December 26, 2010

Soapy Smith and Wyatt Earp in Tombstone, Arizona

(Click image to enlarge)


One of my more interesting mysteries to research has been the connection between Wyatt Earp and Soapy in Tombstone, Arizona shortly after the famed gunfight near the OK Corral of October 1881. It is my belief that Soapy knew the Earp's more intimately than recorded history has us believe.  It is also believed that Soapy met John "Texas Jack" Vermillion (later known as "Shoot-Your-Eye-Out Jack") who eventually became a short-lived member of the Soap Gang. It was also in Tombstone that Soapy either met or reacquainted himself with "Big Ed" Burns, a soon-to-be long-time member of the gang.  

On December 28, 1881 Virgil was shot and wounded by unknown assailants while walking to his room at the Cosmopolitan Hotel. Peter Brand, author and historian, wrote an article for Wild West magazine (March 2007) entitled, Wyatt Earp’s Vendetta Posse in which he writes,
"By mid-January 1882, Virgil's condition had improved slightly, and Wyatt decided to headquarter the Earp families with Virgil at the Cosmopolitan Hotel for safekeeping. Tombstone was a powder keg, and Wyatt knew there was safety in numbers."
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Daily Epitaph January 26, 1882

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Soapy arrived in Tombstone and signed the register at the Cosmopolitan Hotel three times between January 26 and February 16, 1882. “A lady” accompanied two of those registered arrivals. Was Soapy possibly a part of Wyatt’s plan for “safety in numbers” or is it merely a grand coincidence? Why would he want to be a part of the violence? What was in it for Soapy? It certainly would not be the first time Soapy jumped at the chance to fight for those behind the badge whom he sought an alliance with so that he could operate his chosen profession unmolested. Was he assisting the local lawmen protect their families from more death at the hands of the “cowboys,” in exchange for the right to operate his games with minimal interference.

Was he perhaps helping friend, “Big Ed” Burns, who was likely fighting to retain power and control of his operations in the area. It would be interesting, but not surprising, to know if Burns also help the Earp family in their time of need.

I shall continue searching for the answers and hopefully one day I'll find them. In the mean time here are a few links to other posts on this blog regarding the Tombstone mystery:
August 19, 2010
November 13, 2009
September 25, 2009
March 23, 2009





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