My former sixth-grade teacher and spouse are looking to sell a house here in town they claim was the birthplace of U.S. Marshall Wyatt Earp.
It's a real humdinger, even if they can't prove this is the actual site of Earp's birth -- our local college history prof has done considerable digging, and states that the famed lawman was probably not born there, because (a) tax records say a house that size wasn't actually standing on the lot in the year Earp was born, and (b) the Mother Earp was, in later missives, reported to have been living about a mile and a half away from there, at the time... in a house which no longer exists. She'd have had a jolly miserable walk or ride -- in labor, in a winter storm -- to deliver little Wyatt over close to the railroad tracks (it's only a few blocks from where I live, and just a block or so from the railroad tracks -- closer to them than Alice's Restaurant was).
If you've ever wanted to own a part of western folklore, here's your chance. The Wyatt Earp birthplace is for sale. One of Monmouth's most famous sons spent his early childhood there. And now the home's longtime owners are retiring to Arizona.
Located at 406 South 3rd Street in Monmouth, retired teachers Bob and Melba Matson plan to sell it on Ebay with a $20,000 opening bid.
Nevertheless, it's a rather nice house, and, by all accounts, they've done a pretty good job of bringing back the feel of mid-1800s western Illinois -- no central heat, no indoor plumbing in the "museum" portion of the building, and some fairly accurate decorative stylings.*
So, if you're in the neighborhood for the gunfight, and you just can't seem to get the old house out of your mind, just remember -- that moderately-well-restored Wyatt elephant is for sale.
After restoring the nineteenth century home back in 1986, they've hosted more than 10,000 visitors from all over the world. All of them are fascinated with the legendary lawman.
"They feel that Wyatt Earp is here," said Melba Matson. "They really enjoy it and like to look at everything we have."
There will be a sentimental journey on August 4th. That's when the Matsons will host a final recreation of the shootout at the O.K. Corral. From 1-4 p.m., writers, historians, tourists and fans will enjoy the action and share the memories.
*By no means am I trying to discourage anybody from buying the property. It really is a nice place. I simply believe that the buyer should be aware that there is still debate as to the historical merits of this site as anything other than an homage museum.
Update: the aforementioned professor of history has, for some time, made his research available online here. I especially recommend reviewing this link, which is near the top of his page.
It's easy to believe in one or the other. I'm an avowed agnostic, leaning toward skepticism.
And I repeat my little footnote: The buyer should be aware that there is still a debate as to the historical merits of the site.