Saturday, June 8, 2013

Celia Ann Blalock--Wyatt Earp's First Common Law Wife

By Celia Ann Yeary

Many articles have been written and several movies have been made about Wyatt Earp. Some know that Josephine Earp was his common law wife, and in their later years she strived to protect his reputation that he'd had with an earlier common law wife.

The "other common law wife," the first one, caught my attention when I learned she and I shared a name--Celia Ann. Also she and I were called "Celie," which is the old pronunciation of our name.
In addition, she had a sister named Sarah...and so do I.

How could I not be interested in her?

However, we part company when talking about our professions. I was a high school teacher, and the other Celia Ann, more often called "Mattie," was a prostitute.

Celia Ann "Mattie" Blaylock was born in 1850 and lived only 38 years. She was born in Wisconsin and raised in Iowa, but she ran away from home at age 16 to escape stern parents and farm life.

She moved on to Kansas, where she became a prostitute in Dodge City. There, in l873, she met Wyatt Earp and soon became his romantic companion. During their early years together, Mattie continued to work as a prostitute.

By the time they moved to Tombstone, she had taken the name "Earp" to be recognized as his common law wife.

She suffered from severe headaches, perhaps what we know as migraines, and she used laudanum as a pain killer. Mattie soon became addicted to the opiate.

The worse her headaches and addiction became, the more Wyatt strayed. He began an affair with Josephine Marcus.

In 1882, after the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral and after the assassination of Morgan Earp, Wyatt sent his brother Virgil, the Earp women, and Mattie with the body of Morgan home to Colton, California.
Warren and Wyatt Earp stayed behind to begin the Earp Vendetta Ride.

Imagine Mattie waiting in California for Wyatt's message to return to Tombstone. But a telegram never arrived.

Meanwhile, Wyatt became more involved with Josephine. They married sometime later.


Mattie, though, heartbroken and not knowing why Wyatt did not send for her, moved on to Globe, Arizona. She returned to prostitution and moved again to Pinal City, Arizona.

On July 3, 1888, after six years of waiting for Wyatt, she took a lethal dose of laudanum. Her death was ruled suicide. She was thirty-eight years old.

The name "Mattie" never appeared on any court records throughout her life. During one period, she was known as "Sally," which may have been phonetically mistaken for her Iowa accented "Celia," or "Celie."

Celia Ann Blaylock became one of many tragic figures during the Nineteenth Century in the Wild West. History has left us with countless personal stories.

Her story seem particularly lonely and sad.
She was laid to rest on a lonely hilltop one mile from Pinal,
which is now a ghost town.
Legends of America:
  Historical Women Index
  Wyatt Earp-Frontier Lawman
WestWeb-Western Women in History
Wikimedia Commons 


  1. That's a very sad tale. I knew of "Mattie" and Josephine from one of the Wyatt Earp movies, the one with Curt Russell I think. However, I didn't know of her background and how she got hooked on laudanum. Interesting and tragic!

    BTW I'm very, very distantly related to the Earps. I discovered this while working on family genealogy a few years back.

  2. A nice post, Celia. And I wondered - are you cooking up a novel here? Take the character and move her into a different direction? Prostitution wasn't all that uncommon in the old west, was it? Reportedly, Suzanna Dickinson turned to prostitution for a while, as did her daughter, Angelique (?).

    Well - it was a business opportunity...

  3. Interesting post, Celia, and wow, two coincidences—their name and sisters. I knew about the common law wives from one of the movies though it was depicted differently. Very sad about those headaches as I used to suffer terribly.

  4. Lyn--I saw that movie-Tombstone, right? It's one of my all time favorites. I don't remember Mattie or Josephine in it, though.
    You're related to the Earps? Even distantly is awesome. I'm not related to one single famous person.
    Thanks for you comment!

    1. Both were in tombstone Mattie n josie. Watch it again.

  5. Dac--Hi, there! No, I'm not cooking up a novel about these people, but I am cooking up one about Texas oil in 1915--and my hero, Lee King.
    When will your newest be released? Let me know.

  6. Linda--yes, the name coincidence is the only reason I wrote about her. She led a terribly difficult and sad short life. I'm sure this happened to many young women and we'll never know their names.

    I've never had migraines, but I can sympathize with you just by imagining how bad they are. I just don't have headaches as a general rule, but if I do have a slight one, I just can't function. I can imagine what I'd do if I had a real headache.

