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circulated Monday morning, reflected very severely upon our city marshal.
It was stated and quite get [sic] generally credited that it was a put up job
on the part of the city marshal and his assistant, to put the rival candidate for
marshal hors de combat and thus remove an obstacle in the way of the re-
election of the city marshal. These rumors, we say, were quitely largely
credited, notwithstanding their essential improbability and their inconsistency
with the well known character of Mike Meagher, who is noted for his manly
bearing and personal courage. The evidence before the court fully exhonorated
Meagher from the charge of a cowardly conspiracy to mutilate and disable a
rival candidate, but showed that he repeatedly ordered his subordinate to
avoid any personal collision with Smith, and when the encounter took place,
Mike used his utmost endeavor to separate the combatants. If there is any
room to reflect on the marshal, it is that he did not order his subordinate out
of Smith's room as soon as he entered, knowing as he did, that Erp had
fight on the brain. It is well known that in periods of excitement people do
not always act as they would when perfectly collected and unexcited. The
remarks that Smith was said to have made in regard to the marshal sending
for Erp's brothers to put them on the police force furnished no just grounds
for an attack, and upon ordinary occasions we doubt if Erp would have given
them a second thought. The good order of the city was properly vindicated
in the fining and dismissal of Erp. It is but justice to Erp to say he has made
an excellent officer, and hitherto his conduct has been unexceptionable.

At the city election held the day before the Beacon came out
Meagher had defeated Smith for the marshalship. 5 The new city
council, which had also been elected on April 4, met on the 19th
and included among other business the nomination of police offi-
cers. The city clerk recorded the nominations and appointments
in the minute book:

Numerous nominations were made for policeman the vote on Mr. Wyatt
Earp stood 2 for and 6 against.

Mr. R. C. Richey was elected policeman vote standing 6 for and 2 against.
Mr. Dan Parks was also duly elected policeman, vote standing 5 for and 3


against. On motion the vote taken on Mr. Earp was reconsidered the result
of the ballots showing 4 for and 4 against.

On motion of Mr. Walker to defer the appointment of more policemen until
next regular meeting was carried. 6

When the city council met on May 8 it allowed Wyatt Earp $40
for 20 days' work on the force in April. The councilmen also
ordered the committee on jail and police to investigate "the matter
relating to the collection of moneys due the City by persons not
authorized. . . ," 7

On May 10, 1876, the police committee wrote this report:
We the police com. Respectfully submit the following report. That Police-
man L. Rickey be relieved from further duty & that the marshall enforce the
vagrant act in the case of the 2 Earps [Wyatt?, James?, Bessie?], the long
haired man, the man whose trial has been postponed, Sol Woodmancey &
"Red." That the scrip of W. Earp and John Behrens be with-held from pay-
ment until all moneys collected by him for the city be tinned over to the city
treasurer. 8

The city council received the report at its meeting on May 22:

Report of the Police Committee relating to the discharging of policeman
Richey and also to the enforcement of the vagrant act and further recom-
mending that Scrip of W. Earp & John Behrens be with held until all moneys
collected by them for the City be turned over to the City Treasurer was sanc-
tioned and accepted. 9

With that, Wyatt Earp apparently bowed out of Wichita, for no
other contemporary mention was found of him in that place.
Further, on May 24, 1876, the Wichita Weekly Beacon reported:
"Wyatt Erp has been put on the police force at Dodge City/'

Little is known about Wyatt Earp in Dodge during 1876 and
1877. The only 1876 Dodge City newspaper in the files of the
State Historical Society is a single issue of the Times dated October
14. On the first page, in a box labeled "Official Directory," Earp's
name appeared as deputy city marshal. The next issue of this paper
in the Society's files is that of March 24, 1877. Earp was similarly
listed in the directory of this issue as well as in that of March 31.
However, the Times of April 7, 1877, in reporting the proceedings
of the city council meeting of April 4, said the salary of Marshal
Lawrence E. Deger was allowed for March, but no mention was
made of Wyatt Earp.

On July 7, 1877, the Dodge City Times noted:

Wyatt Earp, who was on our city police force last summer, is in town again.
We hope he will accept a position on the force once more. He had a quiet


way of taking the most desperate characters into custody which invariably gave
one the impression that the city was able to enforce her mandates and preserve
her dignity. It wasn't considered policy to draw a gun on Wyatt unless you
got the drop and meant to burn powder without any preliminary talk.

