The Earps Invade Southern California
Most readers of the Wild West know Wyatt Earp, Virgil Earp, and Morgan
Earp for the famous shootout on the streets of Tombstone, Arizona. But
few know the later years of the close-knit Earp family, which revolved
around patriarch Nicholas Earp, and their last push at a major monetary
coup in Los Angeles.
By 1900 a newly established Old Soldiers’ Home was in place at Sawtelle
(between Santa Monica and Los Angeles), with thousands of veterans
earning monthly pensions, but in an environment where alcohol was
prohibited. Enter the Earps and their “blind pig” (illicit alcohol
sales) scheme. Two of the Earps, Nicholas and son Newton, were enrolled
in the Soldiers’ Home, and Newton’s far more famous half-brothers Wyatt
and Virgil showed up from time to time, but the star of the operation
was older brother James.
Booze would flow, the pension money would be “dispersed about,” and
jails were sometimes filled, as the Earps and several other men on the
make competed for the veterans’ money. We are also reintroduced to Old
West figures such as “Gunfighter Surgeon” Dr. George Goodfellow, “Silver
Tongued Orator” Thomas Fitch, millionaire George Hearst, detective J.V.
Brighton, Lucky Baldwin, and many other well-known westerners who
touched the lives of the Earps.