Earp Vendetta Ride
The Earp Vendetta Ride, lasting from March 20 to April 15, 1882, was a search by a federal posse for outlaw Cowboys, led by newly appointed Deputy U.S. Marshal Wyatt Earp. He was searching for men he held responsible for maiming his brother, Virgil (who was both a Deputy U.S. Marshal and Tombstone City Marshal at the time of his injury), and for assassinating his brother Morgan, an assistant U.S. Marshal. The Earps had been attacked in retaliation for the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral on October 26, 1881, in which the Earps and Doc Holliday killed three Cowboys. Wyatt formed a federal posse that searched southeast Cochise County, Arizona Territory for suspects in both Virgil's and Morgan's attacks whom the court had freed, owing in some cases to legal technicalities and in others on the strength of alibis provided by Cowboy confederates. Wyatt Earp, deciding he could not rely on civil justice, took matters into his own hands to hunt the men down and kill them.
The event that triggered the long ride, during which the Earp posse did not return to Tombstone, and after which they ultimately left the Territory forever, was the shooting death of Frank Stilwell in Tucson on March 20. Wyatt, his brother Warren, Doc Holliday, and two other deputies were escorting Virgil and his wife Allie to a California-bound train in Tucson, when Wyatt spotted Frank Stilwell lying in wait near the train. He and several men chased Stilwell down and killed him. The Tucson Justice of the Peace issued warrants for the arrest of the five men suspected of shooting Stilwell. The next day, Cochise County Sheriff Johnny Behan attempted to detain the Earps' federal posse in Tombstone, but they brushed him aside and rode out of town to find the other Cowboys implicated in the attacks.
At the same time deputy U.S. Marshal Wyatt Earp was riding as a federal posse, Behan formed a Cochise County sheriff's posse consisting of deputies Phineas "Phin" (or "Fin") Clanton, Johnny Ringo, and about twenty other Arizona ranchers and outlaws, with the purpose of serving the Stilwell murder arrest warrants against five members of the federal posse. The Behan posse never engaged the much smaller Earp posse, which not only received help from local businessmen and ranchers, but at one point during the pursuit even wrote a letter to a Tombstone newspaper taunting Behan and his men. Carrying arrest warrants for Curly Bill Brocius and others, the federal posse ultimately killed four men, beginning with the shooting of Stilwell and ending with the killing of Brocius. The ride ended April 15 when the Earps and their associates rode out of Arizona Territory and headed for New Mexico Territory.
- 1 Background
- 2 Stilwell shooting in Tucson
- 3 Earp posse pursues Outlaw Cowboys
- 4 South Pass shooting
- 5 Gunfight at Iron Springs
- 6 Cowboys case dropped
- 7 Legacy
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 Further reading
Attempted assassination of Virgil Earp
At about 11:30 pm on December 28, 1881, just over two months after the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, three men ambushed Virgil Earp as he walked from Schieffelin Hall back to the Cosmopolitan Hotel, where the Earps had moved for mutual support and protection. He was hit in the back and upper left arm by about 20 buckshot pellets, shattering his humerus, forcing Dr. George Goodfellow to remove 5.5 inches (140 mm) of bone. Wyatt, believing that Virgil was dying, telegraphed U.S. Marshal Crawley P. Dake:
Tombstone, Arizona Territory, December 29, 1881—
Virgil Earp was shot by concealed assassins last night. His wounds are fatal. Telegraph me appointment with power to appoint deputies. Local authorities are doing nothing. The lives of other citizens are threatened.
Wyatt deputizes posse
Dake replied affirmatively by telegraph, and Deputy U.S. Marshal Wyatt Earp deputized, along with Warren Earp and Doc Holliday, Sherman McMaster, Jack "Turkey Creek" Johnson, Charles "Hairlip Charlie" Smith, Daniel "Tip" Tipton, and John Wilson "Texas Jack" Vermillion to protect the family and pursue the suspects, paying them $5.00 a day.
