Wyatt Earp History Page

Wyatt Earp

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Wyatt Earp History Page

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Civil Complaints Against Wyatt Earp

    Throughout Wyatt Earp's life controversy followed his every movement. The first known controversial events about Wyatt's life occurred in Lamar.  On March 14, 1871, Barton County filed a suit against Wyatt Earp and his sureties for $200.  The lawsuit was based on the allegation that Wyatt Earp, while Constable for Lamar, had collected fees for licenses for the town.  The proceeds of these fees were supposed to be used to support the school fund.  However, the county alleged that Wyatt had never turned over the money that he had collected.

    The action against Wyatt Earp was eventually vacated.  This was probably based on the fact that Wyatt and his father had left the State. Charles Morgan, in an affidavit filed with the lawsuit, commented: 

. . . he has good reason to believe + does believe that Wyatt S. Earp deft. is not a resident of this state, that Wyatt S. Earp has absconded or absented himself from his usual place of abode in this state so that the ordinary process of law cannot be served against him . . . .


    On March 31, 1871, a second lawsuit was filed against Wyatt Earp by a man named James Cromwell. This suit alleged that Wyatt had falsified court documents that refereed to the amount of money that he had collected from Cromwell to satisfy a judgment.  Cromwell later stated that he had a mowing machine seized by a later Lamar Constable to satisfy the amount the court felt was still outstanding in the judgment.  The machine was sold for $38.  Cromwell in his suit claimed that the machine had a value of $75, and that Wyatt Earp and his sureties owed him this amount because Earp had falsified the court documents about the amount he had paid to satisfy the judgment against him.

    A summons was issued for Wyatt Earp to appear before the court on April 5, 1871. It was returned unserved because Wyatt could not be located in the county.  On April 21, 1871, Justice S. J. Bowman found for the defendants and ordered Cromwell to pay the attending men $3.25 for costs.  Cromwell appealed and apparently won at least partially. The court issued an "Execution For Costs" and ordered the Barton County Sheriff to seize the "Goods, Chattels and Real Estate" of Wyatt S. Earp and James Maupin.

    It is impossible to now know if the allegations against Wyatt Earp in Lamar were true or not--he chose to leave the state rather that face the allegations against him.  

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