Mike O'Rourke

Mike O'Rourke
Michael O'Rourke
Born 1862
Died 1882 (aged 20)
Sulfur Springs Valley, Arizona Territory
Cause of death gunshot
Other names Mike, Johnny O'Rourke, Johnny-Behind-the-Deuce
Occupation gambler

Michael "Mike" O'Rourke (1862–1882), aka "Johnny O'Rourke" or "Johnny-Behind-the-Deuce", was a professional gambler of the Old West, whose notoriety is mainly due to Old West lawman and legend Wyatt Earp's having saving him from being lynched in Tombstone, Arizona Territory in 1881.

Life in Tombstone

O'Rourke first surfaced in Tucson when he was 16, where he developed into a talented poker player. He was often accused of cheating, but more often than not his accusers recanted in view of his reputation for being good with a gun and fast on the draw. There is evidence that O'Rourke had a fast temper and was prone to altercations, but none to support his having been in any gunfights.[1]

He relocated to the rough town of Charleston, a stamp-mill town of about 200 individuals 9 miles (14 km) southeast of Tombstone on the San Pedro River. In Charleston on January 14, 1881, he played poker all night with Henry Schneider, chief engineer of the Tombstone Mining and Milling Company.[2] Schneider was losing badly, and the men argued. Schneider pulled a knife and O'Rourke shot and killed him.[2]

Tombstone Marshal George McKelvey arrived and arrested O'Rourke. He put him in a wagon and began the trip back to Tombstone. Outlaw Cowboys Curly Bill Brocius and John Ringo encouraged talk of a lynching and led other men who pursued the wagon. McKelvey got to the outskirts of Tombstone and the Last Chance Saloon just ahead of the mob where he was met by Deputy U.S. Marshal Virgil Earp.[2]

McKelvey told Earp that the mob on his tail was aiming to lynch O'Rourke, and Earp put O'Rourke on his own horse, reaching Tombstone before the mob. Assistant Marshal Morgan Earp took the prisoner to Vogan's Bowling Alley while Pima County Sheriff Wyatt Earp pulled out his shotgun and held off the crowd,[2] convincing them to disperse.

O'Rourke was escorted by Wyatt Earp to a jail in Tucson, but he escaped shortly afterward and never stood trial for the miner's murder.[citation needed] In 1882, while gambling in Sulphur Springs Valley, he was again accused of cheating. The argument motivated O'Rourke to leave, but he was shot and killed in a gunfight shortly afterward, although there were no witnesses. Many believed the gunman may have been Pony Diehl, a former friend to gunman Johnny Ringo, in whose mysterious death O'Rourke was rumored to have played a part. Diehl was in town at the time, and was known to believe that O'Rourke was responsible for Ringo's death.[citation needed]

Film discrepancies

In the movie Wyatt Earp, a character based on O'Rourke is called Tommy "Behind the Deuce" O'Rourke, played by actor John Doe. The events surrounding O'Rourke's being saved by Wyatt are recounted when one of O'Rourke's nephews recognizes Earp and his wife Josie aboard a ship off the coast of Alaska, when Wyatt is an old man. O'Rourke's nephew tells the Earps that his uncle was killed in Omaha in 1887.[citation needed]


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