McMaster and Johnson were known as tough men who knew how to use their guns. McMaster had seen service with the Texas Rangers in 1878-1879 when his unit captured and held Curly Bill Brocius prisoner for five months. In Tombstone, McMaster had also been accused of stealing U.S. Army mules and robbing a stage with outlaw Charles "Pony" Diehl. Fluent in Spanish, McMaster used his inside knowledge of the Cowboys to assist the Earps in their search. He also liked fine horses.
"Turkey Creek" Johnson, whose real name according to Wyatt Earp was John William Blount, was a native of Missouri who was raised in the lead mining area of Neosho. Blount was forced to flee Missouri in 1877 after he and his brother were involved in a violent street battle. In Arizona during May 1881, his brother Bud killed a man in a quarrel in Tip Top, Arizona Territory, and was sent to Yuma Territorial Prison. John Blount adopted the alias Jack Johnson and went to Tombstone seeking Wyatt Earp's help to get his brother pardoned. Wyatt helped by writing a petition to Governor Fremont, whom Wyatt knew, and Bud Blount was eventually freed. As a way to repay his debt, Johnson joined the posse.
"Hairlip Charlie" Smith had a long-time connection to the Earp family, and was fluent in Spanish after spending several years in Texas working in saloons. While in Fort Worth he had been associated with barman James Earp, and participated in at least two gunfights there, and was seriously wounded in 1878. Arriving in Tombstone in 1879 with Robert J. Winders, Smith immediately became associated with the Earps. Winders and the Earps partnered on the Mountain Maid mine. Smith and Tipton were gamblers who supplemented their income with mining ventures.
"Tip" Tipton arrived in Tombstone in March 1881. He had a shady reputation earned during the early days of the mining boom in Virginia City, Nevada Territory. Tipton, a former Union seaman in the Civil War, was tattooed on his hands and forearms, and took up mining and gambling after the war. In 1879 he was in the Gunnison district of Colorado before traveling to Tombstone at the request of his friend Lou Rickabaugh, also a friend of the Earps.
"Texas Jack" Vermillion, a Virginian, joined the vendetta ride after the killing of Frank Stilwell, and thus was never indicted for that act, but he was with the Earps at the killing of "Indian Charlie" Florentino Cruz. Closer to friend and fellow Southerner Doc Holliday than the Earps, Vermillion stood by Holliday's side during the shootout at Iron Springs with Curly Bill Brocius. A veteran of the Civil War on the Confederate side who rode with J.E.B. Stuart's Virginia cavalry, Vermillion was an accomplished horseman and pistoleer.
U.S. Marshal Dake visited Tombstone in late January 1881 with acting Governor John J. Gosper. Dake had previously and unsuccessfully requested financial assistance from the United States Attorney General, Wayne McVeagh, to help track down and arrest the Cowboys. Dake's superior told him he must reduce his official debt below the penalty bond of $20,000 before an additional appropriation could be made.:119 In September 1881, Governor Gosper told Secretary of Interior Kirkwood that Arizona contained "a small army of outlaws well armed and fully able to cope with the ordinary civil powers of our counties.":120 Not believing that the federal bureaucracy would provide funds, Dake borrowed $3,000 from Wells, Fargo & Co., promising that the Department of Justice would repay it. He deposited money, variously reported as either $300 or $3000,:238 to an account in the Hudson & Company Bank, minus $15, for use "to arrest all parties committing crimes against the United States." The following day John Thacker from Wells Fargo went with Wyatt to the bank to authorize his use of the funds.:238 Dake was later accused, although not convicted, of spending $300 on gambling and whores while in Tombstone and misappropriating most of the rest of the money.:123
Outlaw Cowboy warrants
In January 1882, Wyatt Earp sought and received warrants from Judge William H. Stilwell for the arrest of the men thought responsible for ambushing Virgil. Judge Stilwell was among a number of Cochise County citizens unhappy with Sheriff Behan's inability to stop the Cowboys' ongoing criminal activity.:239 On January 23, Wyatt led his newly deputized posse, consisting of his brothers Morgan and Warren, Doc Holliday, "Texas Jack" Vermillion and four others, towards Charleston, Arizona where Ike Clanton, his brother "Phin", and "Pony" Diehl were known to stay.:239
On January 17, 1882, Johnny Ringo and Doc Holliday had traded threats, resulting in their arrest by Tombstone's chief of police, James Flynn. Both were fined and Judge Stilwell noted that charges were still outstanding against Ringo for a robbery in Galeyville. Ringo was rearrested and jailed on January 20.:238 When Ringo heard on January 23 that the Earps had warrants, he arranged for bail. Sheriff Behan released him before Ringo's bail arrived and Ringo rode ahead to warn his Cowboy friends in Charleston. James Earp immediately filed an affidavit saying Ringo was "an escaped prisoner" and charged that Ringo intended to interfere with Wyatt's execution of the warrants. Before being rearrested in Charleston, Ringo warned the Clantons and Diehl, who left town.
