Friday, May 12, 2017

Wyatt Earp -- In The News 1870 to 1880

Wyatt Earp

In a recent post, I talked about how Wyatt Earp really became know on a national level as a result of him becoming the center of controversy in the fixed Fitzsimmons vs Sharkey Heavyweight Championship Boxing Match in 1896.

As I stated in my other article, Wyatt Earp -- Not Mentioned OK Corral Gunfight Reports, "he wasn't very well known until he took part in the fixing of the Fitzsimmons vs Sharkey Heavyweight Championship Fight in 1896. Fact is, during the post-fight investigation, Earp's wrongdoing as an accomplice in fixing that fight made him famous -- if not infamous."

Now that's not to say that he wasn't mentioned in a newspaper here and there before that, he was just not the center of attention. On a national level, in nationally syndicated stories, the Fitzsimmons vs Sharkey Heavyweight Championship Fight made him the center of attention from coast to coast. Not as a lawman, but as a desperadoes, a con artist, and crook.

After that prizefight, Wyatt Earp was in all sorts of articles connected to that prizefight. There were articles about his shady past, his arrests as a horse thieve and a pimp, his arrest for carrying a concealed weapon without a permit in San Francisco, and even articles about how he was picked to referee the fight, as well as an article talking about his having to appear in a San Francisco court which ultimately declared him a penniless vagrant incapable of paying any imposed fines.

In the article Wyatt Earp -- Not Mentioned OK Corral Gunfight Reports, I looked at how Wyatt Earp was hardly even mentioned in accounts of what took place at that lot near the OK Corral. Below are a few examples of Wyatt Earp appearing in newspaper articles before the OK Corral:

South-West Missourian, June 16, 1870 -- "One of our citizens had a brother from a distance call to see him on Monday last . . . they started . . . to have a good time . . . . Taking aboard a good supply of 'forty rod,' . . . Constable Earp found one of them . . . incapable of taking care of himself and took him down to the stone house . . . . As Mr. Earp was turning the key . . . the other came staggering up enquiring for his brother. Mr. Earp opened the door and slid hm in. . . . Mr. Earp met another hard case . . . a tramping butcher, who asked Mr. Earp to purchase him a pencil in place of one he alleged Mr. Earp had borrowed . . . he shared the same fate of the other two." 

Wichita Beacon, December 15, 1876 -- "On last Wednesday Policeman Erp found a stranger lyning near the bridge in a drunken stupor. He took him to the 'cooler' and on searching him found in the neighborhood of $500 on his person. He was taken next morning before his honor, the police judge, paid his fine for his fun like a little man and went on his way rejoicing. He may congratulate himself that his lines, while he was drunk. were cast in such a pleasant place as Wichita as there are but a few other places where that $500 roll would ever had been heard from. The integrity of our police force has never been seriously questioned." 

Wichita Beacon, Janaury 12, 1876 -- "Last Sunday night, while policeman Erp was sitting with two or three others in the back room of the Custom House saloon, his revolver slipped from his holster and in falling to the floor the hammer which rested on the cap, is supposed to have struck the chair, causing a discharge of one of the barrels. The ball passed through his coat, struck the north wall then glanced off and passed out through the ceiling. It was a narrow escape and the occurence got up a lively stampede from the room. One of the demoralized was under the impression that some one had fired through the window from the outside."

A June 8th, 1878 article in the Dodge City Times mentions the salary of that city's police department. Along with others on the department, Earp is mentioned as being paid $75 a month as Assistant City Marshal to Charlie Bassett who was the City Marshal. Bassett is listed as making $100 a month.

From that article, the things that I found interesting is that it was only a four man police department. The two others listed as policemen on the force were John Brown and Charles Trask. Surprisingly John Brown made the same salary as Earp did even though Earp was listed as the Assistant City Marshal. Charles Trask is listed as making $52.50. And no, I don't know why such an odd amount.

Tombstone Daily Epitaph, July 29, 1880 -- "The appointment of Wyatt Earp as Deputy Sheriff, by Sheriff Shibell, is an eminently proper one, and we, in common with the citizens generally, congratulate the latter on his election. Wyatt has filled various positions in which bravery and determination were requisites, and in every instance proved himself the right man in the right place. He is a present filling the position of shotgun messenger for Wells, Fargo & Co., which he will resign to accept the later appointment."

Tombstone Daily Epitaph, October 31, 1880 -- "From Deputy Sheriff Earp we learn that the man who killed Marshal White is an old offender against the law. Within the past few years he stopped a stage in El Paso County, Texas, killing one man and dangerously wounding another. He was tried and sentenced to ten years in the penitentiary, but managed to make his escape shortly after being incarcerated. The facts leaked out in this way: On the road to Tucson, Byoscins (sic) asked Earp where he could get a good lawyer. Earp suggested that Hereford & Zabriske were considered a good firm. Broscins (sic) said that he didn't want Zabriskie, as he had prosecuted him once in Texas. Inquiry on the part of Earp developed the above state of facts." 

As for those newspaper articles regarding the shootout at the OK Corral where Wyatt Earp was mentioned in The Salt Lake Herald, October 28th, 1881, in a small article entitled Battle with Cowboys on page 2 near the bottom stated "Wyatt Earp was wounded slightly" -- which of course we know he wasn't.
All misspellings and errors were not corrected for these articles.

Tom Correa

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