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Wyatt Earp of Monmouth, Illinois

Wyatt Earp of Monmouth, Illinois

Marshall Wyatt Earp was born in Monmouth, Illinois, on March 19, 1848, to widower Nicholas Porter Earp and Virginia Ann Cooksey. From his father's first marriage, Wyatt had an elder half-brother, Newton, and a half-sister Mariah Ann, who died at the age of ten months. Wyatt was named after his father's commanding officer in the Mexican-American War, Captain Wyatt Berry Stapp, of the 2nd Company Illinois Mounted Volunteers. In March 1849, the Earps left Monmouth for California but settled on a new farm of 160 acres northeast of Pella, Iowa.

On March 4, 1856, Earp's father Nicholas sold his farm and returned to Turtle, Illinois, where he was elected the municipal constable, serving at this post for about three years. He was caught and convicted in 1859 for bootlegging. Nicholas was unable to pay the fines, and a lien was put against the Earp's property. It was sold at auction in November 1859, and the family left again for Pella, Iowa. After their move, Nicholas returned to Monmouth throughout 1860 to sell his other properties and resolve several lawsuits for debt and accusations of tax evasion.

During the family's second stay in Pella, the Civil War began. Newton, James, and Virgil joined the Union Army on November 11, 1861. While his father was busy recruiting and drilling local companies, Wyatt, along with his two younger brothers, Morgan and Warren, were left in charge of tending 80-acre corn crop. Only 13 years old, Wyatt was too young to enlist, but he tried on several occasions to run away and join the army. Each time his father found him and brought him home. James was severely wounded in Fredericktown, Missouri, and returned home in the summer of 1863. Newton and Virgil fought several battles in the east and later returned. On May 12, 1864, the Earp family joined a wagon train heading to California.

On Oct. 26, 1881, Tom and Frank McLaury and Billy Clanton were killed. Virgil and Morgan Earp and Doc Holliday were wounded in the famous gunfight near the OK Corral in Tombstone, Arizona. Wyatt Earp was not hurt and Ike Clanton fled the scene.

From 1955 to 1961, actor Hugh O'Brian, a graduate of New Trier High School in Winnetka, Illinois portrayed the role of Wyatt Earp on a TV series called The Legend of Wyatt Earp losely based on Earp's career as a lawman. The Illinois State Society of Washington, DC gave its Outstanding Illinoisan Award to Hugh O'Brian at the Inaugural Gala of Jan. 19, 1997.

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