Emphasis - July 27
7:14 am
Fri July 27, 2012

Financial Challenges for Earp Birthplace

Wyatt Earp was born in Monmouth on March 19, 1848. The birthplace of the famous lawman has been maintained to the present day.

Earp is best remembered for the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. The board of the Wyatt Earp Birthplace faces a very different kind of fight.

Audie Durand is the volunteer curator for the site. Each year it hosts a re-enactment of the famous gunfight. This year the board wasn't sure it could afford it.

She says, “Even as late at June 1st we were having to decide whether or not to have the shoot-out on August 4th.”

That would have been a serious blow; the re-enactment is the largest fund-raiser for the site. The board did come up with the money to host the event next month.

Financial problems began when the owners of the home, Bob and Melba Matson, started having   health issues. That led Durand to appear recently before the Monmouth City Council to request the city take over ownership of the site.

Durand  says the Matsons have proposed selling the property to the city for a minimal amount.  The Monmouth city council has not acted on the proposal.

The site doesn't currently receive any federal or state funds. It is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Durand says the tight budget limits promotion of the site. The site has only some t-shirts and sweatshirts to sell. She recently sold the last coffee mug that was made for a promotional visit by actor Hugh O'Brian several years ago.  He portrayed Earp in a television series in the 1950s.

The birthplace is open by appointment only. Visitors who wish to take a tour are sometimes disappointed because no one is available to guide them. Durand says more volunteers are needed.