Tombstone History Archives
Chronicles of Tombstone's TurbulEnt Years
Letters Written Between Wyatt Earp and Stuart Lake
Transcribed by Erik Hewitt
Lake to Earp, September 28th, 1928
Dear Mr. Earp,
Just a line after my lenghty screed of yesterday, principally to tell you that my digging after material has let me into communications with an old friend of your(sic) who wishes me to pass on his very heartiest regards. It is Mr. Llew H. Davis, now of El Paso, Texas, but in 1881 a partner of Mr. Hunsakor as a practicing attorney in Tombstone.
I am trying hard to round up pictures, and the correct names of many for who we now have only nicknames or guesswork, by the way, I’ve found Tipton’s name - it was Dan G. Tipton.
You would be pleased, I know, if you could hear of the fine and friendly things that are said of you by the men to who I am writing in search of my pictures and my data. Every one has a word of commendation for you ability as a peace officer, but to me the nicest of all is their very evident respect for you as a man. More than yesterday even, I am certain in that our book will be what Mrs. Earp calls a nice clean story. Personally I don’t mean that exactly as she does, but I do mean that more and more of your philosophy of living creeps into my idea of things, and more and more I am certain that we are going to turn our(sic) an accurate picture of a time and of a man, rather than any wild tale of bloodletting and whooping gunplay.
I thought I had been made cynical to get up the enthusiasm which I have for your story. If I can write it the way I feel about it, we’ll not do so badly.
Our best to yourself, and to Mrs. Earp.
Lake to Earp, October 2nd, 1928
Dear Mr. Earp:
Thank you very much for the fine letter of yesterday, and your very clear, concise answers to my questions. The fourth one, as you say, shall be left out entirely and I am in sympathetic accord with your reasons for suggesting this course. And, as I think I wrote you before, I have never regarded the chair incident as of sufficient importance to justify any space.
More than the mere answers to my questions, I was relieved to learn that you are not ill. That was what I had feared, for we have been having quite warm weather down here and it seemed likely that Los Angeles would be faring worse. Better take it easy on this desert trip; wait until it cools somewhat.
Unless something unforeseen crops out, I do not think Mrs Lake and I will come to Los Angeles before you leave. I am busy with the story, too busy and too much interested to wish to interrupt unless absolutely necessary. And, as for knocking off on that for anything else, I should say not! The longer I work on it, the keener I get about it, and as I am in a position to finish it through without crippling myself, I intend to go right on to the end. Occasionally, I may seem abrupt about things, and possibly temperamental. I do not mean to. But, when I get busy on a job about which I am enthused I am apt to be touchy about things that interfere with it.
I wrote about the sale, etc., as I did, trying to bolster up Mrs. Earp’s confidence in me. I have had a feeling all along that unless I could do this thing with your complete confidence and approval, both of you, I mean, I would prefer not to do it at all. There is something back of this which is more than a mere desire to turn out a saleable book. I am workman enough to know of the opportunity which we have; I only hope I can make the most of it.
This afternoon while in the bank I met Lee Rose. I told him you had been in town. He is just back from the Eastern races (Missouri and Illinois) and regretted missing you. He send his affectionate regards to you and to Mrs. Earp and word that he must call upon you when you come to San Diego again.
I am glad that I could put you in touch with Fred Dodge. From his letters I judge that he must be a fine and loyal friend. That is the kind that counts through the years.
I knew, of course, that that Dalton-Younger relationship was a wild rumor, but inasmuch as it had appeared in print I thought it advisable to spike it for good.
And, I am afraid that you misunderstood somewhat the purpose of my quotations. I knew, too, that every thing that you could recall of any importance had been told fully and freely; but, I wanted to get everything with absolute certainty. This is the only kind that counts, and I thought that with a little time away from the steady questioning to which I subjected you, you might have called to mind other incidents that should be included, but which had been passed over here.
I am glad to have your explanation of Bat’s estimate of your prowess with your fists. It was about as I had imagined, but it seemed best to let you explain it.
The things are too bulky and too long to copy what with the other writing I am doing, but I have a more complete vindication for your record in Tombstone than I think you realise, things from old records and from old newspapers, not to mention some record of the doings of the other crowd. When the manuscript is complete you will see them. For some reason, your memory of all Tombstone incidents is remarkably accurate as to date and detail, remarkable I mean after all these years. I find it confirmed time and time again by old records to which I turn.
In an old book which I dug up I have an amusing description of Los Angeles in the days when you drove the San Bernardino stage, and also find you were right on the freight charges from San Pedro to Arizona and Salt Lake — 12[illegible] cents and 16 cents a hundred, respectively. Also, you had the routes exactly right.
Here are the letters you sent me, returned. Hope this reaches you in good health and that you will gain strength steadily. Mrs. Lake joins me in best to you both and promises cornbread and biscuits both for your next visit.
Lake to Earp, October 8th, 1928
Dear Mr. Earp:
Mr. Hunsaker’s letter reached me this morning. It is of course, a warm tribute to your accomplishments in Tombstone, the sort that we can introduce here and there as additional evidence xx for the trend of our story.
