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Was Arthur Moore King Wyatt Earp's last deputy?

by Randy King with James Petersen
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   With the help of James Petersen, another history buff and amateur historical sleuth, we pondered Arthur M. King who claimed to have worked as Wyatt's deputy during the early 1900's. We wanted to see if Arthur King was actually Wyatt Earp's last deputy and, thus, a historical figure.

   There were two articles about King published in True West Magazine. The first article appeared in the May-June 1958 edition, and the second in the July-August 1959 edition. The famous western painter and storyteller Lea McCarthy had written them as told by A.M. King. I wondered now if these stories were truth.

   The L.A.P.D was our first place to look, the Internet followed, and then calls were placed to various police and sheriff's department as well as to the U.S. Marshall Service. Newspaper archives and public and private libraries were contacted. One by one clues were located. Our results follow:

   A.M. King: Arthur Moore (A.M.) King was born in Willington, Clinton County, Ohio June 30, 1884 and last appeared in Ohio in the 1900 census. He had an older brother, Wilber A. and a younger brother, Russell M. His middle name, Moore is his mother's maiden name.

   King left his home in Oklahoma late in 1899 or early 1900 at the age of fifteen. Years later in a newspaper article King said that they (he and his brothers) were in Oklahoma Territory first, during the last Comanche round up, later they settle in Colton, California.

   As the story goes, they (LAPD members and King) loaded up in a horse-carted wagon and went out to the Bimini Baths located outside and west of the city limits of Los Angeles. This is where King had to show his ability to handle and shoot a revolver. Its location was Third Street and Bimini Avenue then 6 miles outside of the city limits. The Baths are long gone but the small street Bimini Avenue is still there.

   King demonstrated his gun handling and shooting abilities well. At this event, prior to December 31, 1902, King was asked to join the police department. Impressed with King's shooting, his likable attitude, and his ability to handle himself well, he was hired as a patrolman even though he was underage. His training was on the job. His area of patrol was a route that covers historical plaza, old china town and down near 1st and Spring Street.

   We located a newspaper article that speaks of A.M. King as a patrolman; we found a photograph, with King in full police uniform it is dated August 21, 1907. His badge number was 209. The article and photograph provides proof he was a Los Angeles City Police Man. One had to be a member of the LAPD at least 5 years prior to moving up the ranks to detective. The article lends itself to support that King was of higher rank then patrolman.

   Looking into the City Directories, we are confident that King remained on the force until April 1909. City Hall scandals of Mayor Harper in 1909 cost A.M. his job. He said that part of his duties were to collect money from various bars and whore houses then deliver the money to city hall. Harper resigned, the next day the Chief of Police resigned and within a few months others were gone. Arthur Moore King began to work as an 'independent' policeman.

    It was at this time that the police department decided that they needed some outside help. Wyatt Earp lived in Los Angeles off and on, mostly during the summer months - his mining claim, in the desert, near Needles, California was extremely hot during the summer. Wyatt was asked to work "outside the law" to go places and do things that the police force could not do such as chasing criminals who had escaped to Mexico. Both Wyatt and Arthur each received $10.00 per day plus expenses. Arthur was brought in to assist him at the same rate. The friendship was on. Their task was to chase down criminals who had escaped into old Mexico avoiding prosecution. Their first man to track down was a drug dealer and rapist named Pearson. Our heroes had to avoid the Mexican police and army, track down their man and sneak him across the border back in the United States - they did this. When they reached the border, Wyatt stepped across into USA territory. King untied Pearson then pushed him across the border where the waiting Wyatt, with gun drawn, formally arrested Pearson serving him with an arrest warrant.

   The duo continued to accept assignments always managing to get their man, regardless of how they did it. The police department did not ask questions, they were pleased with the results.

   One day, a former Los Angeles Police Commissioner, H.L. Lewis, asked Wyatt to head up a special posse; Wyatt was recommended by his old pal George Parsons for the job. Wyatt's job as head of this posse was to protect the surveyors of the American Trona Company from being shot at by claim jumpers representing the California Trona Company. A.M. was on hand to protect Wyatt's back.

   This job lead to Wyatt Earp's last armed confrontation, he was 64 years old. The California Trona Company was under receivership. The Federal Receiver was Stafford W. Austin. Henry Lee was their attorney. Knowing the law, Henry Lee attempted to stake claims in the Borax region near Searless Dry Lake located just outside of Death Valley. One had to work and show improvement on your claims or ownership defaults, someone else could file and take over the land. Lee felt that he could do this realizing that Austin would resist; at stake were millions of dollars in minerals.

