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Virgil Walter Earp
"The Real Hero of Tombstone"

Virgil's Life :|: Virgil's Family Tree :|: His Marriages :|: Virgil's Grave


After watching the 1993 movie, Tombstone, and living right here in Tombstone, I must admit that I am tired of everybody glorifying Wyatt and leaving Virgil out of the picture. As one Earp author, Glenn Boyer, says and I quote: "If Virgil had not died in 1905, the 'hero' we know from the Tombstone today would probably be him.

He was a Deputy United State's Marshal and Tombstone Police Chief when the shooting occurred and thus was the primary law enforcement officer in the incident." As for the OK Corral gunfight, it was Virgil who was disgusted with Sheriff Behan's weakness and for his constant protection of the 'cowboys' states another author, Don Chaput, in his book, "Virgil Earp, Western Peace Officer". It was Virgil who yelled at the cowboys to put their hands in the air, not Wyatt as he didn't want a gunfight if he could have avoided it, the same way law enforcement thinks today.

I definitely concur with Mr. Boyer as do a lot of locals and tourists I have spoken with. I do believe if Wyatt had never met the old western movie actor, William S. Hart, and had never gotten involved in the 'Hollywood atmosphere', the movies made about Tombstone would not have him in the star role. Virgil was involved in law enforcement, one way or another, most of his life and also fought in the Civil war for three years. In my book, he is the 'hero' of Tombstone.

During his lifetime, Virgil farmed, drove a stagecoach, drove a mail route, was a prospector and always involved with marshals, sheriffs and constables in one capacity or another. When he and Allie lived in Prescott, AZ, prior to moving to Tombstone, he worked occasionally in law enforcement. Then they moved to Tombstone. When the Marshal was killed, the city council appointed him as City Marshal on Oct. 30, 1880 until the next election took place. Then he was the Marshal from June 18, 1881 until Oct. 29, 1881, three days after the OK Corral gunfight when he and his deputy, Wyatt, resigned. During the gunfight, Virg was shot in the leg. Then on Dec. 28, 1881, he was ambushed, shot at by a shotgun and hit, leaving his left arm permanently crippled.

That didn't stop Virgil. He and Allie moved to Colton, CA, where he became the first Marshal there. In 1900 he was nominated to run for Sheriff of Yavapai County in AZ on the Republican ticket but due to poor health, he dropped out of the race. Virgil Walter Earp was working as a Deputy Sheriff in Esmaralda County, Nevada, when he died of pneumonia on Oct. 19, 1905.

Yessiree, my 'hero' of Tombstone, AZ, is Virgil Earp.

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**Early descendants of the Earp Family**

John Earp born 1600
wife unknown

Thomas Earp (1625 England-1720 England)

Thomas Earp Jr. (1656 Ireland or England-1720 Maryland)

Joshua Joseph Earp (1705-1760 Virginia)

William Earp (1729-1778) and Priscilla Nicholas

Their children were:
Josiah Earp
Joshua Earp
Matthew Earp
James Earp

***Philip Earp (1755 Maryland-1910 North Carolina) and Sarah Vaugh

Their children were:
John Earp
William Earp

***Walter Earp (1787-1853) and Martha Early

Their children were:
Lorenzo Dow 1809
***Nicholas Porter Earp (Sept. 6,1813 North Carolina-Nov. 12, 1907)
Elizabeth 1811
Walter and Jonathan (twins) 1824
Sally Ann 1827

Nicholas married Abigail Storm on Dec. 22, 1863
(Sept. 21,1813 Kentucky-Oct. 8, 1839)

Nicholas and Abigail's children were:
Newton Jasper Earp (Oct. 7, 1837-Dec. 18, 1928)
Mary (Mariah) Ann Earp (Feb. 12, 1838-Jan. 5, 1839)
Nathan T. Earp (1837?-1840)

After Abigail died, Nicholas married Virginia Ann Cooksey on Jul. 27, 1840
(Feb. 2, 1821 Kentucky-Jan. 14, 1893)
Her Parents were James Cooksey-Elizabeth Smith

Nicholas and Virginia's children were:
James Cooksey Earp (Jun. 28, 1841-Jan. 25, 1926)
***Virgil Walter Earp (July 18, 1843 Kentucky-Oct. 19, 1905 Nevada)
Martha Elizabeth Earp (Sept. 25, 1845-May 26,1856)
Wyatt Berry Strapp Earp (Mar. 19, 1848-Jan. 13, 1929)
Morgan L. Earp (Apr. 24, 1851-Mar. 18, 1882)
Warren Earp (Mar. 9, 1855-July 6, 1900)
Adelia D. Earp (1861-1941)

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Virgil's Marriages

Virgil at the age of 17 secretly eloped with Magdalena C. "Ellen" Rysdam, age 15, on September 21, 1861. Ellen was born in the Netherlands in 1842 to Gerrit Rysdam and Magdalena Catrina Van Velzen. They had one child, Nellie Jane. When Virgil returned home from fighting in the Civil War on the Union side for three years (83rd Regiment of Illinois Volunteer Infantry July 26, 1862-June 24, 1865), they both thought that each other was dead. She was told that Virg died from wounds so she went to Oregon and remarried. He never knew he had a daughter until 1888. He did see his daughter before he died though. Ellen died on May 3,1910.

Virgil then married Rosella Dragoo on May 28, 1870 in Missouri. She was born in 1853 in France. He left three years later. Whatever happened to the marriage and to Rosella has been a mystery.

He ended up with Alvira (Allie) Packingham Sullivan, daughter of John B. Sullivan and Mary Newman. Allie was born in 1849 in Iowa and died in 1947 in Los Angeles County, CA., almost 100 years old. They were married around the year 1874 though no marriage certificate or records can be found to confirm the marriage. Allie wrote a book about their life as well as Virgil's long career in law enforcement, compared to Wyatt's give or take five year stint in law enforcement. They had no children.

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Virgil Walter Earp died from pneumonia in Goldfield, Nevada in 1905. He was buried at Riverview Cemetery, 0300 SW Taylors Ferry Rd., Portland Oregon.

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