The Curious Vendetta of Glenn G. Boyer - by Jeff Morey
Quarterly of the National Association for Outlaw and Lawman History (NOLA), Vol. XVIII, No. 4, Oct.-Dec., 1994, p. 22-28.
In February 1926, William S. Hart urged The Saturday Evening Post to publish Wyatt Earp’s story (Flood MS.) “that … the rising generation may know the real from the unreal. Were it only so simple. Since then, a number of books have appeared on Earp, all seriously flawed. When Walter Noble Burns wrote Tombstone in the style of his time, the question followed - “Is this history or is it a novel?” When Stuart N. Lake fabricated quotes for Wyatt Earp, Frontier Marshal, the question followed - “How can the facts be separated from the fiction? When Frank Waters wrote The Earp Brothers of Tombstone and reshaped Allie Earp’s recall to fit the warp of his own bias, the question followed — “Whose voice are we hearing?” Now comes Glenn G. Boyer’s Wyatt Earp’s Tombstone Vendetta, a book so bizarre it stands as emblematic of all that is troublesome in Earp literature.
Boyer would have us believe these are the memoirs of a journalist who was in Tombstone during its blood and thunder years. Demanding eternal anonymity he assumes the nom de plume - ‘Theodore Ten Eyck.’ If this name seems vaguely familiar, recall there was a Captain Tenodor Ten Eyck who served under Carrington at Fort Phil Kearny in 1866. However, we shouldn’t confuse the two even though the name choice seems purposefully fostered to breed such confusion. Journalist Ten Eyck claims to have worked for the New York Herald in 1881 - only that’s a cover too. A thorough combing of that paper’s 1881-82 editions evidence no special correspondence from Tombstone. So we are left with someone we don’t know, whose occupation we don’t know, giving his unique perspective on Wyatt Earp. No, hold it, wait! That’s not quite right either. Boyer tells us he has “in a few instances,” blended other voices to form Ten Eyck’s singular perspective (Vendetta, p. xvi). The whole blurry business is presented in the “well accepted” form of a “non-fiction novel.”
Readers who thrived on the Burns puzzle - “Is it history or a novel?” will especially savor the subtlety of the Ten Eyck confection. For those preferring Lake’s riddle - “How to separate fact from fiction?” this new book’s interweave of imagination and reality will be embraced as a precious bounty. Finally, buffs who can’t get enough of Waters’ stumper - “Whose voice is this?” will revel in the sublime enigma Ten Eyck/Boyer/and the blended chorus achieve. Sadly, the only audience Boyer ignores are those benighted jackanapes who hold critical scrutiny and diligent documentation as hallmarks of serious history. Sorry guys.
Since the Ten Eyck papers aren’t presented in a ‘critical edition,’ it might help to note what a pedantic commentator could point out. First, it is odd that at crucial points of the narrative Ten Eyck suppresses his journalistic juices to give reprints of Epitaph and Nugget reports. No, hold it, wait! That’s not quite right either. The account of the Benson stage robbery isn’t really from the Epitaph at all. Well, it is and it isn’t. The version Ten Eyck gives has a curious error. When identifying Budd Philpot’s hometown the word ‘Halistoga’ appears. Dutifully, Boyer asterisks this word and identifies it as a misprint. The actual town, he informs us, was ‘Calistoga’ (Vendetta, p. 57). The original Epitaph, however, does have the word ‘Calistoga’ though the ‘C’ is printed so faintly it is hard to make out. It’s only with Douglas Martin’s Tombstone’s Epitaph, published in 1951, that the indistinct ‘C’ becomes an erroneous ‘H’ (Tombstone’s Epitaph, p. 81). Since Boyer tells us Ten Eyck died in 1946, its dumbfounding how he could replicate this error before it had been made. Of course, the date of death is obviously another cover to protect the real year from embarrassment.
