Warren Earp

Warren Earp

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Warren Earp was the youngest brother of the much more famous Wyatt Earp. He was born on March 9, 1855 to his parents Nicholas Porter and Virginia Ann (nee Cooksey). The family bible notes his first name as Baxter. He goes through life known by his middle name of Warren.1 The family was residing in the house in Pella, Iowa at the time. They were farming there.

Warren had just turned 6 years old when the American civil war began. His father was involved in helping the war effort, and often away from home. Warren worked around the farm along with his brothers Wyatt and Morgan. His older brothers, Newton, James and Virgil were off fighting with Union troops.

Nicholas and Virginia Ann EarpNicholas & Virginia Ann Earp

Warren's father returned to move the family further West. They traveled with a wagon train. Not too many details are known of his youth. There is one story that perhaps gives a portend of his future. Nicholas Earp was chosen as a leader of this traveling Conestoga Wagon group. Likely chosen for his reputation in adventuresome experiences during his stint in the Mexican-American war.

Another wagon train participant kept a diary. Her name was Mrs. J.A. Rousseau, the wife of a Doctor. She'd commented on Mr. Earp's leadership's skills. She felt he was overbearing, grumpy, and inflexible when it came to his own rules being obeyed. She described one incident involving Warren. He'd gotten into a fight with another boy in the group. She didn't note who'd started it. But she did say Mr. Earp then began berating all the children there. As if to defer blame from Warren, he cursed and belligerently threatened all the parents. Mrs. Rousseau wrote Earp said "if the children's parents did not whip or correct their children he would whip every last one of them."5

The Earp family finally arrived in San Bernardino, California. They settled there in December of 1864.

At some point the family moved to Colton, California. Warren Earp helped in the family businesses: a saloon and a grocery.1 It seems clear that he also learned to drive a Stagecoach. He did that on occasion to earn money. He also owned a race-horse. All the while, he still lived there in Colton with his parents.2

Colton CaliforniaColton is a small area SW of San Bernardino

Around 1880 he heard that his older brothers were heading to Tombstone Arizona. It was a booming silver mining town. They planned to take advantage of money-making opportunities. His brother Virgil had been offered a lawman position.

Warren Earp decided, at 25 years of age, that he was old enough to do as his brothers were doing. He left Colton and headed to Tombstone Arizona.

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Warren Earp in Tombstone AZ

Warren arrived in Tombstone for the first time in 1881. He moved into the house on Fremont Street where older brother Virgil lived. When Virgil needed help, he gave Warren part time law enforcement work.

Did this connection to his brother, and occasional police work, give him over-confidence? Tombstone had an ordinance about firearms within the city limits. He was in violation, even shooting his weapon in town. He was fined $25 for the offense.1

Virgil took a posse to corner cow-boy cattle rustlers on Southwestern Arizona-Mexico border. Warren Earp went with this posse, which set out in July 1881. It's thought Newman "Old Man" Clanton was among the rustlers, and the posse killed him. During the gunfight, Warren was injured.

His younger sister, Adelia, provided evidence in a letter she wrote. She said he went back to Colton after his action with Virgil's posse. He stayed at her house, so she could help in his recovery. She said he was "suffering from a wound he received in a fight with rustlers on the Mexican border."3

He was still in Colton when his brothers were involved in the O.K. Corral Gunfight on October 26, 1881. A revenge shooting happened on December 28th. Virgil was shot on Allen Street, east of the Crystal Palace. He survived, but was so seriously injured that it affected him the rest of his life. Warren heard about these events and decided he needed to get back to Tombstone. Evidently Warren felt it was important to be there to support his brothers.

The Earps and Doc Holliday in Tombstone AZThe Gunfight at the OK Corral Players

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Warren's Support After the Gunfight

Soon after Warren Earp arrived back in Tombstone, there was another revenge attack on his family. On March 18, 1882, brothers Wyatt and Morgan were in Campbell & Hatch's Saloon and Pool Hall on Allen Street. Suddenly shots rang out from the rear of the building. Morgan fell over as one of the bullets cut through his spine. He soon passed on.

