somewhere else.
This time, his brother James had set up yet another dingy boarding house in Dodge City, so Earp met up with him there and started all over again.
12. He Met Doc Holliday While on the Hunt for Dirty Dave
Later in 1876, an outlaw by the name of Dirty Dave Rudabaugh stole from the Sante Fe Railroad company and fled south towards Texas. This was an important event in Earp’s life for two reasons: First, the Dodge City marshal’s office made Earp a temporary Deputy U.S. Marshal and set him off to catch Dirty Dave. Second, while on the hunt for the outlaw, Earp came across a notorious gambler who had played cards with Dirty Dave. That gambler’s name was Doc Holliday, and their conversation was the start of Earp’s most important and lasting friendship.
Earp never ended up catching Dirty Dave, but by the time he made it back to Dodge City, the town officially appointed him as an Assistant Marshal. He had a badge once again—but he didn’t keep this one much longer than the first.
13. He Always Managed to Find Trouble
The first meeting of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday was quite short, but the two were fated to cross paths once again. Holliday found himself in Dodge City not long after, and he happened to be playing cards a quiet saloon when a gang of violent cowboys burst in. They’d ridden into town guns blazing, and when they got tired of terrorizing the people there, they went to the saloon to drink. Earp set off in search of the outlaws—unaware of what was waiting for him when he finally found them.
14. He Was Nearly Killed—But Doc Holliday Saved His Life
Wyatt Earp tracked the cowboys to the saloon and stepped inside, only to find several gleaming barrels pointed straight at him. It looked like his number was up—but then, out of the shadows, Doc Holliday stood and held his pistol to the lead cowboy’s head, forcing all of the outlaws to drop their arms. Earp credited Holliday with saving his life that day, and the pair remained close friends for years afterward.
15. He Wasn’t Cut Out for the Simple Life
When Wyatt Earp arrived in Dodge City, it was the epitome of a Wild West frontier town—but things could change very quickly back then. Within just a few years, the town had really begun to settle down, and a shoot-first-ask-questions-later marshal like Earp suddenly found himself extremely out of place. It was right around that time that he received a letter from his brother Virgil, who had recently set-up shop in a new boomtown over in Arizona Territory.
That’s all Earp needed to hear. In 1879, he packed up his things and set off for the most infamous chapter in his life in the brand-new mining town of Tombstone.
16. He Made a Living Playing Cards
Earp planned to make a living by running a stagecoach in Tombstone—but he miscalculated just how fast Tombstone was growing. Even though the town was just nine months old by the time he arrived, it already had two stage lines up and running. With his one idea gone up in flames, Earp fell back on his seedier skills to make ends meet: He spent his early time in Tombstone working as a professional gambler.
This sounds crazy, but we can’t overstate just how much money was crossing tables in the Wild West. For example, when Doc Holliday joined Earp in Tombstone not long after, he brought with him the equivalent of over a million dollars in gambling winnings.
17. He Got a Badge Thanks To…Mules?
Earp didn’t have to live off of gambling winnings for long. Soon after he arrived in Tombstone, his brother Virgil, who was still a U.S. Marshal, hired him to help track down a group of cowboys who had stolen six mules from the Army. The outlaws had created a special brand that turned the “U.S.” markings on the mules into a “D.8.” (pretty clever if you ask me). The Earps didn’t manage to get the mules back, but the job did end up starting a brutal feud that would eventually see many men dead.
18. The Cochise County Cowboys Were His Mortal Enemies
The gang that stole the mules was known as the Cochise County Cowboys. This was their first real run-in with the Earps, but the two factions would end up inextricably linked. After some searching, the Earps found the mules at a ranch owned by one of the Cowboys, as well as the “D.8.” brand. The head of the gang, a man named Frank Patterson, agreed to bring the mules back to town the following day—but in reality, he had something very different in mind.
The next day, the Cowboys showed up in town completely empty-handed, just so they could laugh in the faces of Virgil and Wyatt Earp. They didn’t know it at the time, but they’d just made a fatal mistake.
19. He Saw a Cowboy Kill the Town Marshall
Not long after the mule fiasco, a group of Cowboys got up to no good once again. In the middle of the night, five of the gang, led by the infamous Curly Bill Brocius, stumbled out of a saloon and started firing their revolvers at the moon. The town marshal, Fred White, came out of the woodwork to try and disarm the men—and it was the last thing he ever did.
White grabbed the barrel of Brocius’s revolver, but it went off, striking him in the groin. That’s when Wyatt Earp, who had heard the shooting and come running, arrived on the scene.
