Josephine Earp


Died aged c. 83

Josephine Sarah "Sadie" Earp (née Marcus; 1861 – December 19, 1944) was the common-law wife of Wyatt Earp, a famed Old West lawman and gambler. She met Wyatt in 1881 in the frontier boom town of Tombstone in Arizona Territory, when she was living with Johnny Behan, sheriff of Cochise County, Arizona. Josephine was born in New York to a Prussian Jewish family. Her father was a baker. They moved to San Francisco, where Josephine attended dance school as a girl. When her father had difficulty finding work, the family moved in with her older sister and brother-in-law in a working-class tenement. Josephine ran away, possibly as early as age 14, and traveled to Arizona, where she said she went "looking for adventure". Much of her life from about 1874 to 1882 (when she lived in the Arizona Territory) is uncertain; she worked hard to keep this period of her life private, even threatening legal action against writers and movie producers. She may have arrived in Prescott, Arizona as early as 1874. The book I Married Wyatt Earp (1967), based on a manuscript allegedly written in part by her, describes events she witnessed in Arizona that occurred before 1879, the year she claimed at other times to have first arrived in Tombstone. There is some evidence that she lived from 1874 to 1876 in Prescott and Tip Top, Arizona Territory under the assumed name of Sadie Mansfield, who was a prostitute, before becoming ill and returning to San Francisco. The name Sadie Mansfield was also recorded in Tombstone. Researchers have found that the two names share extremely similar characteristics and circumstances. Later in life Josephine described her first years in Arizona as "a bad dream". What is known for certain is that she traveled to Tombstone using the name Josephine Marcus in October 1880. She wrote that she met Cochise County Sheriff Johnny Behan when she was 17 and he was 33. He promised to marry her and she joined him in Tombstone. He reneged but persuaded her to stay. Behan was sympathetic to ranchers and certain outlaw Cowboys, who were at odds with Deputy U.S. Marshal Virgil Earp and his brothers, Wyatt and Morgan. Josephine left Behan in 1881, before the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, during which Wyatt and his brothers killed three Cochise County Cowboys. She went to San Francisco in March 1882 and was joined that fall by Wyatt, with whom she remained as his life companion for 46 years until his death. Josephine and Wyatt moved throughout their life, from one boomtown to another, until they finally bought a cottage in the Sonoran Desert town of Vidal, California on the Colorado River, where they spent the cooler seasons. In the summer they retreated to Los Angeles, where Wyatt struck up relationships with some of the early cowboy actors, including William S. Hart and Tom Mix. The facts about Josephine Earp and her relationship to Wyatt were relatively unknown until amateur Earp historian Glenn Boyer published the book I Married Wyatt Earp. Boyer's book was considered a factual memoir, and cited by scholars, studied in classrooms, and used as a source by filmmakers for 32 years. In 1998, reporters and scholars found that Boyer could not document many of the facts he wrote about Josephine's time in Tombstone. Some critics described the book as a fraud and a hoax, and the University of Arizona withdrew the book from its catalog.

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Family tree

Commemorated on 2 plaques

Wyatt Berry Stapp Earp (1848-1929) Josephine Sarah Marcus Earp (1861-1944) Earp Cottage Vidal, California. The legendary lawman, gun-fighter, gambler, businessman and miner along with his wife Josephine inhabited this "dream-come-true" cottage from 1925-1928. During the fall, winter and spring months while he worked his "happy days" mines in the Whipple Mountains a few miles north of this site. This is the only permanent residence they owned in their long lives together. Their ashes are buried in the hills of Eternity Memorial Park, Colma, California.

Earp Cottage, Vidal, CA, United States where they lived (1925-1928)

Wyatt Earp was born in Illinois March 19, 1848. In 1864 he came west with his family, settling near San Bernardino. He later served as lawman in Wichita and Dodge City, then came to Tombstone in 1879. After the gunfight at the O.K. Corral in 1881, he fled Arizona to avoid prosecution. He frequented the western boom camps, including Alaska, and in later years retired on income from Kern County Oil and the Happy Day Gold Mine group in the nearby Whipple Mountains. He and his wife Josephine spent their winters here for over two decades. He died peacefully in Los Angles January 13, 1929. soon after, this little community, formerly Drennan, was renamed in his honor when Earp Post Office was established in 1930. He is buried next to his wife, who died in 1944, in Colma, California.

Wyatt Earp Post Office, 144977 Aqueduct Road, Earp, CA, United States where they stayed