The Earp brothers seethed with grief and anger! They gathered their family members and prepared to send Morgan's body back home to Colton. They boarded a train, with a stop in Tucson. Virgil and the brothers' wives were to go with the casket all the way to California. Warren and Wyatt only went as far as Tucson, with Doc Holliday as well. The three of them had plans to find Morgan's murderer and Virgil's attacker.

Morgan assassinated.From IL - Mattoon Gazette - Friday, March 24, 1882 Page 5

Other Earp supporters joined them. They gathered together to seek retribution. It became known as Wyatt Earp's Vendetta Ride. Wyatt formed a posse to go after those he felt responsible for these attacks on his brothers. Warren Earp was ready to do his part and ride with them.

At the Tucson train stop, the Earp vengeance began. Frank Stilwell was spotted there in the train yard. Wyatt and Doc chased him down, and shot him full of lead! No doubt Warren was there right beside them (and so he was according to Ike Clanton's testimony!). Wyatt's posse left Tucson to make their next move.

Warren Rides With Wyatt's Vengeance

The coroner had determined that Morgan was murdered by Pete Spence, Frank Stillwell, Joe Fries and Indian Charlie. Wyatt's plan for his posse was to track each of them down and mete out justice by their own hand. He'd already felt that the courts weren't able to get justice done on his family's behalf. The first step was accomplished in Tucson.

The Earp Vendetta Posse beginsFrom the Tombstone Weekly Epitaph - Saturday October 28, 1882 - Page 2

The next day Wyatt, Warren, Doc Holliday, Sherman McMasters and "Turkey Creek" Jack Johnson were back in Tombstone readying their horses. They packed supplies and headed out. Ike Clanton reported to Pima County Sheriff Bob Paul. He said he saw Warren helping the others murder Frank Stilwell. The Sheriff put out a warrant to arrest all five of them.3

Warren rode with his brother's posse. They tracked down and killed Florentino Cruz, Curly Bill Brocius and Johnny Barnes. The Earp's local Tombstone nemesis, Sheriff John Behan, formed a posse himself. He was set on arresting Wyatt Earp and the others. By the Spring of 1882, Wyatt acted on his best interests of leaving Arizona. He and Warren ended up back in Colton California. Wyatt moved on soon. But Warren stayed in Colton for a while.

Warren's Downhill Slide

Warren Earp Again making troublePublished in Sacramento CA - The Record Union Wednesday, May 23, 1883 - Page 1

Was it the death of his older brother by violent means? Was it the way his surviving brothers now went their own way, and he was left behind? Was it his own personality, that had been developing all along? Was it his stature in his family, with a different look - a head of dark hair, instead of blondish? Was it his standing in the family - as the youngest boy? Were his parents tiring of the more strict upbringing they enforced on their older sons by the time Warren came along (particularly their hard taskmaster father) - and he wasn't subject to the same discipline? Was he just spoiled by his mother, as the youngest son? Was he fighting against his own natural urges and inclinations - that he knew weren't accepted, and therefore he was continually acting out?

A psychologist could probably write a book on trying to figure out why he had so many more problems than his brothers did.

Warren Earp beats a waiterFrom The Fresno Republican, Saturday, May 3, 1884 Page 1

Now that Warren was back in his adolescent hometown of Colton, California - news reports reflect a life of drinking leading to fights. It seemed he was expressing a quick temper, and a lot of anger.

One reported incident on May 22, 1883 was right in his father's saloon. In the Spring of 1884, he was in a San Bernardino restaurant. There he took issue with a waiter, and beat him quite badly!