20. He Knew How to Take Control of a Situation
Earp took a more direct approach when it came to apprehending Brocius—he simply smashed him over the head with the butt of his pistol. Allegedly, as Brocius fell to the ground, he mournfully cried, “What have I done?”—but it was too late. Fred White succumbed to his wounds not long after. However, in a strange twist, White and Brocius had been somewhat friendly, and in his final moments, White said that Brocius was innocent and should not be held accountable.
But whatever White said, the people of Tombstone loved their marshal—and they were out for blood.
21. He Technically Saved a Cowboy’s Life
Curly Bill Brocius was one of the worst Cochise County Cowboys, but strangely enough, he had Wyatt Earp to thank for his life…for a time at least. As he sat in a Tombstone jail cell, the townsfolk cried for revenge, and he undoubtedly would have been lynched had he stayed there long. But, thanks to White’s call for mercy, Earp quickly had Brocius spirited away to nearby Tuscon.
22. He Let His Enemy Go Free…For Now
Once in Tuscon, Brocius was put on trial for White’s death and found to be not responsible. Now, if you ask me, I’d say he was very responsible, but this was the Wild West, and Brocius was set free. However, though he didn’t know it, the outlaw’s days were numbered. He and Earp would meet again, and next time, their encounter wouldn’t be so friendly.
23. He Lost His Job as Sheriff Almost as Soon as He Got It
Earp eventually rose to the rank of Deputy Sheriff in Tombstone, but it didn’t last long. Wyatt Earp was many things, but a politician wasn’t one of them, and he ended up getting squeezed out for a man named Johnny Behan. Earp and Behan had already crossed paths in Tombstone and held no fond feelings for one another—but once Behan took over as sheriff, their bad blood got a whole lot worse.
24. The Feud Was Bound to Boil Over
Tensions in Tombstone were reaching a fever pitch. They came to a head one night in 1881. Around midnight, Doc Holliday and Ike Clanton got into a wild argument in one of Tombstone’s many saloons. Holliday called Ike a dirty liar—Ike took opposition to that. Eventually, Morgan Earp intervened and broke the two apart, pulling Holliday out into the street.
If Ike Clanton had just left it at that, maybe things would have gone differently. But he was three sheets to the wind, and apparently, he wasn’t quite finished with Holliday just yet…
25. The Cowboys Warned Him That a Fight was Coming
Ike Clanton followed the Earps and Holliday out into the street. Finally, Virgil Earp threatened to throw both of them in jail, and they finally went their separate ways—but the night was still young. Clanton followed Wyatt Earp into yet another saloon, and the outlaw gave the lawman a dire warning: He wasn’t about to forget his beef with Holliday. Rather, the next morning, he planned to end it once and for all.
26. The Earps and Cowboys Played Cards The Night Before the Gunfight
It had been a tense night, but things in the Wild West were a little…strange. After running around the streets of Tombstone in a stupor, arguing and threatening people, Ike Clanton went back to the saloon and met up with Tom McLaury, one of his fellow outlaws. The pair of them then played poker until dawn….with the Sheriff, Johnny Behan, and even weirder, with Virgil Earp himself!
However, playing cards with two of the town’s biggest lawmen didn’t calm Clanton down. When the sun rose, he was still out for blood.
27. Things Were Different in the Wild West
Ike Clanton was still wandering the streets of Tombstone, armed and uttering threats against Doc Holliday, at 1 pm the next day. That’s when Virgil was finally fed up with the antics. He ambushed Clanton and bashed him over the head with his pistol—the trademarked Earp move. He took away Clanton’s revolver and hauled him down to the courthouse for…a $25 fine.
Ok, that doesn’t sound like a lot, but there was more at play here than money. The Earps had crossed one of the most important Cochise County Cowboys—and the notorious gang wasn’t about to let that slide.
28. He Managed to Make a Bad Situation Worse
While Ike was inside the courthouse getting his fine, right out front, Wyatt Earp almost walked straight into Tom McLaury, one of the other Cochise County Cowboys. The two men ended up nose-to-nose, and Earp asked the Cowboy if he was armed. McLaury sneered that he was not, but Earp could clearly see a revolver in the man’s waistband. Apparently, that was not the answer that Earp was looking for.
Earp suddenly drew his own sidearm and, as he was wont to do, hit McLaury over the head with it twice.
