Losing Something in the Translation

Researchers suspect that Glenn Boyer made up much of what appears in Josephine Earp's memoir I Married Wyatt Earp. Boyer contends he lost a controversial manuscript he says he drew from to recount Josephine's years in Tombstone.

For Josephine's life after she left Tombstone, Boyer relied on a manuscript he does have, a document Josephine prepared herself in the 1930s with the help of her cousins Mabel Earp Cason and Vinnolia Earp Ackerman.

The so-called Cason manuscript was seen by few collectors until 1994, and a side-by-side comparison of the manuscript and Boyer's edited version has never been published. The example below suggests Boyer used a heavy hand in his editing, almost completely disregarding Josephine's own words in some sections.

In the Cason manuscript, Josephine details her misgivings about Wyatt Earp's role in refereeing the famous 1896 Bob Fitzsimmons-Tom Sharkey world heavyweight championship fight in San Francisco. She not only reveals her own fears, but describes a worried, regretful Wyatt Earp. Boyer's version eliminates these rare glimpses of the Earps as complex people. Boyer's Josephine reports less about her private life and instead opines about the public battle over her husband's actions.

--Tony Ortega

Josephine's account from the Cason manuscript:
In December of 1896 the great event in sports was the fight between Tom Sharkey and Bob Fitzsimmons. There was a ten-thousand dollar purse and interest ran high among men of all classes.

For some time prior to the fight its promoters had been attempting to decide on a referee acceptable to Martin Julien, manager, as well as brother-in-law, of Bob Fitzsimmons. Wyatt's name had been mentioned in that connection once or twice and he had spoken of it to me. He was not anxious to undertake the job for he knew that Julien was hard to please and had shown suspicion of everyone suggested thus far. . . .

I spent an anxious evening wondering how the fight was going. I knew that feeling over the outcome was intense and that betting was high. I phoned to a newspaper office once or twice to hear the progress of the fight and when it was over, to my nephew, who had been in attendance, to learn the details. I knew that, in any event, it would be late before Wyatt would be free to come home.

My nephew told me that Sharkey had been given the decision on a foul and that there had been trouble over it. He told me none of the details but said that Wyatt, in giving the decision to Sharkey, had aroused a great deal of animosity. He assured me, however, that from his point of view it was the only one fair under the circumstances, even tho it had meant to him the loss of his own wager.

"There was some other trouble, too," he added. "But he'll tell you about that when he comes home."

When at last Wyatt arrived I knew at once that something was seriously wrong. He seemed tired and depressed.

"Sharkey won by a foul," he replied in answer to my look of inquiry. And then he told all the details of the evening.

He had been wearing a revolver every day when he went to the tracks at Ingleside. All the other racing men had been carrying weapons too for there was a gang of thugs who frequented the saloons near the track. Sluggings and robberies had been numerous and the men sometimes went out there before daylight, returning after dark. Most of them at one time or another carried large sums of money so they considered it wise to go armed against possible attack.

Wyatt had gone straight from the tracks to Goodfellow's Grotto, he had phoned me, and from there to the Mechanic's Pavilion where the fight was about to begin.

He entered the ring with no thought of the revolver on his hip, made a short speech informing the more than twenty thousand fans assembled there of his reluctance to undertake the job and assuring them that, in spite of the suspicion and distrust felt by many, he intended to give a fair and impartial decision, as it should appear to him.

Then he pulled off his coat and vest exposing to the gaze of the multitude the revolver in its holder at his hip! It was immediately called to his attention by a thousand clamoring voices. Embarrassed beyond measure, he handed it to the Captain of Police. While it would be obvious to anyone who would think soberly for a moment that, had he intended any use of the gun, he would certainly not have worn it thus prominently displayed, still he knew that many would misinterpret the fortuitous circumstances.

"O, why didn't you remember to take your gun off before you went in there?" I asked in the unreasoning way we have in the face of worrying occurrence.

"I am certainly sorry I didn't," he replied, "but I was so excited about having to referee the fight that I forgot it was there. Wearing it all day I don't feel the weight of it and am no more conscious of its being there than of my coat or my vest. I wouldn't have had it happen for anything. Even though it was an accident it will be hard to convince some people that it was, in view of the way the decision went."

He told me that, had he been betting on the fight, he would no doubt have placed his money on Fitzsimmons for he as well as many others considered him the more finished fighter of the two, tho Sharkey had great endurance.

During the eighth round [Sharkey] was hit a terrific blow in the groin and was unconscious when carried from the ring. It was an accidental blow, but it left only one decision possible to be made. Sharkey was given the decision on a foul. Regardless of these circumstances Fitzsimmons and his manager were furious and refused to accept it as final.

"There will be trouble," I said as Wyatt told me of it.
"I know it," he replied, "I am sorry I was ever drawn into it but I did what I knew was right and I'm not sorry about my decision. It's all I could do."

"Everyone who was there knows you gave a fair decision and it will eventually come out all right," I tried to assure him.

The trouble we anticipated was not long in coming and it was greater than even he had looked for. It began to develop the very next day. . . . The falsehoods that were printed in some of the newspapers about him and the unjust accusations against him hurt Wyatt more deeply than anything that ever happened to him during my life with him, with the exception of his mother's death and that of his father and his brother, Warren. He was not a man to show emotion by tears but I knew him so well that I could read the extent of his mental pain. . . .

The newspapers that led in this abuse communicated with the officials of towns where Wyatt's old experiences had brought him into prominence. It was with the hope that they could, from the replies they received, erect a scaffold of opprobrium upon which to gibbet him.

