Morgan Earp


Morgan Earp
Morgan Seth Earp

Morgan Earp, about 1881, in Tombstone
Born December 3, 1851(1851-12-03)
Pella, Iowa
Died March 18, 1882(1882-03-18) (aged 30)
Tombstone, Arizona
Nationality United States
Occupation Marshal and Deputy
Known for Gunfight at the O.K. Corral
Opponent(s) William Brocius, Frank McLaury
Spouse Louisa Houstin Earp (common-law)

Morgan Seth Earp (April 24, 1851–March 18, 1882) was the younger brother of Deputy U.S. Marshals Virgil and Wyatt Earp. Morgan was a deputy of Virgil's and all three men were the target of repeated death threats made by outlaw Cowboys who were upset by the Earps' interference in their illegal activities. This conflict eventually led to the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, during which Morgan was wounded. All three lawmen along with Doc Holliday were charged by Ike Clanton, who fled the gunfight, for murdering brothers Tom and Frank McLaury along with his own brother Billy Clanton. During a month-long preliminary hearing, Judge Wells Spicer exonerated the men, concluding they had been performing their duty.

Virgil was gravely wounded in an ambush on December 28, 1881, and Morgan was assassinated on March 19, 1882 by a shot through the window of a door while he was playing billiards. The Cowboys suspected were left off on technicalities or for lack of evidence. Wyatt Earp felt he could not rely on civil justice and decided to take matters into his own hands.[1] He concluded that only way to deal with Morgan's murderers was to kill them.[2] Wyatt assembled a posse that included their brother Warren Earp and set out on a vendetta to kill those they felt were responsible.

Contents

Early life

Morgan Earb was born in Pella, Marion County, Iowa, to Nicholas Porter Earp (1813–1907), a cooper and farmer, and his second wife Virginia Ann Cooksey (1821–1893).

When elder brothers Newton, James, and Virgil went off to the American Civil War, they left their young teenage brothers Wyatt and Morgan to tend the family farm. James and Morgan grew up close, with a shared wish for adventure and a dislike of farming. Before adulthood, teen-aged Morgan followed James Earp up to Montana for a couple of years. Later he was with Wyatt on the Western frontier.

In 1875, Morgan departed the Earb clan living in Wichita, Kansas, and became a deputy marshal under Charlie Bassett at Dodge City. In late 1877, Morgan took his common-law wife Louisa A. Houston to Montana, where they lived until March, 1880.

At different times in Arizona, both Wyatt and Morgan worked as shotgun messengers for Wells Fargo & Co., deputy sheriffs for Pima County, and as deputies under Tombstone's Chief of Police Virgil Earp, their older brother. During early 1882, Morgan was appointed to the federal position of Deputy U.S. Marshal, an office subservient to Wyatt Earp, who had been given the position by the U.S. Marshal C. Dake, after Virgil was wounded, and had authority to deputize.

Morgan has gained an undeserved reputation for being a hot-tempered man, but this appears to be on the basis of incidents related in the book The Earp Brothers of Tombstone purportedly written by Virgil Earp's wife Allie. However, the incidents in the book involving Morgan, like much else in the book, are almost certainly fabricated.[3] From the rest of what is known of Morgan's life, he normally showed the same even temper and cool reactions to danger as did his brothers.

Gunfight at the OK Corral

On Wednesday, October 26, 1881, the tension between the Earps and the Cowboys came to a head. Ike Clanton, Billy Claiborne, and other Cowboys had been threatening to kill the Earps for several weeks. Tombstone city Marshal Virgil Earp learned that the Cowboys were armed in violation of a city ordinance and had gathered near the O.K. Corral. Morgan was a deputy to his brother Virgil and on October 26, 1881, responded with Virgil and Wyatt to reports that Cowboys were armed on the streets of Tombstone. Ike Clanton had repeatedly threatened the Earps and he was backed up by Cowboys Tom McLaury, Frank McLaury, and Billy Clanton. Virgil asked Wyatt and Morgan and Doc Holliday to assist him, as he intended to disarm them. At approximately 3:00 p.m. the Earps headed towards Fremont Street where the Cowboys had been reported gathering.[4]

They confronted five Cowboys on Fremont Street in an alley between the Harwood House and Fly's Boarding House and Photography Studio, the two parties were initially only about 6 to 10 feet (1.8 to 3.0 m) apart. Ike Clanton and Billy Claiborne fled the gunfight. Tom and Frank McLaury along with Billy Clanton were killed. Morgan was clipped by a shot across his back that nicked both shoulder blades and a vertebra, although he was able to continue to fire his weapon. Virgil was shot through the calf and Holliday was grazed by a bullet.[4]

Assassination

Two months after the gunfight at the O.K. Corral, in December 1881, Virgil Earp was seriously wounded in an assassination attempt that left him with a permanently crippled left arm. By February 1882, Morgan grew wary of the danger to the Earps in Tombstone and sent his common-law wife Louisa Houstin Earp to the Earps' parents in Colton, California. However, Morgan chose to remain in Tombstone to guard Virgil, support Wyatt, and continue to work in law enforcement.

