TiptonDan Tipton and the Earp Vendetta Posse

By Peter Brand

Daniel Tipton’s name is not well known in the annals of the West. His character has never been portrayed in any Hollywood versions of the Tombstone story. Yet, when Wyatt needed loyal and reliable men, Tipton stepped out of the shadows to be counted as an Earp Vendetta rider.

Daniel Gordon Tipton, a New Yorker and former Union Navy man, was acquainted with the Earps. When Virgil Earp was ambushed on December 28, 1881, Wyatt realized that he had to surround himself with trustworthy men who would not be intimidated by further Cow-boy threats.

On February 15, 1882, Tipton clashed violently with Cow-boy troublemaker Ben Maynard in the Alhambra Saloon. The source of their dispute was rooted in the Earp/Cow-boy war and Tipton earned a nasty gash under his right eye when he was struck by Ben Maynard’s six-shooter.

Referred to thereafter as a “warm friend” of the Earp crowd, on March 18, 1882, Tipton was playing pool with the Earps at a Tombstone saloon when Cow-boy assassins murdered Morgan from the darkness of a back alley. At that moment, Wyatt Earp closed ranks, gathered his Vendetta posse and set out to avenge Morgan’s death.

After the killing of Frank Stilwell at the rail yard on March 20, 1882, the group returned to Tombstone, picked up Vermillion, Smith and Tipton and rode out to Pete Spencer’s wood camp. Here the riders found Florentino Cruz and shot him to death on March 22, 1882. Wyatt and his men were now deputy U.S. marshals wanted for murder.

Smith and Tipton then separated from Wyatt, returned to Tombstone, and were arrested by County Sheriff John Behan for aiding the Vendetta posse. The charges were dismissed.

Tipton stepped into the fray again in the early hours of March 27, 1882. He left Tombstone for Henry Hooker’s Sierra Bonita Ranch in Willcox armed with information and money. Wyatt and his men managed to evade timid Sheriff John Behan and ride east to New Mexico. In Albuquerque, after Doc and Wyatt argued, Holliday and Tipton separated from the group, traveling to Colorado. The Southern dentist and Tipton, the ex-Union seaman, made odd traveling companions, except for their love of alcohol and gambling.

Tipton rejoined the Earp Posse when it finally arrived in Trinidad, Colorado. He would then travel with the Earps to Gunnison where the small group spent the summer of 1882.

In the following years, Dan Tipton worked as a U.S. customs inspector and made El Paso, Texas his home. Always the gambler, Tipton’s luck ran out in June, 1897, when he was arrested for smuggling false Chinese labor certificates across the border. He was found guilty and sentenced to 20 months in Ohio Federal prison. Tipton, who was suffering from advanced Bright’s disease, pleaded with the judge for leniency, but Daniel Tipton died behind bars, February 28, 1898.

Doc’s Nemesis: Johnny Tyler

By Roger Jay

Tombstone, October 12, 1880. The Oriental Saloon. Each was armed—as was the custom among the sporting class in Tombstone—and a fight between Johnny Tyler and Doc Holliday seemed imminent. In the nick of time, mutual friends separated the “well-known sports” and Tyler retired from the field.

His blood up, Doc turned his wrath on the proprietor, Milt Joyce, who reprimanded Doc for causing a scene. That exchange escalated into a shoot-out and a brawl, leaving Doc so gore-stained, onlookers feared for his life.

John Tyler and Doc Holliday were enemies to the hilt. Interviewed by the Leadville Daily Democrat, August 20, 1884, Doc said flatly that his troubles with Billy Allen could be traced to Tyler and the  grudge he bore Holliday since Tombstone.

Doc may have met his nemesis en route to Tombstone from Prescott in September 1880. Doc’s journey dovetails neatly with the San Augustin Festival in Tucson, a gambler’s paradise. It’s unlikely Doc would have missed this celebration, which was directly on his route. And the Arizona Star of August 27, 1880, notes the arrival of J.E. Tyler of Tombstone at the Palace Hotel in Tucson one day before the fiesta was to begin. Doc and Tyler could hardly have avoided each other in the gambling enclosure, and the Tucson papers reported on several skirmishes between unnamed sports at the fairgrounds.

Less than a month later, Doc and Tyler clashed at the Oriental.

Wyatt Earp later claimed that Tyler headed a “coterie” of gamblers intent on taking over the gambling concessions there. When Tyler made his play, probably in early February, 1881, Wyatt reportedly grabbed him by his ear and sent him tumbling into the street, while Doc kept Johnny’s companions at bay with a nickel-plated six-gun. This means that Tyler was still causing trouble some five months after his set-to with Doc.

It seems that wherever Doc Holliday traveled, whether to Tucson, Tombstone or Leadville, trouble was there waiting. That is, trouble in the name of one Johnny Tyler.


Peter Brand is a writer and researcher from Sydney, Australia. He has been researching the members of Wyatt Earp’s 1882 Vendetta Posse since 1991.

Roger Jay holds a B.A. in English from the Johns Hopkins University. He is currently preparing a book on the relationship between Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday.

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