This isn’t the only time the phantom Ten Eyck exhibits powers of the seer. An anecdote given about Doc Holliday reads, “…he was full of comic pranks, such as grabbing one of those little iron fire alarm triangles that were hung here and there on the sidewalks in Tombstone, and traipsing behind some dude with a Derby hat ringing it and pointing to the hat”‘ (p. 115). Interestingly, Owen Wister gives the same story, though not printed until 1958. “Doc Holliday if any stranger entered Tombstone wearing a post hat would follow him around the street ringing a dinner bell” (Owen Wister Out West, University of Chicago Press, 1958, p. 220). Is Ten Eyck’s account a voice or an echo? This reads like George McDonald Fraser’s circular method of historical parody. Another parody-like instance is Ten Eyck’s reference to Josephine Marcus as the “Helen of Troy” of Tombstone. Recall that Walter Noble Burns’ Tombstone was subtitled “An Iliad of the Southwest.” This “Helen of Troy” characterization has been a refrain of Boyer’s since, at least, 1976 (I Married Wyatt Earp, p. 150).
High jinks abound as Ten Eyck presents Wyatt’s testimony before Spicer. We are told this version comes from the Nugget but, again, that’s not the case at all. Rather, we are given the ‘Hayhurst Transcript’ (the typescript executed by Pat Hayhurst of the, now lost, original handwritten court record). How is this evident? Because the Nugget didn’t present the initial questions put to Earp. Instead, Wyatt’s responses were printed as if they were part of a seamless statement. That Ten Eyck didn’t utilize the Epitaph either is revealed when Virgil Earp’s arrest of Ike Clanton is covered. (The underlines have been added for emphasis.)
The Epitaph reads:
“Virgil found Ike Clanton on Fourth Street in an alley. He walked up to him and said, ‘I hear you are hunting for some of us.’ “
The Nugget has it:
“Virgil found Ike Clanton on Fourth, near Fremont, in an alley way. He walked up to him and said, ‘I heard you were hunting for some of us.’ “
The Hayhurst Transcript and Ten Eyck give us:
“Virgil found Ike Clanton on Fourth Street near Fremont Street, in the mouth of an alleyway. I walked up to him and said, ‘I hear you are hunting for some of us.’ “
Remember, this is Wyatt Earp’s statement. Mistakenly, Hayhurst or the original court reporter, Fred Craig, replaced the pronoun ‘He’ (referring to Virgil Earp) with the pronoun ‘I’ making it sound as if Wyatt was claiming to have confronted Ike Clanton when that cowboy was arrested. Neither the Epitaph nor Nugget mirrors this slip-up. If Ted Ten Eyck is who he says he is, why didn’t he catch this? For that matter, how would he have obtained a copy of the Hayhurst Transcript? Again, if Ten Eyck was there, why doesn’t he present his own perspective on Earp’s testimony? Later, when Wells Spicer’s decision is reproduced, the version is again from Hayhurst and again mis-identified as the Nugget account. Slight wording variations are the tip-off.
Vendetta’s inclusion of Hayhurst material also provides a curious link to Stuart Lake. Apparently, in 1951, Lake sponsored a re-transcription of the Hayhurst manuscript. Hayhurst’s annotations were deleted from the resultant text. A statement by Lake, about this version, was used by Al Turner as an introduction to The O.K. Corral Inquest (1981, p. 9); it was dated June 27, 1951. Unnoticed by either Lake or Turner, who used the reproduction as the core of his Inquest book, a few errors had slipped into the new typescript. For instance, when Wyatt recalled the events of Oct. 25, 1881, he detailed where all the parties went after Doc Holliday and Ike Clanton argued. “They all separated at that time, Morgan Earp going down the street, home; Virgil Earp going into the Occidental saloon; Ike going across the street to the Grand Hotel. I walked in the Eagle Brewery…” (Hayhurst Transcription of Documents 45 and 94, Arizona Historical Foundation, p. 215, 216. See also, Turner, The Earps Talk, 1980, p. 44). Lake’s re-copy, however, has this, “they all separated at that time, Morgan Earp going down the street to the Oriental Saloon, Ike going across the street to the Grand Hotel. I walked in the Eagle Brewery…” (O.K. Corral Inquest, 1981, p. 160). While Virgil Earp’s movements are completely omitted, this account mistakenly has Morgan Earp going to the Oriental Saloon rather than to his home. Oddly, it is Lake’s erroneous re-transcription of Hayhurst’s already questionable rendering which Ten Eyck presents (Vendetta, p. 207). Of all available accounts of Earp’s testimony, Vendetta presents the most problematic without even a whisper of editorial comment.
