Wyatt Earp... Pimp in Peoria!

 Tombstone Author & Historian Steve Gatto phones the
HAUNTED SALOON "Live" video webcast to give his opinions

In 1872 Wyatt Earp was involved in the ownership and operation of a brothel located on Washington St 3 doors up from the intersection of Wellington. The house was owned by Jane Haspel, a well-known madam who had a staff of perhaps five girls of which one was Minnie Randall and another a 22 year old going under the alias of Sarah Earp. Wyatt, Morgan and a man named George Randall (a local thug with a lengthy record) bought into the business sometime between October 1871 and January 1872.

During the evening of 24 February Haspel House was raided. A deal with the prosecuting attorney got Jane and her girls off the hook (except Minnie who was forced to testify as a condition of having her charges dropped) as he was intersted mainly in the nailing the house's Keepers. Some of the proceedings can be read in the files of The Peoria Daily Transcript (George V. Kent editor-in-chief). The rest of the story, however, requires a look at the police files for February 1872. They supply what the newspaper doesn't.  On 26 February, a Monday, Police Officer McWhirter was issued a warrant for the arrest of Wyatt Earp, Morgan Earp and George Randall which he served and then brought the trio into Judge Cunningham's court. The charges were identical for all three men (here I quote the leading line of Wyatt's charge sheet):

The City of Peoria Vs Wyatt Earp "For Keeping and being found in a house of ill-fame."
They were found guilty following a change of venue to the court of Judge William Rounseville. It seems they requested NOT to be heard by Judge Cunningham. The venue was changed - a stroke of luck as Rounseville had never heard a police case before. He normally dealt with civil cases.

If anyone wants to view those files he/she can as they are public documents. They are held in trust by the Bradley University of Peoria on behalf of the Peoria Historical Society. I would tell you more but I don't feel like it as I found them after two years of serious digging (and some small expense). So, you will have to contact them yourself - but I will give a hint to save time. Ask to see the Docket Books.

Sorry guys, but your hero was pimping for Sarah. He was also a Keeper of a Peoria Brothel. By the way, a Keeper did not mean a Resident necessarily although the two terms usually went hand in hand. Morgan apparently was not a permanent resident of the premises. Neither was George Randall. The newspaper referred to them as residents but it seems only Wyatt called the place home sweet home.

Good luck! Have fun!

The quick answer to your query is that Peoria did NOT have a specific law against what Census takers referred to as "procurers". Every and all miscreants were lumped into one section, Para 12 of the Revised Ordinances of The City of Peoria (1872), which states in full:
"That it shall not be lawful for any person to keep, remain at, frequent, or be found at, any house of ill-fame, bawdy house, or house of assignation, or any other building or place wherein indecent or lewd practices are indulged in or permitted, within the limits of the City of Peoria, nor within five miles from the outer boundaries of said city; and every person who shall keep, remain at, frequent, or who shall be found at, any house of ill-fame, bawdy-house, house of assignation, building or place wherein indecent or lewd practices are indulged in or permitted, shall, upon conviction thereof, forfeit and pay not less than twenty nor more than one hundred dollars for each and every offence." Police records indicate that Procurers were charged under this law as "being found at". Keepers of course were charged as Keepers. Clients were charged with "frequenting" and residents (madams and the women) were referred to as "residents" or as "remaining at".
Incidentally, the Ordinances were written by James M. Cunningham who was also the Police Magistrate for the city. It was he who fined Wyatt $44 later that year (Sept, 72) when Wyatt and Sarah Earp were arrested during a raid on The Beardstown Gunboat, a brothel of which very little is known. Sarah was fined $22 as one of the girls.
(Ref: 3952. Peoria Historical Society).

"Wyatt Earp was a pimp in Peoria. No matter how hard you try to spin it, no matter how hard you deny it, no matter how hard you wish it would simply go away-it won't. Wyatt Earp was, and forever will be, a pimp in Peoria!"  Steve Gatto (Historian)

Email Comment:

Dec. 30, 2004

Dear  Mr. Clanton,

I love your web site. I am a huge Tombstone buff and frequent the place.  My family will be there on New Years weekend.  I just wanted to comment on the article about Wyatt Earp as a pimp in Peoria, this was not shocking as he did this in Kansas.  My husband has a historical book of famous newspaper articles from England and there are several English newspapers clippings stating Wyatt Earp's  trouble with the law for pimping by way of brothel houses. Not just with him but his brothers as well and Doc included. In fact, Mattie Blaylock and Morgan Earp's wife were prostitutes from some of these brothels. Virgil's wife was a Mormon girl "gone bad".  There were also other illegal activities the Earp's were involved in.

There is so much stuff that is overlooked in order to make the Earp brothers hero's.  My family is an original founding family from Arizona as is yours,  living here before it was a State and the stories passed down from my grandparents are amazing.  I have learned there are "3" sides to every story and according to my grandparents the Earp's weren't what the legend dictates.

I wish you luck with getting the Clanton's side out to the public. I do whenever it is brought up and that's usually around tourists because only the families who were "there" and are now here know the truth.

With best regards,

Paula White

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