Wyatt Earp house in Tombstone AZ - it's located just as you enter town.
When visitors drive to Tombstone AZ, they usually arrive via Hwy. 80 from Interstate 10. As you come into the city limits, you'll come up the hill and see Boothill on the left. Next you'll come into the curve that brings you into town.
As you get through the curve, looking immediately to the left - you'll see this particular Wyatt Earp house in Tombstone. It has an iron fence surrounding a statue of Wyatt in the yard.
The statue is a creation of an artist who lives in St. David, Arizona. You may have noticed the Gallery of Dreams in St. David on your drive to Tombstone. It's a vivid blue building on the West side of the road. The Gallery's owner, Tim Trask is the sculptor of the Wyatt statue.
So - did Wyatt Earp live there?
A sign in front explains that "Wyatt and Mattie are said to have lived on the Northeast corner of the intersection." That describes the lot on which this house sits. It is a fact that Wyatt owned that lot (some say, that is).
And that he owned a few others right in that vicinity, as well. His brothers, Virgil and James also owned a few in that area of Fremont and 1st Street - right there. In a way I hate to destroy what everyone wants to believe. But don't we want to know the truth? The real historical facts? I always do.
Some local historians say that Wyatt never lived in that house. They claim that he owned it, but only rented it out to others for some income. Some say he actually lived in a house behind this one. Others say he never owned this house at all.
We've seen some related house pics on the internet. They show a totally different house claiming to be the house that Wyatt did live in. But you know how you cannot believe all you see on the internet!!
So let's get to investigating this - what is known about the real Wyatt Earp house in Tombstone Arizona?
Wyatt Earp arrived in Tombstone AZ in early December 1879. His common law wife, Mattie, was with him. We know from Allie Earp, Virgil's wife, that Wyatt bought a house of their own. It's first discussed in the writings of Frank Waters.
She says when she and Virgil first got to town they rented a shack with a dirt floor. None of the brothers had much money. They were all able to get homes once they all started working. That included the women, who worked sewing a large canvas tent that became a saloon.
Allie said she wanted a home of their own, which happened at first. It was located at the Southwest corner of Fremont and 1st. She noted that when Morgan got to town, he moved in with them.
What caused the later confusion is that Waters's book describes her saying "Wyatt and Mattie lived on the Northeast corner."1 That describes the Wyatt Earp house in Tombstone that everyone coming to town now goes over to see. The Northeast corner of Fremont and 1st.
But is that what Allie really said? Was it Allie's memory breakdown? Since she was interviewed many years after they lived in Tombstone. Was it an author's memory failure, since the book was first published in 1960? Or was it a careless mistake of the book's author?
Wyatt Earp researcher John D. Rose traces it to Waters's book making changes from the initial narrative. His original manuscript quoted Mattie as saying "Our house was next door to Wyatt and Mattie's except for a vacant lot between."
Writer Allen Barra compared the original Waters manuscript, called Tombstone Travesty with his book, written 25 years later, The Earp Brothers of Tombstone. Barra also interviewed Frank Waters. The two accounts are based on Waters's interviews with Allie Earp.
Barra says the problem is "the two versions are in violent contradiction because Frank Waters invented the second.... because the real Allie Earp did not say the things about the Earp Brothers and Doc Holliday that Frank Waters wanted her to say."3
Rose goes on to relate another contributory factor to the confusion. This helped support this current, general belief of the Wyatt Earp house in Tombstone's location. John Gilchriese, a University of Arizona field historian and noted Wyatt Earp collector published a map in the late 1960s. It shows a home on the Northeast corner of Fremont and 1st as owned by Wyatt Earp.2
So according to Rose and Barra, the original Waters manuscript is more reliable. That places Tombstone's Wyatt Earp house in the correct location. It was just about next door to Virgil and Mattie's.
But wait - there's yet more supporting evidence.
Afterwards, half the town supported the Earp brothers' (and Doc Holliday) actions. But half did not. Tombstone was divided on their methods in dealing with local ranchers known as the Cowboys. The Earps became even less popular, when the court didn't hold them accountable.
Virgil Earp lost his position as the U.S. Deputy Marshal. Wyatt was not able to get a lawman position either. They did still have some friends in the ranks of the law, local government and professions. But then the Earp brothers became targets, since they weren't held to justice. That is, in the opinion of many.
They received threats on their lives. Their families were threatened. Then shortly after Christmas in 1881, Virgil was ambushed on Allen Street near 5th. Shot in the arm and hip area. His left arm was shattered, becoming useless the rest of his life. His health status was risky for a time, but he recovered.
Wyatt recruited friends for a posse to hunt down those who were out to get them. He got a warrant to arrest law-breakers. He took his posse to Charleston and raided homes throughout, without finding any culprits. The population there was not thrilled with that event!
Then on March 18, 1882 Morgan Earp was killed in Campbell & Hatch's Saloon on Allen Street. The assassins shot through the back door from an alleyway. Wyatt Earp was devastated, but livid. He was determined to avenge his two brothers.
Wyatt's posse roamed Southeastern Arizona, looking for those who attacked Virgil and killed Morgan. During his "Vendetta Ride" four men were killed. His brother Warren Earp was riding with this posse. The Earp brothers had no earned income during this time. No doubt as he began his avenging plans, Wyatt had to source funds from somewhere. Apparently, that was his home and property.
On February 13, 1882 Wyatt and Mattie went to a local judge and Notary Public to write out a mortgage statement to secure funds. The man who held the mortgage on Wyatt's home was James G. Howard, an Earp friend. Wyatt was loaned $365 from Howard, with an interest rate of 2% per month.
