The Truth About The Forgotten Earp Brother, Warren

The myth of the Wild West is one of rough-riding pioneers accomplishing brave deeds in order to bring civilization to the merciless terrain west of the Mississippi. But shuck the puffed-up veneer of the American fiction we've all had fun telling ourselves for too long now, and it's plain that a not insignificant number of those trailblazing frontiersman were really just a bunch of pugnacious lowlifes always on the lookout a chance to steal something, most often after shooting something or someone. One such scoundrel was Warren Earp, the youngest brother of Wyatt Earp, of the infamous Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, despite spending more time in casinos, bars, and brothels than he did bringing criminals to justice.

As History Net tells it, Warren was one exceptionally lazy cowboy. Born on March 9, 1855, in Pella, Iowa, he ended up living with his parents, Nicholas and Virginia Ann, in their southern California home until the ripe old age of 35 (and boomers call millennials lazy). He had no known profession besides being the owner of a racehorse, and he occasionally drove stagecoaches, when he felt like it. Warren made sure to pop in an out of Tombstone, Arizona, while his older brothers were making names for themselves there in the 1880s, but he was conveniently not in town for the shootout that wrote their names in the history books.

Warren was finally forced to fledge after his mother died

Neither was Warren around when his brother Virgil was maimed in an ambush in December 1881 in Tombstone, or when his other brother, Morgan, was killed by an assassin there in March of the following year. After that he decided to join Wyatt's vendetta against his rivals, the Cowboys. Wyatt gunned down outlaw Frank Stilwell two days after Morgan's murder, and the Earps were now wanted men. Warren moseyed on back to his parents after that and lived there another decade or so, until the death of his mother in 1893. His father remarried less than a year later, but Nicholas Earp's third wife was much younger than he, and she didn't take too kindly to cooking, doing the laundry, and cleaning up after the rowdy, ill-tempered man-child who was now her stepson.

Warren finally took flight and spent the next seven years finding trouble everywhere he went. He stabbed a man in San Bernardino, California, and assaulted a Yuma, Arizona, professor before taking up residence in the Willcox Hotel, in the Arizona town of the same name. He drove a stagecoach for a while, and reportedly broke his wrist after falling from one during a chase. He did an 18-day stint in the Solomonville jail for theft after swiping $20 from a three-card monte table at a casino. It was around this time that he met the man who would be both his close friend and, ultimately, his executioner.

Warren's 'unnatural' and almost forgotten relationship with Johnny Boyett

John Nathan Boyett was described by the daughter-in-law of a prominent local ranch owner as "quiet, capable and educated above the average cowpuncher of those days," and a man who "did not quarrel with other men." Something happened to Boyett, however, that would change that attitude. As True West magazine noted in 2015, that something may have been a romantic (and obviously unpublicized) relationship with Warren Earp.

The nature of their relationship was crudely hinted at in the 1930s by one of Tombstone's most famous residents, Mary Cummings. Better known by her flattering nickname Big Nose Kate, the prostitute and girlfriend of Earp accomplice Doc Holliday said that the shooting of Warren Earp "was the result of an altercation between two individuals involved in an unnatural male relationship."

Johnny Boyett shot Warren Earp in a saloon in Willcox in the wee hours of the morning on July 6, 1900, after the two entered the bar bickering like an old married couple. In what was most likely an attempt to not scandalize the good, God-fearing residents of Willcox, authorities let Boyett walk out of town a free man, and the killing was swept under the rug by the townsfolk who had really had it up to here with the Earp brothers' antics, anyway. Boyett returned to his native Texas, where he died a recluse in 1919 and was said to never speak of Warren or the shooting ever again.