On the way to Charleston, Earp's posse was joined by thirty more riders from Tombstone. They found Ben Maynard, a known Cowboy associate, outside Charleston and arrested him. With Maynard in front, the posse took over the small town and went door-to-door looking for the Clantons and Diehl. The next day the posse scouted the countryside, eventually stopping at a camp near Tombstone known as "Pick-em-up". Complicating matters, a Tombstone deputy sheriff rode out to Pick-em-up and served a warrant on McMaster, who was accused of stealing two horses from the Contention mine. The Earp posse rode back into Tombstone where Sherman McMaster made bail. He and Charlie Smith took a room at the Cosmopolitan Hotel near the Earps.
On January 30, the Clanton brothers surrendered to Wells Fargo guard Charley Bartholomew and were jailed in Tombstone. They learned they were not arrested for armed robbery as expected, but for "assault with intent to commit murder, the specific offense being the waylaying and shooting of Virgil Earp some weeks ago.":240
On February 2, the Clantons were put on trial before Judge Stilwell. Ike's hat had been found at the scene and McMaster testified that he had been in Charleston the evening of the shooting. He said that when Ike learned that Virgil had survived the shooting, Ike said he "would have to go back and do the job over.":240 However, Charleston constable George McKelvey, saloon owner J. B. Ayers and five others testified that Ike Clanton had been in Charleston and could not have taken part in the shooting. The charges were dismissed for lack of evidence. Wyatt said later that Judge Stilwell told him, "Wyatt, you'll never clean up this crowd this way; next time you'd better leave your prisoners in the brush where alibis don't count.":241
Ike Clanton refiled murder charges against the Earps and Doc Holliday in Contention, Arizona for their killing of his brother and the McLaury brothers. When he could not provide new evidence, the charges were dismissed. On February 13, Wyatt mortgaged his home to lawyer James G. Howard for $365.00 (about $8,920 today), but was never able to repay the loan and in 1884 Howard foreclosed on the house. On February 17, the Earp posse left Tombstone heavily armed and with a warrant for the arrest of "Pony" Diehl, who was suspected in a January 1882 stage robbery. Unsuccessful, they returned to town a few days later, hearing rumors that the Cowboys were plotting further revenge.
Morgan Earp assassinated
On Saturday evening, March 18, 1882, Tombstone's Scheifflin Hall was host to Stolen Kisses, a play by William Horace Lingard and Company. Wyatt warned against going, but Morgan, Doc Holliday, and Dan Tipton attended. Benjamin Goodrich cautioned the men, "You fellows will catch it tonight if you don't look out." Afterwards, Doc went to his room and Morgan and Tipton headed for Hatch's Saloon and Billiard Parlor, which had become their unofficial headquarters after the Oriental Hotel was sold. Morgan came upon Virgil's wife Allie while she was out shopping for her convalescing husband, and escorted her back to the Cosmopolitan Hotel. Upon returning to Hatch's Saloon, Morgan and Bob Hatch began a game of pool. Wyatt, Tipton, and McMaster watched them play at a pool table near the back door.:244
At 10:50 pm, Morgan Earp was waiting for Hatch to line up a shot when two bullets were fired through the windows of the back door. One bullet first struck Morgan, who fell to the floor, then lodged in the thigh of George A. B. Berry. Another bullet struck the wall over Wyatt's head. Wyatt, McMaster and Tipton pulled Morgan out of the line of fire while Hatch dashed outside looking for the shooters. Morgan had been struck on the left side, the bullet shattering his spine then passing through his right kidney and liver, and emerging from his right side.:244 Morgan Earp died within the hour.