Warren Earp Stabs a ManFrom the The Los Angeles Times - Tuesday August, 15, 1893 - Page 6
Warren Earp in YumaFrom The San Francisco Call - Saturday November 11, 1893 - Page 2

In 1887 he was in Dingle, Idaho. There's evidence he married a Kate Sanford there. What became of their relationship is not known. But it surely didn't seem to last long. Another incident happened in San Bernardino on August 14, 1893. He went so far as to stab a man!

Warren finally left his hometown. It could be he was pressured by his father, who was well-respected in the area as a former judge. 

He next ended up in Yuma Arizona. There he again ended up in trouble. On November 9, 1893 he threatened to kill a local professor. A trial found him guilty on some charges. The court made Warren Earp leave town.

On to Willcox Arizona

Henry C Hooker, ArizonaHenry Hooker, a Friend to the Earps

The next time we find him - it's 1894, and he's still in Arizona Territory. Warren is again in the Southeast part of the territory, in Willcox. He checked into the Willcox House. He reconnected with Earp family supporter - rancher, Henry Hooker. Warren got a job with the rancher, and a place there to stay.3

There was a report of a lawless incident in 1896. Warren was in the settlement of Geronimo, Northwest of Safford AZ. While there he pilfered $20 from a monte card gambling table. He was brought to Solomonville, a little East of Safford. There Warren Earp was charged with petty larceny. He had to serve an 18 day jail sentence.

Warren Earp arrested in Geronimo AZFrom the Arizona Republic - Sunday, February 16, 1896 - Page 5
Solomonville Arizona

In 1898 Warren was registered to vote. Cochise County's Great Register recorded those registrations. His name is there, with an occupation as a "bartender." This was another of his occupations over the years. Especially while working for his father. So he likely worked in local saloons, maybe part-time, as a bartender.1

Accounts report Warren still also worked for Henry Hooker in 1900. Warren was an experienced freighter. Other reports state he was a stagecoach driver on a line between Fort Grant and Willcox. The two accounts may fit together. Henry Hooker's ranch was just south of Fort Grant.

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Warren Meets His End

Warren Earp killedReported in The Los Angeles Times - Thursday July 26, 1900 - Page 13

Apparently Warren still had problems in the Willcox area. He was yet noted to be an angry, belligerent drunk. He knew a man named Johnny Boyett. It was about five years time that they ran into each other in town. And likely they saw each other during the course of a workday.

Boyett also knew rancher John Hooker, and worked for his son Ed. Ed's wife Forrestine Cooper Hooker described Boyett as "quiet, capable and educated above the average cowpuncher of those days....a fine-looking man, tall, muscular yet slender, with a clean-cut profile....I never heard Boyett use a rough, coarse word, and he did not quarrel with other men.”2 But later on Boyett's own sister reported he'd been associating with "bad company."2

According to reports, when Warren was drinking, he bullied Johnny Boyett. Johnny would try to avoid him when these situations occurred. This began happening more and more over time.

Finally sometime in the early summer of 1900, the status took a turn for the worse. Warren Earp located Johnny in a Willcox bar. Earp went right up to Boyett and stuck a gun in his gut. He said you'll promise me if we meet again in a saloon and argue, then a killing will happen.

They did meet again - in a saloon. At 1 a.m. on Friday, July 6, 1900 both men ended up in a Wilcox restaurant. Warren had been drinking, and started slamming Boyett with his verbal abuse. Restaurant patrons were amazed at the affront! They both walked through the door that led to Brown's Headquarters Saloon.

News reports stated that bar customers heard Warren Earp say "Boyett get your gun and we will settle this thing right here. I've got my gun, you go and get yours." Johnny left the bar. When he returned, Earp was no longer there. But he came back a short time later.

Boyett stood in the middle of the saloon floor, as Warren entered from the rear restaurant door. Johnny fired some shots his way as everyone ran out of the saloon. Only Brown, the saloon owner, stayed behind, hidden behind the bar. Warren reappeared at the bar's side door.