It is tempting to be flip and dismissive of a book whose Library of Congress classification incessantly proclaims it as “Juvenile Literature,” but Glenn G. Boyer has assumed a position of preeminence on the subject of Wyatt Earp. Over a thirty year period he has issued a stream of well researched and provocatively reasoned papers. He is responsible for the publication of Big Nose Kate’s memoirs as well as the long sought ‘Flood Manuscript.’ The jewel in his crown, however, remains I Married Wyatt Earp. His work is so influential the efforts of Al Turner, Paula Mitchell Marks, John Daniel Daily and Michael Hickey are elaborations of Boyer’s contribution. But Tombstone Vendetta puts his previous efforts in a new light. Now he confesses he’s long been deceiving readers. He’s been keeping secrets and producing misleading statements to honor Earp family confidences. Now, with the passage of time and the death of his informants, Boyer is free, at last, to reveal all.
One of the revelations is a new account of the O.K. Corral shooting. Out at Wyatt’s mining camp, the usually tight lipped old lawman opened up to Ten Eyck and Bill Miller (husband of Wyatt’s niece, Estelle). Earp confessed it was he who started the fight by shooting both Frank McLaury and Billy Clanton. That this account is at odds with others given by Wyatt, over the years, is never addressed by Boyer. More damaging to the yarn’s credibility is a quote supplied by Boyer himself in The Suppressed Murder of Wyatt Earp (1967). There Bill Miller talks about requests from Wyatt to visit the ‘Happy Day’ campsite. “He (Wyatt) asked me to go up there many a time. I wish now I had, but I always had a good job so didn’t need to go” (p. 54). Which can be believed, the Boyer of 1993 who claims Miller did visit the campsite or the Boyer of 1967 who says he didn’t? Why lie about innocuous visits of Bill Miller to Wyatt’s camp? Even if the family requested certain information withheld, the fabrication of contrary information is never proper. That a writer who professes reverence for the historical record would disseminate dis-information is shocking. This is where Glenn Boyer hops into the pot and lights the fire. By saying he has deceived readers in the past, Boyer posits himself against himself. If the later writings contest the earlier writings, the obverse equally applies; the earlier writings contest the later writings. Glenn Boyer then becomes his own adversary, perhaps his own worst enemy.
Beyond keeping secrets, Boyer, for unclear reasons, has also misled readers about his long standing relationship to the Earp family and friends. He reveals he knew Bill and Estelle Miller along with the Ten Eycks (Sr. and Jr.) since 1943 (Vendetta, p. 323-4). Yet in ‘Trailing an American Myth’ (Real West Jan. 1981), Boyer says he met the Millers in 1965. That year is in agreement with the bibliography to I Married Wyatt Earp where the Miller interviews are dated 1965, 1966 and 1967. In Suppressed Murder, Boyer presents a version of his researches quite different than now claimed though consistent with the ‘American Myth’ article.
“As I grew older and developed a serious interest in western history, I sent many inquiries to Mr. Lake. None were answered” (Suppressed Murder, p. xiv).
Based on Boyer’s current claims, his letters to Lake should have been sent in the late 1930’s or early 1940’s. However, in Box #1, folder #73, of the Stuart Lake Collection at the Huntington Library is the following letter:
Captain Glenn G. Boyer
Route 1, Box 777
Mr. Stuart N. Lake
c/o Houghton Mifflin Co.
2 Park Street
Boston, 7, Massachusetts
Dear Mr. Lake,
For several years I have held a great interest in the life of Wyatt Earp. My first acquaintance with his career came from reading your book, “Frontier Marshall” when I was a high school boy about 1939 or 40. Since then whenever opportunity arose I have added small bits of information, but not in a methodical fashion. For example, I had a chat with an old timer who knew Wyatt in the lobby of the Argonaut Hotel in Denver while awaiting a taxi, back in 1945 — I was in Nome in 1947-48-49, Dodge City in 1952 and again in Denver in June of last year trying to find the records of the extradition attempt for the Earps and Doc Holliday. (The records seem to be lost or floating around the old west side court building, or somewhere.) At any rate I keep plugging away at it.
