By Bob Harner


While Virgil Earp’s time in Prescott in 1877-79 has been recounted in articles, books and presentations, his return in 1895 is less familiar. Following the loss of the use of one arm in an 1881 Tombstone ambush, Virgil and his common-law wife, Allie Sullivan, lived in California and Colorado. However, on October 23, 1895, the Arizona Weekly Journal-Miner reported, “Virgil Earp, an old-time resident of Prescott, and one of the historical characters of the territory, arrived here last evening with a view of locating here again . . . Mr. Earp and his brothers figured prominently as officers at Tombstone in ridding that community of outlaws.” The newspaper further noted that he had “rented a house in Prescott and expects his family to arrive tomorrow.”

Despite his disability, Virgil, age 52, took up gold mining. He and partner W.H. Harlon leased the Grizzly mine in the Bradshaw Mountains from W.C. Hanson and actively worked it together. Then on November 8, 1896, the Journal-Miner announced, “Quite a serious accident occurred yesterday at the Grizzly mine . . . While Virgil Earp and W.H. Harlon were working in a tunnel the ground caved, catching Mr. Earp and pinning him to the ground. He was unconscious for several hours and Dr. Abbott was called . . . [H]is right hip was dislocated, both feet and ankles were badly crushed and his head was badly cut . . . The doctor says it will be several weeks before he will be able to be around.”

Recovery proved more difficult than the doctor predicted. In the January 27 edition, the Journal-Miner reported, “Virgil Earp has recovered . . . sufficiently to be able to be around on crutches . . . Mr. Earp has had two or three experiences in his life which very few men would have lived through, this being one of them. He has been shot all to pieces, and crushed in this mine accident, but still has hopes as well as good prospects of living to a ripe old age.” There’s no record of Virgil returning to mining following his recovery.

Given Virgil’s law enforcement background, it’s not surprising that, according to the November 4, 1898, Journal-Miner, he was hired as a temporary special constable. His assignment was to arrest the editors of the Jerome Reporter, brothers James and Claud Thompson and a Mr. Lawrence. The warrant was for libeling John Burns, the Republican candidate for sheriff, who apparently disapproved of the newspaper’s coverage.

Virgil arrested Lawrence and James (Claud was ill) and brought them to Prescott, where they were released on $1000 bail. The next day, Virgil was arrested for false imprisonment. Released on $500 bail, his case was never pursued.

In 1898 Virgil acquired a 260-acre homestead 25 miles away in Kirkland. He and Allie ranched there until 1903.

In 1900 Virgil became a delegate to the Yavapai County Republican convention. The September 26 edition of the Journal-Miner reported on the nominations for public office named at the convention, noting that “For Sheriff Judge E W Wells placed the name of Virgil Earp before the convention and he was nominated by acclamation.” However, the following week, the October 3 edition contained this brief statement: “Virgil Earp has withdrawn as candidate for sheriff on the republican ticket. The position on the ticket will be left vacant.” No explanation for Virgil’s decision was reported.

In 1903 Virgil sold his Kirkland land to the Rigden family. By 1904 he and Allie were no longer listed as residents in Yavapai County records. Virgil died at age 62 in Goldfield, Nevada on October 19, 1905.


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