He received the funds in gold coin. It was written as a promissory note, with Wyatt's home as collateral. Wyatt needed to repay in gold coin three months after the mortgage date. There was no grace period. What was particularly important related to the Wyatt Earp house in Tombstone is the description of his home's location in this mortgage document.
It was secured with the parcel of land situated in Tombstone, Cochise County, Arizona Territory. It described the exact location, to quote4 [bullet itemized only by this website]:
So we can see this legal document describes a house owned by Wyatt Earp. It states they lived there - Wyatt and Mattie occupied this residence. And it is on the same side of the street as Virgil Earp's house. That is, the South side of Fremont Street.
Still not convinced?
Now hang on, there's even more!
Wyatt rode with his posse, one man was dead, and more to follow. Word got to the law in Cochise County - a posse formed by Sheriff Johnny Behan was after Wyatt's posse! There was a warrant for the arrest of Wyatt's posse for the murder of Frank Stilwell, Wyatt's first revenge killing.
After Wyatt felt he'd accomplished what he could, he was ready to move on. He left Arizona Territory about mid-April 1882, crossing into New Mexico. He didn't return until he was required to.
Just as happens today (of course we know it - we make our payments each year!), Wyatt owed property taxes to Cochise County. But he left Tombstone, he left Cochise County, and he left Arizona. In 1882 his taxes were due.
Did Wyatt pay his property taxes that were due to Cochise County in 1882?
Cochise County Recorder Christine Rhodes located the records for that year! Listed under the "Delinquent Tax Roll" for that year we find the listing for the Earp Brothers. It states that taxes on Lots 1, 2, 3 and 4, Block M, with 2 frame houses - were overdue.2 So here is another confirmation of the Earp brothers' ownership of the homes on the South side of Fremont Street.
In fact it's a very important document. Because it doesn't mention any taxes due on lots on the North side of Fremont Street. That would be Block V. Later, we'll discuss others who claim Wyatt also owned property on the North side, but we haven't seen the evidence, as there is for the South side.
So with their poor financial condition as they left Arizona in 1882, it's no wonder the Earps didn't have the funds to pay their taxes.
In early 1884 Tombstone's mines were failing. Water was flooding in, and causing many problems. This reverberated through town. The different mining companies let workers go, which affected local business. Those miners that were kept on had their pay drastically cut. The miners went on strike. Tombstone's economy was suffering. In turn the local bank, Hudson & Co. was hurting.
Wyatt had an account at this bank for his use during his posse days. His supporters, including his prior employer - Wells Fargo - arranged for this. Some evidence shows that Wyatt accessed a little over $500 from the account during those times.
Now that the bank was in danger of collapse, there was concern over the mortgage note that Wyatt never repaid. It's a difficult item to trace, but researcher John Rose accessed a rare clipping from the Tombstone Epitaph that shows Wyatt Earp, and Mattie were sent a summons to appear.
The summons was a judgment "to serve the payment of said note on said property in the City of Tombstone, Cochise County..."2 It was now worrisome, as the bank was headed for trouble, that Wyatt might not be held accountable for this loan.
But it could be that his father, who was doing quite well now in California, bailed him out - so to speak. We see that Nicholas P. Earp paid taxes on property in Cochise County in late 1885. That seems like evidence that he took over Wyatt's foreclosing property.
Over the years there have been a few different owners of this north side of Fremont Street Wyatt Earp house in Tombstone AZ. It has previously been open as a gift shop. One time it was a bed and breakfast, I think.
Now this Wyatt Earp house is just there to look at. It's been closed since after Tombstone's Wyatt Earp Days of 2013.7 It has that explanatory sign out front. If you look it up on Google, and go to the website, it says it's a fine-art gallery - in the VERY last paragraph! The rest of the site has nothing to do with the house!!
It's a nice-looking little place. And the statue sculpture by Tim Trask is quite pleasing. But is it historically accurate? There are a few locals who feel they have researched the history, and believe that Wyatt Earp did own this lot and the home on it, as well.5-6
I believe in using critical thinking, and in using research to get to the facts as best as you can. That's what we've tried to do here. We love our town, and its history. So we hope you'll appreciate our help in finding out where Wyatt Earp really lived. Take it for what it's worth to you!
Give us your input below if you so wish - we'd love to hear what you think or feel! Or if you have access to further documentation that verifies the truth of this north side of Fremont Street Wyatt Earp house in Tombstone AZ!
1 Waters, F. (1960). The Earp brothers of Tombstone: The story of Mrs. Virgil Earp. New York: C.N. Potter In. Bison Book edition.
2 Rose, J.D. (2012-2018). Wyatt Earp's Tombstone homesite discovered. Retrieved from www.wyattearpexplorers.com/wyatts-house.html
3 Barra, A. (2002-2018) On Jim Groom’s "Frank Waters: Maligned or misunderstood." Retrieved from www.tombstonehistoryarchives.com/
4 Rose, J.D. (n.d.) Wyatt Earp explorers. Retrieved from www.wyattearpexplorers.com/mortgage.html
5 Trimble, M. (2017, September 4). Did Wyatt Earp live in the house where the statue stands at the corner of Fremont and First Streets? Retrieved from truewestmagazine.com/wyatt-earp-house/
6 Allen, P. (2003, July 5). Wyatt Earp house near ‘wicked’ Allen Street in Tombstone is for sale. Tucson Citizen. Retrieved from tucsoncitizen.com/morgue2/2003/07/05/11298-wyatt-earp-house-near-wicked-allen-street-in-tombstone-is-for-sale/
7 Vogtritter, A. (2013). Wyatt Earp house, gallery will close this weekend. Retrieved from nbc12.com/story/21984870/wyatt-earp-house-gallery-will-close-this-weekend