Josephine Sarah Marcus was born in Brooklyn to a Jewish family, the third of four children. At 18, she ran away to join a touring theatre company, which in 1879 was considered a brazen move for a young girl from a respectable family.
While in Arizona, she met Johnny Behan, sheriff of Yavapai County. Behan was married, but took up with Josephine immediately. When he was hired for a new job–as sheriff of a town called Tombstone–he brought his girlfriend along.
Behan was a less than righteous sheriff, doing business with the local criminal element and frequenting brothels. Meanwhile, Josephine became romantically involved with Wyatt Earp, another local lawman, and soon married him. In 1881, Earp and his brother started the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, while trying to apprehend a gang of outlaw cowboys–an event which lasted 30 seconds, saw 30 bullets fly, and which was known as the most famous gunfight in the history of the Old West. Some historians have suggested that the rivalry between the Earps and the cowboys (who were business associates of Sheriff Behan) might have been precipitated by Behan’s jealousy regarding Josephine.
Josephine and Wyatt remained married for 48 years. His remains were buried alongside Josephine’s family at a Jewish cemetery in California, even though Earp was not himself Jewish. Eventually, Josephine joined him there
Setting the record straight, January 15, 2015: Wyatt Earp, the famous gunfighter, pulled a lot of hoaxes, but this might have been one of the biggest — and one of the last. To be more precise, it wasn’t Earp himself, but amateur historian Glenn Boyer, who forged a “memoir” ostensibly written by Earp’s wife, Mrs. Josephine Sarah Marcus Earp. Mrs. Earp really was a Jewish girl who ran away to Arizona, where she hooked up with her husband. The rest of this tall tale? Sad to say, but it’s a whopper.