Letter From Wild West – October 2014

It’s Josie—Wait, Make That Sadie—Earp

Let me start by offering some questionable lyrics, with apologies to Harold Adamson, who wrote the real words to the memorable theme song of the 1950s TV Western The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp:

I’ll tell you a story, a near true life story
A tale of the Western frontier.
The West, it wasn’t lawless, but no woman was flawless,
And hers is the story you’ll hear.

Josie Earp, Josie Earp,
Brave, courageous and bold.
Long live her fame and long live her glory
And long may her story be told.

When she came to Tombstone, to marry in Tombstone,
She planned an excitable life,
Some goods and some chattel, them Cowboys loved cattle,
But Behan wouldn’t make her his wife.

Josie Earp, Josie Earp,
Brave, courageous and bold.
Long live her fame and long live her glory
And long may her story be told.

Now, she wasn’t partial to a man who wasn’t marshal,
But fate went and dealt her her hand.
While Behan was scootin’, this other man was shootin’.
She knew he was the one to land.

Josie Earp, Josie Earp,
Brave, courageous and bold
Long live her fame and long live her glory
And long may her story be told.

Well, she cleaned up the story, the old Wild West story,
She made her whitewash prevail.
And none can deny it, the legend of Wyatt,
Has nothing on Josie’s false trail.

Such new lyrics seem fitting with the 2013 releases of Ann Kirschner’s Lady at the O.K. Corral: The True Story of Josephine Marcus Earp and Sherry Monahan’s Mrs. Earp: The Wives and Lovers of the Earp Brothers; the February 2014 death of Glenn Boyer, who collected and edited the tainted 1976 memoir I Married Wyatt Earp: The Recollections of Josephine Sarah Marcus Earp; and the publication in this very issue of Roger Jay’s cover story “A Tale of Two Sadies.” Before you delve into Jay’s discourse on the state of this Mrs. Earp’s past, keep in mind…

Josie and Sadie are the same woman, one Josephine (“Josie”) Sarah (“Sadie”) Marcus Earp. Many authors refer to her as Josie. Kirschner calls her Josephine, even when describing the onetime actress as a teenager just mad about a dashing deputy sheriff nearly twice her age—who turned out to be that Cowboy-supporting cad Johnny (never John) Behan. Jay prefers to call her “Sadie,” the name most people who knew her used until she insisted on being called Josie or Josephine in the 1930s (Wyatt had died in 1929). The “two Sadies” comes into play because in 1874 Sadie Mansfield, 14, worked in a brothel in Prescott, Arizona Territory, where her best customer was the then-married Behan. Jay makes a case for Sadie Marcus and Sadie Mansfield being one in the same. Carol Mitchell introduced that notion in a 2001 magazine article, “Lady Sadie,”and Jay’s research has taken it to a new level. Kirschner argues that they were separate women, and that while the Sadie-also-known-as-Josephine was certainly involved in a love triangle with Johnny Behan and Wyatt Earp, she was never a soiled dove.

“Roger has done a terrific job of research and analysis, and he has opened our eyes to the possibility [of Marcus and Mansfield being one person],” says Earp biographer Casey Tefertiller. “It has become a major topic of conversation in the field. What is missing from the debate is something compelling—a big piece of evidence. There are still enough questions that I would say it’s about 50-50, and we can only hope evidence emerges to tip the scale one way or the other.” No matter the truth about her past, Josie Earp did not want the public to know the unvarnished story. Not that it mattered to Wyatt Earp—they were together for almost half a century.

 

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