Taylor Sheridan’s Yellowstone origin story, 1883, is already four episodes into its Season 1 run of 10 episodes. The Western on Paramount+ is following the formidable cast of Sam Elliott (Shea Brennan), Tim McGraw (James Dutton), Faith Hill (Margaret Dutton), Isabell May (Elsa Dutton), and LaMonica Garrett (Thomas), among others, as they leave Fort Worth, Texas, with a wagon train of German immigrants.
Their destination? Oregon. But as they head in a northwesterly direction, we know the Duttons, at least, eventually settle in Montana. Something else we know? The wagon train is headed in the general direction of the 19th century’s most famous lawman: Wyatt Earp.
Will Taylor Sheridan feature Wyatt Earp in 1883? We’ve got three great reasons why he should.
1. Wyatt Earp’s Location in 1883
In the spring of 1883 (the general time frame of the series 1883, at least according to Episode 2 when Elsa mentions April), Wyatt Earp was about 18 months removed from his Gunfight at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona Territory, in October 1881. The shootout pitted Wyatt, Virgil Earp, Morgan Earp, and Doc Holliday against a group of outlaws called the Cowboys.
Now, Wyatt’s famous Vendetta Ride—where he tracked down and killed the Cowboys associated with Morgan’s death and Virgil’s maiming—took place from March 20 to April 15, 1882.
After the Vendetta Ride, Wyatt had stints in Trinidad, Colorado, and Gunnison, Colorado. He moved to San Fransisco for about nine months, until early 1883. Then he moved to Silverton, Colorado, before traveling to Dodge City, Kansas, on June 3, 1883, to take part in the Dodge City War. During the bloodless conflict, Wyatt, along with Bat Masterson and others, supported their friend Luke Short against the Dodge City mayor, who was trying to shut down Short’s Long Branch Saloon.
Dodge City, Kansas, is about 377 miles northwest of Fort Worth, Texas, as the crow flies. Historically speaking, Wyatt Earp would have been in the area (Kansas or Colorado) during the approximate time the wagon train of 1883 is heading northwest.
Wyatt left Dodge City on June 10, 1883, for Colorado, but not before posing for one of the most famous photos in the Old West.
2. Real Historical Figures in ‘1883’
Taylor Sheridan has already demonstrated a penchant for using real historical figures in 1883. Through the first four episodes, we have seen George Meade and Jim Courtright.
In Episode 2, Tom Hanks made a cameo as General George Meade. Sheridan featured the U.S. general during a flashback sequence at the Battle of Antietam in 1862. The flashback helped explain James Dutton’s past experience as a Confederate captain and POW during the Civil War.
Also in Episode 2, Sheridan featured Fort Worth Marshal Jim Courtright, who was played by Billy Bob Thornton. Historically speaking, Courtright was Fort Worth Marshal from 1876 to 1879. In the year 1883, Courtright would have been working in New Mexico, so Sheridan took a little creative liberty. But Thornton’s portrayal lived up to Courtright’s reputation as a gunslinger.
3. Homage to Costner & Elliott
The opportunity to feature Wyatt Earp in 1883 is too juicy for Taylor Sheridan to ignore. The location fits. The historical accuracy fits. And . . . there’s also a homage to be paid to two of Sheridan’s stars: Kevin Costner and Sam Elliott.
Kevin Costner has played Yellowstone patriarch John Dutton for four seasons on the hit series. However, Costner also has a past connection to Wyatt Earp. Costner brought the famous lawman to life in 1994’s Wyatt Earp.
In addition, Sam Elliott starred as Virgil Earp in the 1993 big-screen Western, Tombstone, which also featured Kurt Russell (Wyatt), Val Kilmer (Doc Holliday), and Bill Paxton (Morgan Earp). The film also featured Billy Bob Thornton in an early role as Johnny Tyler, a blowhard on the receiving end of a beat-down courtesy of Wyatt.
Now, one question remains for Sherdian: who plays Wyatt Earp in 1883? Let the speculation begin.