Saturday, March 15, 2008

Rest in Peace Morgan Earp (The Earp Family Series)

(GPS: N34 04.465 W117 20.835)

Morgan Earp (Apr. 24, 1851-Mar. 18, 1882)

(Edit: March 18, 2010. I decided to revise this video in HD. I used the more common picture thought to be Morgan Earp, but I will keep the other picture on here for reference purposes. I make note of that below.)



Here is an old west related location that many in my area do not know about. The Earp family was originally from Iowa. They came to California during the Civil War. They eventually went back east, but throughout their lives California played an important role as their home.

Wyatt Earp is the most famous of the Earp brothers. There were a few others, but the other two of major significance in old west history are Virgil and Morgan Earp. Both of these guys had were important in the locations I will be writing about. I will come back to Virgil in another entry.

It turns out I am not a hardcore fan of the Wyatt Earp history and legend. I do not think it is a bad thing, but the story has been told so many times that I just have burned out of every single movie and story of it. Whenever I look to anything regarding the old west, it turns out that when it comes to 19th century western law enforcement the first thing that is talked about is Wyatt Earp. This is understandable, but I do not think it is a good thing to exclude other personalities of historical significance. I am just a person that needs variation.

If you want to see something of what I am talking about you should click one of the old west historical discussion groups on the right side of this blog. A lot of those guys have really dedicated themselves to either supporting or debunking the Wyatt Earp history and legend. Some of those discussions get really heated. Those personalities dedication to supporting or debunking may be more interesting that the Wyatt himself. Someone should write a book about the authors and researchers of Wyatt Earp!

In other words, Wyatt Earp is cool, but obsessing over him at the expense of other persons and other histories is not something you will see me do. The one thing that I have found more interesting about Wyatt Earp is he went to so many locations that I have lived near or gone to. Then, those I have not been too, I have relatives that have lived near them. I mentioned the movie Warlock a few entries ago in that it is the Wyatt Earp legend turned around with different names. Henry Fonda hires himself out as a marshal and drifts from town to town. Wyatt Earp is the drifter model in western cinema.

I needed to get some of that out of the way before I talk about the person this really is about. Morgan was the younger brother. He was one of the participants at the Gunfight at the OK Corral. Rather than rehash that story let me just refer to the wikipedia entry for anyone that doesn't really know much about it. Also, the movie Tombstone is pretty good in this regard if you want the background, the gunfight, and including what this entry is about. A picture of Morgan taken from The Earp Clan: The Southern California Years by Nicholas R. Cataldo (and like a lot of old west pictures this one is disputed):

This other one (edit: added 3/17/10) is the more commonly accepted picture of Morgan.
A few months later Virgil Earp was shot in the streets of Tombstone, AZ. He was injured, but survived. Another entry, next time. Unfortunately, Morgan was not so lucky. He was shot while playing pool with brother Wyatt at Campbell and Hatch Billiard parlor on Tombstone's Allen Street around 10pm on Saturday, March 18, 1882. He was killed.

Wyatt Earp sent his brother's body back to the family in Colton, CA. Originally, it was buried near Slover Mountain, but the Southern Pacific Railroad was found to have the right away through the cemetary area. So, in 1892 the remains were sent to the new Hermosa Cemetery. Here is the tombstone dedicated in his honor:

I do not want this to be a major issue. It really isn't because I understand the spirit of why it was put there. This tombstone was added in 1991. It says U.S. Deputy Marshal. There isn't any evidence of Morgan having that authority. It would take some time to explain the difference between a sheriff, city marshal, and a federal marshal; it was actually one of the problems related to what happened in Tombstone, AZ. Virgil was given this status in Tombstone. Wyatt would get the status later after Virgil was shot. Wyatt could have deputized Morgan (and others like Doc Holliday), but Morgan did not have the actual status giving by the local U.S. Marshal Dake. I don't want to sweat the small stuff, but just in case someone sees the above and is puzzled.
Slover Mountain Cemetery area would be the near the moundlike structure in the middle right of the picture. That would be where the body originally was until it was sent here in 1892.

So, next time you read about Wyatt Earp or see movies, like Tombstone, this was the ending location for Morgan Earp. For me, I get a kick out of this only being less than an hour from where I live. It is amazing to be standing over the gravesite of a man who was a participant of the most well known gunfight in the west, but also seeing what caused Wyatt Earp to go on his vendetta ride against the cowboys! A classic case of, "I will avenge you!"

One final note. I actually know of a bunch of gravesites of historical persons, as well as, movie celebrities. That is part of location hunting. It is not something I talk about too much because I think being obsessed with gravesites is a tad morbid. I will on occasion try to find some of them, but it is not something I try to make a habit of. Some are unique and personal to me too. Once in a while I might mention or show one, but it isn't something you will see me posting too many of.

For more on the Earps during their time in California check out The Earp Clan: The Southern California Years by Nicholas R. Cataldo (2006).