Wyatt: The Early Years Wyatt Earp was not considered a legendary gunfighter during his lifetime.

Wyatt Earp True West Magazine
Wyatt Earp in Wichita.

Wyatt Earp was not considered a legendary gunfighter during his lifetime. Others of his ilk such as Wild Bill Hickock, Bill Cody, Billy the Kid, John Wesley Hardin and Jesse James were better known.

The street fight that became known as the “Gunfight at the OK Corral” was almost forgotten in the annals of the Old West. Wyatt died peacefully with his boots off in 1929, after the West had passed from reality into the realm of romance. It was after his death that books, television and movies resurrected and sometimes reconstructed his deeds and elevated him to superstar status.

Wyatt Earp was a product of the West, the real deal. As a youngster, Wyatt emigrated to California with his family. As a teenager he drove freight wagons over a treacherous 400-mile road from the port at San Pedro to Prescott, Arizona.  During the late 1860’s, Wyatt, by now a husky, strapping young man over six feet tall, was working as a teamster on railroad construction and, on occasion a boxer, something that would prove useful in his later line of work.

The lawless towns young Wyatt frequented during those turbulent times weren’t for the faint-hearted, as Mark Twain said, “It was no place for a Presbyterian…….so therefore I didn’t remain one.”

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Marshall Trimble

Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian and the Wild West History Association’s vice president. His latest book is 2018’s Arizona Oddities: A Land of Anomalies and Tamales. Send your question, with your city/state of residence, to marshall.trimble@scottsdalecc.edu or Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327.