watching the 1993 movie, Tombstone, and living right here in Tombstone,
I must admit that I am tired of everybody glorifying Wyatt and
leaving Virgil out of the picture. As one Earp author, Glenn Boyer,
says and I quote: "If Virgil had not died in 1905, the 'hero'
we know from the Tombstone today would probably be him”.
He was a Deputy United State's
Marshal and Tombstone Police Chief when the shooting occurred
and thus was the primary law enforcement officer in the incident.
As for the OK Corral gunfight, it was Virgil who was disgusted
with Sheriff Behan's weakness and for his constant protection
of the 'cowboys' states another author, Don Chaput, in his book,
"Virgil Earp, Western Peace Officer". It was Virgil who yelled
at the cowboys to put their hands in the air, not Wyatt as he
didn't want a gunfight if he could have avoided it, the same way
law enforcement thinks today.
I definitely concur with Mr. Boyer as do a
lot of locals and tourists I have spoken with. I do believe if
Wyatt had never met the old western movie actor, William S. Hart,
and had never gotten involved in the 'Hollywood atmosphere', the
movies made about Tombstone would not have him in the star role.
Virgil was involved in law enforcement, one way or another, most
of his life and also fought in the Civil war for three years.
In my book, he is the 'hero' of Tombstone.
During his lifetime, Virgil
farmed, drove a stagecoach, drove a mail route, was a prospector
and always involved with marshals, sheriffs and constables in
one capacity or another. When he and Allie lived in Prescott,
AZ, prior to moving to Tombstone, he worked occasionally in law
enforcement. Then they moved to Tombstone. When the Marshal was
killed, the city council appointed him as City Marshal on Oct.
30, 1880 until the next election took place. Then he was the Marshal
from June 18, 1881 until Oct. 29, 1881, three days after the OK
Corral gunfight when he and his deputy, Wyatt, resigned. During
the gunfight, Virgil was shot in the leg. Then on Dec. 28, 1881,
he was ambushed, shot at by a shotgun and hit, leaving his left
arm permanently crippled.
That didn't stop Virgil.
He and Allie moved to Colton, CA, where he became the first Marshal
there. In 1900 he was nominated to run for Sheriff of Yavapai
County in AZ on the Republican ticket but due to poor health,
he dropped out of the race.
Virgil Walter Earp was working
as a Deputy Sheriff in Esmaralda County, Nevada, when he died
of pneumonia on Oct. 19, 1905.
Yessiree, my 'hero' of Tombstone,
AZ, is Virgil Earp.
Shiloh "Danni" Eldridge is
a local author who has written a novel titled "Valley Investigations".