29. The Cowboys Were Armed and Out For Blood
Shortly after, three more Cowboys—Ike’s brother Billy, Tom’s brother Frank, and Billy Claiborne—finally showed up in town. As soon as they arrived, they heard that the Earp brothers had spent the morning beating up their brothers. Furious, they set off in search of their comrades. Since they’d come in from the country, they were armed to the teeth, and they didn’t bother to deposit their arms at the hotel, as was required by law.
30. The Earps Didn’t Back Down
Having five angry Cowboys wandering the streets, at least three of whom were armed and dangerous, made Virgil Earp nervous. He decided to take it upon himself to remove their arms by force. He called upon his brothers Wyatt and Morgan, as well as Doc Holliday, and headed across the streets of Tombstone—towards the fated O.K. Corral.
31. The Sheriff Tried to Stop the Gunfight
As the Earps strutted across Tombstone, they came across a frantic Sheriff Johnny Behan. Behan desperately pleaded for them to turn around, crying out, “For God’s sake, don’t go down there or they will murder you!” According to one eyewitness, Virgil Earp coldly looked Behan in the eye and replied, “Those men have made their threats and I will not arrest them…but I will kill them on sight.”
According to Wyatt, Behan then claimed that he had already disarmed the Cowboys (a lie). Still, the Earps decided that they would go and check for themselves.
32. The Most Infamous Day in the Wild West
Despite its name, the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral didn’t actually take place at the O.K. Corral. Rather, it took place in an empty lot a few doors down. The Earps finally confronted the cowboys, and it wasn’t long before the shooting started. Nobody really knows who shot first, but most witnesses generally agreed that the first two shots happened at almost the exact same time. Clearly, both sides were itching for a fight.
By the time the street fell quiet again, the men had fired their weapons 30 times in just 30 seconds.
33. The Man Who Started It All Was the First to Run
In a way, Ike Clanton started all of this by stumbling around and threatening the Earps’ lives to anyone who would listen. How ironic, then, that as soon as the shooting started, Clanton ran forward, grabbed Wyatt Earp by the shoulders, and cried out that he was unarmed and didn’t want to fight. Earp spitefully responded, “Go to fighting or get away,” and Clanton chose the latter.
He sprinted through the doors of a nearby boarding house, leaving his friends—and his own brother—to their grim fate.
34. The Earps Made Out Better Than the Cowboys
When the shooting stopped, Doc Holliday had a horrible bruise from a bullet that grazed his holster. Virgil Earp had been hit in the calf, and Morgan Earp had a wound in each of his shoulders. Only Wyatt remained unhurt. But while the Earps were injured, the Cowboys fared much, much worse. Tom McLaury, Frank McLaury, and Billy Clanton all lay dead in the dust. Billy was only 19 years old.
35. He Gave a Legendary Comeback
As the wounded Earps stumbled away from the empty lot, they came across Johnny Behan once again. The flustered sheriff shouted, “I will have to arrest you!” Wyatt Earp slowed for a moment, turned, looked him in the eye, and simply stated: “I won’t be arrested today. I am right here and am not going away. You have deceived me. You told me these men were disarmed; I went to disarm them.” Mic. Drop.
36. Tombstone Wasn’t Exactly Subtle
Just to give you an idea of what kind of town Tombstone was, the local funeral parlor displayed the bodies of the three Cowboys, including 19-year-old Billy, in their shop window, with a sign that read: “Murdered in the Streets of Tombstone.”
37. The Sheriff Lied to Have the Earps Tossed in Prison
Ike Clanton did everything in his power to have the Earps and Holliday thrown in jail. In his defense, they did kill three men. The judge in the matter took sworn statements from over 30 witnesses. One of them was Wyatt’s mortal enemy, Sheriff Behan, who, the weasel he was, claimed that the Cowboys had been completely innocent. He said they had all thrown up their arms and turned out their coats to show that they were unarmed, but that the vicious Earps had opened fire anyway.
It was a complete lie, but lucky for the Earps, there were plenty of other witnesses poking their heads through windows to see what happened that day.
38. They Got Of Scot-Free…At First
The judge eventually ruled that there wasn’t enough evidence to indict the Earps and Doc Holliday, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t consequences for their actions. Not only had they gained the reputation of cold-blooded killers, but the rest of the Cowboys weren’t going to take the deaths of their friends sitting down. The gang started plotting their revenge—and they would have it before long.
39. Their Actions had Consequences
A couple months after the O.K. Corral, Virgil Earp was suddenly ambushed on the streets of Tombstone. A shotgun blast hit him in the arm and shoulder, seriously maiming him. He didn’t see his attackers, but Ike Clanton’s hat was found on the scene. Wyatt Earp was absolutely livid. He sent a telegram to the U.S. Marshals, asking to be deputized so that he could go and claim revenge.
