One of the Old West’s Most Famous Men Grew Up in Iowa
His life is one of the true legends of the Old West, and much of his early years were spent in Iowa.
He was born about 30 miles east of the Iowa border on March 19, 1848. By the time he turned one year old, his family had moved west to Iowa. A place he'd spend most of the next 15 years of his life.
His name is Wyatt Earp. His family consisted of six members when they made the move from Monmouth, Illinois to Pella, Iowa in 1849. Two younger brothers and two younger sisters were born after the family made the move, but only the two brothers survived childhood.
After returning to Monmouth for a short time, the Earps came back to Pella in the late 1850s. They lived on the bottom floor of the row house below, and Wyatt's father Nicholas was both the city marshal and recruited Union troops for the Civil War.
By 1864, the then seven members of the Earp family led a wagon train to San Bernardino, California.
It was six years later, in 1870, that Wyatt Earp would get his first job upholding the law. Shortly after getting married to Urilla Sutherland, he became the town constable in Lamar, Missouri.
Wyatt Earp's wife and the child she was carrying would both pass away before the Earps' first wedding anniversary. Wyatt would begin to wander throughout the West, spending much of the time in law enforcement.
What Wyatt Earp is likely most known for is what happened on October 26, 1881, in Tombstone, Arizona. The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral followed a feud between two groups. On one side was Wyatt, Virgil, Morgan Earp, and "Doc" Holiday. They were opposed by Ike and Billy Clanton, Frank and Tommy McLaury, and Billy Claiborne.
After Virgil Earl, a U.S. marshall, told the opposing five to give up their weapons, a shootout followed. Virgil Earp, Morgan Earp, and "Doc" Holliday were all injured.
Tommy McLaury, Frank McLaury, and Billy Clanton (left to right below) were all killed in the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. The McLaurys had grown up in Benton County, near Belle Plaine.
In June of 1883, Earp traveled to Dodge City, Kansas as part of a Peace Commission. They went to the Kansas town in support of Luke Short, part-owner of the Long Branch Saloon, who had recently been run out of town by the city's new mayor.
In the controversy leading up to the Peace Commission meeting, all gambling places in Dodge City had been closed. On the night of June 9, 1883, the issues were resolved, reopening dance halls, gambling halls, and saloons in Dodge City. Just over six months later, Short would sell his stake in the Long Branch.
On the morning of June 10, 1883, the Peace Commission posed for this famous photo. Shortly after, Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson boarded a train for Colorado.
Front Row (left to right): Charlie E. Bassett, Wyatt Earp, M.F. McLain, Neal Brown
Back Row: William Harris, Luke Short, Bat Masterson, W.F. Petillon
Wyatt Earp died of natural causes in California on January 13, 1929, at the age of 80. Throughout his life, he never suffered a gunshot wound.
The Wyatt Earp Experience in Pella leads visitors "through his childhood, relationships, and legacy as they explore the rooms where he lived in the early 1860s. The self-guided audio tour is part of admission into the Pella Historical Village." It's open on weekdays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
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