The replies they received never saw the light of day in that paper's columns for, from Dodge and those other towns, they were sprinkled with such adjectives as "honest," "fearless," and "sincere." Had it not been for a leak these eulogies would never have reached print at all. . . .

Not, however, until a committee of physicians, selected by each side of the controversy, had declared, following an examination of Sharkey, that he had really been fouled, did the hue and cry die down.

It had left Wyatt weary and dispirited, sick with longing to get away again to the unsettled country and to be wrapped in its quiet and its obscurity. . . .

Boyer's edited version of the account, from I Married Wyatt Earp:

The unfortunate Fitzsimmons-Sharkey fight took place in Mechanics Pavilion in San Francisco. The date was December 2, 1896.

The facts are extremely simple. Wyatt was chosen to referee the fight, although he tried to avoid it. He preferred to watch the event as a spectator. However, at the time it did not seem possible to find another referee who was suitable to both fighters and their managers. It turned out that Wyatt was not appropriate either, but it was too late then. He reluctantly agreed to act as referee about noon the day of the fight. The choice was considered a good one then.

Immediately before the event, however, there was a squabble at ringside. Fitzsimmons' manager loudly stated he had heard the referee had been "fixed." Wyatt again tried to sidestep the job on these grounds, asking to be let out. The promoter, influenced by the impatient mood of the crowd, finally insisted that the referee they had selected be accepted. The unfortunate turn of fate lay in the fact that Fitzsimmons accidentally fouled Sharkey. The blow crippled Sharkey, so far as continuing the fight was concerned. Wyatt had no choice but to give the decision to underdog Sharkey, which he did. Since Fitzsimmons was the heavy favorite and most bettors had given odds on him, there was naturally a great hullabaloo. Many claimed there had been no foul. Others in a position to see claimed there had been. Wyatt was accused of having been fixed. This was predictable in view of the large sums bet.

You would have to have known Wyatt to appreciate the absurdity of the accusation. In the first place, he was chosen because of his reputation for fearless honesty. This was well known to all parties concerned. If there had not been so much pre-fight suspicion on both sides, Wyatt would never have been the referee chosen in the first place. Therefore the very trait for which he was chosen--fearless impartiality--led to the trouble he encountered as an aftermath of his unpopular, but certainly fearless and impartial decision.

Of my personal knowledge I know that Wyatt lost money on his own decision. So did many of his friends, including Bat Masterson. When he was chosen as referee, Wyatt called off as many of the bets he'd made as possible. Those he couldn't he had to pay off, because, being firmly of the belief that Fitzsimmons would win, he had bet accordingly.

The owner of a San Francisco newspaper, who lost a bundle on the fight, led the pack that was baying after Wyatt. He dredged up every incident from my husband's past that could be ambiguously recounted to his discredit. His newspaper rehashed Wyatt's killing of Frank Stilwell, treating the incident as though it were a conviction with no discussion of the extenuating circumstances. With no real knowledge of his financial affairs, it painted him as a pauper, and thus highly vulnerable to bribery. This type of character assassination is familiar to any newspaperman. In modern times they would call it a smear campaign.

I was furious. "Why don't you say something to defend yourself?" I asked Wyatt vehemently.

"What good would it do?" he wanted to know. "My friends know me well enough to know the truth--the others will believe whatever they wish, regardless of what I say. Let it drop!" But for all his patient forebearance and taciturn acceptance of the newspaper's slams, I know he was deeply hurt.

I have read everything I ever saw in print on the matter, and it all boils down to hogwash. Many claimed they saw no foul blow; as many others said they did. It was enough for me that Wyatt said he saw it.

The testimony of the losers always reminds me of Lincoln's placing of a silver dollar over a printed word and asking a man to read the word. He, of course could not. Picking the coin up, the man read the word truth. "You cannot see truth through a dollar," Lincoln said. This was the case with this fight.

To further muddy the water, Wyatt had stepped into the ring armed. When he removed his coat this fact was apparent to the spectators. "My Gawd," he later said to me, "I've gone heeled half my life--I forgot I had the damn thing on!"

The gun was an old six-shooter from his frontier days. He wore it for several reasons: to guard against reprisals from the past, to protect his considerable racing bankroll from the armed robbers who infested the vicinity of race tracks and other large sporting arenas, and I suppose, as he said, he actually did feel undressed without it.

I could name names in connection with this fight incident but consider it all futile. The real explanation of the situation is as I have given it. Wyatt was the victim of an unfortunate set of circumstances. The poor-loser streak in human nature did the rest. To those who may have heard other involved explanations regarding conspiracies, I say--doesn't every such tale depend on some hard-to-believe twist? Compare them with Wyatt's simple explanation and take your choice.

To believe the ready fabrication of the poor losers, all one has to believe is that Wyatt somehow convinced six strangers who hardly knew him before the fight to place their fortunes in his untrustworthy hands. These men were J.J. Groom and J.D. Gibbs of the National Athletic Club, who picked Wyatt as referee; Fitzsimmons and his manager Martin Julien; and Sharkey and his manager Danny Lynch. It was alleged that Wyatt was in cahoots with one, the other or all of them, depending on whose wild tale you heard. Yet, all of them had agreed to his selection in the first place. . . .

One of these, J.D. Gibbs, said that Wyatt was very highly recommended to him and that he had the reputation of being one of the squarest sports in America. That reputation flew out the window as an aftermath of the unfortunate Fitzsimmons-Sharkey fight. It was one of the major factors in Wyatt's decision to try to quit the life we were living. He longed for peace, quiet and obscurity. . . .


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