Wild West

CLUSTERS OF EARPS

Were the Earps an important family? Nah. Are they worthy of our attention? For a variety of reasons the answer is a resounding yes. Through the years the Earps have been featured in countless magazines, novels, histories, films, television shows and documentaries. Thus researchers great, modest and incompetent have investigated every conceivable aspect of their lives, including land the family members owned, their wives and children, court appearances, duels and other confrontations, favorite foods, clothing habits and travels. For information researchers have scoured sources galore, such as mining claims, land contracts, censuses, menus, calling cards, bank statements, hotel vouchers, court files, tax filings, employment documents and national, state and local newspapers. The geography involved is staggering, stretching from Illinois west to Baja California and north to Alaska. By tracing where these folks traveled and settled, people interested in the trans-Mississippi West in the 19th and early 20th centuries can unearth hundreds of incidents, angles and events big and small.

Where one Earp went, another usually followed. This generalization held for a half century, with ample evidence to demonstrate they not only preferred each other’s company, but also would travel half a continent to make that possible. Let’s examine a few such Earp clusters to see how and why this happened. We won’t bother with the Earps farming in Illinois and Iowa or following patriarch Nicholas Porter Earp (Sept. 6, 1813–Feb. 12, 1907) with his 1864 wagon train to California. These were young Earps, with little say in the matter. Yet the mature Earps maintained that same togetherness—a characteristic that suited Nick’s most famous son, Wyatt (March 19, 1848–Jan. 13, 1929), as well as Virgil (July 18, 1843–Oct. 19, 1905), Morgan (April 24, 1851–March 18, 1882) and most of

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