Now I’m living in Yuma for awhile with fine opportunities to go to Tombstone, San Bernardino, and Los Angeles. Also to get a line on John Shanassey, a famous mayor of this town, as you know, and friend of Wyatt Earp.
The recent rush of stories purporting to expose the Earps as cowardly (notably in a recent Argosy) have measurably stimulated in me a desire to bring out further well documented material on Wyatt and his brothers, I do not hope to be able to add anything to your truly outstanding work, which as far as I’m concerned, is the first and last word on the subject and will remain so. However I have often wondered about the later phases of Wyatt’s life and I’m sure there are many others who have. What did he do in Silverton after leaving Tombstone? What did he do in Idaho, Alaska, etc.? What part did he play in the development of Southern California? What of his activities in the sporting world? For example I ran into a professor of Maryland University while in Greenland, of all unlikely places, whose father raised horses and knew Wyatt well while in the Los Angeles area, so he stated. This man’s attitude reflected a respect for an honest old gentleman rather than the awe of his earlier exploits which is more common. Truly he must have been quite a fellow, simply as a personality for this to be true.
I am hoping to locate living relatives of Wyatt and his brothers and trace the wider family influence. There must be readers of history such as I who would like to know, as I do, what an evening at home or an evening socially was like with the aging Wyatt and his second wife. What were his interests and attitudes. What, if anything did he conversationally record as his reaction to such things as the auto, airplane, movies, machine guns, etc. This may seem a little far afield, but I think is all historically pertinent. If the information I may be able to collect serves but to satisfy my curiosity and to remain available as source data to someone more capable of writing for public information I shall be satisfied. I feel the press of time — more people yearly are passing on who can leave us their invaluable impressions and experiences of this genuinely unique person who lived and epitomized all that was our frontier West.
I hope that you may find time to help me by corresponding on this subject. You must have clues and contacts which can save me many hours of fumbling for the information I seek. I feel from the integrity and reverence for accuracy which characterized your book, Frontier Marshall, that you must be sympathetic to this point of view, that you are greatly imbued with the belief in the great good to be derived from capturing the historic fact and passing it on to the future generations to better acquaint them with their great heritage. If this is so and you can find the time to correspond, I will write further on several specific questions, aiming to spare your time as much as I am able.
If you cannot find the time to write due to similar requests or pressing work of some nature, I am just as happy to have had an opportunity to salute your great work about a great man — neither can receive more credit than are due them.
Glenn G. Boyer
P.S. Who the heck has the Buntline Special? I’ve been itching to get some photos of it.
What a curious letter to write for a man who had known the Earp family since 1943. Glenn must have been an absent minded sort in his salad days. The folder containing this correspondence is marked 1953. Internal evidence, however, suggests the letter was written in 1955. In July of that year, Argosy published ‘The Truth about Wyatt Earp’ by Edwin V. Burkholder. Most probably, it was this article Boyer referred to in his letter.
As for the friendship Boyer enjoyed with both Ted Ten Eyck Sr. and Jr. the record is also disquieting. The forward to Vendetta is allegedly from Ted, Jr. Dated April of 1979, it was then apparently, that Boyer was presented with the Ten Eyck papers. Ted, Jr. writes, “I have no heirs and pass this information on to Earp chronicler, my friend and Earp family friend of many years, Glenn G. Boyer…” If this note is accepted at face value, another oddity emerges. Two full years before this acknowledged transfer, Boyer wrote another researcher about the Ten Eyck material. The Robert N. Mullin collection contains a letter dated the 18th of January, 1977.
There Boyer says:
“Even more interesting is an anonymous ms. the family gave me entitled Wyatt Earp’s Tombstone years, allegedly by one Teodore Ten Eyck, a name I can find nowhere else in Earpiana* (*undoubtedly a pseudonym). It is clearly authentic on its details and attributed to a newsman/later writer — claiming to be from Clum’s home town of Claverack, N.Y. and a boyhood chum of Clum’s. It contains fascinating revelations (if they are true) and would make an ace movie. But in the absence of the ability to identify its author I probably could never find a publisher. Nevertheless, I think its the most authentic thing in existence on Tombstone. It was with Mrs. Earp’s effects when she died and totally without other identification except what appears internally. It would make a tremendous limited edition in my opinion.”
