Posted April 26, 2009on:
Wyatt Berry Stapp Earp is best known for his participation in the controversial “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral,” which took place at Tombstone, Arizona, on October 26, 1881. In this legendary Old West encounter, Wyatt Earp, his brothers Virgil and Morgan, and Doc Holliday faced off with Ike and Billy Clanton and Tom and Frank McLaury. The shootout and the bloody events that followed, combined with Wyatt Earp’s penchant for storytelling, resulted in Wyatt Earp acquiring the reputation as being one of the Old West’s toughest and deadliest gunmen of his day. Wyatt Earp would become the fearless Western hero in countless novels and films.
Wyatt Earp is often portrayed by writers as a man of few words who did not like to talk about his past. Nevertheless, Wyatt Earp on several occasions, categorically and without corroboration, told interviewers accounts of his deed from the Old West. In 1896, Wyatt Earp claimed that he backed down gunman Clay Allison in Dodge City during 1878. Around 1919, Wyatt Earp told Forrestine Hooker that he killed the notorious Johnny Ringo on his way out of Arizona during 1882. Wyatt Earp later repeated the claim that he killed Johnny Ringo to at least three other people. In the late 1920s, Wyatt Earp told his future biographer, Stuart Lake, that he arrested Ben Thompson, a notorious gunslinger, in Ellsworth, Kansas, on August 15, 1873. None of these claims made by Wyatt Earp have been corroborated by contemporary documents.
Today many writers and historians continue to view Wyatt Earp through rose-colored glasses. Neil Carmony, in his Editor’s Foreword to The Real Wyatt Earp, A Documentary Biography (2000), commented about this trend: “Typically, when all is said and done the unrealistic superstar of Stuart Lake’s 1931 biography (Wyatt Earp, Frontier Marshal), and the numerous Tombstone movies is the Earp who emerges from their books and articles.”
This is the story of the real Wyatt Earp.