Virgil Earp was born in Kentucky, the third child of Nicholas and Virginia Earp. His younger brother was Wyatt Earp, who became a legendary frontier lawman. Virgil first worked in law enforcement as a shotgun guard for Wells Fargo Bank. He was a peace officer, too, following his service to the Union in the Civil War.
In 1879, Virgil joined his brothers Morgan and Wyatt in moving to the bustling town of Tombstone, Arizona. Wyatt had already established his reputation as a no-nonsense deputy in Dodge City, Kansas, and soon the Earps were having conflicts with an unruly band of outlaws that thought of tombstone as "their" town. In an effort to keep peace in the town Virgil agreed to become the marshal of Tombstone, and Wyatt and Morgan became part-time deputies.
On October 26, 1881, Virgil, Morgan, Wyatt and their friend John "Doc" Holliday confronted several of the outlaws outside a local saloon known as the OK Corral. Several of the outlaws were killed, and Virgil and Morgan Earp were both wounded. This brief gunfight came to be known as the "shootout at the OK Corral." It is still a popular story today, though the facts have been severely blown out of proportion in books and movies.
In March of 1882, the Earps were ambushed by some of the remaining outlaws from the OK Corral gunfight. Morgan Earp was killed, and Virgil wounded so severely that he lost the use of his right arm. Soon after, the Earps left Tombstone. Wyatt went off to Colorado, while Virgil remained in another part of Arizona. In 1898, Virgil claimed 160 acres of land to homestead near Prescott, Arizona. Since he had served three years in the Union Army during the Civil War, he only had to spend two years on his land before earning the title to it, which he did in 1900.
Virgil Earp died in1905. Though his younger brother remains more famous, Virgil led an exciting and fulfilling life. His services as a soldier and peace officer, plus his successful homesteading venture, ensure that his place in history will be forever granted.
Last updated: July 30, 2021