Boyer of 1993 tells us he knew Ten Eyck since 1943. Boyer of 1977 says he doesn’t know who Ten Eyck is. The Vendetta book tells us Boyer received the ms. from Ted, Jr. in 1979. Two years earlier, Boyer was claiming the papers came from Mrs. Earp’s effects (quite a trick since the narrative covers her death). These inconsistencies undermine trust in Boyer’s word. If Earp writers have left a legacy of perturbing questions, Boyer’s legacy is a quirky knot of self-contradiction which begs serious questions of integrity. Such questions have haunted Boyer since his very first book.
The Illustrated Life of Doc Holliday (1966) is a booklet numbering a mere 64 pages. In recent years Boyer has characterized this work as a “satire.” Its narrative is overly melodramatic and Big Nose Kate is omitted as a clue to the book’s true nature. Bogus photos of ‘Perry Mallon,’ ‘Johnny Tyler,’ and Doc’s cousin ‘Mattie Holliday’ are passed off with a fabricated story of Doc and Wyatt killing Mallon and Tyler in Colorado. Boyer’s presently stated purpose in executing this farce was to trip up inept researchers and fakers. He seems to take special delight in Paula Mitchell Marks’ gullible acceptance of the nonsense in her book And Die in the West.
Consider the absurdity of it all. Boyer fakes photos and letters to trap fakers. Is this a paradox I see before me? If the tip off to the Holliday book is the missing Kate, what are Vendetta readers to make of the missing Richard Rule — the real reporter for the Nugget? The Holliday book’s melodrama is tepid compared to Vendetta’s overheat. As for the chastisement of Paula Mitchell Marks, her only sin was in accepting Boyer at face value. How can he condemn her and expect other readers to bite into his apple? Boyer’s quaint depiction of the Holliday fiasco as “satire” would be acceptable had that book been identified as such at publication. Finally, Boyer’s misleading letters to other researchers is an embarrassment compounded. On March 10, 1969, Boyer wrote Gary Roberts still contending the phony photos of Mallon-Tyler to be legitimate. How far does “satire” go?
Another aspect of the Holliday book casts a pall over Vendetta. The bogus letters planted there were said to have come from descendants of a Texas friend of Doc’s called “Peanut,” again a pseudonym. These people were “not willing to be identified with Doc or with their Grandfather” (Holliday, p. 58). Here, Boyer, for the first time, claims privileged access. In 1966 it was the ‘Peanut letters’ — now it’s the ‘Ten Eyck papers.’ Boyer seems cursed by anonymous descendants. Rarely suffered by western historians, this curse is a more common affliction of “satirists” who dip into the same well too often.
Where does this leave I Married Wyatt Earp? That book, after all, is the bedrock of his renown. While no masked descendants taint its pages, there are two sections of the published narrative which beg questions.
On pages 196-197 of ‘I Married’ are eleven paragraphs telling the story of Warren Earp’s killing. According to this account, Wyatt and Josie came back to the States for the winter of 1899-1900. They planned a late summer return to Alaska and traveled about. Word reached them in Denver of the shooting, in Willcox, of younger brother Warren. Wyatt wired Virgil and the two met up in Phoenix, then proceeded to Willcox. Josephine waited for Wyatt in San Francisco. When he returned, Wyatt was grim and silent about his journey. Later, Allie Earp indirectly told Josephine that the brothers had extracted swift revenge. Finally, Wyatt and Josie took passage back to Nome on the Alliance.
Nice story but it couldn’t have happened. The Earps did indeed return to Alaska on the steamer Alliance. That ship sailed from Seattle on May 19, 1900. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer (May 20, 1900) specifically says: “Wyatt Earp, the well known sporting man of Seattle and San Francisco, took passage on the Alliance for Nome where he operated in business and mining affairs last year. He is accompanied by Mrs. Earp and Mrs. Urquhart, wife of Thomas Urquhart of this city and Rampart.” The 1900 census, executed on June 14, finds them still aboard the Alliance. Soon, however, Nome took notice of Earp. On June 29, 1900, the Nome Daily News reported Wyatt’s arrest for “interfering with an officer while in the discharge of his duty … Earp, upon reaching the barracks, asserted that his action had been misconstrued, and that he had intended to assist the deputy marshal.” This claimed misunderstanding clearly places Wyatt Earp in Nome before Warren Earp was killed on July 6, 1900.