The next day, Sunday, March 19 (Wyatt's 34th birthday), he and brother James Earp and a group of friends took Morgan's body to the railroad station in Contention. After loading it onto a train, James and two or three close friends accompanied it to Colton, California. Morgan's wife was already in Colton, where she had traveled for safety before Morgan was killed.
While Wyatt and James were traveling to Contention with Morgan's body, Coroner Dr. D.M. Mathew held an inquest into Morgan's death. During the Coroner's Inquest, Pete Spence's wife, Marietta Duarte, implicated her husband and four other men in Morgan's murder. She testified that along with her husband, Frank Stilwell, a man named "Fries" (later identified as Frederick Bode), and two Indians later identified as Hank Swilling and Florentino Cruz took part in the killing.:248:206:176 She testified that four days before the shooting she and her mother were standing at Spence's house when Morgan walked by. "The Indian then started down the street, & got ahead of him to get a good look at him.":248 She also stated that on the night of the shooting she and her mother heard the shots, and a few minutes later Stilwell and "Charley" came into her home, followed shortly by Spence, Bode and the other Indian.:248
Marietta Duarte recalled that the men were excited, and the next morning her husband threatened her with violence if she told what she knew. "Spence didn't tell me so, but I know he killed Morgan Earp", she said.:248 Additional witnesses said they saw Frank Stilwell running from the scene. The coroner's jury concluded that Spence, Stilwell, Frederick Bode, and Florentino "Indian Charlie" Cruz were the prime suspects in Morgan Earp's death.:250
Spence immediately turned himself in so that he would be protected in Behan's jail. Indictments were issued and a trial was begun. But when the prosecution called Pete Spence's wife Marietta to recount the testimony she had given at the Coroner's Inquest, the defense objected because her testimony was hearsay and because a spouse could not testify against her husband. The judge agreed and dismissed the charges.
When Wyatt Earp learned of the judge's ruling, he felt he could not rely on the court system for justice. Stilwell had previously been acquitted of two homicides and a stage robbery, and in Wyatt Earp's opinion, he and other Cowboys had gotten away with it again. Wyatt decided to take matters into his own hands, concluding that the only way to deal with Virgil's and Morgan's attackers was to kill them.
Stilwell shooting in Tucson
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Wyatt made arrangements to escort Virgil and Addie to the train in Contention. On Monday, March 20, Wyatt received information that Ike Clanton, Frank Stilwell, Hank Swilling, and another Cowboy were watching the passenger trains in Tucson with the aim to kill Virgil. He thought getting the still invalid Virgil through to Tucson safely would require extra help. Wyatt, accompanied by Warren Earp, Doc Holliday, "Turkey Creek" Jack Johnson, and Sherman McMaster, took Virgil and Allie to nearby Contention City, where they stabled their horses and picked up an extra wagon. They rode in the wagons to Benson, where they caught the next train to Tucson. In Tucson, Virgil and Allie would connect with a train for California.
Upon their arrival in Tucson, they were greeted at the train station by Deputy U.S. Marshal J. W. Evans. Virgil later reported that they saw Stilwell and other Cowboys at the train station, but when they saw how well guarded Virgil was, withdrew from the station platform. Holliday deposited his shotguns in a safe place at the train station.
