Hard Men/Soft Deaths – Wyatt Earp

Despite the expression “what comes around, goes around” there are a group of outlaws who had surprisingly soft endings, despite having lived extremely hard, dangerous and, in most cases, crime ridden lives.

During his eighty years of life, Wyatt Earp earned the reputation as one of the most fearsome cowboys in the West. Fluctuating between legitimate lawmaker and criminal, Earp’s claim to fame is his participation in the famous gunfight at the OK Corral in Tombstone, Arizona and his ongoing series of vendettas, most notably the Earp Vendetta, also referred to as the Arizona war. At various points in his career, Earp also worked as a “farmer, teamster, buffalo hunter, gambler, saloon-keeper, minder and boxing referee.” (source)

There are conflicting records

of how many people Earp killed during his wild old days, but there are some records that place the number somewhere between eight and over thirty (source):

  • Seattle Post-Intelligencer, July 1900: “Wyatt Earp is credited with ten men, one of them his own brother-in-law.”
  • G. W. Caldwell in the introduction to his interview with Wyatt, 1888: “[Wyatt Earp] Has killed more than a dozen stage robbers, murderers, and cattle thieves.”
  • Los Angeles Tribune, July 1888: “[Wyatt] Earp has a cemetery which he has stocked with over 30 men, and no one seemed desirous of questioning his word.”

Despite his life of debauchery, Earp had a rather peaceful death in Hollywood where, at the age of 80, he died at home of prostate cancer (though the actual cause of death isn’t confirmed) with his common law wife at his side. He had a proper funeral with Hollywood Western actors serving as his pallbearers and was cremated and buried in California. When his wife Josie died nearly twenty years later, she was also cremated, her ashes buried next to those of Wyatt Earp. He never returned to Arizona after the battle at the OK Corral.

Image Credit: Richard Beal’s Blog