Wyatt Earp History Page

Wyatt Earp

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Wyatt Earp History Page

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Wichita  (1874-1876)

Picture of Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson    Wyatt Earp came to Kansas in the early 1870s and became a close friend of Bat Masterson (photo left). Many claims were made by Stuart Lake in Wyatt Earp, Frontier Marshal (1931) about Wyatt's activities that remain unsupported by contemporary evidence. One claim was that Earp had hunted buffalo and had met men like Wild Bill Hickok while in Kansas.  Another claim made by Lake for Earp was Wyatt Earp's supposed arrest of the notorious Ben Thompson. Yet, that claim is not supported by contemporary evidence.
What we really know and can prove, based on contemporary evidence, is that Wyatt Earp was in Wichita by 1874.  The Wichita City Eagle on October 29, 1874, referred to Wyatt Earp as acting as a private officer for M. R. Moser to collect some money owed Moser.  Earp and John Behrens were successful in obtaining the funds.

Wyatt Earp appointed to Wichita police force (April 21, 1875)

    Wyatt Earp was appointed to the Wichita police force on April 21, 1875.  He was paid a salary of $60 a month.  Almost immediatly after his appointement, Wyatt Earp began to receive recognition in the town's newspapers.  Earp was clearly a competent and capable officer and received the proper credit in the town.  However, he was far from famous at this time throughout the west. The Wichita newspapers mispelled his name as "Erp" during his stay in the town.

    Still, not all the reports of his activities were high points in his life.  On January 12, 1876, the Wichita Beacon reported that Wyatt Earp (on Janaury 9) had clumsily allowed his pistol to slip from his holster, falling to the ground and discharging.

Wyatt Earp dismissed from Wichita police force (April 1876)

    As the Wichita town election approached, Wyatt Earp was involved in an altercation with the man who was running against his boss Mike Meagher. The incident caused enough controversy that Wyatt was fined $30 and costs for the incident.  He was then dismissed from the police force.  According to theWichita Beacon of April 5, 1876, the fight was started because William Smith had made a comment concerning Wyatt's brothers being summoned by Marshal Meagher to be appointed to the police force.

    On April 19, the city council heard nomination for men to be appointed to the police force.  The council appointed C. Richey and Dan Parks. Wyatt Earp was nominated for hiring but the council voted against hiring him.  A motion was made to reconsider his nomination but the second vote ended in an even split.  The meeting was then ended and the motion table for the time being.  The council next met on May 8, allowing $40 to be paid to Wyatt Earp for services in April.  Apparently, Marshal Meagher had allowed Earp to act in some official capacity during this time.

    Five years earlier, Wyatt had left Lamar, Missouri, accused of not having turned over all the money that he had collected while a constable. Wichita town official made the same charge against Wyatt in May 1876. On May 10, the police committee filed a report that recommeded that"the script of W. Erp & J. Behrns be with-held from payment until all moneys collected by them for the city be turned over to the city treasurer." The committed also recommeded that the vagrancy act be enforced against the "two Erps." This reference may have been for Bessie and Sally Earp. These two women had been fined for prostitution earlier in 1875. 

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