I think you will be interested in a reminiscence which I heard the other evening. I was at the home of Mr. E. F. Parmelee, who for forty years has been the general manager of the Spreckels newspapers. He has been my warm friend for this long while, due to certain Eastern connections which we have in common, and I discuss many of my rather intimate affairs with him. He is much older than I, of course, but always interested in what I am doing. So, the other evening, he asked what I was writing now, and I replied, the biography of Wyatt Earp.
“Wyatt Earp,” he said; “Well, well, well, he’s one of the last of the old school, a fine, square man, as I recall. Next time you write to Mr. Earp ask him if he remembers a prizefight in Tia Juana one Sunday in ‘86 which he attended with Walter (”Baldy”) Blake, editor of the Bee, and the Union; Eiegenfuss, and my self. He may not remember me; it was my first Sunday in San Diego, and I was pretty much of a kid. It was the Sunday when the Mexican judge made us take up an extra collection at the ringside for his benefit before he’d let the fight go on. Eiengenfuss, Blake, Wyatt Earp and I drove back form Tia Juana in a wagon pulled by a couple of half-wild Mexican ponies and they nearly put us into the ditch. He may not remember the incident, but I do, distinctly.”
Mr. Parmelee sends his warm regards and hopes that you continue in good health.
Another question: Do you remember a man named, Freis, who was one of the Stillwell-Spence-Curly Bill gang? If one record is correct, xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx one of the crowd who assasinated Morg. He is so listed in one report of the findings of the coroner’s jury, in addition to Spence, Stilwell, Frank Snelling and Indian Charlie (Florentino Cruz.) If you can tell me anything about him, would like to have it; if not, we’ll let him slide.
Pone Deal, I know, was one of the Curly Bill gang. Can you give me any account of him, or mention of the disappeared to and when? Just enough to identify him more fully than we have, if that is possible.
The work is getting along quite a bit, although you will understand that most of the time of any job of this sort and most of the arducas effort lies with the first arrangement of things, the shaping of the story. Also, the early chapters are the most difficult. They key the whole business. However, I am approaching what I trust will be the smoother sailing, and the possibilities loom larger every day.
Mrs. Lake joins me in the hope that Mrs. Earp and yourself are both well. You will be starting for the desert soon. Keep us posted on your whereabouts. You will hear from us from time to time, but it seems now as though I had covered almost everything of importance.
Stuart N. Lake
Lake to Earp, October 12th, 1928
Dear Mr. Earp:
I have just received a letter from Fred Dodge in which he tells me that he has written two letters, one addressed to you, and one to me, sending both in your care. He says that from the letter address to you, I can get his connection with Wells, Fargo & Co., and that also this letter may suggest other things to me. He suggests that I should use both letters — why he sent his information in two sections he doesn’t make quite clear other than the possibility that he wishes you to see what he was saying and that he wished you to know how interested he is in helping.
I am sending this to you Special Delivery for the reason that Mr. Dodge’s letter to me was dated October 8 and for some reason known only to the mailman has been four days on the way. I want to catch you, if possible, in time to have you enclose both letters in forwarding the Dodge information; if I have not suggested, please shoot the other one along.
Sometime before you get away will Mrs. Earp send me your late photograph, so that I may have a copy made here that I can send along for reproduction? I will take my customary care of it and return it promptly.
The story is progressing so smoothly that I fear the gait must change from some ill-fortune seen. It is going too well, if you understand my superstitions forebodings. However, I am more satisfied than ever with the outlook. I have said repeatedly that I feared to raise false hopes, with you folks as well as myself, but if I hold to the present rate of accomplishment, we’ll be ready to seek a publisher well in advance of my earlier estimate. Despite my minor matters which may delay as, I think I can assure you of completion in good season.
Please let me have Mr. Dodge’s letters at an early moment, and any other material of bearing that may have come your way. I am cutting this short to make the noon train. Mrs. Lake joins in the hope that Mrs. Earp and you are well and in warm regards to you both.
Lake to Earp, October 19th, 1928
Dear Mr. Earp:
Sorry to pester you, but one more thing has come up, about which there is need of refreshing your memory.
You will recall that in Ellsworth, in 1873, you saw Sheriff Whitney killed by Billy Thompson, know that the Mayor who fired the whole policeforce in front of Beebe’s store was James Miller. You had the trouble with Sterling right, and the refusal of the police to do anything. Happy Jack was Jack Morco, Brocky Jack was jack Norton, Deputy Sheriff was John Hogue, the deputy whom Ben wished dissarmed was Charles Brown. Among those who were backing up Ben when you disarmed him were John Good, Neil Kane and Cad Pierce. Police Judge was V. B. Osborne. All of which brings me to my point.
The little Ellsworth paper of that time gives the story of the Whitney killing exactly in accordance with your memory, even including the shot which clipped ;the door casing. The date of the whiteney killing was August 18, 1873. Here is where the rub comes, and for the minute I must jump ahead a year.
In your reminiscences, you told of going to Whictita the next year and a short time after taking the marshal’s job there, of finding it necessary to disarm Cad Pierce. From what happened in Ellsworth, I am afraid you must have recalled the wrong name in this instance. The same Ellsworth weekly newspaper of August 21, 1873 which gives the account of the Whitney Killing, also gives the account of Cad Pierce’s death; he was shot by one Ed Crawford at the entrance to Beebe’s store on August 20, 1873 — two days after Whitney was killed. Neil Kane was saved from death at the hands of Happy Jack, who of course was no longer on the force, by Dick Freeborn who took the job of city marshal after you turned it down. Pierce, Kane and Good apparantly were out for a fight and got some. Ayway, Cad Pierece was killed. Crwford shot him twice.
