Wyatt Earp’s First Star

The adult Wyatt Earp is known to be pictured wearing a lawman’sbadge in only one photograph-the famous 1870s shot of him and Bat Mastersonin Dodge City, where they both served as lawmen during some of that Kansastown’s wildest days. But the photo above shows Wyatt (born March 19, 1848,in Monmouth, Ill.) as a child, wearing two stars on his shirt and carryingsome rope in his pocket just in case of trouble! With him is his mother,Virginia (1821-1893), who is said to have possessed much common sense and asoft spot for children, animals and the sick. Her marriage to Nicholas Earpproduced five sons and three daughters.

In his later years, Wyatt Earp formed a close relationship with ayoung man named John Flood. While he started out as Earp’s personalsecretary, Flood ultimately became the son Wyatt never had. Before his deathin 1929, Earp gave many of his personal possessions to Flood. Likewise,prior to his own death in 1958, Flood turned over most of his Earp materialto his confidant, researcher and collector John Gilchriese.

When Gilchriese decided to sell his collection in 2003, heinventoried countless items with San Francisco auctioneer Doug Johns. Uponshowing Johns this remarkable photograph, Gilchriese identified young WyattEarp and his mother. Johns then reached for the photo, to add it to theitems he would soon be taking to San Francisco for auction. ‘Nope,’Gilchriese said: ‘I’m not ready to let that one go.’

And he never did. The photo was in his possession until his death in2004. Only then did his family turn over the image to be sold at auction. Gilchriese never allowed it to be published in his lifetime. In 2005 it waspublished in the Johns’ Western Gallery catalogue, but this marks the firsttime the photo has been seen in a national publication.

This article is a supplement to the October 2006 Wild West ?Westerners? department. For more great articles be sure to subscribe to Wild West magazine today!

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