The group had dinner at Porter's Hotel near the station and returned to the train. Holliday asked someone to get his shotguns. Wyatt escorted Virgil and Allie aboard the train. A passenger told Virgil he saw men lying on a flatcar near the engine. Wyatt saw them too and slipped between the tracks, looking for the men. When the train pulled away from the Tucson station, gunfire was heard. Witnesses gave differing accounts but Frank Stilwell's body was found the next morning about 100 yards (91 m) from the Porter Hotel alongside the tracks riddled with two buckshot and three gunshot wounds.
The Tombstone Epitaph reported the next day that Stilwell had been shot six times at close range including a load of buckshot in his chest at such close range that six buckshot left holes within a radius of 3 inches (76 mm), leaving powder burns on his coat. The coroner reported that Stilwell had been shot by five different weapons and had received a shotgun wound to the leg and a second shotgun wound to the chest. Many years later, Wyatt told his biographer Flood that he and his party had seen Clanton and Stilwell on the tracks with weapons, and he had shot Stilwell.
The other man, whom Wyatt identified as Ike Clanton, got away. Ike claimed in a newspaper interview afterward that he and Stilwell had been in Tucson to respond to a federal subpoena for interfering with a U.S. mail carrier when he allegedly robbed the Sandy Bob line of the Bisbee stage on September 8, 1881. The federal charges had been filed by Virgil Earp after Stilwell was acquitted for lack of evidence on the state charges of robbery.
Clanton said he had heard that the Earps were coming in on a train to kill Stilwell. According to Clanton, Stilwell left the hotel and was last seen walking down the railroad tracks away from the Porter Hotel, towards where his body was later found on the tracks. Virgil later told the Examiner, "One thing is certain, if I had been without an escort they would have killed me."
Earp posse pursues Outlaw Cowboys
After killing Stilwell in Tucson and verifying that the train was on its way to California with Virgil, the Earp party was afoot. They walked back along the tracks out of Tucson to the Papago freight stop 9 miles (14 km) east of Tombstone, where they flagged down the night-freight train back to the terminal in Benson. In Benson they hired a wagon back to Contention where they picked up their stabled horses. They rode into Tombstone around midday on Tuesday, March 21. Once in Tombstone they learned of Marietta Duarte's testimony during the coroner's inquest into Morgan's death and the names of the accused Cowboys.
They were now wanted men because Stilwell's killing had been connected to the Earp party on the train. Tucson Justice of the Peace Charles Meyer issued arrest warrants for five of the Earps' party. He sent a telegram to Tombstone saying that Wyatt and Warren Earp, Holliday, Johnson and McMaster were wanted in Tucson for killing Stilwell and that Cochise County Sheriff Behan should arrest them. The telegraph office manager was a friend to the Earps and showed the message to Wyatt, delaying its delivery to Behan long enough to allow the Earps and their associates to make ready to leave town Tuesday evening.
Behan got the telegram informing him that warrants for the arrest of the five men had been issued in Tucson in the early evening. He found the men in the lobby of the Cosmopolitan Hotel, heavily armed, getting ready to leave town. He told Wyatt he wanted to see him. Deputy U.S. Marshal Wyatt replied "Johnny, if you're not careful you'll see me once too often." One of Behan's deputies, Billy Breakenridge, claimed Wyatt and his men resisted arrest and even pulled their guns on Behan and Dave Neagle, one of Wyatt's friends, to prevent their arrest.
Wyatt and Warren Earp, Doc Holliday, Johnson and McMaster were now joined by "Texas Jack" Vermillion, Dan Tipton, Charlie Smith, Fred Dodge, Johnny Green, and Lou Cooley to form a federal posse under Wyatt's authority as the deputy federal marshal. Continuing to ignore Behan, the Earp posse rode out of town the same evening of Tuesday, March 21.:63 They headed for the woodcutting camp of Pete Spence in the South Pass in the Dragoon Mountains. It was the last time the Earps or Holliday saw Tombstone.
Tucson, where the Earps had killed Stilwell, was in the jurisdiction of Pima County Sheriff Bob Paul. Paul was a friend of the Earps and failed to execute the warrant. Although Tucson was outside Behan's jurisdiction as Sheriff of Cochise Country, Behan formed a posse consisting of a number of deputized Cowboys, friends of Frank Stilwell and Ike Clanton, including Johnny Ringo, Phineas Clanton, Johnny Barnes and about 18 more men. They rode after the federal posse and the five men wanted for Stilwell's murder.
South Pass shooting
On the morning of March 22, a portion of the Earp posse including Wyatt, Warren, Doc Holliday, Sherman McMaster and "Turkey Creek" Johnson rode into Spence's woodcutting camp in the South Pass in the Dragoon Mountains, looking for Spence. Unknown to the Earp posse, Pete Spence was in jail, but at the wood camp, the Earp posse found Florentino "Indian Charlie" Cruz. The Arizona Weekly Star had previously identified "Florentino Saiz as "the 1878 murderer of two U.S. Marshals", and they may have been the same person. According to witnesses in the wood camp, as the Earp posse arrived, Cruz ran and the Earp posse chased him, firing several shots, then a final shot. Earp told his biographer Lake that he got Cruz to confess to being the lookout, and that he identified Stilwell, Hank Swilling, Curly Bill and Johnny Ringo as Morgan's killers. After the confession, Wyatt Earp shot Cruz, telling his biographer J. H. Flood that he had given Cruz a pistol, and told him to draw. The coroner's inquest identified him as Florentino Cruz. Dr. George Goodfellow testified that he found that Cruz had a minor wound to his arm, a wound in his thigh, a serious wound in his groin and pelvis, and a shot in the side of his head. The coroner thought either of the last two shots would have been fatal.
Gunfight at Iron Springs
Two days later, near Iron Springs (later Mescal Springs), in the Whetstone Mountains, the Earp party was expecting to meet Charlie Smith who was bringing cash from Tombstone about 20 miles (32 km) to the west. They stumbled upon a group of Cowboys including Curly Bill Brocius, "Pony" Diehl, Johnny Barnes, Frank Patterson, Milt Hicks, Bill Hicks, Bill Johnson, Ed Lyle, and Johnny Lyle, cooking dinner alongside the spring. Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday, who left the only record of the fight, were in the lead of the Earp party when they suddenly came upon the Cowboys' camp less than 30 feet (9.1 m) behind an embankment. He dismounted, shotgun in hand. "Texas Jack" Vermillion remained cool under fire and stuck close to Wyatt during the fight. Lacking cover, Doc, Johnson, and McMaster retreated. Warren Earp was away on an errand at the time.
Curly Bill's death
Curly Bill fired at Wyatt with a shotgun but missed. Eighteen months earlier, Wyatt had protected Curly Bill against a mob ready to lynch him for killing Tombstone Town Marshal Fred White, and then provided testimony that helped spare Curly Bill from a murder trial. Now Wyatt returned "Curly Bill"'s gunfire with his own shotgun and shot Curly Bill in the chest, nearly cutting him in half. Curly Bill fell into the water by the edge of the spring and lay dead.
The Cowboys fired a number of shots at the Earp party but the only casualty was "Texas Jack" Vermillion's horse, which was struck and killed. Wyatt's long coat was punctured by bullets on both sides. Another bullet struck his boot heel and his saddle-horn was hit as well, burning the saddle hide and narrowly missing Wyatt. Firing his pistol, Wyatt shot Johnny Barnes in the chest and Milt Hicks in the arm. Vermillion tried to retrieve his rifle wedged in the scabbard under his fallen horse, exposing himself to the Cowboys' gunfire. Doc Holliday helped him gain cover. Wyatt had trouble remounting his horse because of a cartridge belt that had slipped down his legs. He was finally able to get on his horse and retreat. McMaster was grazed by a bullet that cut through the straps of his field glasses.
In an unpublished 1926 biography of Wyatt Earp by John H. Flood, Vermillion (as "Texas Jack") is described several times as being a relative stranger to the Earps, although he had been one of Virgil's city deputies. Wyatt was reportedly impressed by Vermillion's steadfastness in helping to avenge his brothers.
