Warren Earp and Wild West Willcox
Did Willcox have the rough and tumble history that Tombstone is so famous for in the Old West? Local historian Kathy Klump says there were shootings practically every week in Willcox and the surrounding area.
Warren Earp, the only Earp brother buried in Arizona, died in Willcox. Though he was nowhere near the famous Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, he later gained a reputation as a quarrelsome sort. He participated in Wyatt’s “vendetta ride,” a posse in search of the outlaw Cowboys. He left after the ride.
Warren Earp's return to Cochise County
It’s unclear when Warren returned to Willcox, but records indicate he was there by 1894. He spent some time working on the Sierra Bonita Ranch for Col. Hooker, as a stage driver, and sometimes a saloon bartender.
Virgil Earp was sure Warren's temper would get him killed. Virgil’s daughter Nellie supposedly told The Oregonian that, "My father said, 'If Warren ever dies he will be shot. He is too hasty, quick-tempered and too ready to pick a quarrel. '"
If Virgil Earp indeed said that, an account in The Tombstone Epitaph on July 9, 1900 shouldn’t have been a surprise. It reported that Warren Earp died after being shot in the chest by Johnny Boyett. The two apparently had a simmering dislike for one another. The article stated that “Earp had habitually bullied Boyett for months past” and that he challenged Boyett to fight to the death. Boyett got a gun from the Willcox Hotel, and charged after Earp. After missing a few times, Earp was mortally wounded. The coroner heard testimony from witnesses and determined there was no need for a trial. Warren was buried that afternoon.
So, back in the Old West, it seems Willcox had as tough a reputation as Tombstone. Over the years, it has become an agricultural center with u-pick farms, wineries, and cattle ranches – a great place for a family visit.
Willcox’s ranching heritage is celebrated every October with the Cowboy Hall of Fame and Rex Allen Days. Want to find out more about ranching in Cochise County? Visit our Old West/Ranching history page to find out sights to see.
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