The History of Wyatt Earp in Wyoming
Wyatt Earp was, arguably, the most legendary lawman in the West. Years before his infamous showdowns in Dodge City and Tombstone, Earp helped build the Union Pacific Railroad in Wyoming.
In 1868, at the age of 20, Wyatt and his older brother Virgil followed the railway lines across Wyoming, hauling freight, grading the route, and hunting for the men who occupied the nomadic construction camps.
As he traveled across the state, Earp developed an interest in gambling and boxing, both of which were popular past times in the boom towns that sprung up along the camps.
On July 4, 1869, Earp was a bookie for boxing match in Cheyenne that would eventually lead to one of the most famous alliances in American history. The match pitted well known fighter Mike Donovan versus upstart John Shanssey. Although Shanssey was beaten, he met and befriended Earp before the fight.
Several years later, they would meet again in Texas, when Shanssey introduced Earp to an acquaintance named "Doc" Holliday.
In 1877, Earp returned to Wyoming, where he ran into another old pal, William "Bat" Masterson, the former sheriff of Ford County, Kansas. At the time, Earp was the Deputy Town Marshall of Dodge City, serving with Bat's brothers Ed and Jim Masterson.
According to local lore, Bat Masterson had been on a hot streak since coming to Cheyenne five weeks earlier. After amassing a small fortune in the local gambling parlors, Masterson was reluctantly persuaded by Earp to return to Dodge City.
Masterson and Earp would go on to form the Dodge City Peace Commission and gain fame for their roles in the infamous Dodge City War.
In 1882, after Earp and Holliday's notorious Gunfight at the OK Corral in Tombstone, Arizona, Masterson was called upon again by his old pals Wyatt and Doc.
As the Town Marshall of Trinidad, Colorado, Masterson successfully convinced Colorado Governor Frederick Pitkin to deny an order which would have extradited Holliday back to Arizona.
Eventually, Masterson traveled back east and died in New York City in 1921, at the age of 67. In 1887, Holliday succumbed to tuberculosis at the age of 36 in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. Meanwhile, Earp settled in California, where he lived to be 80, before passing away in 1929.
Together, the three men will forever be entwined in history. However, their legendary alliance may have never been formed were in not for a chance encounter at a boxing match in Cheyenne, Wyoming, on July 4, 1869.