Wyatt told Flood that Brocius's friends buried Curly Bill on the Patterson ranch near the Babocomari River. Frank Patterson was in the Cowboy party, and this ranch, close to the original McLaury ranch site (before the McLaurys moved to the Sulphur Springs Valley in late 1880) is believed to have originally belonged to Frank Stilwell and is located on the river about 5 miles (8.0 km) west of Fairbank.
Johnny Barnes recovered somewhat after the shooting but later died of his wound. Wells, Fargo & Co. undercover agent Fred Dodge, riding with the Cowboys, wrote that Barnes had told him that he had shot Virgil Earp.:38 Barnes also reportedly told Dodge that Wyatt Earp had killed Brocius.
Wyatt Earp first wrote down the story about the shootout at Iron Springs more than 11 years after the incident. It was retold several times, and each version has variations. Wyatt told his story a number of times during his life, and details like getting his saddle pommel shot off, pulling up his cartridge belt, and exactly when he helped "Texas Jack" Vermillion out from under his horse, the distance when they initially encountered the Cowboys, how far Earp dismounted from "Curly Bill"—all of these items varied between different versions of the story.
Cowboys case dropped
On Friday, March 25, the Tucson Grand Jury indicted Pete Spence, Frank Stilwell, "Indian Charlie" Cruz, Frederick Bode, and "John Doe" Fries for Morgan Earp's murder. Pete Spence's trial began on April 2, but ended very quickly when the prosecution called Mrs. Marietta Spence to the stand. The defense objected that her testimony was hearsay and that as a spouse she could not testify against her husband. Without her testimony, the prosecution had insufficient evidence and dropped its case against Pete Spence and Frank Stilwell.
Earp posse heads east
On the same day, the Earp party slipped into the area near Tombstone and met with supporters, including "Charlie" Smith and Warren Earp. They were hoping to receive $1,000 contributed by mining owner and Earp supporter E.B. Gage, but Tony Kraker and Whistling Dick Wright, the men carrying it, had not returned. On March 26 the eight-man Earp posse rode out to Dragoon Summit Station. They stopped an eastbound train at 1 p.m. and searched the carriages but found nothing. It is not known what they were hoping to find. The party moved north to the Percy Ranch, but were not welcomed by Hugh and Jim Percy, who feared the Cowboys. After a meal and some rest, they left at 3:00 a.m on the morning of March 27 for the Sierra Bonita Ranch of Henry C. Hooker, a wealthy and prominent rancher.
Hooker congratulated Earp on killing Curly Bill Brocius. He fed them and Wyatt told him he wanted to buy fresh mounts, but Hooker would not take his money. Early that same morning, Dan Tipton caught the first stage out of Tombstone and headed for Benson, carrying the $1,000 from E.B. Gage for the posse. The Nuggett reported that Tipton left on the 5 o'clock stage to catch up with the party. The posse also received some money from Lou Cooley, a stage driver and possibly a Wells Fargo operative, who gave funds from the express company.
When Behan's posse was spotted in the distance, Hooker suggested Wyatt make his stand there, but Wyatt moved into the hills about three miles distant near Reilly Hill. When Sheriff Behan and his posse arrived at the Sierra Bonita Ranch, Hooker refused them assistance. One report said Hooker told Behan where to look for the Earps but the posse left in the opposite direction.
Earp leaves Arizona Territory
In early April 1882, Wyatt and his posse headed east out of Arizona. They stopped at Camp Grant before they left the Arizona Territory and Wyatt signed some property over to his sister. Colonel James Biddle told the Earps that warrants had been issued for their arrest and he would have to hold them. He invited them in for a meal. When they finished the meal, they found fresh horses ready for them to continue their ride east.