   The following is from the diaries of Stafford W. Austin, Receiver of the California Trona Company adversaries to Wyatt's group.

   Thursday, October 20, 1910
A party of jumpers came in last night in five automobiles and camped at Salte Range on the East side of the lake. This morning they began to run a line of survey, westward from the patented claim in Sec. 12 - 25-43
I ordered them out as trespassers...

   Tuesday, October 25, 1910
Marshall arrived at Jumpers camp last night and caught 28 of the men and served them with summons to appear before the U.S. Circuit Court for contempt. A man called Sprat, whom I afterward found to be Wyatt Earp of Arizona fame, made an assault on one of my men...

   Wednesday, October 26, 1910
Names of jumpers as given to the Marshall: H. E. Lee, G. E. North, J. E. Dorsey, P. W. Snyder, B. S. Farrar, Oliver Hoefer, Harvey Glenn, C. C., Payne, A. M. King, M. Varney, E. A. Rasor, E. L. Bergeroa, W. R. Habdy, G. R. McCarne, H. B. Dee, Carl Homan, E. W. Corsey, Wolff W. Goreia, J. A. Walden, R. A. DeLair, James Hickman, Ed. F. Basse, R. Clark, W. R. Simpson, W. E. Stapp (alias Wyatt Earp), A. J. Capt and W. Crayton". ...

   Besides the diary of S.W.Austin to substantiate Kings claim, we found the actual US Deputy Marshal who served and arrested Wyatt and King - Jackson F. Durlin. Wyatt Earp's last armed confrontation was bloodless. A.M. King said in his article "...that it was the nerviest thing he had ever seen." With guns pulled, Wyatt came out of his tent with a Winchester Rife, firing a round at Stafford's feet. "Back off or I'll blow you apart he ordered, or my name is not Wyatt Earp". Hearing his name, Stafford and his men backed off. The Marshals were sent for; Wyatt and Arthur were arrested but quickly released when Deputy Durlin realized that this was the famed Frontier Marshal.

   King's wife, Fay wanted her husband to settle down to a less dangerous job so by 1912 he had decided to leave law enforcement and enter into the auto business. Second Hand Autos, a business located at 1157 S. Olive and later at 1212 S. Main Street, was opened. The King Brothers were partners. King and Earp drifted apart.

   The city directories no longer list King after 1920; we found evidences that A.M. traveled to Northern California with his a second wife Bessie. He worked for the city of Crescent City as a laborer in street construction prior to purchasing his cattle ranch. Selling the ranch, A.M. and his wife retired to Santa Rosa, California in 1957.

   On March 6, 1961, in San Francisco, Arthur M. King passed away at 77 years of age; the cause of death: Cardiovascular Collapse. His body was cremated at the Santa Rosa Memorial Park.

   The question goes back to whether or not Arthur M. King was Wyatt's Last Deputy. We explored this question in detail. Unfortunately the LAPD and the Los Angeles Sheriff Department threw out their old records many years ago so the actual deeds, as reported by Lea McCarthy's articles, cannot be authenticated with official records. But we know for a fact that King was a policeman who admits to losing his job for corruption.

   The time line fits. King had risen above the rank of patrolman to Detective and would have known Captain of Detectives Paul Flammer. It was Captain Flammer who called upon King to assist Wyatt Earp. Many newspapers substantiated their relationship, as did the Examiner article of the May 20, 1911. The articles report Wyatt Earp and A.M. King with the provisional Mayor of Mexicali Bob Davis acting much like teenagers carousing Spring Street. The article states that the men were in high sprits drinking and celebrating the end of the Mexican Insurrections and the battle of Tia Juana. We found the diaries of S.W. Austin, then the Federal Receiver for the Trona Company and a bundle of newspaper articles that name both A.M. King and Wyatt Earp as part of the armed bodyguards for the California Borax Company.

   We uncovered the Marshal who arrested these two and verified for a third time the working relationship of King and Earp. All of the buildings, hotels, and businesses mentioned in the King articles have been located researched and verified.

   Going back to the original question was A.M. King Wyatt's Earps last Deputy? We have found enough information to give a confident answer - yes; Arthur Moore King was indeed Wyatt's last deputy and thus an historic figure.

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