To go on with this for a minute: After hanging around Ellsworth for a few days trying to get his job back, Happy Jack went to Salina, taking with him a pair of pistols he was said to have stolen from Good. He was arrested there but the charge dropped and he came back to Ellsworth hunting trouble reaching Ellsworth on September xx 3. The next day he was shot and killed by the same Brown mentioned above, and the town had it that Happy Jack was killed without a show to go for his guns, that the Texas men hired Brown to do him in. However, that is of small importance to us, put in mostly to jog your memory.
The thing I’d like to know was the name of the man who Potts tried to disarm in Wichita, the one sitting on a chair on the sidewalk and whose disarming led to your disarming the whole crowd of Texas men. It couldn’t have been Cad Pierce. Could it possibly have been Abel “Shanhair” Pierce. He was a big cattleman, a ground and lofty drinker, so to speak, and mean when drunk, I’ve been told. The real question is the name of the man on the sidewalk. If you can recall it. Wish you’d send it down to me. If you can’t we can get around it some way or other, but I would like the name.
Don’t let this little slip in memory distrub you. We all get ‘em. and I’ll catch most of them, all of any importance.
When you write, let me know if Doc Holliday went down to El Paso with you, or was there at the time of the Genick-Raynor-Cahill-Linn affray.
Some day I am going to show you the collection of the tributes to you which I have.
Oh yes: One more mportant thing: Do you recall a William Sparks around Tombwstone, who was a friend of Curly Bill? Would you make a point of trying to give me a line on him. He’s one of the birds who tried to make out that Curly Bill survived Iron Springs.
Among other things I have promised is a photograph of the old Tombstone-Benson stage. When it comes I’ll be sure of it, but it exists and has been promised.
Am sending this special as I’m working on the Ellsworth-Wichita-Dodge stuff now, and would like to get it all straight first time out.
Hope you’re both well, and did you see what tht copper market is doing? The oils will come into their own again soon. I am informed by good men. Let us hear from you when you feel like writing. Mrs. Lake says to tell you we had hot cornbread for dinner tongith. Our best to you and Mrs. Earp.
Earp to Lake, October 21st, 1928
Dear Mr. Lake;
I am sending today two books. Also some newspaper clippings Mrs. Earp said you asked for. Mr Caines said I came to Wichita in seventy-three, but it(s) a mistake in his fact. I arrived in Wichita direct from my Buffalo hunt in seventy-four — and not from Mo. Mr. Caines also was wrong about my being hired in the police force by Mike Meaghen. Bill Smith was the Marshal who hired me in. And Mike Meaghen was elected Marshal the following spring. If (his) father was sheriff of Knot Co. it must have been before I was born as I have never heard that. He was shot from not more than a hundred yards–a forty five will carry up to 400 yards, providing you know how to handle it — would have to be a good shot to have it take its effect that far.
P.S. Mrs. Earp said you promised to send some letters for me to read. They have not been received as yet. If you can try and take a run up here so we can have another talk.
Mail late. Your letter came a few minutes ago. I enjoyed reading them. I wish you would type them off for me when you have time. Many lies [underlined] by Walter(s) Doc was not with me after we left Trinidad Colo. He never was in El Paso.
Lake to Earp, October 31st, 1928
Dear Mr. Earp:
Your letter, and mine returned, came this morning. Just as soon as I can steel the time, I will type you copies of those and some others that may interest you, and send them to you for your files.
As for the Walter’s stuff, I never took it seriously; as I wrote you earlier he is all wrong about almost everything. We’ll be accurate if we’re nothing else.
About coming to Los Angeles; I think it would be better if we do as Mrs. Earp suggested, drive over to Vidal sometime just after Thanksgiving and spend a few days. At that time I will have the manuscrip close enough to the end to make intelligence criticism and revisions, and can bring my portable typewriter and a supply of copy paper and do quite a lot of work of smothing out rough spots. Adding, whatever incidents you may recall, etc. etc. I will at that time be benefited by a little change. Just at present I want to stick to the job as steadily as possible, and while I would come to Los Angeles, I think we’ll profit more by some such visit as we could have at Vidal.
Here is the thing rather important will Mrs. Earp get in touch with the Record an have them send me down (2) glossy, black and white prints of that picture they ran of you, with their written permission to republish if that is neccessary. It is a very informal pose. I like it very much and it is just the sort to add the personal touch to the narative. it will appear as much greater ….. on the first paper used in magazine and book publishing, too. The Record should be glad to do this for you, will do it if yhou ask, and the prints can be mailed diret to me if you wish, unless you want to get them. A telephone call to the editor will get them make in twenty-four hours.
Mr. Cairns estimate is fine, and except for his personal touch, just what a score of others have recently written to me about you. I have often throught that if I live to your age and hold the esteem of my fellowmen as you have held it, I will feel honored beyond the bounds of more material things. After all, it is that esteem which counts; you are fortunate to go possess it.
Let us have the two copies of the picture, and hear from you when you decide on the date for the Vidal trip. Mrs. Lake joins in regards to you both.
