Every award winning story has an equally great supporting cast. Tombstone, Arizona, during the Earp era is no exception. There were some remarkable personalities who somehow manage to get lost in all the gunplay and fanfare of the Shootout at the OK Corral.
When I began researching the life of Wyatt Earp, I had two books at my command, Stuart Lake’s Frontier Marshal, where Earp is the next best thing to Superman, and Frank Waters’ The Earp Brothers of Tombstone, where Earp is a little more evil than the antichrist. In order to judge for myself the character of Wyatt Earp, I started delving into the characters of the men who considered him a friend and those who considered him an enemy. These were his friends.
Let’s start with Sarah Herring. She was around 16 at the time of the shootout. Her father, William Herring, was one of the Earp’s attorneys. Even at that young age, she showed the spunk and fearless attitude which would serve her well later in life. On the morning of February 14, 1882, she had the courage to sit in the buggy beside her father as he and a cast of several dozen accompanied Wyatt, Virgil, and Morgan Earp and Doc Holliday to Contention City, about eight miles from Tombstone. Ike Clanton had managed to bring another bill of indictment of murder against the four men, via magistrate shopping. Wyatt was convinced the entire parade was a set-up for him, his brothers, and Doc to be ambushed by Ike and his buddies, the Cowboys. And so they were accompanied by several dozen of their closest associates, all armed to the teeth. And there sat Sarah Herring, age 16, big as life. In 1913 she became one of the first female attornies to be accredited to try a case before the United States Supreme Court. She died of a heart attack a year later.
If Virgil Earp had lived back east when he was horrifically injured by a shotgun blast that basically ruined his left arm from the elbow to the shoulder, he would have been facing amputation. Instead, because of the high quality of medical care available in Tombstone (some of the finest medical care, literally, in the world) his arm was saved. He spent the remainder of his life in pain, but thanks to the auspices of Dr. George Goodfellow, he recovered, arm mostly intact.