How Tragedy in Missouri Turned Wyatt Earp into a Wild West Legend
When you think of Wyatt Earp, you likely think of Dodge City, Kansas or probably Tombstone, Arizona. His origin is actually in a small Missouri town where he lost his wife, but became a law enforcement legend.
Jeff "Doc" Holliday is my real name and there is a relation to the real John Henry "Doc" Holliday of Tombstone fame albeit distant. The research into my own family has led to me learning collateral things about Wyatt Earp. He was born in a small town in Illinois in 1848 and 21 years later took his first law enforcement job as a constable in Lamar, Missouri. The Barton Chamber of Commerce talks about Wyatt's early years:
Wyatt Earp was born March 19, 1848 in Monmouth, Illinois very little is known of his early years. But we do know his family moved to Lamar, Missouri around 1869 when Wyatt was around 21 years old. During his early time here, he was appointed as Lamar’s constable on November 26, 1869 following his father’s resignation.
What many do not know is that shortly after Wyatt moved to Lamar and began work as a constable, his wife became pregnant with the couple's first child. He was about to become a family man. That's when tragedy struck.
Urilla Sutherland Earp died during childbirth. Her child passed with her. This is her grave near Lamar, Missouri.
It was the passing of his wife that changed Wyatt's disposition according to those that knew him during that era. His serious demeanor became a steely gaze that would serve him well as he headed west to Dodge City, Kansas and eventually the famous gunfight at the OK Corral in Tombstone.
Yes, he gained his fame in the dirty streets of the wild west, but it was Lamar, Missouri that transformed him. A complicated man who was shaped by tragedy and is now remembered as a legend for everyone who's ever worn a badge.