Earp to Lake, November 2nd, 1928
Dear Mr. Lake:
Your letter came yesterday. Am sorry you won’t be able to come here before I leave for the mines. I will be glad to have you and Mrs. Lake make us a visit at the mines. Mrs. Earp will attend to the Record for you and will do what I’ve ask of here in regard to getting the prints. Will you return the newspaper clipping to me. I want to thank you in advance for the copies you spoke of sending to me when you have the time to type them. It certainly does make me feel good to know I have so many sincere friends amongst the better class of men.
Very best of wishes for you and Mrs. Lake.
Sincerely Wyatt Earp
Lake to Earp, November 2nd, 1928
Dear Mr. Earp:
Breakenridge’s book, “Helldorado” has come to town and I got myself a copy this afternoon. Have had a chance to skim through it and can say it is chiefly valuable for its mistakes and mis-statements. That is not what worries me. One thing does.
On page 106 Breakenridge uses your photograph the very same one which you sent down here to me to have copied, and which I hoped to use in my book. What is more it carries this line; “copy right, 1927, by Carl D. Newton.”
I have never heard of Newton, but I will say this; He can’t copy right a personal photograph which you ordered taken and for which you paid, unless it has been done with your permission. You have action against him, and against Houghton-Mifflin, the publishers, and against Breakenridge, possibility if this photograph has been xxxxxxxxxxxxxx copyrighted without your consent. Do you know Newton and how the photograph came into his possession.
At any rate, its spoils the chance of my using it, unless the matter can be straightened out in some way, and even then makes the picture almost no good for my purpose. I hate to bother you with this stuff, but I am afraid I will have to ask that you go to a photographer and pose for a new picture, and have him send two black-and-white glossy prints down here to me AND THE NEGATIVE, and make him destroy all negatives from which you do not have the prints made.
Some of Breakenridge’s stuff is pretty raw. On page 140 he identifies Fred Dodge as a gambler and evidently was sore at John Thacker. He dcoes everything to make out that Johnny Behan was a kingpin, while all the rest were crooks. How accurate he is may be judged by the fact that he has Virgil arresting Curly Bill the night that White was shot, and Virgil testifying at Curly Bill’s trial. The rest is on a par. Four dollars worht of errors, is what I call it. The only reading for reading it is to satisfy your curiosity.
But I am serious about that picture, we’ll have to get oneot take its place, and that quite promptly. If you wish you can have the photographer send all copies and negatives to me and let me pick out the one I think best. Tht will save you time.
Am writing this hurriedly. Don’t let Helldorado bother you. We’ll call the turn on Breakenridge in the proper place.
Earp to Lake, November 6th, 1928
Dear Mr. Lake;
I have just mailed you a letter by special delivery as I know how very anxious your are to know the true facts. But this is what I want to say to you. In my letter I told you that I have never given my picture to anyone in Arizona but Walter’s. I forgot to say that I did send one to Mr. Cronin who is the state librarian. And a very fine man. Now aside from that no one else has one that I know of. Not so long ago the Marshal of Phoenix wrote to me for one but I did not send him any.
Wyatt S. Earp
I have gotten hold of a better picture of Virgil. Shall I send it? If you are satisfied with this first, will send a small one of Jim too.
Mr. Clum just came in a few minutes ago. Brought me Hell Dorado, will read it today. He is a fine man and speaks so well of you.
Earp to Lake, November 6th, 1928
Dear Mr. Lake;
Your letter came yesterday. And it sure was a surprise for me to hear that the man by the name of Newton to take the liberty to have my picture copy righted. He can never get away with it. I have lived a great many years and in all of my life have never heard of such a move. I don’t know who he is I have never heard of him before. It is just this way Walter’s started in to write me sometime ago long before you and I got together. And in each an every letter would ask questions about Tombstone. I thought it was alright thinking of course he meant well. Then a letter came asking me to send him a picture of me, and all others I have so I sent him only one of my own. Not the one with the long mustache one of the late one. As I though he just wanted it to see how I looked before even meeting him. I have never given anyone else in Arizona one of my photos. So he must have given it to Breakenridge which he had no right to do. So that is how -B- got my picture and had no right to give it to anyone to be copyrighted. And as you wrote I could make them all trouble - my attorney is out of the city and will not return until after the hollidays as he told me he could be away for three months -B- did not mention in his book I don’t suppose that his good friend Johnny Behan was arrested while holding the sheriff office for malfeasance in office and just got away with it he the skin of his teeth the records will show for itself. I never wore a steel vest and never had such a thing in my possession another one of his damn likes I can’t just understand him. As he has always of late never seemed friendly towards me. I have some of his letters where he claims that he will not want me in his book as I have written and told him that He must be very careful what he puts in print about me. He is a sly fox of the worst kind and naturally feels sure because I told Behan and his so called brave men which were his deputies and Breakenridge being one of them. And when they came to arrest me I just laughed at them and told them to just run away - And he holds that up against me. If there ever was a mean contemptible person he certainly is the one - just imagine a man to come to you for favors which he has done and then to be treacherous. Oh only one thing now is against me and keeping me from just giving him a fare chance to defend himself. A man like him needs to be called down just a bad man as he paints me to be and make him show what a low down coward he is. I am not through with him you may rest assured in that point Mr. Lake You go right a head and use the photograph you have of me. As I have told you I have never given Mr. Breakenridge my permission and he got it second handed that one print alone is enought to make him come to a show down - I am not able to go and pose for another picture and why should I be a damn fool and stand back and these people try to do me is really a job for they are only fooling themselfs.
