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March 19, 1848
January 13, 1929
Wyatt Earp (March 19, 1848 – January 13, 1929) was an American lawman, gambler and gunfighter, and a member of the American Rite of the Templar Order. Although he had a lengthy history of serving Templar interests in the American West, his most famous exploit was the defeat of the Assassin-allied gang known as the Cowboys in Tombstone, Arizona in 1881. This was the culminating event in Earp's successful efforts to prevent Assassin Johnny Behan from acquiring a Precursor artifact from the lost Roman colony of Calalus.
Earp was born in Illinois in 1848. Too young to enlist in the Union Army during the Civil War, despite his best efforts, he remained near his hometown until his family moved west in 1864. This began the first period of wandering in Earp's life, and he held a number of jobs until his marriage in 1869. The death of his wife in childbirth a year later sent Earp's life into a downward spiral, including several arrests associated with houses of prostitution. It was in 1874 that Earp met Templar Bat Masterson, marking a dramatic change in the trajectory of the young man's life.
Under Masterson's tutelage, Earp quickly learned the skills and tenets of the Templar Order, and became an important and devoted, if somewhat rough-edged, member of the organization. From their base in Dodge City, the western branch of the American Rite fought to stop the westward spread of the Assassins, operating largely independently of Grand Master William Tweed.
Tombstone, the Cowboys, and the Battle for Calalus
Perhaps Earp's most significant adventure came in the early 1880s, when the Assassins sent their operative Johnny Behan to Arizona to head a search for the lost colony of Calalus, established a thousand years before by Templars of the Roman Empire. Masterson dispatched Earp to the mining town of Tombstone, where he and Behan engaged in a shadow war for control of the town. Earp was eventually joined by his brothers, including the experienced lawman Virgil, and by the notorious Templar agent John "Doc" Holliday. Behan, meanwhile, recruited gunfighters Frank Stillwell, Johnny Ringo and "Curly Bill" Brocius into the Assassins.
While Earp searched the Arizona Territory for the site of Calalus, clashing repeatedly with Stillwell, Behan was using the common Assassin tactic of establishing control of Tombstone and the surrounding areas with a gang, in this case the Cowboys, led by Brocius and Ringo. The Templars' struggle with the Cowboys came to a head at the so-called Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, where Wyatt, Virgil, and Morgan Earp, as well as Doc Holliday, fought Ike and Billy Clanton, Frank and Tom McLaury, and Billy Claiborne, resulting in the deaths of Billy Clanton and the McLaurys. The Assassins retaliated immediately, with Behan arranging for the indictment of the Earps and the remaining Cowboys maiming Virgil and murdering Morgan.
The Templars responded with a "vengeance ride", putting together a group of sympathetic gunfighters and cattlemen, and setting out to eliminate the Western Assassins entirely. They started in Tucson, where Earp killed Stillwell before he could assassinate Virgil, and continued throughout Arizona, hunting down and shooting Brocius and most of the remaining Cowboys. Johnny Ringo escaped, only to be killed in a duel with Holliday in the undeground ruins of Calalus, finally located outside Tucson. Behan, who had tried and failed to stop the ride using a team of local deputies loyal to him and the Assassins, was forced to flee to San Francisco; his mistress, Sadie Marcus, remained behind, having learned the truth about Behan's Assassin work, and eventually became Earp's common-law wife.
Later life and death
Earp and Sadie occupied most of the remainder of Earp's life moving around the American West; following Sadie's induction into the Templar Order in 1883, the pair served the Order's interests, with Earp's old colleague Masterson and other Templars, in the so-called Dodge City War, and later ranged as far as Nome, Alaska, where Earp killed the insane and savage Assassin known only as the White Wolf.
The last thirty years of Earp's life were spent in Los Angeles in relative quiet; though he was involved in the Order's efforts to infiltrate and direct the fledgling movie industry, it was as a man of influence, not a warrior. He eventually died of liver disease in early 1929.
Personality and characteristics
Although for most of his life, Earp worked for an organization that valued order and control above all, he himself was a mercurial character, seemingly uncomfortable staying in any one place or doing any one job for too long. He constantly wrestled with his impulsive nature. Nevertheless, he had a strong sense of honor and a keen concern for the disadvantaged, and held himself, as well as everyone else, to an almost impossibly high standard.
Physically, he was a large, powerful man, able to end most confrontations without resorting to the use of weapons, but skilled with a gun or knife when the situation demanded it. As was standard for the times, he was also a capable horseman.
- Historically, the so-called Tucson artifacts were a hoax probably produced around the time of their "discovery" in 1924, long after the Earps or Johnny Behan were in Arizona.