Posted for Toni V. Sweeney:
Recently, I finished reading Black Hats, a delightful fantasy in which Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson head to New York City to help out the son of their own pal, “Doc” Holliday. It’s fiction, of course, but there are many actual facts woven into that thoroughly-engaging narrative.
How much do we really know about these three men who have become legends, their names synonymous with the Old West, courage, honor, and death?
We’re all familiar with the gunfight at the OK Corral, and the many movies and TV series about them, but what are the little-known facts about their lives? With the aid of the Google search Engine, (and Wikipedia) here are some things I found.
WYATT BERRY STAPP EARP (1848-1929):
The man who would become the marshal of Deadwood was born in Monmouth, Illinois, and named for his father’s commanding officer in the Mexican-American War (1846-1848). Wyatt had a half-brother and sister and five full siblings. In 1865, he got his first job as a driver for Phineas Banning’s Stage Line in Imperial California. In 1869, he got his firstacquaintance with working in law enforcement when his father became constable of Lamar, Missouri. In 1870, at the age of 22, he married Urilla Sutherland only to have her die ten months later in childbirth. From 1875 onward, he appears in various court cases and newspaper articles as the arresting officer in Wichita and Dodge City. In 1877, he left Kansas for Texas, where, in a saloon in Ft Griffin, Texas, he met a young gambler named “Doc” Holliday. Wyatt and his brothers moved to Tombstone in 1979 and the infamous gunfight at the OK Corral occurred in 1881. The Earps and “that would eventually cost Morgan his life and severely wound Virgil.
Though he never again had a legal marriage, Wyatt wasn’t immune to women’s charms nor they to his. In the West at that time, common-law marriage w…well…common. In 1888, he was said to have “cohabited” with several prostitutes during his sojourns in various states, but when Wyatt lived in San Francisco, he settled down with Josie Marcus, who remained with him for the next 46 years, so guess one could say he wasn’t particularly promiscuous. During that time, he participated in the Gold Rush, wrote his memoirs, and became friends with many movie stars, including a young extra named John Wayne who would model his own screen persona after Wyatt.
Wyatt died of prostate cancer in 1929. Of the trio, he lived the longest. William S. Hart and Tom Mix were pallbearers at his funeral. He was cremated his ashes buried in a Jewish cemetery because Josie was Jewish.
Forty-eight actors have portrayed Wyatt Earp in the movies and on television.
BARTHOLOMEW MASTERSON (1853-1921):
“Bat” Masterson wasn’t even born American, being one of eight children born to his parents in Quebec, Canada. Early in life, he changed his name to “William Barclay Masterson” because he hated the name “Bartholomew.” The family moved from Canada and finally settled in Kansas. Bat was a buffalo hunter and army scout before his first gunfight in Sweetwater, Texas. In 1877, he moved to Dodge City where his brothers were lawmen and eventually became a deputy for Wyatt Earp. Later, he was sheriff of Ford County, Kansas, South Pueblo, Colorado, and marshal of Trinidad, Colorado. For several years in between, he earned a living as a gambler before visiting his old friend Wyatt in Tombstone and becoming involved in the infamous gunfight. In 1891, he purchased the Palace Variety Theater in Denver and married actress Emma Walters. He also managed the Denver Exchange Club. He began writing for George’s Weekly, a sporting newspaper and opened the Olympic Athletic Club to promote boxing. In 1902, Bat arrived in New York City where he was appointed deputy marshal of South New York by President Teddy Roosevelt until 1912. During this time, he would purchase old pistols in pawnshops, carve notches into their handgrips, and sell them as his own to suckers eager to own a “piece of the Old West.”
Bat may not have died with his boots on but he died at his typewriter, of a heart attack while working on a column for the New York Daily Telegraph, for whom he was a sportswriter. He is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx.
Nine actors have portrayed Bat Masterson on screen and television, and he has been featured in Dell Comics.
“DOC” HOLLIDAY (1851-1887):
The cousin of Margaret Mitchell and reportedly the model for Ashley Wilkes in her novel Gone with the Wind, John Henry Holliday was born in Griffin, Georgia and grew up in Valdosta. In 1872, he received a dental degree from Pennsylvania College of Dental Surgery and opened a practice in Atlanta. That same year, he was also diagnosed with tuberculosis. His mother had died of the disease when he was 14 and it’s believed he contracted from her. Given only a few months 14 to live, he moved to the Southwest because of the warmer, drier climate, opening a dental office in Dallas. Finding no patients who wanted a tubercular dentist, he turned to gambling for a living, instead. Subsequently, he lived in Cheyenne, Denver, and Deadwood, where short-fuse temper, the drinking he said helped control his cough, and a fatalistic attitude of not caring whether he survived or not, contributed to a reputation as a gunfighter. In 1877, he saved Wyatt Earp’s life in a gunfight in Dodge City and the following year, Wyatt returned the favor and a friendship was born.
Perhaps not as popular with the ladies because of his ill health and/or temper, “Doc” had a long-term relationship with Mary Katherine Hornoy, also known as Big Nose Kate.