Wyatt S. Earp
P.S. Of course not seeing the work I don’t know just what he has said about me. Do you think it a good idea to wire him asking him who authorized him to have my picture copyrighted this has upset me more than anything in sometime.
Wyatt S. Earp
I hope you will be able to read this Mrs. Earp said to tell you please send clippings she has sent to you.
Lake to Earp, November 7th, 1928
Mr. Wyatt S. Earp Los Angeles
Dear Mr. Earp:
Please do send the better picture of Virgil, and the one of Jim; I am expecting, too, the one of you from the record.
As for Breakenridge — you have read his book by now enough to realize what a joke it is. We will make these boys sick when we get going, and I am going along. Took a day or so off to get out some letters, but back at the manuscript again this afternoon.
Here are the clippings — the Cairns one I want to keep; I am guarding it carefully with the rest.
If you will look on the back of the small photo of General Hooker — I have just recalled this — You will find underneath the address of the photographer Newton’s name I think. Houghton, Mifflin&Co your protest, keeping a copy of the wire. Let it read like this, about;
Houghtong, Mifflin & Company 2 Park Street, Boston, Mass.
Helldorado by Breakenridge carries page 140 my photograph with copyright claimed by one Newton. This photograph my personal property never released for publication stop Both publication and copyright claim are invasion of my property rights. Which I intend to protect to the utmost.
Wyatt S. Earp (Give Address)
Or, if you wish — and this will save you time and trouble until Mr. Hunsacker returns — I can take this matter up through the Authors League of America, of which I am a member. Such men as Rupert Hughes, Rex Beach, etc.etc. Are officers of the League. We have our own attorney under annual retainer, one of the best in New York — William Hamilton Osborne — And there will be no cost to us. Through them I can inform Houghton Mifflin of your intention to recover damages and ask them to feel out H.M. & Co. for us. For me to do this, you should write me authorizing me to take up the matter in your behalf. Whatever I might do would not bind you to accept anything: I would simply get the copywright voided. or assigned to you and get an expression of their stand from the publishers. Don’t bother with Breakenridge. It is evident to me that Walters is responsible.
Don’t let it worry you. You can collect, if you wish and teach both Breakenridge and Walters a lesson in passing. As soon as you write me authority to do so, I’ll ge the Authoris’ League on the job and find out where we stand.
Again, let me know when you start for Videl. Send the pictures, and everything that you do send me is most carefully guarded.
Major Farnham was down here and Saturday he and I had three hours together. He told me many fin things of you and I wish you might have listened to his frank estimate of Behan and Breakenridge. You wait until you see the book, and that will not be so long now.
Mrs. Lake joins in the best to both. Hope election was not to much of dissapointment.
Again do not worry. Too many men of your own calibre have rallied to your support. It is delightful to me to find the uninimity of opinion whcih shows Behan in his true colors as a cheap, scheming politician,
Stuart N. Lake
Lake to Earp, November 14th, 1928
November 14, 1928
Dear Mr. Earp:
In the first place, Mrs. Lake says to tell you that you are a handsome man — I suppose I shouldn’t tell you that — the pictures just arrived and will you tell your photographer to print me two (2) each, black and white glossy of each one and send them to me with the negatives.
The book comes along swimmingly, almost too good to be true. Major Burnham came down and spent three hours with me. Dr. Simpson — you’ll remember him from Dodge, Heinie Schmidt, Judge John Madden, recently Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in Kansas, and all the rest, are throwing in with me in my attempt to do you justice. Do you remember Dave Leahy of Wichita? I think your record is the finest of any man who helped to tame the frontier. He, Judge Madden, Arment of Dodge City, and a score more are helping in every way. They all subscribe to my belief that whatever was done by you was in the interests of the right. As I have told you, if I can round out my three-score and ten with the universal respect of men who knew me that you have inspired, I will not have lived my life in vain. I have a hundred letters that you will want to read and which I will have copied for you. My agent in New York is all enthused about the book. He wants me to send along the first third, and promises to sell it all on the strength of that. He can do it but I wish to get it all done — it should not be later than January — before I let him have it. From the way things look now - and you must hold in mind my fixed idea of refusing to raise false hopes — we should get about 10,000 down payment on the manuscript, with royalties in addition. This, of course, is a hope, not a promise, but I am certain of that much.
Helldorado, by Breakenridge, is not selling here. Two copies reported sold, and on my advice the library refused to buy one.
I do wish you’d let me take up the matter of copyright for you. It would not cost anything, would all be done under cover and would give no publicity to the book. I could get you a cash settlement, I am sure and one that would make the publishers sick.
I know I have kept you on the jump. It is all over. I need nothing more that I can think of except possibly, some account from you of the time you ran Tobe Driscoll into the Dodge City calaboose. You never told me about that. It was the time the cowboys tried to knock off the jail doors. Frank Warren who used to tend bar at the Long Branch Palace in Dodge told me about it, how you walked over and said, “Boys, don’t start anything you don’t want to see finished.”
I wish you’d write me about that.
You see I’m doing a thorough job.
