Thursday, November 6, 2014

Warren Earp -- A Young Bully Died Young

Warren Baxter Earp was born on March 9th, 1855 and died on July 6th, 1900. He was the youngest brother of Newton, James, Virgil, Wyatt, and Morgan Earp.

Warren was born in Pella, Iowa. And yes, like Wyatt and Morgan, Warren was too young to take part in the American Civil War with his older brothers Newton, James, and Virgil.

Warren was the youngest of the Earp brothers and was actually 18 years younger than his half-brother Newton -- who was the oldest from his father's first marriage.

Warren joined his brothers in Tombstone, Arizona in 1880. Like Wyatt, warren too worked as a bartender but occasionally was a deputy for Virgil. He is said to have helped full time deputy Morgan by collecting taxes and as a periodic guard duty.

Disenchanted with the dismal surrounding and lack of silver in Tombstone by 1880, Warren returned to California.

Besides Virgil and Morgan in law enforcement, James and Wyatt were bartenders and ran Faro concession. As a Deputy U.S. Marshal, Virgil Earp was sent to Tombstone to put an end to the rustlers known as the "cow boys" who were implicated in ongoing livestock thefts from across the Mexican border. The so-called "cow boys" were headed by the Clantons.

Almost as soon as Wyatt arrived, he wanted the County Sheriff's position there. Besides a salary and bonus for every arrest, the County Sheriff was also the tax collector and kept 10% of the taxes collected.

Wyatt became involved with the Clantons after he made a political deal to step out of the race for County Sheriff. The Clantons had promised him the position of County Under-Sheriff and made him a lucrative officer to get a percentage of the county taxes that were collected. The deal fell through and Wyatt felt betrayed. Soon more conflicts arose and the Clantons threatened the Earps. This all came to a head at the now famous gunfight at the O.K. Corral.

Warren was at his parents' home in Colton, California at the time of the now famous gunfight at the O.K. Corral on October 26, 1881.

After the OK Corral, the cow-boys wanted revenge really no different than Wyatt would want revenge later on the cow-boys. Of course in the long run, both sides didn't win as everyone got either shot up, killed, or ended up running from the law as in Wyatt's case.

Right after the OK Corral gunfight, though the Earps thought it safer to circle the wagons and live together at to the Cosmopolitan Hotel after the gunfight, the mutual support and protection of the hotel only helped so much. Because he was still city marshal, Virgil still had duties such as shaking the doors of businesses to see that they were locked for the night.

Two months after the gunfight in December 1881, City Marshal Virgil Earp was seriously wounded in an assassination attempt that left him with a permanently crippled left arm. It happened at about 11:30pm on December 28th, 1881, three men hidden in the upper story of an unfinished building across Allen street from the hotel ambushed Virgil from behind as he walked from the Oriental Saloon to his room.

Virgil was hit in the back and left arm by three loads of double-barreled buckshot from about 60 feet away. Believe it or not, even the Crystal Palace Saloon and the Eagle Brewery beyond Virgil were struck by nineteen shots, three passed through the window and one about a foot over the heads of some men standing by a faro-table.

George Parsons wrote that he heard "four shots in quick succession." Critically wounded, Virgil staggered into the hotel.

Dr. George E. Goodfellow removed 4 inches of shattered humerus bone from Virgil's left arm, leaving his arm permanently crippled. Dr. Goodfellow removed twenty buckshot from his side. And while the doctor worked on his arm and side, Virgil told his wife Allie, "Never mind, I've got one arm left to hug you with."

What many might not realize is that Virgil Earp was also shot through the back above the hip. Some of the shot from his would-be assassins penetrated his body and lodged near his hip bone above his groin.

After the attempt on Virgil's life, Wyatt wrote to the U.S. Marshal on December 29, 1881, stating:

"Virgil Earp was shot by concealed assassins last night. His wounds are fatal. Telegraph me appointment with power to appoint deputies. Local authorities are doing nothing. The lives of other citizens are threatened. Wyatt Earp"

Wyatt was immediately appointed a Deputy U.S. Marshal with the authority to arrest the perpetrators of the attempted murder of Virgil Earp. Using Morgan as his number one source of information, they searched for the perpetrators of Virgil's shooting. Many might not realize that Morgan had a great deal of experience in law enforcement. He was certainly no rookie.