Other documents also verify Earp’s presence in the Northern District throughout that summer. Chief among them is George W. Parsons’ journal. That old ‘Tombstoner’ Parsons was also up to Alaska in 1900. Several of his entries make mention of Wyatt Earp:
Wednesday, July 25, 1900:
“Meeting friends constantly — Earp, etc. Lively camp. No night.
Monday, August 27, 1900:
“John Clum introduced me to his friend Englestadt tonight at Earp’s place and he sang ‘Jerusalem’ with soprano and another woman accompanist. Strange sight - Earp dealing faro in corner, rough miners standing and some joining in chorus. Strange mixture.”
Thursday, August 30, 1900:
“John Clum, Fowler and I had an old-timer with Wyatt Earp tonight at his place [Dexter Saloon], a regular old Arizona time, and Wyatt unlimbered for several hours and seemed glad to talk to us who knew the past. It was a very memorable evening. He went home with us.”
Friday, August 31, 1900:
“We had such a seance last night. That evening with Wyatt Earp would have been worth $1,000 or more to the papers.”
Friday, September 7, 1900:
“With [John P.] Clum and [Wyatt] Earp awhile tonight. John goes out on ‘St. Paul.’ Witnessed Earp’s and Clum’s stories [as] signatory.”
Saturday, September 8, 1900:
“Saw [John P.] Clum tonight at his room awhile. The signatures I witnessed last night or tonight, I don’t distinctly remember which, are to [Wyatt] Earp’s account of his adventures.”
Monday, September 10, 1900:
“Wyatt Earp and I had a little confab today. This reputed badman from Arizona is straight and fearless I believe and is a good friend of mine and respects me and I him, even though he runs perhaps the biggest drinking and gambling places here. It’s well to have such a friend here and let the thugs see it.”
(Courtesy “The West of George Whitwell Parsons” by Carl Chafin, Vol. 22; 1900, copyright 1993 Carl Chafin.)
On Wednesday, September 12, 1900, the Nome Daily News reported “Wyatt Earp was arraigned for assaulting a soldier.” The case against Earp was continued till 2 o’clock, September 13th but that day’s paper is missing so what exactly happened is left unclear. The Nome Daily News on September 18th reported, “Mrs. Wyatt Earp, Mrs. C.L. Vawter and Mrs. L. Lowenstein have collected $70.00 for the relief of the sufferers of the late storm.” On October 20, 1900, the Nome Weekly Chronicle reported on the “social event of the year,” a dance opening the new Court House. Among the long list of guests is W. Earp.
Taken all together, Wyatt Earp never had the time necessary to travel to Arizona and return to Nome in 1900. The fastest steamer from Nome to Seattle took eight days one way (Seattle Post Intelligencer, May 20, 1900, ad for the steamer San Blas). Wyatt Earp was not in Denver when Warren Earp was shot down. Could Josephine Earp have mis-remembered a whole summer? Would she have lied about Virgil and Wyatt seeking vengeance? Or is it more likely the story is an interpolation added to the recollections by someone else?
The I Married Wyatt Earp text has not been free of detractors. On April 9, 1992 Susan T. Caulfield wrote writer Larry Tritten about an article of his concerning Wyatt Earp’s grave. Her great-uncle had married one of Josie’s nieces. She states, “My great-uncle had several copies of the book (I Married Wyatt Earp), but he always insisted they were not her memoirs and a lot of it was bunk.” This is puzzling as the efforts of Mabel Earp Cason to produce Josie’s story are well documented. Mrs. Cason wrote a long letter on May 20, 1959 to Eleanor B. Sloan of the Arizona Historical Society telling what she had:
“I still have my part of the manuscript and some notes, though most are simply research notes. Those that my sister took down in shorthand from Josie are not legible to anyone else and my sister, (Vinnolia Earp Ackerman) died four years ago. My manuscript would probably hold little of interest to the public, since it concerns mostly their later life together. It indicates however that they were living together in Colorado at the time of Doc Holliday’s death for they called upon him at the hospital the day before he died. That was before the death of Mattie Blaylock Earp by an overdose of laudanum.”
