marshall trimble ask the marshall true west magazine

Were the Earp’s pivotal figures in settling Arizona?

Joe Manriquez
Whittier, California

I think a case could be made to say that they were. There is something very important about bringing law and order to a territory. Let’s take Tombstone. The Arizona Territory wanted desperately to attract eastern and San Francisco capital. Also, the citizens were clamoring for statehood while Congress insisted Arizona was too wild and lawless to join the Union.

The cowboys openly thumbed their noses at the law. Some lawmen, like Cochise County Sheriff John Behan, looked the other way as did saloons, gambling houses, etc., in Tombstone and the surrounding area. They made too much money off the Cow-boys.

But the group’s illegal activities pushed mining and other business interests to call for stricter enforcement of the law. Virgil Earp was a straight-up lawman and he had the full support of that group.  The cowboy influence was dramatically cut by the middle of 1882, primarily due to the Earp’s and their associates.

In that way, bringing law and order to Arizona could be called pivotal.

Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian and vice president of the Wild West History Association. His latest book is Arizona Outlaws and Lawmen; The History Press, 2015. If you have a question, write: Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327 or email him at

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