Do you remember Dr. McCarty in Dodge, Dr. Simpson, Victor Murdock, Jim Steele in Wichita — a hundred others. All of them write me beautifully about you. You have the respect, the admiration of them all — every one says you were the law personified and that no matter what else might have been said about others no man ever questioned your honesty or purpose.
How I have hated to bother you with details, yet it seemed necessary.
As to sending your father and mother picture, that is up to you. BUT you and Mrs. Earp must keep in mind this fact: I AM NOT WRITING a blood-and-thunder yarn; I am turning out history, one man’s contribution to the development of our frontier. I hope to produce a book of which I think your father and mother might well be proud. Their son, Wyatt, is a man. I think of him as such and in my writing try to keep him so. What I aim to present is your attitude toward the civilization of the west. If I stick to that I cannot offend anyone except those who would have profited by malfeasance. I am writing a story that shows your philosophy of life; dignity, probity and a constant regard for law and order, contstitute my them. Your father’s and mother’s picture would not be out of place in it, I pledge you.
As to coming to Vidal: would about December 12 suit you. Let us know. You can come along about then. Any time after that will suit us. And I will have something to show you.
In the meantime shoot down the pictures. And if you are to be in Los Angeles for a few days and want to see me, let me know — I can open up any afternoon now to spend a few hours with you. You’ll get this on Thursday. If Mrs. Earp likes, telephone me Thursday afternoon, before six or wire me, making an appointment for Friday noon. I can come up then and spend a few hours with you. But please phone or wire before six Thursday, the day you get this, if you want me to come.
Send all the pictures, and let me know how much the bill. I’ll forward check.
Earp to Lake, November 16th, 1928
Los Angeles, Calif. Nove
mber 16, 1928
Stuart N. Lake Dear Sir:
This will authorize you to act for me in any settlement of my claim against the publisher or author of the book “Helldorado” for publishing my phiotograph with copyright ownership ascribed to one, Newton. It being understood that there is to be no expense to me whatsoever resulting from any action you may take.
Wyatt S. Earp
Lake to Earp, November 21st, 1928
Wyatt S. Earp, Los Angeles, California
November 21, 1928
Dear Mr. Earp:
As I scrawled on a piece of scrapper, sent with your father’s picture by registered mail, by the time I reached downtown from your house, everyone who was anybody had gone from both Express and Record offices. I had to wait for a streetcar and it was well past five when I reached the business section. So, all I could do was get a bite to eat and wait for the train. It doesn’t matter much, but I would not tell too much to the newspaper men in the way of a (illegible) story, nor would I give out any more pictures in any way. We have to protect our own interest to some extent.
Hope you get off to Vidal on schedule, and that you will enjoy the winter there.
As to the use of your photo in Helldorado, they have violated your property rights, no matter which one was used, so long as you never gave permission to publish it or copyright it. I wrote ……. about it immediately upon arrival home. I will let you know, of course, exactly what information I get. Reply will probably be a matter of a couple of weeks, anyway.
Have had another good letter from Judge John Madden, and one from Dave Leahy. Writing of you, Judge Madden says:
“Wyatt Earp stood for law and order. He and some others were the vanguard of law and order in the early days of Kansas. God bless old Wyatt and men of his kind; they shot their way to Heaven.”
David Leahy writes, in part:
“Jimmy Cairns, in his quite way, has often told me that Wyatt Earp was the most dependable pal he ever had in his long career as a border peace officer, and that he was a clean fellow through and through. And I want to say to you that he was the bravest man whom I have ever known intimately. The “triangle” rang only once during the time he was here; for he and Jimmy Cairns made the Texas wild ones quite tame. The Texas gangs were bluffers and cowards and there is no glamor in their blackguardian for me. I would much rather write of the “good men of the Old West, for, after all, they were the men who made this country.”
Judge Madden and Mr. Lehy have put me in touch with Charles Hatton, who went to Wichita in ‘72 and staid. In your day he was a young attorney. He has just come to San Diego for the winter and I have an appointment with him for this afternoon. He hopes to be able to dig up some old pictures for me. You may recall him; he knew you well, and his wife who came to Wichita as a bride in ‘74 remembers the way in which you tamed the Texas gang quite vividly.
I have heard from the Murillo Studio about you photos, and have replied to them. Will hear again, and will get my pictures, I am sure. Don’t let it worry you.
In the meantime, keep well. Le me know of your movements, and when you do go to Oakland, or Mrs. Earp does, wish you’d dig out that old Wells-Fargo gun so that we could get a photo of it showing the type of gun and the little plate on it.
As for our book: We are lining up such a crowd of men of standing and known probity that we will make any who try to contradict us look sick. We will not necessarily attack anyone; we will simply put out a constructive work, say that such and such was the case, give our incontravertible facts, backed by the testimoney of the records and of unimpeachable witnesses. That beats bickering with small fry, the dealers in “weasel-words” as the late T.R. loved to call them. Did I ever tell you that I worked for Colonel Roosevelt for nearly eighteen months, handled all of his publicity? I left him to go to war.
We had cornbread yesterday. Mrs. Lake says that if there is cornmeal in Vidal, we’ll have some there. She joins in regards to you both.
Stuart M. Lake
Lake to Earp, November 24th, 1928
November 24, 1928 Mr. Wyatt S. Earp, Los Angeles, California.