Headquarters Saloon, Willcox AZHistorical Marker in Willcox

Johnny yelled at Warren to stay away - stay back! Warren came forward, towards Johnny and said "Boyett, I'm unarmed. You've all the best of this!" But even so, Warren kept coming closer to Johnny. Warren opened his coat to show he didn't have a gun. Boyett repeated his warning to stay back four or five times (according to witness, saloon owner Brown).

Finally, Warren Earp was about ten feet from Johnny Boyett. Johnny fired his gun again, and this time hit Warren Earp. Hit him right in the chest. Warren fell forward.

They went to Warren and determined he was dead. He was killed virtually instantly. The bullet had pierced his heart. In his hand was a small, partially open pocket-knife. No type of fire-arm was found on him.

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W.F. Nichols, Cochise County coroner and Justice of the Peace held an inquest that very day. Witnesses gave testimony. A bystander, O.W. Hayes, and saloon owner Henry Brown gave the main descriptions.

Hayes said the two men walked into the saloon together. After they talked, he heard Warren say to Johnny "You was paid $150 at one time to kill me. Go get your gun. I have got mine."3

Judge Nichols determined a jury would be unlikely to convict Johnny Boyett. He felt it would be a waste of time and money to convene one. He also decided Boyett acted in self-defense, and he was not indicted.

Site of Headquarters Saloon, Willcox AZWine Tasting Where the Headquarters Saloon Once Stood

Warren was buried in the old Willcox Cemetery, off of North 3rd Avenue. Named The Old Pioneer Cemetery. His grave is in the Southwest corner. According to some local sources, the actual marker is just in the vicinity of where he was buried. That's because the site wasn't immediately marked after burial. Read More>

There's now a Warren Earp Memorial in Willcox, that was dedicated 100 years after his death. It's in Windmill Park, adjacent to the Rex Allen Museum.

The historic Headquarters Saloon burned down in 1940. A new building is on the corner in its place. It's now a wine-tasting room. A historic plaque marks the spot. At the Northwest corner of Railroad Avenue and Maley Street. Right across the street from Railroad Avenue Park.

Cochise HotelBig Nose Kate Managed This Hotel

There is some speculation about the troubles between Warren Earp and Johnny Boyett. That it stemmed from the two of them being gay. That perhaps they were fighting an attraction to each other, and trying to stay in the closet. There are several sources for this conjecture:

  • Johnny Boyett stayed single for his entire life. Put that together with the description given by John Hooker's daughter-in-law
  • Warren Earp was single his entire life. Except for one short, unsuccessful marriage - that no one knows anything about
  • The most indicative is the statement by Mary Katherine Harony, known as Big Nose Kate. At the time of Warren's killing by Boyett, Kate was living not far from Willcox. She managed a hotel in Cochise Arizona. In the 1930s she reportedly gave an interview to a priest. She told him that Warren Earp’s death "was the result of an altercation between two individuals involved in an unnatural male relationship.”4

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1 Dyke, S. (April 26, 2017). Meandering the mesquite: in his brothers' shadows — Warren Earp's story. Green Valley News. Retrieved January 15, 2018 from http://www.gvnews.com/get_out/meandering-the-mesquite-in-his-brothers-shadows-warren-earp-s/article_8d917d66-2918-11e7-8c3b-33114d52cc7c.html

2 De La Garza, P. (2017). Texan Johnny Boyett was the man who gunned down Warren Earp. Originally published in Wild West February 2014. Retrieved January 13, 2018 from http://www.historynet.com/texan-johnny-boyett-man-gunned-warren-earp.htm

3 Wild West (June 12, 2006). Warren Earp: The little brother. Retrieved January 15, 2018 from http://www.historynet.com/warren-earp-the-little-brother.htm

4 Bell, B.B. (October 23, 2015) Warren Earp's lover?. Retrieved January 15, 2018 from https://truewestmagazine.com/was-warren-earp-gay/

5 Clavin, T. (2017). Dodge City: Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, and the wickedest town in the American West.  New York: St. Martin's Press.

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