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The Earp family included a number of lawmen, including patriarch and justice of the peace Nicholas Porter Earp (September 6, 1813 - February 12, 1907), whose sons James, Virgil, Wyatt, Morgan, and to a lesser extent Warren Earp became legendary figures in the American Old West.
Nicholas Porter Earp's parents were Walter (b. 1787, Montgomery County, Maryland – d. January 30, 1853) and Martha Ann Early (b. August 28, 1790, Avery County, North Carolina – d. September 24, 1881). Nicholas was named for an early circuit-rider in Kentucky. They were of English and Scotch-Irish descent.
Walter was a school teacher, a Justice of the Peace in Monmouth, Illinois and a Methodist Episcopal preacher. He was a fifth-generation Marylander and the fourth great-grandson of Thomas Earp, Sr. (1631–1720), an Ulsterman who emigrated from the barony of Fews in County Armagh, Northern Ireland to Maryland.
Walter's son, Josiah Earp (b. 1761, Montgomery County, Maryland), fought in the American Revolution and was present at the surrender of Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown, Virginia in 1781. His company was ordered to guard the prisoners taken at the surrender, who were housed at Fredericktown.
Nicholas was a Methodist and a Republican. He originally intended to become a lawyer like his father before moving his law practice and his family from North Carolina to Kentucky, where he took up farming. He was also a cooper and sheriff.
Nicholas Porter Earp married Abigail Storm (also spelled Sturm in family records)[original research?] (September 21, 1813 Ohio County, Kentucky – October 8, 1839 Ohio County, Kentucky) on December 22, 1836 in Hartford, Kentucky. They had two children:
Eight years later, on March 4, 1856, Earp's father Nicholas sold the family farm and returned to Turtle, Illinois, where he was elected the municipal constable. He served in this position for about three years until he was caught and convicted in 1859 of bootlegging. Nicholas was unable to pay the fine and a lien was levied against the Earp's property. It was sold at auction in November 1859 and the family left again for Pella, Iowa.
After their move, Nicholas returned to Monmouth throughout 1860 to sell his other properties and resolve several lawsuits for debt and accusations of tax evasion.:p14
After the American Civil War began, Newton, James, and Virgil joined the Union Army on November 11, 1861. While his father was busy recruiting and drilling local companies, Wyatt, along with his two younger brothers, Morgan and Warren, were left in charge of tending the 80-acre (32 ha) corn crop. Only 13 years old, Wyatt was too young to enlist, but he tried on several occasions to run away and join the army. Each time his father found him and brought him home. James was severely wounded in Fredericktown, Missouri, and returned home in the summer of 1863. Newton and Virgil fought several battles in the east and later returned. On May 12, 1864, the Earp family joined a wagon train heading to California.
In early 1864, Nicolas Earp joined with three other families from Pella, the Rousseaus, the Hamiltons, and the Curtises, and on May 12, 1864, they began a wagon trip to California. They took their children Wyatt, Jim, Morgan, Warren, and Adelia. Seven more wagons joined them during the trip to San Bernardino, California, where they arrived on December 17, 1864. Nicholas rented a farm on the banks of the Santa Ana River near present-day Redlands.
Within the next year Virgil got a job driving a freight wagon to Salt Lake City and took Wyatt with him. Afterward they took jobs with the Union Pacific, which was building the Transcontinental Railroad west from Omaha, Nebraska. Virgil worked as a teamster and Wyatt manned a pick and shovel. Not long after their brothers Jim and Morgan left the family in San Bernardino and heading for the mining towns of Montana.
In 1868, their father and mother left California by wagon and headed for the Union Pacific railhead in Wyoming. They met their sons there and moved to Lamar, Missouri.
Newton married Nancy Jane (Jennie) Adam sometime between 1865 and 1868. They had five children:
Virgil eloped at age sixteen with 16 year old Dutch immigrant Magdalena C. "Ellen" Rysdam (born November 25, 1842 in Utrecht, Netherlands – died May 3, 1910 in Cornelius, Oregon). They remained together for a year in spite of her parents' (Gerrit Rysdam and Magdalena Catrina Van Velzen) disapproval of her choice. Virgil and Ellen had a daughter:
Nellie was born two weeks before Virgil enlisted to serve with the Union forces in the Civil War. During the war, Ellen received news that Virgil had died and left Iowa.
Virgil was discharged from the military on June 26, 1865 and returned to Iowa, but he could not locate Ellen. Five years later, he married Rosella Dragoo (b. January 3, 1845, France) on August 28, 1870 in Lamar, Missouri. His father, Justice of the Peace Nicholas Earp, married them. There are no further records of Rosella and their marriage.
Virgil later met Alvira "Allie" Sullivan from Florence, Nebraska, in 1874. They were never married but remained together the remainder of his life. In 1898 Virgil received a startling letter from a Mrs. Levi Law, his long-lost daughter. He visited her and his first wife in Portland, Oregon in 1898.
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