Life in the Old West

True stories, tall tales, memorabilia of the American West

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Facts you probably didn’t know about Wyatt Earp


Here are a few fascinating facts you probably didn’t know about Wyatt Earp:

He was never a town marshal or sheriff. Nope, you never could technically have called the infamous Old West lawman/gunfighter/gambler Marshal Earp or Sheriff Earp. In point of fact, he served as the assistant marshal in Dodge City, Kansas, and was for awhile a deputy U.S. marshal in Arizona. (Sure, it’s “nitpicking,” but it’s interesting anyhow, I thought.)

Earp made the lordly salary of $75 a month when he was the assistant marshal in Dodge City. That was pretty good money at the time. For comparison, cowboys made around $30 a month and most soldiers took in less than $15 a month. (And shortly after his marshaling in Kansas, Wyatt claims to have pulled in $130 A DAY hauling wood in Deadwood, Dakota Territory.)

Two cases where Wyatt Earp may have walked along the wrong side of the law are suggested by separate instances in Idaho and Arkansas. In the first case, he was sued three times for claim jumping in Eagle, Idaho. In the second instance, he was arrested with two other suspects in 1885 on burglary charges in Hot Springs, Arkansas. (Of course, Wyatt Earp’s career was filled with supporters and detractors, the latter constantly claiming he was a no good rascal — and the former insisting he was gentlemanly if not downright saint-like!)

I take no credit for long hours of research to dig out those tidbits of Earp lore: I got ’em from a mighty interesting book!

Those are just a few of the “Fifty Things You Don’t Know About Wyatt Earp,” according to the article of that title put together by Bob Boze Bell, executive editor of “True West Magazine.” That article is one of the chapters in the magazine’s wonderful little book which I referred to in an earlier article, “True Tales and Amazing Legends of the Old West.” I guarantee you I’ll offer up more facts about Earp and some of the other heroes and villains highlighted in that wonderful little volume. (If you’re smart and have a bit of cash to spare, I assure you you’ll not go wrong by purchasing a copy of that one!)

Whether you’re one of the folks who love him or among those that hate him, if you’ve read much about life in the Old West you have to agree that Wyatt Earp, surprising facts and all, ranks among the most interesting gents of the whole time period in America’s past.