Sarah McNeal, author of westerns, paranormal & time travel and contemporary romances
The Life and Times of Wyatt Earp
Although I didn’t get to see it often, I remember a TV western about Wyatt Earp. In the series, Earp was always a hero, unattached and handsome. I believe the theme song included the words “Wyatt Earp, Wyatt Earp, brave, courageous and true.” But was he all those things? Later, there were several movies about him and my favorite was Tombstone. In the movie he fought against a gang known as the ‘cowboys’, had a famous friend named Doc Holliday, a wife who died, Urilla Sutherland, a girlfriend named Mattie who reportedly was a drug addict and then met his true love, Josephine Sarah Marcus who was a beautiful Jewish actress. He also worked as a buffalo skinner, owned a mine, owned a saloon and worked as a lawman. At the end of the movie, we saw his visit to Alaska in his later years and his connection to cowboy actor, William S. Hart. So, how much of the movie was fiction and how much was fact? Well, here are the facts:
Wyatt Earp only married once and that was his wife, Urilla Sutherland. She died in childbirth and Wyatt never had any other children. Both Mattie and Josephine were common law wives. Mattie was addicted to laudanum and later, committed suicide by taking an overdose of laudanum in Arizona supposedly pinning for Wyatt. Josie really was Wyatt’s true love. They lived for a time in San Francisco so Josie could live close to her family. Josie stayed by his side for 43 years. Why they didn’t officially marry, I don’t know.
Wyatt's second wife, Mattie
Wyatt’s jobs and adventures are so numerous it’s difficult to list them all. He had a reputation as a gun fighter, but did work as a lawman off and on for most of his life. Tombstone and the showdown at the OK Corral really happened. He had many friendships with well known people including Bat Masterson, Doc Holliday, and William Hart who was a famous cowboy actor. Over his lifetime, Wyatt owned several saloons and the Golden Poppy Brothel above one of his saloons. He gambled and loved horse racing. He also was a buffalo skinner in his early years and, like so many in the gold rush era, mined for gold. He looked for gold while in Nome, Alaska with Josie. While in San Francisco he worked for law enforcement secretly chasing down criminals in Mexico. What a life.
He was an imposing figure at six foot tall and 170 pounds in a time when most men were about five foot six. One truth about his character surfaced about him frequently, that he was fearless. Although he owned several saloons, he rarely drank liquor. He sounds like a hero, even though he had his dark side.
Suffice it to say, Wyatt Earp lived a long and active life with many varied pursuits and adventures. He and Josie lived together for 43 years. Wyatt died of chronic cystitis which was most likely prostate cancer at the age of 85 in Los Angeles on January 13, 1929. He is buried in a Jewish cemetery beside his common law wife, Josie. His legacy is that we will always remember him for the fantastic and sometimes outrageous life he led and that he did it all so courageously.
Sarah McNeal may be found at the following places:
Fantasy and Dreams
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