Mrs. Cason says she and her sister “finally abandoned work on the manuscript because she (Josie) would not clear up the Tombstone sequence where it pertained to her and Wyatt.” Thus, the most hotly contested section of I Married Wyatt Earp are the chapters on Tombstone. Glenn Boyer, however, claims he obtained another manuscript. He writes in the book’s epilogue:
“The first Josephine Earp manuscript, the one prepared with the assistance of Parsons and Clum, had been made available to me earlier by Mrs. Charles A. Colyn, an Earp researcher, collector and genealogist of the first magnitude. Upon her death in 1973, this Earp relative by marriage bequeathed me her whole research collection to perpetuate. Without her generous assistance over the years, I would not have attempted to construct this book. The Cason manuscript alone simply lacked the necessary detail on Tombstone; it was essential to couple it with the earlier, more frank manuscript, before a complete narrative could be achieved” (Married, p. 255).
So far everything seems in order. However, in the “Major Personal Collections and Manuscripts” section of Boyer’s bibliography, no manuscript from Mrs. Colyn is itemized. All that appears is a genealogy, “many letters and related research” (p. 264). This is especially odd as this reference lies directly beneath the listing of the Cason ms. How could such an important document have been overlooked? When one considers the fact that Mrs. Colyn and Mrs. Cason corresponded, the question grows thornier. If she indeed had a memoir covering the Tombstone experience why didn’t Colyn provide it to Cason who needed it? Perhaps the letter Mrs. Colyn wrote Glenn Boyer on December 9, 1965 and reprinted in Suppressed Murder (p. 108) offers the answer.
“I do not know now to what he (Frank Waters) was referring to in the use of the word MS. I have sent him from time to time all the Earp sheets, all the census records concerning Mattie and her pictures and copy of handwriting from the Bible. And a copy of the transcript from the coroner’s report. To which he might have been referring I do not know now. I never had a real manuscript which could be called such.”
Here Mrs. Colyn specifically denies having any manuscript at all. The mystery, however, reached peak density in 1981 when Glenn Boyer wrote ‘Trailing an American Myth’ for Real West. This article, in a straightforward way, reviews his whole research experience. As previously noted, Boyer there claims to have met Joe and Estelle Miller in 1965 not 1943. He also says, “From the Millers I’d got many family photos and been allowed to copy the memoir of Mrs. Wyatt Earp…” That this is the memoir of the Tombstone period is made clear when, later, Boyer details receiving the Cason ms. from Jeanne Cason Laing — Mabel Earp Cason’s daughter. “It was all staggering,” he tells us. “Coupled with the incomplete fragment I’d obtained through the Millers, I had the whole Wyatt Earp saga from Tombstone on.”
We are back in the cave of shadow and smoke. Did Boyer receive a ms. at all? If so, from whom? Was he “allowed to copy” something? If so, where is the original? If Boyer received a ms. from the Millers, why would he claim it came from Mrs. Colyn? It couldn’t have been to protect the Millers (from what?); by 1976 they were both dead. As for the actual writing of the earlier ms., if Clum, Parsons and Flood helped Josie, why is there no mention of such labor in their surviving papers? Finally, how could a document of such dubious provenance have gained such wide embrace as authentic? The scenario of Doc Holliday and Morgan Earp starting the famous shoot-out has become the current dogma of choice for writers like Turner, Marks, Dailey and Hickey, yet it issues from a source awash in discrepancy. If this is satire, why is no one laughing?
Contradiction corrodes credibility. While Glenn Boyer’s contribution to Wyatt Earp studies is widely regarded as seminal, doubts raised by Wyatt Earp’s Tombstone Vendetta pose serious threat to his renown. Questions of judgment and/or integrity were sure to follow his admission of previous deception. The curiosities and inconsistencies coursing through his work and correspondence are now part of the public record. Like Wyatt Earp himself, Glenn G. Boyer seems preordained to spark abiding controversy. Will he be remembered as a dedicated historian or a clever illusionist? The final judgment will be dictated by critical scrutiny and diligent documentation. These are the only tools ‘History’ has to clear away the fog so that, in William S. Hart’s words, “the rising generation may know the real from the unreal.”