Wyatt Earp History Page

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 Arrests Curly Bill After Tombstone
Marshal Fred White Is Shot

    Just after midnight on October 28, 1880, shots rang out in the streets of Tombstone.  Marshal Fred White quickly responded to the disturbance. Wyatt Earp, who was a deputy sheriff, also responded.  Fred White encountered a man near the back of a building and ordered him to surrender his pistol.  The man slowly removed his pistol from its holster. Suddenly Fred White grabbed the pistol as Wyatt Earp wrapped his arms around the man. The gun discharged striking White in the groin area.  Wyatt knocked the man down and took his weapon.

    Wyatt swore out a complaint for assault with intent to murder. The prisoner gave his name as William Brocius and claimed that he was from the San Simon area.  The initial newspaper account did not mention Brocius nickame - Curly Bill.   The Epitaph printed the following article:

"About 12:30 last night a series of pistol shots startled the late goers on the streets, and visions of funerals, etc., flitted through the brain of the Epitaph local, and the result proved that his surmises were correct.  The result in a few words is as follows: A lot of Texas cow boys, as they are called, began firing at the moon and stars on Allen street near Sixth, City Marshal White, who happened to be in the neighborhood, interfered to prevent violation of the city ordinance, and was ruthlessly shot by one of the number.  Deputy Sheriff Earp, who is ever to the front when duty calls, arrived just in the nick of time.  Seeing the Marshal fall, he promptly knocked his assailant down with a six shooter and as promptly locked him up; and with the assistance of his brothers Virgil and Morgan went in pursuit of the others.  That he found them, an inventory of the City Prison this mourning will testify.  Marshal White was shot in the left groin, the ball passing nearly through, and being cut from the buttock by Dr. Matthews.  The wound is a serious though not fatal one.  Too much praise cannot be given to the Marshal for his gallant attempt to arrest the violators of the ordinance, nor to Deputy Sheriff Earp and his brothers for the energy displayed in bringing in the malefactors to arrest.  At last accounts, 3 p.m., Marshal White was sleeping, and strong hopes of his ultimate recovery were expected."

Were the Clantons and the McLaurys arrested that night with Curly Bill?

    The popular stories of Fred White's death include the Clantons and the McLaurys in the incident.  Most claims state that Wyatt arrested these men with Curly Bill.   Yet, the contemporary newspaper accounts contradict this assertion. In fact, the Tombstone Epitaph on October 28, 1882, reported the men who had been involved in the situation:

"Edward Collins, A. Ames, R. Loyd, Frank Patterson and James Johnson were brought before Judge Gray yesterday morning on charge of violating city ordinances. A. Ames plead guilty to carrying concealed weapons and discharging the same on public streets. He was fined $40, which he paid. Edward Collins, R.Loyd and James Johnson plead guilty to carrying concealed weapons, and were fined $10 each, which was paid. Frank Patterson was discharged, it being made apparent to his Honor that he had used every effort to prevent the disturbance by his companions. . . ."

    The Clantons and the McLaurys clearly were not involved in the incident. It appears that writers have simply included them in order to connect this event with the participants of the Gunfight at the OK Corral.

    Brocius asked for a postponement until 10:00 a.m. so that he could secure counsel. He later appeared in court with Judge Haynes of Tucson as his counsel.  He waived his examination because it became apparent that a lynch mob might be forming.  Fred White's condition became worse and it appeared that he would die.  The authorities felt that to protect the prisoner, he should be transported to Tucson to be held in the Pima County jail.  Wyatt Earp and George Collins took Brocius to Tucson in a buggy. Virgil and Morgon Earp were among the men who escorted the prisoner out of the Tombstone limits.

    After delivering the prisoner to Tucson authorities, Earp and Collins spent the night at the Palace Hotel.  They they traveled back to Tombstone the following day. Upon their arrival the Tombstone Epitaph announced that Wyatt had learned that Brocius was an escaped prisoner from El Paso, Texas.

"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 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 asked Earp where he could get a good lawyer.  Earp suggested that Hereford & Zabriskie were considered a good firm.  Broscins 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."



Your host is Steve Gatto, author of The Real Wyatt Earp (Edited by Neil Carmony) (2000), Johnny Ringo (2002), Curly Bill, Tombstone's Most Famous Outlaw (2003).  Steve's latest work, Hurled Into Eternity, The Story of Wyatt Earp and the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral has not yet been released.

Portions of the text appearing on this site come from the above books.
"bravery and determination were requisites, and in every instance proved himself the right man in the right place."  Tombstone Epitaph