Because of his friendship with the Earps, he was also present during the OK gunfight and was tried with them for the deaths that followed. Big Nose Kate later reported that after returning from the OK Corral episode, he went to his room and wept. Now dependent on whiskey and laudanum to control his symptoms, Doc spent his last years in Glenwood Spring, Colorado, where he died at the Glenwood Hotel at the age of 36, the first and the youngest of the three to die. He was buried the same day in Linwood Cemetery.
Twenty-one actors have portrayed “Doc” Holliday on the screen and TV.
Quotes about the three:
“There are those who argue that everything breaks even in this old dump of a world of ours. I suppose these ginks who argue that way hold that because the rich man gets ice in the summer and the poor man gets it in the winter things are breaking even for both. Maybe so, but I’ll swear I can’t see it that way.” (These were also Masterson’s last recorded words, in the unfinished column found in the typewriter he was using that he was writing when he died).
“No man can have a more loyal friend than Wyatt Earp, nor a more dangerous enemy.”
—Bat Masterson (a variation of a line describing to Sulla, a Roman general in 83 BC)
“Doc was a dentist, not a lawman or an assassin, whom necessity had made a gambler; a gentleman, whom disease had made a frontier vagabond; a philosopher, whom life had made a caustic wit; a long lean ash-blond fellow nearly dead with consumption, and at the same time the most skillful gambler and the nerviest, speediest, deadliest man with a six-gun that I ever knew.” —Wyatt Earp, in John Myers’ book Doc Holliday.
(Quotes are from articles on these subjects may be found on the Wikipedia website.
Photographs are in the public domain in their country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 70 years or fewer. U.S. work public domain in the U.S. for unspecified reason but presumably because it was published in the U.S. before 1925. Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/)
Around the time Wyatt Earp was dying in California, back in Hahira, Georgia, Dylan Roth and Jules Mercier were about to embark on the mystery that would come to light a century later and compel their descendants to search for the truth about the two men. In Bound By Love, DylanRoth II and Letty Mercier in the Twenty-first Century, do exactly that.
That bed was a magnificent specimen. Wood, with a headboard as tall as I was, scrolled and carved with roses and vines. The footboard was shorter, only waist high and plain. All the artistry had gone into the panels at the head. It was a double bed but looked small compared to the king and queen-size versions now available.
I tried to imagine sleeping in a bed this confining, with a body so close to mine each of us only had about two and a half feet of personal space.
At that moment, Letty shifted her weight and I glanced at her.
If it were someone like you, I thought, I wouldn’t mind the lack of space. Yes, indeed, in your case, Miss Letty, constriction would be downright welcome… What the hell am I thinking
I forced my unexpectedly lascivious thoughts back to business.
“No closets, but I imagine there were wardrobes in each room to hold clothes.” I studied the bed, running a hand over the curving edge of the top boards. “I think this might be salvageable. If dry rot hasn’t set in.”
“Or damp from that hole in the roof,” Letty said. She stood at the foot of the bed, hands resting on it. It must’ve been around four feet high. She looked as if she were peering over a fence. “I hope not. I’d love to keep this for myself.”
I had a flash of her lying in it, that copper hair vivid against white sheets. I shook my head.
“You don’t think so?” She sounded disappointed.
“I’m just wondering who we might get to see about restoring it.” I definitely wasn’t going to say what I was thinking. “What was that?”
I whirled, looking at the door. Out of the corner of my eye, I’d seen a flash of something white and fluttery in the doorway.
“What?” She looked in the same direction.
I walked to the door, peering out, up and down the hall.
“I thought I saw…” I looked up at the gaping hole. “The roof’s open. Probably a bird got in and was flapping around trying to find its way out again. Guess we’d better watch where we step. There may be droppings.”
We went into the smaller room. The door was missing its knob and lock.
“Looks like someone tried to force it open.” I indicated deep grooves cut around the hole where the lock had been.
The door was in such bad shape it was a little difficult to tell, but I guessed it had been locked and the doorknob removed because that was the only way to get the door open. Whoever had done it must’ve been desperate, for the door was battered and chopped as if someone had taken an ax to it.
There was a large, dark spot on the floor, almost two feet long, an irregular wet-looking splotch with spatters, as if something containing liquid had been dropped, splashing and running before soaking into the wood. All the floors were hardwood and probably had originally been well-varnished. They were still glossy in places. Whatever had been spilled here had ruined the finish on this one.
I’d swear it hadn’t been there when we came in.
Letty knelt, peering at the stain. She touched it, then looked at her finger. There was nothing, of course. The stain had long dried.
“It looks like blood.” She shivered.
It did. Now I could see that it was a very dark red, looking almost black against the wood grain.
“Probably a cat or something caught a bird and dragged it up here. Or rain flooded in here from that hole in the roof. Don’t worry, we can replace that section if the stain won’t come out.” I caught her arm, helping her to her feet. “Come on.”
She went out with me, looking back at the spot until we were in the hall.
Bound By Love is available from: