Wyatt Earp's wives

Alisande

When someone on Facebook posted a picture of Wyatt Earp's gravestone I got curious about his wife. Not a student of Western history, I'd never given much thought to Wyatt Earp, but the relatively anonymous wives of famous historical figures have long intrigued me. (And it isn't just wives . . . I often find myself looking into the family history of people whose gravestones I've photographed for FindAGrave--as if I didn't have enough to do.) What I learned about Wyatt's wives taught me something about him.

Using only FindAGrave I discovered Wyatt had three wives. Well, one wife for sure, and two possibly (or possibly not) common-law wives.

The first wife was Urilla Sutherland, who married Wyatt in 1870 when they were both around 20. She developed typhoid fever the same year, shortly before their first child was about to be born, and both she and the baby died.

Urilla's memorial

Celia Ann "Mattie" Blaylock married Wyatt in 1878, according to FindAGrave,. A former prostitute, she was 30 that year. Ten years later she died of opium poisoning, and her death was ruled a suicide. Suffering from severe headaches, she had become addicted to laudanum. I wonder if an accidental overdose would have been called suicide in those days. I think it's possible.

Mattie's memorial

Mattie's death came six years after Wyatt took up with Josephine Sarah "Josie" Marcus, a professional dancer and actress who ran away from home as a young teenager looking for adventure. She may have worked for a time as a prostitute, using the name Sadie Mansfield. She was Wyatt Earp's common-law wife for 48 years, until his death.

Josephine's memorial


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Comments (10)
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Annie Deighnaugh

Interesting...back then women got the work that was available to them...often it was the oldest profession.

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Alisande

Yes, and the attitude toward prostitution was different then--to a degree. Apparently it wasn't illegal as long as the women paid the required fees, and a Wikipedia article about Josephine made the point that many prostitutes had more control over their lives and greater independence than "respectable" women, who had to rely on employment as waitresses, seamstresses, and laundresses.

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adellabedella_usa

Tombstone, Arizona is a curious little town. We visited there about 15 years ago. I'm not sure about Wyatt Earp's second wife, but for some reason, I didn't think she became a prostitute until he deserted her and took up the third woman who was a prostitute.


Tombstone has the Birdcage Theater which was a brothel. That was an interesting place and an interesting tour. They told us stories of various prostitutes. Some may have not had much choice, but there is at least one who said she became a prostitute because she wanted adventure. It may have been Sadie, but I think there may have been more there like that also.

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Lars

Last Christmas I gave my sister about wild women of the West - it may have been similar to this one. I don't remember the exact title, but I bought it when we were at Joshua Tree National Park last Thanksgiving. I skimmed through it before I gave it to her, and I found a lot of interesting information in it. One thing I remember was that certain races were preferred by Western men, and I believe that white women were first, followed by Hispanic or Mexican, and the bottom three were Native American, African, and Chinese, possibly in that order, but I do remember that Chinese were last, according to that book.

I grew up not far from La Grange, Texas, which is where the story for The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas originated. Everyone knew about this brothel, and it was quite popular with high school and college guys while it lasted. I think I may have known guys who went there when I was in high school, but none from my university days.

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graywings123

Fascinating! Thanks for posting this.

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bengardening

Allisande Ty for writing this. It was very interesting to me. Also ty for those who comment.

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chisue

Take a gander (hee-hee) at Women's Property Rights in the US. Women had almost none until the last half of the 19th Century. No right to inherit, to enter into contracts, to earn a salary! Prostitution was a 'needs must' solution.

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Rusty

Allisande, thank you for sharing this information, it's really interesting. I, too, find it all too easy to get side-tracked when doing any genealogical research. A name somewhere will catch my fancy for some unknown reason and off I go, completely off the track of who or what I started out looking for.

Rusty

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kadefol

Very interesting, thank you Alisande. We lived in AZ for several years and visited Tombstone several times. I remember a huge rose that was billed as "the largest rose in the world" back then. It was a Lady Banks and very impressive, but we were never able to catch it in bloom.

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pudgeder

Quite interesting! TY for sharing!

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