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Alvira "Allie" Packingham Sullivan Earp

Alvira Earp, (1849 in Florence, Nebraska – 1947 in Los Angeles, California) known to her contemporaries simply as "Allie," was the third wife of western lawman Virgil W. Earp of O.K. Corral fame.

Early life

Alvira Packingham Sullivan was born in Florence, Nebraska Territory in 1849. Florence is now part of Omaha. She was the middle child of John and Mary Louise Sullivan, recent immigrants from Ireland. The middle child of eight other children, her family lived in a small log cabin. As a young girl, "Allie" and her siblings would witness the Mormon migration west, and, according to Allie, were living in the town while Brigham Young was there.

After her father left for the Civil War in May 1861, Allie's large family moved the six miles downriver to what was then the new settlement of Omaha. Soon after the move, her mother died. With no way to reach their father, the children were divided up among other early Omaha settlers. According to Allie's memoirs, she then had to live with the McGath family. After working for the family as little more than a servant, young Allie would run away, subsequently living with various families, such as those which had adopted her other siblings.

In 1865, at the age of sixteen, Allie moved across the river to the newer settlement of Council Bluffs, Iowa, where she would work odd jobs while living with various families. While waiting tables in the early 1870s, she met a young man named Virgil Walter Earp. Working as a stage driver, Virgil would visit Allie every time he was in town. After several of these visits, the young couple were married and settled down in Council Bluffs. While no record of their marriage exists, in later years Allie herself always insisted that they were, in fact, legally married. It was Allie's first husband but Virgil's third wife.

From Iowa to Arizona

In the mid 1870s, Virgil Earp's father, Nicholas Porter Earp, decided to return from Colton, California to Missouri and dissolve his business interests there. Although the young Allie Earp had not yet met her in-laws, she soon became familiar with them through the letters that began to pour in from all the brothers. Eventually, the family would all meet in Lamar, Missouri in 1876, and set out west by wagon. Adelia Earp, the youngest daughter, quickly bonded with Allie, and they remained close for the rest of their lives.

By the beginning of 1877 the family reached Kansas, where records show that Virgil visited his brother Wyatt in Dodge City where he was a deputy marshal. Not much is known about Virgil's stay there, though it is rumored that he may have served on the police force in some capacity for a brief period. In any case, after wintering at Dodge City, the wagon train was ready once again to move westward. Stopping through the tiny desert city of Santa Fe, New Mexico, and the budding hamlet of Albuquerque, they soon reached the Arizona Territory, where they planned to settle in Prescott.

Their plans were delayed when they ran out of money and Virgil accepted a job as a mail carrier at a small post a few days north of Prescott. According to her (purported) memoirs, Allie helped another woman in childbirth at this time, which was one of the principal reasons the job was offered the Earps. The arrangement did not last long, however, as the family the Earps had been living with moved with their children back to Missouri. Virgil and Allie then drifted south into Prescott proper, living in a log cabin where Virgil ran a timber claim.

When Allie's father left for the Civil War, Allie and the rest of her family moved somewhere safe. Unfortunately, during the move, Allie's mother died. Allie Earp wished her father never left. When Allie was older, though, she moved to Iowa. There, she met Virgil who already had two wives in the past. Virgil was Allie's first husband, but Allie was Virgil's third wife.

Tombstone

In late 1879, the Earp brothers met Virgil and Allie at their home in Prescott, bound for Tombstone, Arizona Territory. Traveling by wagon was difficult in that many families' prize possessions had to be left behind. Reportedly, when the Earp brothers told Allie that she would have to leave her brand new sewing machine, she adamantly refused to leave without it. In Frank Waters' "Tombstone Travesty" manuscript, it was reportedly Wyatt Earp who said "Oh, I suppose we can fit it in somewhere." The sewing machine would later prove to be useful. In times of financial hardship, Allie, Louise (Morgan's wife), and Mattie (Wyatt's common law wife) would use the sewing machine to earn money for the family while in Tombstone. As she said later, "That was our life: workin' and sitting home. Good women didn't go any place."

It is unclear how much Alvira knew of the events leading up to what became known as the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. However, she clearly supported her husband's career as a lawman. According to Tombstone historians, Mr. And Mrs. Virgil Earp lived on the southwest corner of First and Fremont streets,. This is the house Virgil was brought to after the infamous gunfight with the Clantons and the McLaurys, having suffered a bullet wound to his calf. It burned down on June 6, 1998, much to the sadness of the current townspeople, as it was the last remaining structure definitively known to have been occupied by the Earps. A replica was built and now stands on the Western end of Allen Street, near the city cemetery.

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