In 1875, Morgan left the Earp clan living in Wichita, Kansas, and became a deputy marshal under Charlie Bassett at Dodge City. In late 1877, Morgan took his common-law wife Louisa A. Houston to Montana, where they lived until March, 1880. And yes, there too he was a lawman.

Months after the shootout at the OK Corral, on February 1882, Morgan's concern of the danger was at a point where he feared for the safety of his common-law wife Louisa Houstin Earp. This was so much so that he put her on a train and sent her to his parents home in Colton, California. No, she wasn't in Tombstone when he was killed.

Instead of leaving with her, Morgan chose to remain in Tombstone as Virgil's deputy. Though recuperating, Virgil was still Tombstone's Chief of Police and Morgan was still his deputy. After his shooting, Virgil spent the next three months recuperating in bed. He was just starting to get back on his feet when his younger brother Morgan was ambushed and killed..

Morgan's assassination took place on Saturday, March 18th, 1882, after returning from a musical at Schieffelin Hall, Morgan wanted to play billiards at the Campbell & Hatch Billiard Parlor against owner Bob Hatch. His brother Wyatt and friends Dan Tipton and Sherman McMaster were there at 10:50 p.m. when Morgan was ambushed and shot to death.

Although Warren was not there during the now famous gunfight at the O.K. Corral, he joined his brothers James and Wyatt in Tombstone after Morgan was murdered. When Warren returned to Tombstone, he was immediately deputized by Wyatt who just received his appointment as a Deputy U.S. Marshall.

On March 19th, 1882, Warren joined his brothers Wyatt and James to accompany Morgan's body to Benson, where it was loaded aboard a freight train for California. Morgan was being transported to the Earp family home in Colton, California. It was neither safe nor practical because of Virgil's injuries to transport him and his wife Allie out of Tombstone at the same time as Morgan.

A day later on March 20th, Wyatt, Warren and their posse guarded Virgil and Allie as they were traveled to Tucson to catch a train for California. Actually, Virgil and Allie left Tombstone under heavy guard. They were escorted by Wyatt and deputies Warren Earp, Doc Holliday, Sherman McMaster, and "Turkey Creek" Jack Johnson.

Wyatt reported later that he received word in the town of Contention that Ike Clanton, Frank Stilwell, Hank Swilling, and another were watching the passenger trains in Tucson with the aim to kill Virgil. No one told Wyatt that Ike Clanton and Frank Stillwell were ordered to Tucson to appear in from of the Grand Jury there. But frankly, I think even if they did know, I don't think it would've mattered to Wyatt and the rest. They were in a killing mood.

The Earp group drove two wagons to the New Mexico and Arizona Railroad terminal 25 miles away in Benson and boarded the train to Tucson. It is said that Virgil was so weak that he had to be carried up the steps of the train.

Wyatt and his deputies had initially planned to travel only as far as Benson, but that changed when they learned that Frank Stilwell and others were looking for Virgil. Because of that, they remained with Virgil and Allie through to Tucson.

While the posse guarding them was well armed with pistols, rifles and shotguns, it is said that so was Virgil's wife Allie who wore Virgil's pistol belt during the journey. Yes, just in case she needed it.

Virgil told the San Francisco Examiner two months later that upon getting off the train in Tucson:

"Almost the first men we met on the platform there were Stilwell and his friends, armed to the teeth. They fell back into the crowd as soon as they saw I had an escort, and the boys took me to the hotel to supper."

Guarded by his brothers Wyatt and Warren and the likes of deputies Doc Holliday, Sherman McMaster, and "Turkey Creek" Jack Johnson, Virgil and Allie had dinner at Porter's Hotel in Tucson. Afterwards, they were helped aboard the train for California. And once they were safely seated, the posse kept a watch for any attempts on their lives.

It was reported that as Virgil and Allie's train was pulling out of Tucson on its way to California, people reported that gunfire was heard.

As with any crime scene, witnesses gave contradictory accounts about the number of men or the number of shots fired. And yes, that was no different as a number of armed men were seen near the tracks and a number of shots were fired. As for the men, no one could be positively identified because of the dark. As for the shots, who knows what was really heard that night.

