We’ve been working on an E-Book chronicling Wyatt Earp’s days in Dodge City. Upcoming sometime in the future. We’ll give a bit of a preview here, in that it begins with some of his first days when entering Kansas. He first appears in Sumner County in late 1872.
When Wyatt ends up in Kansas he’s likely still overcoming the trauma of the death of his wife, who was carrying their child. He’s already kind of gone wild for awhile. Going a bit rogue, if you want to call it that. Getting involved in lawless activities. It seems in Kansas he may begin trying the turning of a new leaf!
In Sumner County, he started by cowboying. Herding cattle – picking up some knowledge that would serve him well in his Tombstone AZ days. He was now 24 years old.
Good Boy/Bad Boy
In Aug. 1873 Wyatt was in Ellsworth Kansas. There’s perhaps a chance he had a hand in Ben Thompson’s arrest. That related to Billy Thompson’s killing of Sheriff Chauncey B. Whitney. That autumn Wyatt moved on to Wichita, where brother James was a bartender.
On May 27, 1874 Kansas newspapers report on the murder of Charley Sanders by a Texan. Where was Wyatt that very day? According to Wyatt, he’d just had a fight with a Wichita local. Lawmen restrained him nearby the murder incident. Wyatt claims he promoted arresting those helping this Texan escape. But Wyatt was arrested for fighting.
But Wichita is Where He’s At for Now
By the summer of 1874, it’s apparent Wyatt intends to settle in Wichita. The mayor there at that time, Jim Hope, engaged a type of confidence force of auxiliary police. It appears Wyatt was recruited to join in.
Yet during Hope’s tenure, signs at every entrance to town stated: “Everything goes in Wichita; leave your revolvers at police headquarters and get a check; carrying concealed weapons strictly forbidden.”
On October 29, 1874 The Wichita Eagle reported Wyatt, along with John Behrens, successfully collected a debt. Some Texans owed Moser. Thus he was working for M.R. Moser as part of his private security personnel.
Until the Spring of 1875, Wyatt along with Behrens, worked for Edward Ulrich moving cattle herds because of clashes called the “Polecat War.” These recent experiences soon led Wyatt to get involved in joining up with posses. At Deputy U.S. Marshal’s request, one was over into Oklahoma Indian Territory.
Officially a Police Officer
With his activities in these “shadow” law activities, Wyatt’s actions hadn’t gone unnoticed. Observing his personality from his historical words & demeanor, we could say he probably enjoyed the authority. Maybe even the attention, or at least the admiration he received as a result of his conduct.
It’s possible Wyatt was hired as Wichita Special Police (short time assignments) 1874 Spring or Summer. Rather than as Wyatt asserted, on the regular force. It was instead April 1875 he was offered a position, voted by city council, as Wichita Kansas policeman.
Wyatt served in that position for almost a year. Accolades came his way during his appointment.
Prime example: Wyatt received much publicity in mid December, 1875. He discovered a drunken man with stolen $500. Wyatt arrested him, retrieving those funds to return to the rightful owner.
BUT: Policeman Wyatt’s Wichita Setbacks
Lawman professionalism predicaments in Wichita began to show he wasn’t always about mature responsibility. In particular, two matters reflected some carelessness & lack of self-management. This didn’t point toward his superiors thinking of him for a long-term career. The Wichita Beacon gave local publicity to both escapades.
On Jan. 9, 1876 Wyatt was playing cards at the Custom House Saloon when his weapon fell down from its holster. Upon hitting the floor the gun discharged. The bullet zipped through Wyatt’s coat, zooming past all skin! Then out, not harming anyone before landing.
It really was a “close shave” – so to speak! (Wyatt would have several similar near misses during his life!) Viewed an inattentive move for a man whose job involved handling arms.
As spring of 1876 approached, elections were also impending. Marshal Mike Meagher was Policeman Wyatt’s immediate superior. Meagher was up for reelection. His opponent was William Smith.
Wyatt encountered Smith, who began mouthing off to Wyatt. Smith’s tone was callous & mocking. His comments implied Meagher planned stocking Wichita’s police force with all Earp brothers. Wyatt began fuming, they started fist-fighting.
The news reported the incident April 5, 1876 telling Wyatt’s repercussions from the situation. He was fined $30 + court cost payments.
After-Effects for Wichita Wyatt
Nominations for Wichita Policemen were published April 19, 1876. It showed Wyatt Earp & 2 other names.
The city council approved two, but not for Wyatt. One member asked reconsideration for Wyatt. They re-voted. This time the vote tied: 50-50. So they postponed further action until May.
They also added: Wyatt must deliver all gathered Wichita funds. (Probably resulting from Wyatt’s history: He’d not turned over collections from a prior official post.)
From known archival data, he wasn’t again on the Wichita Police Force. Next mention of Wyatt Earp is he’s in Dodge City, hired as their Police Officer.
However, down the road, Wichita newspapers always remembered him fondly as one of theirs!
Historical places & events create curiosity for facts about people who roamed the Tombstone area & the Old West. What’s the true story? Can we discover the authentic history?
And we enjoy sharing what we find with you.
We hope we’ll see you in town sometime, (soon we hope, in the near future!) seeing areas where they spent time – back in the 1800s.
Let us know if you’ll be going to an upcoming event! Tell us how you liked any of them, or what you visited here! Just reply to this newsletter for easy input! (Let us know if we can use your comments – & how to credit you.)