Wyatt Earp History Page

Wyatt Earp

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Pimping In Peoria

    Wyatt Earp likely traveled back to Illinois during 1872, eventually ending up in Peoria, where Virgil had worked as a saloonkeeper.  While “on the lam” from federal authorities, Wyatt began working as a pimp in the prostitution trade of Peoria.  On February 24, 1872, Wyatt and his brother Morgan were arrested for “Keeping and Being Found In A House Of Ill-Fame.”  The bagnio (brothel) was operated by Jane Haspel and it was located on Washington Street near its intersection with Hamilton. Four women and three men were arrested in the bagnio bust.  It was the latest effort of Mayor Peter Brotherson's police, led by Chief Samuel L. Gill, to quash prostitution. Two days later, on February 26, a judge fined Wyatt and Morgan, along with George Randall, $20 each plus costs.  Wyatt continued to reside in Haspel bagnio following the February raid.  Wyatt Earp was listed in the Peoria City Directory as residing on Washington Street, on the bluff side, the third door above Hamilton Street -- the same address given for Jane Haspel.

    Wyatt's troubles in Peoria didn't end with his February arrest.  Three months later, Wyatt and Morgan were busted again on May 9, this time at the McClellan bagnio.  The Daily Transcript on May 11, 1872, reported the following:
That hotbed of inequity, the McClellan Institute on Main Street near Water was pulled on Thursday night, and quite a number of inmates transient and otherwise were found therein.  Wyat [sic] Earp and his brother Morgan Earp were each fined $44.55 and as they had not the money and would not work, they languished in the cold and silent calaboose . . .
    Wyatt Earp began working his trade along the Illinois River on a floating brothel named the Beardstown Gunboat. In August 1872, Wyatt was "detained" by authorities in Henry, Illinois and fined. A month later on September 10, 1872, the Daily Transcript,  in a lengthy account, reported that Wyatt Earp had been arrested in a raid on the Beardstown Gunboat.  This arrest is most likely the single, largest, successful raid on a bagnio in Peoria in 1872, with 13 people arrested--16 percent of the years 83 arrests from the same crime. Wyatt's fine was the highest of all the people arrested with him and the newspaper referred to Earp as an "Old Offender."  Also arrested with Wyatt Earp was a woman named “Sarah Earp, alias Sally Heckell,” who claimed to be his wife.  After paying his fine, the “Peoria Bummer,” as the local newspaper called him, likely left the area.


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.


Sources:     Gatto, Steve, Wyatt Earp Was A Pimp.  True West, July 2003.
                  Jay, Roger, Wyatt Earp's Lost Year, Wild West, August 2003.
"bravery and determination were requisites, and in every instance proved himself the right man in the right place."  Tombstone Epitaph