  7. What a sad soul. Interesting to get a different view of Wyatt Earp as well. Thanks for sharing the story. I love that you've been called Cellie - love that name. :)

  8. Love the tie in to your own name. Very interesting article. I vaguely remembered this about Wyatt but didn't recall details so this was a pleasant refresher

  9. If she had migraines, no wonder she became addicted to laudanum. Single women didn't have many avenues for supporting themselves. As Dac said, it was a business opportunity. Sorry, no making light of her life, but he is funny.

  10. Celia thanks for sharing her story. Certainly you can find inspiration from Celia Ann's story for an upcoming novel.


  11. You're right there are many sad stories from the old west. Life was hard. Still is, but in a different way. What a lonely end for Mattie, buried on a lonely hill with nothing but a ghost town to remember her.
    Wonderful blog, Celia.

  12. Only 38. What a sad, tragic life, with few choices open to her.

  13. Only 38. What a sad, tragic life, with few choices open to her.

  14. I love this post, Celia! I watched Tombstone (again!) just yesterday. Poor Mattie. I kinda liked that Wyatt and Josie were together almost 50 years. Good job here!

  15. A Belated Thank You for comments:
    You know I left town, but I appreciate all your comments to much.
    True, Celia Ann Blalock lived a short life and didn't seem to have much happiness. It made my heart hurt to think of the life she led.
    I like to think "Mattie" had a few years of happiness with Wyatt. The photo of him as a young man is so appealing--I'm sure he was a special man with the ladies.

  16. Thank you for the great information! I am currently rehearsing for a play about Wyatt Earp and I will be portraying Mattie. I have been in search of videos/movies with her. Do you have any idea of any I can view form my research?
    Thank you!

  17. Nicole--I don't know any sites first hand, but if you Goggle "Mattie Earp" (I did), you should find several articles related to her. Some were movies and/or plays or tv shows. Anywhere she went, she introduced herself as Mrs. Wyatt Earp even though they never married, and he actually abandoned her for his true love. She had a sad life.
    Good luck to you. And I hope you see this comment. I could not find an email address, and since I wrote this post in June...I don't know if you'll see this. Thanks so much for your comment.

  18. Wyatt's first wife, and he actually married her, died from typhoid or one of the fevers from that time period along with their infant child!! This destroyed Wyatt, he started drinking heavily he burned down the home he had built for the 3 of them and then bacame somewhat of a drifter and outlaw. He stole a horse and his father broke him out of jail and told him he never wanted to see him again and Wyatt took off and straightened up the outlaw lifestyle he was leading at the time, in the sense of stealing horses and the like, granted even as a Marshall which many times he did not want to be; i.e. In Tombstone for example he and his brothers went there to make money in a saloon not to become lawmen, when he found out Virgil took the badge and then Morgan he reluctantly joined them, he had had enough of the lawman lifestyle by then and the killing!! U must keep in mind that he had dealt with killing all the way back to the war and never liked it, it was a part of his life he was desperately trying to leave behind when they arrived in Tombstone!! Wyatt truly tried with Mattie and eventually gave up after she and I can understand why she had the addiction but Wyatt wanted to "live life" and he tried to get Mattie to join him, even in Tombstone and by the time they got there the relationship was already very strained, but Wyatt still tried in Tombstone to give Mattie one last chance to have a real life with him. However, due to her headaches and thus her addiction Mattie did little but lie in bed and drink laudanum! Wyatt did eventually find in Tombstone Josie and a partner to live life with for almost 50 years and had several children with him!! I honestly believe after all I know about him and I know quite a lot, that Josie was the first time he truly found love again since he lost the young wife he married, u can google her name at the moment it is on the tip of my tongue and had I not been trying to think of it so hard I'd have no problem remembering it I'm sure, lol, but that's generally the way it goes! However she had a very very unusual name and after she and their baby died and he burned their house with all their memories and even their photos in it, he promised to marry again and legally he didn't, that is very sweet and sad but nonetheless shows that a part of his heart never healed from that loss, so it is wonderful he found Josie but that is why he never legally married her, and he never had any intention of marrying Mattie, he cared for her deeply at some point but he never loved her like he loved his legal wife and then later Josie I believe he loved her as much or maybe more, but he still never married her!! Although part of that has to do also with the fact that Josie was such a free spirit and a progressive thinker beyond her time for a woman in that era and I don't think she needed or required a piece of paper to prove how much Wyatt loved her!! She just wasn't that type of woman she was very secure in herself and the fact that she had his love and heart and children was plenty enough for Ms Josie

  19. I just finished watching "Wyatt Earp" and was very curious to what happened to Mattie. I found the answer to my question in your article. Thank you for sharing!

  20. Well choosing a life if prostitution at 16 over staying home on the farm was her first mistake.


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