Wyatt Earp History Page

Wyatt Earp

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Did Wyatt Earp Claim To Be The Marshal Of Dodge City?

    In  November 1881, Wyatt Earp, while reading a prepared statement during the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral hearing, commented:
"I have been in Tombstone since Dec. 1, 1879; came here directly from Dodge City, Kansas, where against the protest of business men and officials I resigned the office of City Marshal which I had held there from 1876."
    This statement illustrates that, as early as 1881, Wyatt was implying that he held the office of city marshal of Dodge City rather than simply having been an assistant marshal.  Whether he had made the claim prior to this time, we cannot be sure.  A signed Dodge City document that was presented at the time does seem to support Wyatt's statement.  However, while many people signed the document, we don't know who wrote the actual language in the body of the document. Further, we now know for a fact that Wyatt did not hold the office of City Marshal of Dodge City from 1876 to 1879. Instead, Wyatt was merely a assistant marshal at different times during this period.

    Fifteen years later, in 1896, Wyatt made the following comments in an article in the San Francisco Examiner:
"In moving from Wichita to take the Marshalship of Dodge City at my own salary I had stipulated that I should have the appointment of my own police force . . . . It was after Bat Masterson had been returned as Sheriff that I paid a visit to Mexico, during which I first met Doc Holliday and his Big-nose Kate, as told in a previous story. During my absence Ed Masterson, Bat's elder brother, acted as my deputy. A crowd of cowboys started shooting in the Birdcage dance hall one night, and Ed went over to see about it. He disarmed them all and made them pile their guns behind the bar. Then he returned across the deadline -the avenue formed by the railroad tracks, which decided the decent from the disreputable part of the town. Not long afterward, however, the cowboys recovered their six-shooters and began firing again. Ed went back to restore order and tried to disarm the first cowboy he encountered. The two men were scuffling for possession of the gun, when another cowboy fired at Ed Masterson and killed him."
    By 1896, Wyatt not only claimed that he was the city marshal of Dodge City but he also claimed that Ed Masterson was working as his deputy when Masterson was shot and killed.  Yet, when Ed Masterson was killed he was the city marshal of Dodge City, not Wyatt Earp.  Thirty years later, in 1926, in a sworn deposition Wyatt again claimed that he was the chief of police of Dodge city for four years:  "I had left Dodge City, Kansas, where I had been chief of police of Dodge City for four years." The term "chief of police" has the same meaning as "city marshal."

    So on three separate occasions, with one made in open court and another made during a sworn depositon, Wyatt claimed that he held the office of City Marshal of Dodge City.

Did Wyatt Earp hold the office of City Marshal of Dodge City for four years? The answer is clearly, no!

Did Wyatt Earp claim that he held the office of City Marshal of Dodge City for four years? The answer is clearly, yes!


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