Book Review Thursday: Lady at the O.K. Corral

LadyAtOKCorralHer common law husband could never quite live down the event that took place on October 26, 1881 on the dusty streets of a wild mining town, and she spent the majority of her life with him trying to change the public’s perception of what really happened on that day – Wyatt Earp would forever be associated with the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona no matter where he went or what he did later in life.  Josephine Marcus Earp was born in 1860 to Jewish immigrant parents Hyman and Sophia Lewis Marcus, and by the end of that decade her family migrated west to San Francisco.

Her father was a baker, even though she later would claim that he had been a “prosperous mercantile business”.  Being Jewish and having a German accent did little to raise their social status either.  Josephine, however, craved adventure and would barely acknowledge that she was Jewish.  She took music and dance lessons and joined an acting troupe that traveled to Arizona Territory.  In December 1879 the group arrived in Tombstone, just about the time the Earp brothers were settling in with their wives.

After the gunfight at the O.K. Corral, Wyatt began his “Vendetta Ride”.  He and Josephine had carried on an affair for some time, but after the gunfight Wyatt sent his common law wife Mattie Blaylock away to live with his family in San Bernardino, California and Josephine returned to her family in San Francisco.  When Wyatt settled his legal matters he went to San Francisco, turning his back on Mattie, and he and Josephine began their life together.

The book chronicles the journeys and adventures of Mr. and Mrs. Wyatt Earp from San Francisco to Utah to Colorado and back to California (Los Angeles and San Francisco).  The two would travel to Alaska for the wild gold strike days in Nome.  It seemed that no matter where they went, as long as she had Wyatt, she was happy.  I found the part about the Alaska adventures the most interesting as I had never heard that much about them.

In later years, journalists and authors would attempt to write and re-write the history of Wyatt Earp.  Before and after his death, she would faithfully defend them, although she knew there were times when he would stray and have affairs with other women.  Their favorite thing to do together was to sleep under the stars out in the desert where they tended their mining claims.  They seemed to have a rhythm that suited them both.

The book narrates a different story than you might have previously heard of both Josephine and Wyatt’s lives, especially the famous gunfight at the O.K. Corral.  Author Ann Kirschner obviously took great pains to research and find out more than perhaps anyone else ever has cared to uncover about Josephine Marcus Earp.  It’s an engaging story, spanning more than fifty years of history, and well worth your time to read if you are a fan of Wyatt Earp and his adventures or if you’ve never known much about Josephine, the common law wife of one of the most famous (and misunderstood) lawmen of the American West.

Rating:  ★★★★

Have a GREAT day . . . someday it will be HISTORY!

© Sharon Hall (Digging History), 2014.



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