Dear Mr. Earp:
Your letter of the 22d. reached me, and the print of your photograph. Because the print was not exactly what I wanted I have written to the studio asking them to fill explicit directions which I have given for prints that I need. So, if they ask about sending me prints of Mr. “Stapp’s” photos, please authorize them to do so. They may not bother you. I am being particularly particular about this as I want to send on this picture for a special job of reproduction — as fine a job as an engraver can turn out. Also, please be certain that no copy of any of the three gets out of your hands until after we have had first publication.
Now for the usual two questions. I have the data, all but names, and I hope you can supply them, also writing whatever you may recall of the incidents.
The other afternoon I spent with Mr. Charles Hatton who as a young lawyer was city attorney of Wichita when you were a deputy marshal there. Both Mrs. Hatton and he sent their best regards to you, and had many fine tributes to pay to your record as a Wichita citizen. Mr. Hatton got to reminiscing, and he told me of two incidents which you overlooked.
One was at a time when some Texas man got drunk and was raising Cain. You were sent for and came upon the man in front of a Douglas Avenue saloon. He had his gun out and was intimidating the citizens, and when you came around the corner switched his attention to you. He threw his gun down on you and called you all sorts of names, threatening to shoot if you advanced another step. Mr. Hatton says he was about thirty feet from you, that you walked steadily toward the man, did not draw your own gun and never said a word. You walked up to the Texas man, took his gun away from him, while half the town stood by expecting to see you killed, and led him to the calaboose, without his firing a shot. Next morning he was fined $100. as Mr. Hatton recalls.
Do you remember this, and most important of all, can you give me the man’s name. Please add any other pertinent information at as great length as you will.
The second incident which Mr. Hatton recalled, again without your adversaries name, was when some notoriously bad character was trying to belittle you, telling you that if you didn’t have your marshal’s star on he would whale the tar out of you and show you up. Whereupon, you led the man into a nearby clothing store, and a backroom used for men to try on clothing. As you went in you handed your star and guns to the storekeeper, Mr. Hatton thinks, and then locked the door after you. The tough man was about twice your size, but fifteen minutes later you opened the door and walked out, with few marks on you beyond disarranged clothing. You pinned your star on again, belted on your guns, and walked out without saying a word. In the backroom they found the tough one completely tamed.
Whose store was it? And, even more important, what was the tough fellow’s name? Here to, give me anything else that you recall of the affair.
Am sending this “Special” to catch you before you leave for Vidal. Hope you feel like making the trip soon, but do not take too big a chance.
Please answer as promptly as your health permits, as I want to work these two incidents into my story as soon as I can get them complete.
Mrs. Lake joins me in regards to Mrs. Earp and yourself. And tell Mrs. Earp for me that the more I think of it, the more anxious I am to have her keep in mind the purpose of getting out your Wells-Fargo gun when she goes to Oakland. A picture of it would be most interesting.
Stuart E. Lake
Earp to Lake, November 30th, 1928
4004 West Seventeenth St., Los Angeles, California, November 30, 1928
Dear Mr. Lake:
Your letter, under date of November 24th was received last Sunday morning by special delivery, and I would have written you sooner had my health permitted but the past week has not been very good for me. I am anxious to go out on the desert in the open air, the sun will benefit me greatly.
Charles Hatton is quite correct concerning the several incidents about which you wrote me. In the one affair, the fellow King (a sergeant in the United States Army) had gotten a furlow, or a leave of absence, had bought a week’s supply of food and a new suit of clothes, and had come to Wichita, and, of course, he was very friendly with the cowboy element. When I appeared on the scene, he was surrounded by a large crowd. He was flourising a gun and was boasting in loud tones what he would do to Wyatt Earp. He was only about fifty feet from me when I turned the corner of the street. Without hesitation, I stepped up to him, for I discerned immediately that he was a big bluffer, and I disarmed him while he still was flourishing the gun; much to the surprise of the crowd (of about 150 persons) which expected to see me shot dead. This King is the man whom Bat Masterson killed about a year or so later at Sweetwater.
In the other affair, the man’s name was George Peshaw (pronounced “Pa-shaw” - I am not sure the spelling is correct). He was a Texas gambler, and also friendly with the cowboy element. I had some little trouble with him in Ellsworth, at the time that I arrested Ben Thompson, about which latter affair, he twitted me considerably. Later, he came to Wichita, after I had been appointed an officer on the police force. One evening he became pretty well intocitated[sic], and prodded me again about the arrest of Ben Thompson. I passed the matter by however, but a few days later, he got drunk again and taunted me about the Ben Thompson affair, and added that if I would remove my star and gun, he would “put a head” on me. At that time, we happened to be standing in front of Dick Cogswell’s cigar store. Now there was a large room in the rear of Cogswells’s place, and, accepted the challenge on the instant. I placed my star and gun on the top of a cigar case and went into the rear room with Peshaw. During the fight which followed, I knocked Peshaw down several times; the last time, he failed to arise so the fight ended right there.
