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Wyatt Earp was a frontiersman, marshal and gambler. After moving to Tombstone, Arizona, he got into a feud, which ended in a gunfight at the O.K. Corral.
Wyatt Earp - The OK Corral (4:17)
Wyatt Earp - The Earp Family (3:06)
Wyatt Earp - Dodge City (3:23)
An inside look at the historic shootout that took place at the OK Corral.
An inside look at the five brothers of the Earp family.
After numerous attempts on the lives of his family members, Wyatt Earp turned from lawman to murderer to seek justice.
It was while on the Dodge City, Kansas police force that the Earp brothers first made a name for themselves.
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But the silver riches the Earp brothers hoped to find never came, forcing Earp to begrudgingly to return to law work. In a town and a region desperate to tame the lawlessness of the cowboy culture that pervaded the frontier, Earp was a welcome sight.
In March 1881 Earp set out to find a posse of cowboys that had robbed a Tombstone stagecoach and its driver. In an effort to close in on the outlaws, he struck a deal with a rancher named Ike Clanton, who regularly dealt with the cowboys working around Tombstone. In return for his help, Earp promised Clanton he could collect a $6,000 reward.
But the partnership quickly dissolved. Clanton, paranoid that Earp would leak the details of their bargain, turned against Earp. By October Clanton was out of his mind, drunk and parading around Tombstone's saloons, bragging that he was going to kill one of the Earp men.
Everything came to a head on October 26, 1881, when the Earps, along with Doc Holliday, met Clanton, his brother Billy, and two others, Frank McLaury and his brother, Tom, on a small lot on the edge of town near an enclosure called the O.K. Corral.
There, the greatest gunfight in the West's history took place. Over the course of just 30 seconds, a barrage of shots was fired, ultimately killing Billy Clanton and both of the McLaury brothers. Virgil and Morgan Earp, as well as Holliday, all were injured. The only one unscathed was Wyatt.
The battle ratcheted up tensions between the cowboy community and those who were looking for a more settled West to emerge. Ike Clanton went on a rampage, orchestrating the shooting of Virgil Earp and the assassination of Morgan Earp.
As a result of Morgan's death, Wyatt Earp set off in search of vengeance. With Holliday and small posse of others, he roamed the frontier on a killing spree that made headlines around the nation, earning the group both praise and condemnation for taking on the West's wild cowboy culture.
As the American West grew to be more settled, Earp's place in it became less certain. With his companion, Josephine Marcus, he continued to seek out the success that had eluded him most of his life. He ran saloons in parts of California and went after the gold rush in Alaska before settling down in Los Angeles.
During his last years, he became infatuated with Hollywood's portrayal of the West and his legacy. He longed for a film that told his story and set the record straight on his accomplishments. But the kind of recognition he craved came only after his passing on January 13, 1929, at his Los Angeles home.
The Earp story was remade with the 1931 publication Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal by biographer Stuart Lake. In it, the former frontier man was transformed into a Western hero that Hollywood and the American public came to adore.
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