Wyatt said later that he and his deputies spotted Frank Stilwell and another man believed to be Ike Clanton armed with shotguns lying on a flatcar about to ambush Virgil and his wife.

Wyatt, quoted in the Denver Republican, said:

"I ran straight for Stilwell. It was he who killed my brother. What a coward he was! He couldn't shoot when I came near him. He stood there helpless and trembling for his life. As I rushed upon him he put out his hands and clutched at my shotgun. I let go both barrels, and he tumbled down dead and mangled at my feet."

It is believed that when Wyatt and his men approached, the two men ran. Some believe that Stilwell may have stumbled or had been wounded which allowed for Wyatt and his posse to reach him.

Wyatt later said that he shot Stilwell as Stilwell attempted to push the barrel of Earp's shotgun away. He later said that Stilwell cried "Morg!" before he was killed. There are definite inconsistencies with Wyatt's story.

For one thing, Frank Stilwell's body was riddled with buckshot from two shotgun rounds, one in his leg and the second in his chest with powder burns which meant at very close range. Second, as for all of the shots heard, well Stilwell was also shot four times with a pistol because four bullet wounds were found besides just the shotgun wounds. I believe he was also shot with a rifle. Either way, the Coroner later reported that he was shot with 5 different caliber weapons.

The other shady part about Wyatt and the others killing Stilwell was that they were Deputy U.S. Marshals. They had badges and warrants. So why flee the scene after they just killed a supposed outlaw like Stilwell? That's not what lawmen do.

It is a fact that when the Tucson Sheriff learned who was responsible for Stilwell's death, knowing of the circumstances and the fact that they fled the scene to get away, lawmen or not, County Justice of the Peace Charles Meyer issued warrants for the arrest of Wyatt and Warren Earp, Doc Holliday, "Turkey Creek" Jack Johnson, Sherman McMaster, and Dan Tipton for the murder of one Frank Stilwell.

After killing Stilwell, the Earp posse which now turned outlaws wearing badges returned to Tombstone where Cochise County Sheriff Johnny Behan found the men in the lobby of the Cosmopolitan Hotel, heavily armed, but getting ready to leave town. Supposedly John Behan told Wyatt that he wanted to see him. Wyatt supposedly replied: "Johnny, if you're not careful you'll see me once too often."

On that Friday, the Tucson Grand Jury returned indictments for the murder of Frank Stillwell naming Wyatt and Warren Earp, Doc Holliday, "Turkey Creek" Jack Johnson, Sherman McMaster, and Dan Tipton, as the alleged perpetrators.

While usually not talked about as part of what has become known as "Wyatt Earp's Vendetta," Warren Earp did in fact ride with his brother Wyatt to hunt down those believed responsible for killing Morgan and the attempted murder of Virgil.

Following the vendetta ride, Warren left Arizona for a time. But then, supposedly he returned in 1891 where he found work as a mail stage driver on the route between Willcox and Fort Grant. And no, I haven't been able to verify that.

Some speculate that he may have even worked briefly as a supposed "Range Detective" for rancher Henry Hooker in Cochise County, Arizona. But again, that's someone's speculation. And while that is speculation, it is known that after the vendetta Warren gained a reputation as a bully who was always playing off of the reputation of his older brothers Virgil and Wyatt.

His brother Virgil was sure Warren's temper would get him killed. We know this from a statement that Virgil made. It was a statement that Virgil made when he was reunited in 1898 with his first wife Ellen and daughter Nellie who had been told he had been killed in the Civil War.

They visited twice, and Nellie told the newspaper The Oregonian that during their visit:

"My father said then, 'If Warren ever dies he will be shot. He is too hasty, quick-tempered and too ready to pick a quarrel. Besides he will not let bygones be bygones, and on that account, I expect that he will meet a violent death.'"

On July 6, 1900, Warren became involved in an argument with Hooker's range boss, Johnny Boyett, inside Brown's Saloon in Willcox.

And yes, there are some who question the relationship between Warren Earp and Johnny Boyett. Some say that Warren Earp and Johnny Boyett were supposedly gay-lovers and had been publicly arguing about their relationship. Others say that they argued over their affections for the same woman, who was possibly a local prostitute.

The Tombstone Epitaph says that the incident began out of Warren Earp's constant bullying of Boyett.

Later that night, the two men, both drunk, began arguing. Bystanders said they "never heard any man take such abuse."

Warren Earp is alleged to have said "Boyett, get your gun and we'll settle this right here. I've got mine, go and get yours".

With that Boyett left, and returned shortly thereafter with a brace of pistols. Supposedly he was carrying two .45 caliber Colts. And yes, that's when it got bad quick.

Boyett called out for Earp, who walked in from another doorway. Immediately upon seeing Earp, Boyett fired two rounds -- but both missed. And no, unlike television and the movies, this wasn't unusual for a man to crank off a couple of rounds and not hit his intended target.

Earp is said to have been relatively calm, considering someone just shot at him, and stepped slowly outside of the saloon onto the street. The whole while without producing a weapon. Boyett seeing Warren Earp stepping toward him fired two more rounds. And yes, missing again with both.

It is said that Warren Earp's was not the usual hard as nails talker that he was known to be as he walked towards Boyett, opened his coat and vest, saying. "I have not got arms. You have a good deal the best of this".

Earp continued walking toward Boyett, calmly talking the entire time. After Boyett warned him several times to halt, Boyett appearing slightly frightened. Then when Warren Earp did not stop, Boyett lifted a single pistol and fired a fifth round. This time the round slammed Earp in the chest, killing him almost instantly.

Believe it or not, Boyett claimed that he feared for his life. He said that by allowing Warren Earp to get too close, he believed his life was in danger. Warren Earp did not have a pistol, but he did have a small opened pocket knife in his fist.

No arrest was made.immediately after the shooting. In those days, a threat was enough to justify a man getting a gun and "defending himself" against a known bad man.

Later, Johnny Boyett was arrested for the shooting. The coroner's inquest confirmed that he killed Earp, but frankly no one needed an inquest to know what took place. Yes, supposedly there were all sorts of witnesses to the event -- as well as what preceded it. .

While some, like the person who wrote the article above in 1900 believed that Boyett killed Warren Earp as some sort of retribution on the part of the "Cowboys" of the Tombstone days, there is no evidence to support that theory.

It is widely accepted that Johnny Boyett took Warren Earp's threats serious and killed him before he himself would be killed.

The Tombstone Epitaph reported the following on July 9, 1900:

"Warren Earp, the youngest of the four Earp brothers whose names twenty years ago were synonymous with gun fighting on the Arizona frontier, "died with his boots on" here.

He was shot through, the heart in a saloon by Cowboy Johnny Boyett, and died almost Instantly.

The shooting occurred early in the morning and grew out of a feud that had existed between the two men ever since the bloody fights between the Earp's and Arizona cattle rustler about Tombstone In the early eighties [1880s].

Earp had habitually bullied Boyett for months past, and the latter always tried to avoid a quarrel. A few days ago Earp cornered Boyett in a saloon, and, pressing a revolver against Boyett's stomach, made him promise that if they ever quarreled again the one should kill the other.

The two men met in a restaurant and Earp began his abuse. Boyett went Into an adjoining saloon, followed by Earp. The latter said: "Boyett, go get your gun and we'll settle the matter right here. I've got my gun; go get yours."

Boyett was willing and agreed to return in a few moments and fight it out. Earp also left the saloon. Boyett returned very soon and finding Earp gone warned all loungers in the saloon to clear out, emphasizing his warning by shooting into the ceiling. Earp shortly appeared through a back door.

He started toward Boyett, throwing open his coat and saying: "Boyett, I am unarmed; you have the best of this," advancing as spoke. Boyett warned him not to come nearer, but Earp did not heed the words, and when within eight feet Boyett fired, shooting Earp through the heart and killing him instantly.

Warren Earp was the youngest brother of the Earp family. He was well known by Uncle-Sheriff Paul of Tucson, who was Sheriff of Pima county in the eighties when trouble occurred between the Earps and the Clanton gang.

Earp came to this country about the time of the beginning of the feud from Colton, Cal. He was one of the original brothers and took an active part in their fights after he arrived. Morgan Earp was killed In 1883 In Bob Hatch's saloon in Tombstone, being shot from the back as he was playing billiards. Virgil Earp later was shot in the arm and seriously wounded and the killing of Frank Stilwell occurred

In Tucson not long after, when he attempted to shoot Virgil through a car window. Stilwell was shot by Wyatt Earp. Warren came here when his brothers got into trouble at Tombstone with the Clanton gang and he has remained here since. He was driving stage from Willcox to Fort Grant and had done freighting."

Another newspaper reported on Jul 7, 1900:

Warren Earp killed in Arizona

Warren Earp, the youngest of the famous clan of gun fighting brothers, is murdered in an Arizona saloon.

icholas and Virginia Earp raised a family of five sons and four daughters on a series of farms in Illinois and Iowa. Three of the Earps' sons grew up to win lasting infamy. On October 26, 1881, Wyatt, Virgil, and Morgan Earp fought a brief shoot-out with the Clantons and McLaurys in Tombstone, Arizona.

The Earp brothers, along with their friend Doc Holliday, managed to kill all three of their opponents. The gun battle—which was named after a nearby livery stable called the O.K. Corral—later became a favorite topic of sensationalistic dime novel writers and moviemakers. Ever since, Wyatt, Virgil, and Morgan have been icons of the Old West.

The youngest Earp brother, however, did not share in the fame of his older brothers. Warren Earp was probably in Tombstone on the day of the famous gunfight, but for reasons that remain unclear, Warren did not join in the gunfight (the eldest Earp brother, James, did not participate either).

Warren, however, was involved in the bloody series of revenge killings that followed the shoot-out.

Within six months of the first gunfight, Morgan Earp was assassinated and Virgil Earp was badly wounded. Wyatt presumed the Clantons and McLaurys were behind the attacks.

Determined to strike back, Wyatt turned for help to his little brother, Warren. Together with Doc Holliday, the two brothers took their vengeance, killing two men suspected of having been behind Morgan's murderer.

In danger now of being arrested for murder, the three men fled to Colorado.

After he parted ways with Wyatt in Colorado, the record of Warren's life becomes obscure. He apparently traveled around the West for several years before finally returning to Arizona.

On this day in 1900, Warren reportedly had too much to drink at the Headquarters Saloon in Willcox, Arizona. He began to abuse some of the customers, and a man named John Boyett killed him in a gunfight. Later,

Boyett was tried for murder and found innocent on the grounds that he had acted in self-defense."

It is said that Johnny Boyett sought protection from the local sheriff because he feared retribution from Virgil Earp.

Lynn R. Baily, the daughter of rancher Henry Hooker, wrote in Henry Clay Hooker and the Sierra Bonita that:

"Virgil Earp sneaked into Willcox under an assumed name, checked into the hotel near Brown's Saloon, and began interviewing witnesses. He concluded his brother's death was "cold blooded murder even if Warren was drunk and abusive at the time."

Boyett returned to work on Hooker's ranch, staying out of Willcox for a long period of time. 

Johnny Boyett had worked with Warren Earp on Hooker's ranch. Their relationship was a poor one with Boyett seemingly always being the target of abuse, threats, and intimidation from Warren Earp who seem to believe that he could get away with such nonsense because his name was Earp..

While Warren Earp has been described as "quarrelsome, especially when drunk, and sobriety was not one of his virtues," in contrast Johnny Boyett had a quiet and reserved reputation and was respected by most of those who knew him as a good honest hardworking man.

Boyett was put to the test that night in 1900 when just a two days earlier all the hands from the Sierra Bonita Ranch and the Hooker's Hot Springs ranches went to Willcox for the Independence Day celebration there.

He probably had no idea that his life would be etched in Old West history for killing Warren Earp in a gunfight of sorts at the Headquarters Saloon on the 6th of July. A gunfight where a knife was actually brought to a gunfight.

It was later falsely reported that the Earps avenged Warren's death by killing Boyett, but that is only a myth. Fact is Johnny Boyett eventually retired and lived in Redlands, California. He died on a trip home to Texas on December 16th, 1919, at 57 years of age.

Warren Earp was buried in Willcox at the Pioneer Cemetery. It is said that Warren Earp was buried the day after the shooting without a single mourner present. Not missed by many there, most saw Warren Earp's death as good riddance.

His death is said to have marked the end of the infamous history of the Earps in Arizona.

Tom Correa


  1. Finally a real story of the Earps and the crowd of the west I found it written extremely well and very detailed I learned a great deal. historically correct well done 2017 January

  2. Very well written, I enjoyed reading this story.


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