Earp was still in Dodge City two weeks later according to this
article from the Times of July 21, 1877:

. . . Miss Frankie Bell, who wears the belt for superiority in point of
muscular ability, heaped epithets upon the unoffending head of Mr. Earp to
such an extent as to provoke a slap from the ex-officer, besides creating a
disturbance of the quiet and dignity of the city, for which she received a
night's lodging in the dog house and a reception at the police court next
morning, the expense of which was about $20.00. Wyatt Earp was assessed
the lowest limit of the law, one dollar.

The Dodge City papers did not mention Earp again until January
22, 1878, when the Ford County Globe noted that "Wyatt Earp,
our old assistant Marshal, is at Ft. Clark, Texas."

The ex-officer returned to Dodge on May 8, 1878. Said the
Times, May 11 : "MR. WYATT EARP, who has during the past served
with credit on the police arrived in this city from Texas last
Wednesday. We predict that his services as an officer will again
be required this Summer."

By May 14 the Ford County Globe was able to report that
"Wyatt Earp, one of the most efficient officers Dodge ever had, has
just returned from Fort Worth, Texas. He was immediately ap-
pointed Asst. Marshal, by our City dads, much to their credit."

This time Earp served under City Marshal Charles E. Bassett,
appointed to replace Edward J. Masterson who had been killed
on April 9, 1878. Ed's brother, Bat, was sheriff of Ford county
and James H. Kelley served as mayor of Dodge City. Earp's salary
now was $75.00 per month. 10

For the first two months of Wyatt Earp's second tour of duty on
the Dodge City police force the newspapers had little to report
in the way of excitement. On June 11, 1878, the Ford County
Globe felt that "Marshal Earp deserves credit for his endeavors to
stop that *bean business* at the Theatre the other night." On June
18 it stated that "Wyatt Earp is doing his duty as Ass't Marshal in
a very creditable manner. Adding new laurels to his splendid
record every day."

On July 26 Dodge's second fatal shooting within two weeks oc-
curred. The Times reported the affair in these words:





Yesterday morning about 3 o'clock this peaceful suburban city was thrown
into unusual excitement, and the turmoil was all caused by a rantankerous cow
boy who started the mischief by a too free use of his little revolver.

In Dodge City, after dark, the report of a revolver generally means business
and is an indication that somebody is on the war path, therefore when the
noise of this shooting and the yells of excited voices rang out on the midnight
breeze, the sleeping community awoke from their slumbers, listened a while
to the click of the revolver, wondered who was shot this time, and then went
to sleep again. But in the morning many dreaded to hear the result of the
war lest it should be a story of bloodshed and carnage, or of death to some
familiar friend. But in this instance there was an abundance of noise and
smoke, with no very terrible results.

It seems that three or four herders were paying their respects to the city
and its institutions, and as is usually their custom, remained until about 3
o'clock in the morning, when they prepared to return to their camps. They
buckled on their revolvers, which they were not allowed to wear around town,
and mounted their horses, when all at once one of them conceived the idea
that to finish the night's revelry and give the natives due warning of his
departure, he must do some shooting, and forthwith he commenced to bang
away, one of the bullets whizzing into a dance hall near by, causing no little
commotion among the participants in the "dreamy waltz" and quadrille.
Policemen Earp and [James] Masterson made a raid on the shootist who gave
them two or three volleys, but fortunately without effect. The policemen
returned the fire and followed the herders with the intention of arresting them.
The firing then became general, and some rooster who did not exactly under-
stand the situation, perched himself in the window of the dance hall and
indulged in a promiscuous shoot all by himself. The herders rode across the
bridge followed by the officers. A few yards from the bridge one of the
herders fell from his horse from weakness caused by a wound in the arm which
he had received during the fracas. The other herder made good his escape.
The wounded man was properly cared for and his wound, which proved to
be a bad one, was dressed by Dr. [T. L.I McCarty. His name is George Hoy,
and he is rather an intelligent looking young man. 11

Hoy died on August 21, 1878. The Ford County Globe, August
27, said of him:

DIED. On Wednesday last, George Hoy, the young Texan who was
wounded some weeks since in the midnight scrimmage, died from the effects
of his wound. George was apparently rather a good young man, having those
chivalrous qualities, so common to frontiersmen, well developed. He was, at
the time of his death, under a bond of $1,500 for his appearance in Texas on
account of some cattle scrape, wherein he was charged with aiding and
assisting some other men in "rounding up" about 1,000 head of cattle which
were claimed by other parties. He had many friends and no enemies among
Texas men who knew him. George was nothing but a poor cow boy, but his
brother cow-boys permitted him to want for nothing during his illness, and


buried him in grand style when dead, which was very creditable to them.
We have been informed by those who pretend to know, that the deceased,
although under bond for a misdemeanor in Texas, was in no wise a criminal,
and would have been released at the next setting of the court if he had not
been removed by death from its jurisdiction. "Let his faults, if he had any,
be hidden in the grave." 12

Earp may have been one of the policemen who "interfered" in
this melee reported by the Globe, August 20, 1878:

Another shooting affair occurred on the "south side" Saturday night. It
appears that one of the cow boys, becoming intoxicated and quarrelsome,
undertook to take possession of the bar in the Comique. To this the bar
keeper objected and a row ensued. Our policemen interfered and had some
difficulty in handling their man. Several cattle men then engaged in the
broil and in the excitement some of them were bruised on the head with six
shooters. Several shots were accidentally fired which created general con-
fusion among the crowd of persons present. We are glad to chronicle the
fact that none were seriously hurt and nobody shot. We however cannot help
but regret the too ready use of pistols in all rows of such character and would
like to see a greater spirit of harmony exist between our officers and cattle
men so that snarling cayotes and killers could make their own fights without
interesting or draging good men into them.

Early in the morning of October 4, 1878, one James Kennedy
fired two shots into the small frame house occupied by Fannie
Keen an, a vocalist whom the Dodge City Times once described
as a "general favorite" of the town. Miss Keenan, alias Dora Hand,
was killed and within half a day a Dodge City posse was on
Kennedy's trail. Earp was a part of that posse but since its di-
rection properly came under the duties of the sheriff of Ford
county, the full story may be found under W. B. Masterson.

The shooting of Dora Hand and the capture of James Kennedy
was the last excitement in which Earp participated for quite some
time judging from the Dodge City newspapers.

In December, 1878, the city council cut the salaries of the as-
sistant marshal and the single policeman, 13 but on April 9, 1879,
about the time the season's trail herds began to arrive, it more than
restored the cut. The Ford County Globe, April 15, 1879, carried
the following story:


The City Council did a wise thing in endeavoring to wipe out the city in-
debtedness by raising the dram shop license from one hundred to three hundred
dollars. The city has a debt of nearly $3,000 hanging over it. But while the
Council had their eyes on a depleted treasury they also had their attention
called to the large pockets of our police force and City Attorney, to whom they
have allowed an additional amount for their invaluable services. While they


have left the City Marshal's salary at $100, they have raised the salary of
Assistant Marshal and Policeman from $50 to $100 per month, making the
expense of police force $300 per month. . . . When an officer makes an
arrest he is allowed a fee of $2.

The Dodge City Times, in its article on the same subject, April
12, 1879, added: "The revenue derived from fines on gambling
and prostitution, which will be revived next month, will pay the
police force."

The local papers carried no items about arrests made by Earp
until May 24, 1879, when the Dodge City Times reported:

Officers Earp and Jas. Masterson served a writ on a horse drover, out on
Duck Creek, Wednesday, in order to obtain the claim of a darkey against
the drover, for services rendered by the aforesaid colored individual. Seven
brave horse herders stood against the two officers, who, showing no signs of
"weakening," soon obtained satisfaction of the claim, the drover promptly
paying the debt when resistance was no longer available.