They rode east again the next day and stopped in Silver City, New Mexico Territory. They spent one night in the home of a friend, and the next day sold their horses and saddles before taking a stage to Deming. They then took the train to Albuquerque, where they remained for two weeks. Wyatt and Holliday had a disagreement and the group split. They were leaving the uncertain justice of the American Frontier for the more defined justice of the federal and state court system. Holliday headed to Pueblo and then Denver. The Earps, Sherman McMaster, and "Texas Jack" headed for Gunnison, Colorado, where they set up camp on the outskirts of town. They rarely went into town at first, except for supplies. Eventually, Wyatt took over a faro game at a local saloon. On May 15, 1882, Pima County Sheriff Bob Paul served a warrant for Doc Holiday's arrest in Denver on charges that he killed Frank Stilwell in Tucson. Wyatt Earp, in Denver at the time, feared for Holiday's life if he was returned to Tombstone. He asked his friend and Trinidad, Colorado Sheriff Bat Masterson to help get him released. Sheriff Masterson appealed to Governor Frederick W. Pitkin and succeeded in getting Holiday released from jail. Paul also knew of warrants for the Earp's arrest, but he was a friend of the men and never served the warrants.
Johnny Ringo's death
On July 14, 1882, Johnny Ringo was found dead in West Turkey Creek Valley, near Chiricahua Peak, with a bullet hole in his right temple. The book, I Married Wyatt Earp, supposedly written by Josephine Marcus Earp, reported that Wyatt Earp and Holliday returned to Arizona to find and kill Ringo. Actually written by Glen Boyer, the book states that Holliday killed Ringo with a rifle shot at a distance, contradicting the coroner's ruling that Ringo's death was a suicide. However, Boyer's book has been discredited as a fraud and a hoax that cannot be relied upon.:489 In response to criticism about the book's authenticity, Boyer said the book was not really a first-person account, that he had interpreted Wyatt Earp in Josephine's voice, and admitted that he could not produce any documents to vindicate his methods.
Official records of the Pueblo County, Colorado, District Court indicate that both Holliday and his attorney appeared in court there on July 11, 14, and 18, 1882. Author Karen Holliday Tanner, in Doc Holliday, A Family Portrait, speculated that Holliday may not have been in Pueblo at the time of the court date, citing a writ of habeas corpus issued for him in court on July 11. She believes that only his attorney may have appeared on his behalf that day, in spite of the wording of a court record that indicated he may have appeared in person—in propria persona or "in his own person". She cites this as standard legal filler text that does not necessarily prove the person was present. There is no doubt that Holliday arrived in Salida, Colorado, on July 7 as reported in a town newspaper. This is 500 miles (800 km) from the site of Ringo's death, six days before the shooting.:295–5
In an interview with a reporter in Denver in 1896, Earp denied that he had killed Johnny Ringo. He then flipped his story, claiming he had killed Ringo. In 1888, he was interviewed by an agent of California historian Hubert H. Bancroft, and then Frank Lockwood, who wrote Pioneer Days in Arizona in 1932' He told them that he killed Johnny Ringo as he left Arizona in 1882. However, Earp included details that do not match what is known about Ringo's death. Earp repeated that claim to at least three other people.
The ride first came into public consciousness with the publication of Wyatt Earp's biographies and of Stuart Lake's popular book Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal. Multiple movies about the vendetta such as Hour of the Gun, Tombstone, and Wyatt Earp popularized the notion of Wyatt and Doc Holliday as avenging lawmen of justice. Before, Wyatt's actions were heavily criticized, many of them even branded him a murderer in later life.
Wyatt's action in taking justice into his own hands, became one of the most well known examples of American frontier justice in American history. Wyatt Earp became the archetypal image of a real-life anti-hero, and has influenced characters like Punisher, Max Payne and others.
On March 20, 2005, the 122nd anniversary of the killing of Frank Stilwell by Wyatt Earp, a life-sized statue of Holliday and Earp by the sculptor Dan Bates was dedicated by the Southern Arizona Transportation Museum at the restored Historic Railroad Depot in Tucson, Arizona, at the approximate site of the shooting on the train platform. The facial features on this statue are based on the set of supposed portrait photos and not on the two known authentic photos of him.
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