Tuesday, March 17, 2015


Morgan Seth Earp chalked the tip of his cue and scanned the table top looking for the best shot. Seconds later, on Saturday night, March 18, 1882, gunshots shattered the glass windows on the door at the rear of Campbell & Hatch’s Saloon and Billiard Parlor.

Morgan Earp
One of the bullets drilled into the right side of the 30-year old lawman’s  abdomen, ripped through his spinal column, and came out the left side and lodged in the thigh of a bystander, George A.B. Berry.  

A second bullet slammed into the wall above Wyatt Earp’s head where he sat watching the pool game. 

When Earp saw his younger brother collapse, he and two other men hurried across the room, picked Morgan up and carried him to the doorway of the adjoining card room

Three Tombstone doctors were summoned. After examining the younger Earp, they shook their heads, indicating the hopeless nature of the injury. 

A few minutes later, brothers Wyatt, Virgil, James, and Warren surrounded Morgan. When they tried to help him to his feet, he whispered, “Don’t, I can’t stand it. This is the last game of pool I’ll ever play.” He took his last breath around midnight. 

Eventually, Morgan’s body was transported home to Colton, California, where his parents buried him. 

The previous December, Virgil took a bullet when he was ambushed by unknown assailants while making his way home from a saloon. But he survived. 

Wyatt Earp
The attacks against the Earp were no doubt triggered by the shoot-out at the OK Corral, October 28, 1881, against members of an outlaw gang known as The Cowboys

During the confrontation, the Earps and Doc Holliday shot and killed Frank and Tom McLaury, and Billy Clanton. 

I did not intend to fight unless it became necessary in self defense, and in the performance of official duty,” Earp said. “When Billy Clanton and Frank McLaury drew their pistols I knew it was a fight for life, and I drew and fired in defense of my own life and the lives of my brothers and Doc Holliday.”

On March 20, the day following Morgan Earp’s funeral, Deputy U.S. Marshal Wyatt Earp headed up a federal posse on what became known as the Earp Vendetta Ride. 

Certain that Cowboys would strike again, Earp, youngest brother Warren, Doc Holliday, and two other members of the posse escorted Virgil and his wife, Allie, from Tombstone to the train depot in Contention where they boarded a train to Benson and then to Tucson. 

The plan was to make sure Virgil and wife reach Colton, California, so they would be safe. 

Ike Clanton
Earp was tipped off that Ike Clanton and Frank Stilwell and others were waiting to take revenge. When his brother and his wife boarded the train, Earp saw two men hiding in the dark, armed with shotguns and headed their way. 

Spotting Earp, Clanton and Stilwell turned and ran. Stilwell, however, tripped. When he scrambled to his feet, Wyatt fired both barrels of his shotgun from a few feet away and killed him. 

A day or two later, Earp and his posse tracked Florentino Cruz into the Dragoon Mountains and killed him. Cruz had been identified as one of the men in the alley outside the billiard parlor where Morgan was gunned down. 

On March 24, the Earp posse engaged in a shootout with Curly Bill Brocius and Johnny Barnes at Iron Springs, where both men were killed. 

Curly Bill

When the posse returned to Tombstone, Sheriff Johnny Behan tried to arrest them on murder warrants but they refused and rode out. 

When Earp learned a large posse had been formed to pursue them, they disbanded and left Arizona Territory. 

Earp, his brother Warren, and Doc Holliday ended up in Colorado for a time. Holliday died from Tuberculosis at Glenwood Springs, Colorado.

The Earps eventually traveled to California. Wyatt and his wife, Josie, then headed for Nome, Alaska where he went prospecting for gold and worked as a gambler. 

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  1. As many times as I've read about the Earps—I never get tired of their story.

  2. Thanks for visiting, David. Forever a fascinating family.

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  4. Early in my real estate career I found Wyatt's name on an oil lease in Kern County, he was active there when he finished his life in L.A.

  5. Such a time this was. The story gets told and retold with many pieces added. Thank you for the 'story' without the frills. I find it fascinating that 133 years later, we still listen intently to the details of the tragedy. Doris McCraw/Angela Raines

    1. Yes, Doris, time never erodes the fascination with the Earps, as David Cranmer suggested.

  6. Glad you enjoyed it, Charlie. Thanks for stopping by.

  7. Great post, Tom. Good photo of the young Wyatt Earp

    1. Thank you, Keith. Good to hear you enjoyed the story.