Wyatt Earp

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Dodge City  (1876-1879)

    On May 24, 1876, the Wichita Beacon commented: "Wyatt Earp has been put on the police force at Dodge City."  Ironically, this article appears to be the first time that the Wichita newspaper actually spelled Wyatt Earp's name correctly.  Not much contemporay evidence has been found to support Wyatt's activities as a deputy in Dodge City during 1876-1877.  However, Earp was listed as a deputy marshal in the Dodge City newspapers as late as March 31, 1877.  Yet, the following month he was no longer included in the newpapers as a memeber of the police force.

    It is believed that Wyatt may have gone to Deadwood, South Dakota, during this period.  Many writers have portrayed Earp as a famous lawman at this point and that his mere appearence on gold stages riding shotgun helped keep outlaws from attempting to rob the wagons.  In reality, Wyatt Earp at this time was far from well known as a lawman and had no real reputation that was known throughout the west. He was probably one of several men who were employed to prevent robberies and his actions were no more spectacular than the others.

Wyatt re-hired to the Dodge City police force (July 1877)

    Wyatt was re-hired to the Dodge City police force in July 1877.  The comments by the Dodge City Times on July 7, 1877, concerning his being given this position, do indicate that he was well liked and respected as an officer in the town.  Nonetheless,  Wyatt occasional made the news for wrongdoings as well.  On July 21, 1877, the Times reported that Wyatt had an altercation with a tough woman name Frankie Bell, slapping her.  Wyatt was fined $1 dollar for the offense.

Wyatt heads to Texas (January 1878)

    Wyatt was no longer on the Dodge City police force by January 1878.  He was reported by the Ford County Globe on January 22, 1878, as being at Ft. Clark, Texas. Wyatt's activites during this time are vague.  By May 11, 1878, the Dodge newspapers were reporting that Wyatt was back in Dodge City and was quickly rehired.  On May 14, the Times commented that Wyatt had been appointed Asst. Marshal.  Wyatt's salary was $75 per month.

    In July 1878, a Texas cowboy named George Hoy became rowdy in the town and started shooting off his pistol.  Officers Wyatt Earp and Jim Masterson responded to the disturbence. As Hoy was trying to leave the town, Earp, Masterson, and an unidentified man fired shots at the Texas cowboy.  One of the bullets hit him and he fell from his horse.  He later died from medical complications as of the result of his wound.  The man who actually delivered the shot that struck Hoy is not known.  Some writers credit Wyatt with hitting Hoy-giving him credit for killing his first man.  But there is really no way to be sure who delivered the shot that put Hoy off his horse.
    In October, actress Dora Hand was killed.  A Texas cowboy named James Kennedy was believed responsible.  He quickly fled the town, followed by posse that included Ford County Sheriff Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp.  The posse succeeded in finding Kennedy who was shot in the shoulder and captured.  Despite the hard work of the posse, Kennedy was later acquitted of the charge.

    Earp's salary was increased to $150 for the months of October and November. However, by December it had been reduced to $75 per month.  Earp quit the police force and left Dodge City by the end of December 1878.  But Wyatt returned to the town and was again hired to the police force in May 1879.  His salary was now $100 per month. On May 10, 1879, the Times reported an incident in which Wyatt Earp tried to arrest three men with Ford County Sheriff Bat Masterson aiding him.

    Wyatt Earp continued to work as an Assistant Marshal until September 1879.  However, on September 9, 1879, the Ford County Globe commented that Wyatt Earp had left Dodge City and was heading to Las Vegas, Nevada.  Earp was at Las Vegas on September 30, 1879 but by November he was in Arizona.

    Throughout his time in Kansas Wyatt Earp had shown that he was a capable law officer and he became well respected.  However, he was far from famous in the west by the time he left Kansas.

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