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Virgil Earp Assassination Attempt! December 28, 1881

On December 28, 1881, around 11:30p.m. U.S. Deputy Marshal Virgil Earp was shot during an assassination attempt.

After exiting The Oriental, walking across 5th St. towards the Crystal Palace Saloon. Three assassins hiding in the southeast corner in a second story building under construction (Meyer’s Brothers clothing store and Huachuca Water Company). The assassins all had double-barrel shotguns and shot at Virgil in which witness said they heard four consecutive shots. Nineteen buckshot had entered the left side of Virgil’s back and arm.

Virgil Earp

He was able to stay on his feet and headed back in the direction of the Oriental. Dr. George E. Goodfellow had just passed Virgil going the opposite direction on Allen St, quickly ran back to assist Virgil. Wyatt, who was dealing faro at the Oriental hearing the gunshots, ran outside knowing that Virgil had just left and feared the worse. He found Virgil coming towards him gravely wounded. With the aid of Dr. Goodfellow, they quickly took the Deputy Marshal into a room at the Cosmopolitan Hotel.

At the hotel, Dr. George E. Goodfellow worked tirelessly through the night to remove what he could of the shattered bone and buckshot.

When Dr. Goodfellow was finished, he told Virgil he may lose the use of his left arm. Allie weeping by his side, Virgil reached out with his right arm to hug his wife and said, “Never you mind, I’ve got one arm left to hug you with.”

Alvira "Allie" Packingham Sullivan Earp

Amongst the chaos, the cowboys were quickly named as suspects. Specifically, Phin Clanton, Ike Clanton, Johnny Ringo, and Pete Spense. This was in revenge for the death of Frank McLaury, Tom McLaury, and Billy Clanton. All three were the victims of the Earps and Holliday from the infamous “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.”

At 2:00p.m. on December 29, 1881, Wyatt Earp telegraphed U.S. Marshal Crawley Dake who was in Prescot at the time:

Tombstone, Arizona Territory, December 29, 1881

Virgil Earp was shot by concealed assassins last night. His wounds are fatal. Telegraph me appointment with power to appoint deputies. Local authorities are doing nothing. The lives of other citizens are threatened.

                                                                                                            Wyatt Earp



Vigil survived the attempted on his life and it would take him a few months to heal before tragedy would strike again at the hands of the cowboys. Morgan Earp would be murdered playing a game of billiards with Bob Hatch at Campbell & Hatch Saloon.


This would deeply affect the Earp family. Wyatt would take revenge on the cowboys. This would be known as the “Vendetta Ride.”








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