At 10:50 p.m. on Saturday, March 18, 1882, Morgan was ambushed after returning from a musical at Schieffelin Hall. He was playing a late round of billiards at the Campbell & Hatch Billiard Parlor against owner Bob Hatch. Dan Tipton, Sherman McMaster, and Wyatt watched, having received threats that same day.[5]:38

The assailant shot through a glass-windowed, locked door which opened onto a dark alley between Allen and Fremont Streets. Morgan was struck in the right side and the bullet shattered his spine, passed through his left side, and lodged in the thigh of George A.B. Berry. Another bullet lodged in the wall over Wyatt's head.[1] After he was shot, his brothers tried to help him stand, but Morgan said "Don't, I can't stand it. This is the last game of pool I'll ever play."[6]:97 Drs. Matthews, Goodfellow and Millar examined him a short time later and said the wound was fatal.

Wyatt was quoted by Lake in Frontier Marshal as saying[7]:233 that Morgan, before dying, whispered to Wyatt, "I can't see a damned thing." Wyatt said that they had promised each other to report visions of the next world when at the point of death.[8]:2 Morgan died on a lounge in an adjoining card room less than an hour after he was shot.[1] (The Campbell and Hatch Billiard parlor and card room, two lots east of Hafford's Saloon on 4th Street and Allen, burned in a fire in May 1882.[9])

Morgan was laid out in a blue suit belonging to Doc Holliday. The Earps took his body by wagon the next day to the New Mexico and Arizona railroad station in Contention.[10] From there, his older brother James Earp accompanied Morgan's body to Colton, California where Morgan's wife and parents were waiting. Morgan was first buried in the old city cemetery of Colton, near Mount Slover. When the cemetery was moved in 1892, Morgan's body was reburied in the Hermosa Cemetery in Colton.[11]

Murderers not convicted

While Wyatt and James were traveling to Contention with Morgan's body, Coroner Dr. D. M. Mathew held an inquest into Morgan's death. Pete Spence's wife, Marietta Duarte, testified that her husband Pete, Frank Stilwell, "Indian Charlie" Cruz, Frederick Bode, and a half-breed named Fries[12]:206:176 turned up at her home an hour after the shooting. The men bragged about shooting Morgan and her husband had threatened her with violence if she told what she knew.[2] 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.[13]:250 Spence immediately turned himself in so that he would be protected in Behan's jail. When the prosecution called Marietta Duarte to testify at the preliminary hearing, the defense objected because her testimony was hearsay and because a spouse could not testify against her husband.[2] The judge agreed and the charges were dismissed.

Wyatt Earp felt he could not rely on the court system and decided to take matters into his own hands.[1] He concluded that only way to deal with Virgil's shooters and Morgan's murderers was to find and kill the Cowboys they felt responsible.[2]

Artifact

The revolver that Morgan was supposedly wearing when he was killed can be seen on display at the College of the Ozarks in Branson, Missouri. [14]

References

  1. ^ a b c d WGBH American Experience: Wyatt Earp, Complete Program Transcript. January 25, 2010. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/transcript/wyatt-transcript/. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Wyatt Earp's Vendetta Posse". HistoryNet.com. January 29, 2007. http://www.historynet.com/wyatt-earps-vendetta-posse.htm. Retrieved February 18, 2011. 
  3. ^ Barra (1998) book postscript
  4. ^ a b Linder, Douglas (2005). "The Earp Trial: A Chronology". Famous Trials. http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/earp/earpchronology.html. Retrieved 17 May 2011. 
  5. ^ Dodge, Fred; Lake, Carolyn (1999). Under Cover for Wells Fargo The Unvarnished Recollections of Fred Dodge. Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press. p. 336. ISBN 978-0-8061-3106-1. http://books.google.com/books?id=4n8-tmFvI7wC&pg=PA38. 
  6. ^ O'Neal, Bill. Encyclopedia of Western Gunfighters. ISBN 978-0806123356. 
  7. ^ Barra, Allen (1998). Inventing Wyatt Earp: His Life and Many Legends. New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers. ISBN 0-7867-0685-6. 
  8. ^ Ruffin, C. Bernard (2006). A Dictionary of Deathbed Quotations. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Co.. ISBN 978-0786425525. 
  9. ^ "Morgan Seth Earp B. 04/24/1851 D. 03/18,1882". http://www.eaglefreeenterprises.com/pictures/morgan_earp.htm. Retrieved 27 May 2011. 
  10. ^ "Contention City and It's Mills". Wyatt Earp Explorers. http://www.wyattearpexplorers.com/contention-city-and-its-mills.html. Retrieved 27 May 2011. 
  11. ^ Morgan Earp at Find a Grave
  12. ^ DeArment, Robert K.. Bat Masterson: The Man and the Legend. University of Oklahoma Press. pp. 442. ISBN 978-0-8061-2221-2. 
  13. ^ Barra, Alan (December 1998). Who Was Wyatt Earp?. 49. American Heritage Magazine. http://www.americanheritage.com/articles/magazine/ah/1998/8/1998_8_76.shtml. 
  14. ^ [1], Ralph Foster Museum.

Further reading

  • Barra, Allen (1998). Inventing Wyatt Earp: His Life and Many Legends. New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers. ISBN 0-7867-0685-6.  Barra takes a look at the Earp legend and does the most thorough analysis of its evolution over time, and its place in American mythology, fiction, and film.

External links



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