On September 5, 1879, some of Dodge's characters engaged in
what the editor of the Globe headlined "A Day of Carnival/' This
is the story:

It was casually observed several times by several old timers last Friday that
Dodge City was redeeming herself. By this remark they intended to convey
the idea that we were extricating ourselves from that stupid lethargy which
had fallen upon us of late, and were giving vent to our uncurbed hilarity
"getting to the booze joint," as it were, in good shape, and "making a ranikaboo
play for ourselves." We speak in the plural number because a large portion
of our community were "to the joint" and we cannot mention the pranks
of each without overlooking some and causing them to feel slighted. The
signal for the tournament to begin was given by a slender young man of
handsome external appearance who regaled his friends with a pail of water.
The water racket was kept up until it merged into the slop racket, then the
potatoe and cucumber racket, and finally the rotten egg racket, with all its
magnificent odors. This was continued until the faces, eyes, noses, mouths
and shirt bosoms of several of the boys were comfortably filled with the juicy
substance of the choicest rotten eggs, compelling them to retire from the
field, which they did in a very warlike manner. As the evening shades began
to appear the skirmishers were soon actively engaged, and at a little before
the usual hour slugging commenced all along the line. One or two "gun plays"
were made, but by reason of a lack of execution, were not effective. We
cannot indulge our readers with a lengthy description of the scenes of this
glorious occasion. It is described by many eye witnesses as being equal to the
famous "Mystery of Gil-Gal," where the inspired poet says:

"They piled the 'stiffs' outside the door,

I reckon there was a cord or more,

And that winter, as a rule,

The girls went alone to spelling-school."

Upon the sidewalks ran streams of the blood of brave men, and the dead
and wounded wrestled with each other like butchered whales on harpooning


day. The "finest work" and neatest polishes were said to have been executed
by Mr. Wyatt Earp, who has been our efficient assistant marshal for the past

The finest specimen of a polished head and ornamented eyes was bestowed
upon "Crazy Horse." It is said that his head presented the appearance of a
clothes basket, and his eyes, like ripe apples, could have been knocked off
with a stick. He was last seen walking up the railroad track, on his way to
Las Vegas. It was not until towards morning that the smoke cleared away,
the din of battle subsided and the bibulous city found a little repose. And
such is life in the far, far west. 14

In the same issue, September 9, the Globe reported that "Mr.
Wyatt Earp, who has been on our police force for several months,
resigned his position last week and took his departure for Las
Vegas, New Mexico." The Globe of September 30 mentioned that
he was still in Las Vegas but by March 30, 1880, he was in Tomb-
stone and said to be a rich man:

We understand that our fellow townsman Mr. Harry Finaty is contemplating
a trip to the Tombstone district of Arizona to look after his interest in a mine
which was recently sold by his partner Mr. Wyatt Earp for thirty thousand
dollars. The mine is called the "Cooper Lode" and is not worked at present
owing to the quantity of foul air that has accumulated in the shaft. . . , 15

Late in November it was reported that Earp had been killed. The
Times reprinted the story and added its own thoughts on the matter
in its issue of November 27, 1880:

It is reported that Wyatt Earp, at one time a policeman in Wichita, but
more recently of Dodge City, was shot and killed on Sand Creek, Colorado,
by Jas. Kennedy, of Texas, a week or two ago. Earp had shot and wounded
Kennedy in the shoulder a year or two since, and meeting at Sand Creek both
pulled their revolvers, but Kennedy got his work in first, killing Earp instantly.
Caldwell Commercial.

The above statement is not believed in Dodge City. Earp is engaged as
a special messenger by Wells, Fargo & Co., on a division of the railroad in
New Mexico. The story looks like a fabrication. Earp was never engaged
in a difficulty with Kennedy. The latter was shot in the shoulder by a posse
of officers at one time in pursuit of him. Earp was not of that party.

By January 18, 1881, Earp was back in Tombstone. The Ford
County Globe wrote: "Wyatt Earp, ex-City Marshal of Dodge City,
and W. H. Harris, C. M. Beeson's partner, are at Tombstone,
Arizona, one of the promising young cities of that Territory."

Within a few months Earp's supposed wealth was mentioned
again. The Globe on October 11, 1881, said that "Wyat Carp [sic],
formerly a policeman in this city, is now one of the wealthy men of
Tombstone. He owns a large portion of the land on which the
town is built, and some valuable mining property."


