ON THE TRAIL OF THE EARPS
For the fans of western lore, trying to plan a vacation to Tombstone, with a desire to walk in Wyatt, Virgil and Morgan Earps footsteps are often met with disappointment. Most end up not pursuing six-gun heaven, but settling for amusement park peacemaking. But want-to-be U.S. Marshal’s need not fret on your next trip with the family to California. You can include among the amusement parks, rides, surf and sunshine, a treasure trove of Earp history. Where the movie of Tombstone ends is where the Earp family story continues, and it rides into the other Wild West, California! So pack your bags, boots and Stetson and saddle up for your Earp vacation.
The trail to the Earp’s California story starts in the Cajon Pass, just outside of San Bernardino on a wagon trail that would become Route 66 and later Interstate 15. Here Patriarch Nicholas Earp brought the family on its’ final leg west in 1864, having passed through what was then known as Waterman Junction ( now Barstow) and settling along the Santa Ana River, in what is now Redlands, CA. The family moved to what would become Colton in 1880, with Nicholas helped incorporate the city in 1887, holding various jobs there during his Colton years, including farmer, City Clerk, City Recorder and saloon keeper.
In the final years of his life Nicholas Earp lived at The Soldiers Home in Sawtelle (now the VA Hospital in West Los Angeles). He is buried in the Los Angeles National Cemetery, located across the freeway from the VA Hospital at 950 S Sepulveda Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90049. His grave is in the north-west corner, Section 13 grave number A-18 among fellow veterans of the Civil, Indian and Spanish American War.
Movie fans may remember Deputy Morgan Earp being assassinated, shot in the back by cowards. His body was taken from Tucson by train to California accompanied by Virgil, James and their families.
The train station where Morgan's body was brought to still stands off of 9th St. in Colton, CA.
Morgan was buried in the old city cemetery near Mount Slover. When the cemetery was moved in 1892, Morgan's body was reburied in the Hermosa Cemetery at 900 N. Meridian Ave Colton CA 93234. His final resting place is on a small hill, overlooking Interstate 10 and Southern Pacific railroad that brought him home.
On occasion, visitors may see men standing at Morgan’s gravesite, in full western costume placing flowers on the grave.
James Earp, who was in Tombstone working as a jailer during the gunfight at the O.K. Corral, worked in various jobs over the years after returning home with Morgan’s remains to Colton. As with his brother Warren, the two lived out of the spotlight for much of the Earp’s history. James is buried in Mountain View Cemetery 570 East Highland Ave. in San Bernardino: 92404
The Earp boy’s mother Virginia, James’s wife Nellie Earp and Nicholas’s third wife, Annie Elizabeth Cadd are all buried in San Bernardino’s Pioneer Cemetery at 211 E 9th St. With markers from the mid 1800’s, today memorial markers have been placed acknowledging the memory of the Earp women.
Virgil Earp and Allie settled in Colton and became involved in various enterprises during their stay. There home, a Victorian style Cottage still stands at 528 West H Street in Colton, just off of Interstate 10 and 9th St. Virgil held many jobs in his life, stage driver, prospector, detective, but one job in Colton, came close to equaling his legend from Tombstone. In 1883, the California Southern, a subsidiary of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad wanted to connect San Diego to Waterman Junction, Santa Fe’s hub. The only problem was they needed to cross through Colton, California and over Southern Pacific tracks. San Bernardino residents had felt snubbed by the Southern Pacific and longed for the glory and wealth that came from being serviced by a railroad. As the upstart railroad construction approached from the east and north, Southern Pacific parked a locomotive and tender blocking their path. Standing atop the engine, six-gun at the ready stood Special Railroad Agent Virgil Earp. Armed with both Peacemaker and an imposing reputation Earp held the California Southern at bay, none willing to tangle with the legendary lawman. All sat idle, while the magnificent figure of Earp stood atop the tender car. The standoff continued until California’s Governor arrived with a San Bernardino posse in tow to force Southern Pacific to capitulate. Mobs of armed factions from both Colton, (pro Southern Pacific) and San Bernardino (pro California Southern) stared each other down. Governor Robert Waterman read the court order that awarded California Southern the right to cross Southern Pacific tracks and then ordered the Sheriff and Posse to open fire on Virgil if he made a move for his guns. The mob could smell a fight coming and a riot and bloodbath seemed likely, until Virgil Earp, ordered the locomotive moved. The Battle of the Crossing, as it became known, ended without bloodshed, without a shot being fired, due to Virgil. Today, the location still mixes traffic between the two mighty railroads, just next to Interstate 10 and what was once known as 6th St. Visitors can watch as both Santa Fe and Southern Pacific trains pass the exact spot Virgil Earp stood, located just a few blocks from his home.
For fans of Wyatt Earp, his journey west took him too many places, Colorado, Deadwood Alaska and Nevada. But Wyatt and Sadie (Josie) found a frequent home in California. A trip to San Diego Old Town will lead you to Wyatt’s famous Oyster Bar, which was located in the Louis Bank Building at 837 5th Avenue, located in the gas lamp district downtown, which still stands today. Once housing a three story brothel called the Golden Poppy Hotel above the bar, the building today hosts a restaurant which salutes the former occupant with pictures and mementos. San Diego kept Wyatt and Sadie busy with gambling, saloon keeping, as race horse owner and even refereeing prize fighting. The couple moved again and headed north to Alaska as part of the gold rush in 1897 and ran a saloon in Nome and reportedly worked gold claims in Klondike. Returning to California Wyatt and Virgil attempted to open a gambling hall in Colton, which the city turned down. Both would leave California for Tonopah, Nevada. Sadly, Virgil would never return, he died while serving as a Deputy Sheriff in Goldfield, NV in 1905. Wyatt and Sadie settled finally in Los Angeles, living at 4004 W 17th Street in a small apartment. Spending summers in Los Angeles, writing his memories and frequently being called on by motion-picture directors at the time to add color to the movie. (Which he never did)
They spent their winters in Videl Junction along Highway 62, east of Palm Springs, in a little cottege. Wyatt filed many mining claims in the area. During their stay in Vidal, Wyatt became a “non-salaried” San Bernardino County Deputy. This occurred after Wyatt and a local Constible responded to a robbery in progress at a local store. While the constable went to the back door, Wyatt walked right in the front door and single handedly disarmed the robber, throwing him out the door by the scruff of his collar. Amazingly Wyatt Earp was unarmed! The Earp legacy lives on here with the tiny town of Drenan, renamed to "Earp, California", the local post office bares photos and memorablia saluting Wyatt.
Wyatt befriended Hollywood’s western stars like Tom Mix and Bill Hart. Some accounts also show that he met Marion Michael Morrison during his Hollywood days, describing his exploits to the young actor. Of course, we know Morrison today as John Wayne. Wyatt died on Sunday, January 13th, 1929 and his passing was big news across the country. His funeral was held on January 16th at Pierce Brothers Chapel, at 1218 Glendon Ave, in what is now Westwood Village just off Wilshire Blvd. Today it is famous for being the Cemetary to the Stars, with over a hundred movie and television stars laid to rest there. Sadly, Sadie did not attend the funeral that packed the chapel with friends from across the west. More chairs had to be brought in, as guests continued to arrive during the ceremony. Wyatt was cremated and interned in Colma, CA. a town with 17 cemeteries and more dead residents then living ones. His grave is the most visited site in the city. The cemetery is at 1301 El Camino Real, Colma, 94014.
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