I’m not sure why, but the Marshals granted his request—they even let him pick his own deputies and gave him as much as $3,000. But still, it wouldn’t be enough to save his other brother, Morgan.
40. The Cowboys Made a Fatal Mistake
The feud between the Earps and the Clantons continued bubbling for months. Wyatt didn’t manage to bring anyone in, and finally, in March, the Cowboys got their ultimate revenge. While Morgan Earp was playing billiards in a saloon, a group of gunmen shot him through the windows from the dark street. One of the bullets struck him in the spine, and he passed 40 minutes later. That’s when Wyatt Earp finally snapped.
41. Wyatt Earp was Out for Blood
On the day his brother Morgan drew his last breath, Wyatt Earp left law and order behind. He lost all faith in civil justice and set about avenging his brother himself. He gathered together a posse of eight men and swore that he would have his revenge on the Cochise County Cowboys. It was the start of the infamous Earp Vendetta Ride, which would claim the lives of several more men before it was finished.
42. They Wanted To Bring Their Brother’s Body to California
Before he could set about getting vengeance, Wyatt had to mournfully deal with his brother Morgan’s remains. Their parents, as well as Morgan’s wife, were in Colton, California, and they wanted to see him one more time before his burial. Wyatt and his posse accompanied Morgan’s remains by train, heading west—but they had no idea what awaited them.
43. The Cowboys Ambushed Them, and Paid a Terrible Price
When the Earps’ grim train arrived in Tuscon, they found several Cochise County Cowboys waiting for them. The outlaws planned to ambush the Earps—but they severely underestimated their opponents. Little record of their encounter exists, but there’s one thing we know for sure: All of Earps’ posse left Tuscon unharmed, while Cowboy Frank Stilwell was found along the train tracks, riddled with holes.
This was the Wild West, sure, but too many bodies were piling up around the Earps. The Tuscon Justice of the Peace indicted Earp and his men, and issued warrants to apprehend them.
44. He Embarrassed Behan Yet Again
The Earps’ warrants made it back to Tombstone before they did. As they walked into town, they came across Johnny Behan with a small posse of his own. Behan had come to take them to jail, but he was no match for the fearsome Earps. Quaking, Behan cried out, “Wyatt I want to see you.” Earp didn’t even stop—and his reply was absolutely legendary.
45. If He’d Had a Mic, He Would Have Dropped It
When Johnny Behan came up to him in front of Tombstone’s Cosmopolitan Hotel, Wyatt Earp didn’t even break stride. He simply turned his head and said, “Johnny, if you’re not careful, you’ll see me once too often.” No one was going to stop Earp from getting vengeance, but especially not Johnny Behan.
46. He Was Cold-Blooded
The Earps chased the remaining Cowboys out into the wilderness. Ironically, one of the men they chased was Curly Bill Brocius, the man whom Wyatt had saved from a lynching little over a year earlier. When the Earps finally caught up with them, yet another gunfight ensued. Curly Bill himself shot directly at Wyatt, but missed by a hair. Wyatt Earp, calm and cool as always, didn’t even flinch.
He returned fire, hitting Curly Bill in the chest from 50 feet away. The infamous Cowboy fell back into a spring that went through the campsite…and never came out.
47. Now the Law was After Them
After the gunfight that claimed the lives of Curly Bill and several other Cowboys, the Earps were satisfied—but they had another problem on their hands. Remember, the Earp Vendetta Ride was completely outside of the law, and you can’t just go around shooting people for the purposes of vengeance. Johnny Behan had assembled his own crew, and he was hot on their trail.
48. They Escaped by the Skin of Their Teeth
Behan’s posse got within eyeshot of the Earps, but never managed to close the gap. Though the Earps had been prepared to stand and fight if it had come to that, Behan’s men never actually found them. The Earps gave them the slip and managed to sneak out of Arizona into New Mexico. Eventually, Behan was forced to give up, and Wyatt Earp got away with his grim justice scot-free.
49. The Feud Was Rather One-Sided
For anyone keeping score, the infamous feud between the Earps and the Cowboys ended with one Earp and seven Cowboys deceased. I’m not great at math, but I’m pretty sure I can figure out who came out on top.
50. His Friendship With Holliday Went up in Flames
The end of the Earp Vendetta Ride was the end of an era—in more ways than one. Not long after leaving Arizona, Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday had a falling out that led to the end of their friendship. They parted ways, and only saw each other twice for the rest of their lives. The final time, just five years later, Earp’s wife Josephine noticed that Holliday was a shell of his former self. He was a hollow, skeleton of a man who coughed constantly and could barely hold himself upright.
