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.
Hills of Eternity, a Jewish cemetery in Colma, California
Sarah McNeal may be found at the following places:
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Sarah--what a wonderful post.ReplyDelete
Do you see a resemblance between the young Wyatt Earp and Kirk Douglas? Look at his eyes and especially his chin..the overall shape of his face. Definitely he was a gorgeous man.
I loved the movie Tombstone and have seen it twice.
How does a man do that many things in one lifetime? He could have been a grand entrepeneur.
You know how I love old Black and White photos. These you've chosesn are the best.
Thanks for the life story of Wyatt Earp.
Celia, when I looked at this picture of Wyatt Earp, I thought the same thing as you. It's remarkable how much alike the two are. No wonder Wyat was so popular among the ladies.ReplyDelete
I'm glad you liked these photos. Wickapedia had a bunch of pictures.
It was amzing to see all the different things Wyatt did in his lifetime. I didn't list everything. He was a very busy and interesting man for certain.
I love legends about the old Western heroes. I wish young people today would get interested in cowboy heroes once again. Great post and love the pics you chose.ReplyDelete
Rebecca, I have to agree with you about young people today. I fear technology is isolated them from their real lives. They don't seem to care about much of anything but hip hop music, TV and texting.ReplyDelete
What a legend! I've always been interested in Josie--heard that someone wrote her biography but I haven't looked it up yet.ReplyDelete
I also would love it if the younger people would get interested in the Old West. I've been disappointed with the new western offerings on TV so haven't watched any yet. I'm thinking a new version of Maverick ought to fill the bill. :)
Sarah, this is a wonderful post, as always. Wyatt Earp has been a figure of fascination for many, many years, hasn't he? What a life he lived, and how wonderful that he finally found happiness with Josie, a woman who didn't care what people said, evidently, and stuck by Wyatt for love.It's hard for kids today to relate to history because our schools do such a poor job of teaching it and helping them get interested in it. I read somewhere that kids can't really understand "historical happenings" until they are around 12 years old and their brain reaches a certain level of maturity. Up until then, it's mainly memorization of "stories" and they don't really relate to the fact that these were real people who actually lived. I think anymore it's even harder to make a distinction because of the video games that are out there that consume so much time. We spent a lot of time PRETENDING when we were little, and acting out our thoughts and ideas. This is a great post, Sarah--I loved these pictures.ReplyDelete
I love Tombstone! We've watched it over and over, too. lol When we took a trip to visit 'Tombstone' with a friend of ours, the kids watched the movie on the way DVD player on the way there.ReplyDelete
Great photos from Wikipedia.
Great blog Sarah. For a fascinating look at part of Wyatt's life and the real story behind the OK Corral, check out The Last Gunfight by Jeff Guinn. It paints quite a different picture of the event than is usually seen in movies.ReplyDelete
Jacquie, you will be happy to know that Josephine Marcus wrote her own book. I forgot the title.ReplyDelete
Thank you for commenting on my blog.
Good article, Sarah. I'm glad I was a kid when I was. Things were so much simpler then, and nicer. I didn't know a single student in high school on drugs, or having sex. Too bad it isn't that way now. And the old TV shows; those were the best.ReplyDelete
Wow Cheryl, I didn't know about kids and their inability to understand history is about real people. Kids seem so disconnected socially.ReplyDelete
Thank you so much for coming by. I always enjoy what you have to say.
What a great idea to have your kids watch Tombstone on the way to see it. I haven't seen it. The real town that is. you should post pictures of your trip. Thank you so much for coming by.ReplyDelete
Pat, how wonderful to have you visit my blog. I'll check out your suggestion. I hope you're doing well. Thank you so much for dropping by.ReplyDelete
I agree with you, Charlene, life did seem so much better when I was a kid and happy. The world has become so complicated and filled with angst. Thank you so much coming by and commenting on my blog.ReplyDelete
Sarah, what a nice post. I knew very little about Wyatt Earp and nothing about Josie. He sounds like a man who lived up to his legend.ReplyDelete
Caroline, I think Wyatt certainly lived a full and colorful life. It's no wonder he is still remembered as a national treasure.ReplyDelete
Thank you so much for coming by my blog and leaving a lovely comment.