Mr. Clum called on me last Sunday and left his photograph with me, and I am inclosing it with this letter. It now occurs to me to speak to you about something I have in mind for several days. Should the copyrighting of the story also result, automatically, in copyrighting the pictures and portraits loaned me for publication, such as that of Mr. Clum, Mr. Hooker, etc. will you not please provide against such a thing. I don’t want any restrictions placed upon the use of such material by the owners (after they have been returned) due to my negligence, as in the Waters-Breakenridge incident. Mrs. Earp will make an effort to locate the Wells Fargo shotgun upon her next visit to Oakland, next month some time. You know, there are a number of trunks, boxes, etc. to be ransacked, so the best I can promise you is that you will have to take your chance. Upon telephone communication with the photographers, Mrs. Earp was informed by the lady in charge that she knew nothing about the inquiry for the negatives, so we assume you are dealing direct with the office.
Recently, a friend of Mr. Flood purchased a copy of Mr. Breakenridge’s story “Helldorado.” It is poorly written, he said, and in the story of the street fight, Mr. Breakenridge tells that the Clantons and McLowerys were unarmed and that they threw up their hands. All of which explains how Virgil Earp, Morgan Earp and Doc Holliday were wounded during the fight.
Mrs. Earp and I expect, now, to leave for the desert on Monday (December 3rd), but in the event that we should not get away, we shall let you know. Due to one thing and another, we have been detained in Los Angelas much longer than we anticipated. We shall not give out our pictures and other material now until after the story is finished. Mrs. Earp and I, both send best wishes to Mrs. Lake and yourself; we trust that Thanksgiving was as enjoyable to you both as it was to ourselves. Will you kindly remember me to Mr. and Mrs. Hatton.
Lake to Earp,December 14th, 1928
December 14, 1928
Wyatt S. Earp, 4004 West 17th Street, Los Angeles.
Dear Mr. Earp:
Along with most everyone else in San Diego, I have had influenza. I am well on the mend now, but for quite a time was altogether too miserable to do anything but lie around and swear at the luck. When I managed to shake off the cold and fever, it left me so weak that I was useless for days. I am sorry to report that I just couldn’t do any work; for that matter, this delay in answering your letter has been due to the same trouble.
Mrs. Lake started out to join me as an invalid, but caught her cold in good season. She loaded up on quinine with a stiff hot toddy, snuffled the next day a bit, and that was all. I did not have her good luck, and she says I also lacked her good sense. I tried to keep going, and the extra day that I neglected my cold let me in for the siege. It is over now and I am going back at the manuscript as soon as this letter is completed. I may not be able to stick out a full day for some few days, but my strength is about back, and the work will progress. It will mean, however, that I will not have the job done as early as I had hoped.
By the way, Walter’s book came while I was laid up, and in it he has changed his stuff about you as I suggested. He has cut out all reference to the fictitious relationship with the Younger boys, and altered his tone considerably.
Was sorry to learn in your last letter that you are still awaiting strength for the desert trip. I do hope you will continue to improve and gain strength.
Did I answer your question about copyrights of stuff your friends have let me take? If not, here is my assurance that nothing which they have been kind enough to offer will be lost to any use they may wish to make of it for themselves. I would not have it so, any more than you would and all of my material will be handled to keep its ownership where it belongs, with those who were generous enough to lend it to me.
Mrs. Lake joins in best regards to Mrs. Earp and yourself, and in the earnest hope that your health is improving rapidly. Let us hear from you, about yourself and your plans, whenever you find writing convenient.
Sincerely yours, [Stuart Lake]
Lake to Earp, January 7th, 1929
Mr. Wyatt S. Earp, Los Angeles, Calif.
Dear Mr. Earp:
Since Mrs. Earp’s note, enclosed with your Christmas card, I have been rather expecting to hear the results of the Oakland trip, but I suppose that she has been too busy with other things. At that, the delay in my writing has not been due to any desire to hear from her first. The strict truth is, I suppose, that I tried to get up and going too soon after my influenza attack. When I wrote you last, a week or so before Christmas, I was certain that I was going to be all right from then on. I felt, too, that I had to get back at work, not to mention doing some Christmas shopping. I did feel pretty shaky, but imagined that would wear off. It didn’t, I’m sorry to say. I did manage to hold out until Christmas Day, and took part in our little celebration as best I could. But, the next day I didn’t get up, nor the day after. The confounded stuff settled in my legs, I guess; I know that I never ached so in my life. Physically and mentally I was all in, but this time I had learned my lesson and did as I should have done before — took my time, rested all that I could, did not try to do anything at all. I did swear some at the enforced idleness, but even when my head felt clear again, and I thought I could do some work, I continued to rest physically until all the pain and some had left. I’m starting this week feeling fit once more, and as soon as I finish this letter will get back on the job. I am sorrier than I can tell you about the delay. I will do my best to make up for it and I am certain now that I have shaken off the influenza for good.
The candy that Mrs. Earp sent down from Oakland was delicious, and a most pleasant surprise. Mrs. Lake has written about it, I know.
We hope that you have continued to improve, and expect to hear any time that you have started for Vidal. As to our coming over there, I think that even if you do go soon, we had better give up any idea of the visit until such time as the book is entirely done. I am going to keep at it steadily, and know my strength is good for the work.
Which leads me to another point. My agent in New York wants me to send on, say, the first third or half of it. He thinks he can sell the whole business from that, and is quite anxious to have it. Would that meet with your approval? Of course nothing definite would be closed without your okey but such a course might get us a better line on the ultimate fate of the work. Let me know about this: I rather favor it. Mrs. Lake joins in best to you both.