Two weeks later the famous gunfight at the OK Corral occurred.
The Globe reported the shootout in these words:

A Tombstone, Arizona, dispatch says: Four cow boys, Ike and Billy Clanton
and Frank and Tom McLowery, have been parading the town for several
days, drinking heavily and making themselves obnoxious. On Wednesday
last the city marshal arrested Ike Clanton. Soon after his release the four
met the marshal, his brother Morgan and Wyatt Earp, and a citizen named
Holliday. The marshal ordered them to give up their weapons, when a fight
commenced. About thirty shots were fired rapidly. Both the McLowery boys
were killed. Bill Clanton was mortally wounded, dying soon after. Ike was
slightly wounded in the shoulder. Wyatt Earp was slightly wounded, and the
others were unhurt. 12

On November 8, 1881, the Globe added:

The Earp boys, who had the fight with the cow boys, at Tombstone,
Arizona, which resulted in the killing of three cow boys, have been arrested
by the friends of the men who were killed. The Earp boys were acting as
peace officers, and from all reports were justified in doing what they did.
Wyat Earp was formerly city marshal of Dodge City, and a paper setting forth
his good qualities was circulated last week and signed by all the prominent

Trouble is likely to arise from the recent shooting of cowboys by Marshal
Earp and posse, at Tombstone. Earp to-day telegraphed Gen. Wilcox to send
a company of cavalry to protect him from the cowboys. Wilcox referred
the matter to Acting Governor Gosper and ordered a company of cavalry at
Huachua to be ready to march if required. Sheriff Bedau, of Tombstone, tele-
graphs that everything is quiet there. The examination of the Marshal's
posse is going on with closed doors. A large amount of money has been
raised to assist the prosecution by the friends of the cowboys.

The Times of December 8, 1881, reported Earp's acquittal:

Wyatt Earp, formerly a city marshal in this city, was recently under trial
before a magistrate in Tombstone, Arizona, charged with homicide. Great
interest was taken in trial which lasted four weeks. From the voluminous
testimony taken the Justice makes a long review of the case and discharges
the defendant. The following is an extract from his decision: "In view of
all the facts and circumstances of the case; considering the threats made, the
character and position of the parties, and the tragical results accomplished,
in manner and form as they were, with all surrounding influences bearing upon
the res gestae of the affair, I cannot resist the conclusion that the defendants
were fully justified in committing these homicides; that it was a necessary act,
done in the discharge of an official duty."

An Earp was shot on December 28, 1881, and the incident was re-
ported in the Dodge City Times, January 5, 1882:


A Tombstone, Arizona, dispatch of Dec. 29, to the St. Louis Globe-Democrat
says when the Clanton and McClary gang were shot by the Earps and Doc
Holliday, about six weeks ago, the friends of the cow boys vowed they would


have revenge for what they called the cold-blooded murder of their friends.
Only a fortnight ago, Mayor Glum, of Tombstone, was shot at in a stage near
the city and one bullet grazed his head. Glum was a warm sympathizer with
the Earps, and did much to secure their acquittal at the preliminary examination.
Wednesday night, just before midnight, an attempt was made on the life of
United States Deputy Marshal Earp, as he was crossing the street, between
the Oriental Saloon and the Eagle Brewery. When in the middle of the
street he was fired upon with double-barreled shotguns, loaded with buckshot,
by three men concealed in an unfinished building diagonally across on Allen
street. Five shots were fired in rapid succession. Earp was wounded in the
left arm just above the elbow, producing a longitudinal fracture of the bone.
One shot struck him above the groin, coming out near the spine. The wounds
are very dangerous, and possibly fatal. The men ran through the rear of the
building and escaped in the darkness.

Nineteen shots struck the side of the Eagle Brewery, three going through
the window and one passing about a foot over the heads of some men standing
by a faro-table. The shooting caused the wildest excitement in the town,
where the feeling between the two factions runs high. 17

On an inside page of the same issue, the Times said: "Virgil
Earp, and not Wyatt Earp, was shot at Tombstone. At last accounts
he was resting easy with chances of recovery. The wounded arm
will probably have to be amputated."

In May, 1882, Ed Colborn, a Dodge City attorney visiting in
Gunnison, Colo., wrote the Ford County Globe of an "absorbing"
conversation with Wyatt Earp about the Tombstone business and
Wyatt's somewhat grandiose plans for the future. The Globe
printed Colborn's letter on May 23, 1882:

Online LibraryKansas State Historical SocietyThe Kansas historical quarterly (Volume 26) → online text (page 37 of 59)