Origen Charles Smith

(1844-1907)

By
Peter Brand
©2006

The most neglected of the Earp Vendetta men is probably Origen "Charlie" Smith. Although he stood firmly beside the Earps after the attempted assassination of Virgil in late 1881, his name is not immediately associated with the legendary brothers. He was deputized by Wyatt and rode in most of the Earp posses from January 1882 to April 1882, but his character has always been ignored by moviemakers. Perhaps the reason for his anonymity is related solely to his name and the lack of a catchy sobriquet. An examination of his life, however, shows a man who was never afraid to step into the breach. In fact, Smith probably participated in more gunfights than any of his associates and as a result was seriously injured and close to death on two occasions.

The following introduction is extracted from an upcoming article on Smith, titled Origen Charles Smith, A Man of Sterling Quality By Peter Brand ©2005.

When O.C. "Charlie" Smith passed away quietly in 1907, there were no blazing headlines or violent stories published about his life. The newspapers of the day mourned his passing in solemn, reverent tones and described him accurately as "a man of sterling quality, steadfast in his friendships and zealous in his duties". For Smith, those duties and friendships often overlapped, but he is only vaguely remembered today as a staunch ally of Wyatt Earp and Wells Fargo man, Fred Dodge, during the most violent days of Tombstone's early history. Smith's eulogy however, belied the fact that he spent much of his life engaged in law enforcement and gambling and had been involved in many gunfights as well as one of the most celebrated chapters of Arizona history The Earp-Clanton feud in Tombstone during 1881-1882.

Origen Charles Smith was born on May 4, 1844 in Litchfield County, Connecticut. He was the first of two sons born to Charles and Susan Smith, who had been married in Litchfield in February of the same year. The birth of their second son, Walter Edwin, on September 17, 1845, may have resulted in complications for 18 year-old Susan Smith, as she passed away one month later and was buried in the Footville cemetery. The loss of his mother was not the only hurdle that young Origen Charlie faced, for he had been born with a cleft palate and in later years would become known to some, unkindly, as "Hairlip Charlie".

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For the best summary of O.C. "Charlie" Smith's career to date, see the article -

"Mining Keno & the Law, The Tombstone Careers of Bob Winders, Charley Smith and Fred Dodge, 1879-1888."

By Robert F. Palmquist

The Journal of Arizona History, Vol. 38, No. 2, Summer 1997.

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The Fake Charlie Smith Letters
O. C. "Charlie" Smith earned some degree of fame when, in 2000, a gentleman named Clifton V. Brewer, of Oklahoma, came forward and claimed he possessed several letters written by Smith. He claimed to have discovered the so-called Smith Letters in an old trunk passed down from his great-great grandfather, Lunsford Bryant Shockley, who had been a friend of Smith's. To add spice to his find he also produced an 1899 newspaper clipping said to be from the Sulphur Headlight. This clipping allegedly contained Smith's eyewitness account of Doc Holliday's last days in Glenwood Springs.

The find seemed too good to be true and indeed it was. Despite the dubious nature of the "find", Karen Holliday Tanner published the clipping and other information in an article written for True West, December 2001, Doc Holliday Collector's Edition.

After exhaustive research, the letters proved to be fakes and as a result, extreme doubt has been cast over the authenticity of the Sulphur Headlight article. In 2004, The Western Outlaw Lawman History Association published a thorough discussion of the topic in its Journal, Vol. XII No. 4, Summer 2004. An introduction to the topic was written by Mark Boardman and the True West article - The Last Days of Doc Holliday by Karen Holliday Tanner was reprinted. This was followed by a 20-page, fully footnoted, analysis of the letters and the newspaper clipping by Gary L. Roberts. Roberts' excellent article is important as it shows how diligent research and logical analysis exposes these types of attempted frauds and hoaxes.

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Peter Brand continues to research the life of Origen Charles Smith and any readers with questions or information regarding Smith are encouraged to contact him. See the "Contact Us" section of this website for further details.