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Saturday, 14 November 2020

The Harmony Posters


   I had thought to have come to the end of the Harmony poster series, however having watched ‘Living In Harmony’ two nights back I recognized {for the first time} a familiar face behind the bar of the Silver Dollar saloon. Not a poster this time, but a small framed photograph of Wyatt Earp, such as this one.
His full name was Wyatt Berry Stapp Earp 1848 –1929. He was a legendary frontiersman of the American West, who was an itinerant saloonkeeper, gambler, lawman, gunslinger, and confidence man but was perhaps best known for his involvement in the gunfight at the O.K. Corral in1881.

Earp was a lawman and gambler in Cochise County, Arizona Territory, and a deputy marshal in Tombstone. He worked in a wide variety of trades throughout his life and took part in the famous gunfight at the O.K. Corral, during which lawmen killed three outlaw Cochise County Cowboys. He is often erroneously regarded as the central figure in the shootout, although his brother Virgil was the Tombstone City and Deputy U.S. Marshal that day, and had far more experience in combat as a sheriff, constable, marshal, and soldier.
Earp was at different times a professional gambler, teamster, and buffalo hunter. Over his lifetime, he owned several saloons, maintained a brothel, mined for silver and gold, and refereed boxing matches. He spent his early life in Pella, Iowa. In 1870, he married Urilla Sutherland, who contracted typhoid fever and died in childbirth. During the next two years, he was arrested for stealing a horse, escaped from jail, and was sued twice. He was arrested and fined three times in 1872 for “keeping and being found in a house of ill-fame.”

Earp was the fourth of eight children born to Nicholas Earp and his second wife, Virginia Ann Cooksey. His four brothers James, Virgil Morgan and Warren as well as a half-brother Newton, would play integral roles throughout Wyatt’s life. He grew up in Illinois and Iowa but in 1864, toward the end of the American Civil War, his family moved to an area near San Bernardino, California. In 1868 most of the Earps returned to Illinois via the Union Pacific Railroad, on which Wyatt and Virgil lingered to work in what is now Wyoming. The following year Wyatt rejoined his family, which had moved to Lamar, Missouri. There he married in 1870 and was elected local constable. However, following his pregnant wife’s death, he entered a turbulent period, marked by numerous run-ins with the law. Facing allegations of embezzlement, he left Lamar in 1871, and later that year he was arrested for stealing horses in Indian Territory but was never tried; sources differ on whether he escaped from jail or jumped bail. He eventually settled in Peoria, Illinois, where he was arrested for various offences, most of which concerned his involvement with brothels. After moving to Wichita, Kansas, in 1874, he continued to work in prostitution establishments most likely as a bouncer and was again arrested on several occasions. However, he later worked as a police officer, first in Wichita, later in Dodge City, before heading off to the gold rush in the Black Hills He then returned to Dodge City as assistant marshal, and there he became noted as both a lawman and a gambler. During this time he befriended such gunmen as Doc Holliday and Bat Masterson.    

Leaving Dodge City, he went to New Mexico Territory and then California, working for a time as a Wells Fargo guard. In 1879 he moved to the Wild West town of Tombstone, Arizona Territory, where most of the Earp family had congregated, buying real estate and businesses. Wyatt became a gambler and a guard in a saloon, and his brother Virgil became town marshal.
By 1881 a feud had developed between the Earps and an outlaw gang led by Ike Clanton. The conflict resulted in the celebrated gunfight at the O.K. Corral October 26th 1881, pitting the Clanton gang against three Earp brothers Virgil, Wyatt, and Morgan and Doc Holliday. Three of the outlaws were killed, but Ike and another member escaped. Although the shoot-out, which allegedly lasted only 30 seconds, later made Wyatt famous, various reports indicate that Virgil played a more central role. The gunfight, however, failed to end the feud. In December 1881 Virgil was ambushed allegedly by Clanton and his colleagues though he survived his gunshot wounds. However, in March 1882 Morgan was fatally shot while playing billiards. Looking for revenge, Wyatt, his brother Warren, and some friends went in search of the assailants and subsequently killed at least two suspects, including Frank Stilwell. Wyatt was accused of murder, and he fled, moving first to Colorado, then to several boomtowns in the West, and eventually to California. He settled there, where he supported himself variously by police work, gambling, mining, and real-estate deals.

By 1874, he arrived in the boomtown of Wichita, Kansas, where his reputed wife opened a brothel. On April 21st 1875, he was appointed to the Wichita police force and developed a solid reputation as a lawman, but he was fined and dismissed from the force after getting into a fistfight with a political opponent of his boss. Earp immediately left Wichita, following his brother James to Dodge City, Kansas, where he became an assistant city marshal. In the winter of 1878, he went to Texas to track down an outlaw, and he met John "Doc" Holliday, whom Earp credited with saving his life.
After leaving Tombstone, he went to San Francisco where he reunited with Josephine Marcus, and she became his common-law wife. They joined a gold rush to Eagle City, Idaho, where they owned mining interests and a saloon. They left to race horses and open a saloon during a real estate boom in San Diego, California. Back in San Francisco, Wyatt raced horses again, but his reputation suffered irreparably when he refereed the Fitzsimmons vs. Sharkey boxing match and called a foul which led many to believe that he fixed the fight. They moved briefly to Yuma, Arizona, before joining the Nome Gold Rush in 1899. He and Charlie Hoxie paid $1,500 {about $46,000 today} for a liquor license to open a two-story saloon called the Dexter and made an estimated $80,000 {or about $2,459,000 today}. The couple left Alaska and opened another saloon in Tonopah, Nevada, the site of a new gold find. Around 1911, Earp began working several mining claims in Vidal, California, retiring in the hot summers with Josephine to Los Angeles. He made friends among early Western actors in Hollywood and tried to get his story told, but he was portrayed only very briefly in one film produced during his lifetime: Wild Bill Hickok {1923}.

Wyatt Earp died on January 13th 1929 one of his pall bearers was the famous film star of the day Tom Mix. Long after his death, he still retains many devoted fans and admirers. His modern-day reputation is that he was one of the Old West's toughest and deadliest gunmen.

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