51. He Stole His Rival’s Woman
Johnny Behan and Wyatt Earp had at least one thing in common—they shared the same taste in women. When Behan arrived in Tombstone, he brought his wife with him, a working girl named Sadie Mansfield. Most people, however, would know her by a different name: Josephine Earp. It turns out, Sadie found Behan in bed with another woman soon after she arrived in Tombstone, so she kicked him out.
Not long after, townsfolk began to see Sadie spending a lot of time with one Wyatt Earp, who everyone already knew was Behan’s biggest rival. Hey, if Earp couldn’t have Behan’s job, at least he could have Behan’s woman.
52. He Stayed With His Partner for Four Decades
Following his adventures in the Wild West, Earp ended up in San Francisco with Sadie Marcus, who now went by Josephine Earp. They stayed common-law partners for over four decades until Earp’s death. But while they seemingly got their happily ever after, there was just one teensy little problem…
53. He Abandoned His Wife
The thing about Earp’s relationship with Josephine was that he was already married! He wed a working girl named Mattie Blaylock not long after he moved to Tombstone. Granted, the two spent almost no time together, but they were still legally man and wife. In fact, Mattie Blaylock has one of the most tragic tales of all…
54. His Third Wife’s Life Was Heartbreaking
For whatever reason (he wasn’t particularly religious), Wyatt Earp didn’t believe in divorce, so even when Mattie begged him to make their split official, he refused. Furious, she ran off with her new lover anyway, but her problems were only beginning. After her man, a degenerate gambler, abandoned her, Mattie took to working again to make ends meet. Around this time, she also developed a crippling addiction to laudanum, a popular opioid.
Her story ended in 1888, when she took her own life. For his part, it seems as though Wyatt Earp couldn’t have cared less.
55. He Didn’t Exactly Get Along With Josephine
Wyatt Earp spent the rest of his life with Josephine—but they weren’t exactly happy together. Like her partner, Josephine was a gambler and a smoker, something that Earp and his family detested (double standard much?). In Earp’s defense, Josephine received a monthly allowance from a wealthy half-sister, yet she managed to gamble it away almost every month, leaving the couple struggling to put food on the table.
56. He Struggled To Go Straight and Narrow
Wyatt Earp was never really a respectable man, but he struggled more than ever to find honest work in the years following O.K. Corral. It finally seemed like he’d found something in 1896, when he got the nod to referee a highly anticipated boxing match between Bob Fitzsimmons and Tom Sharkey in San Francisco. But of course, nothing Earp ever did could be without controversy…
57. He Was a Crooked Referee
Fitzsimmons completely dominated Sharkey though the entire fight. Then, just before he could land the final punch, Sharkey suddenly dropped the ground, clutching at his groin and calling a foul. Earp immediately called the fight and disqualified Fitzsimmons for an illegal punch—despite the fact that no one in the arena had seen the offending blow. The crowd was absolutely furious, and a wave of boos flooded the stage, but Earp stuck to his decision.
Most people believed that Earp had secretly bet on Sharkey to win and rigged the fight, but no one was able to prove it.
58. His Life Ended in Tinsel Town
Wyatt Earp spent his final days in Los Angeles, working as an unpaid film consultant in Hollywood and trying to get a movie about his life made. After a wild existence of gunfights and barroom brawls, he passed quietly of cystitis at 80 years old. He had outlived every single one of his siblings, and left no children. By that time, he was one of the final relics of the Wild West, and the days of outlaws and gunslingers felt like a distant memory.
59. His Life Could Have Been So Different
Wyatt Earp almost never had the insane life that he lived. By the time he was 21, his family had moved to Lamar, Missouri, and while eking out an existence there, he met a beautiful young woman named Urilla Sutherland. The two fell for each other instantly, and they married within a year of their first meeting. Earp then bought a small plot of land, built a house for his new wife, and she soon became pregnant.
This young family settled into what appeared to be a rather uneventful, domestic life—but of course, as you know, that’s not how Wyatt Earp’s story goes…
60. Tragedy Changed Him Forever
Urilla was about to give birth to the couple’s first child when tragedy truck Earp’s life once again. She contracted the deadly Typhoid fever and passed within a matter of days. Suddenly, Wyatt Earp had everything he loved ripped away from him—and it changed him forever. After that day, he became cold and ruthless. Had his wife lived, the entire history of the Wild West would have been completely different, but apparently, fate had other plans.