Famous lawman's home for sale in Monmouth, Ill.

Want to buy the home where famed western lawman Wyatt Earp reportedly was born?


A bid of $20,000 puts you in the running.


Robert and Melba Matson have owned the home for 21 years, and they are ready to sell it so they can move to greener pastures and enjoy their retirement in Arizona.


"We are ready to move on," Melba said "We bought the place in 1986 from Ann Stratton and her family. They were related to the Earps."


The home is located at 406 S. Third St., better known to some as Wyatt Earp Way. The two-story house was constructed in 1841. Melba said it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, State of Illinois Historical Landmarks Survey and on an Illinois State Historical Society Marker in Monmouth Park.


"A wing was added to the house in the 1860s, between 1865 and 1868," Melba added. "We rent that out as an apartment. We completely restored the house when we bought it. The original house has a nice parlor, two bedrooms, a kitchen, and there is a half-cellar with stone walls that has a rear door."


Melba said the doors and the hardwood in the house are original.


But at least one local historian questions the home's authenticity.


When the Matsons approached the Monmouth City Council in 1998 to request a portion of South Third Street be named after Earp, Monmouth College professor William Urban addressed the council.


While Urban, a local expert on Wyatt Earp, did not directly address the Matsons' request, he did say, "I don't think Wyatt Earp's mother would recognize that house (the house the Matsons claim to be Earp's birthplace) that is standing there now, if indeed Wyatt Earp was born there."


Even so, whoever buys the Wyatt Earp birthplace will be buying into an American legend. Earp was one of the U.S. Marshals involved in the infamous gunfight at the OK Corral. The Matsons have set the home up as a museum. In August the property comes to life as the gunfight at the OK Corral is relived.


In recent years the members of the Shady Creek Shootists gun club have portrayed the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday versus the Clanton gang. There are buildings on the site made to look like the OK Corral even though the infamous gunfight actually took place near the OK Corral, not at the corral, according to Melba Matson.


The museum/house is owned and operated by an International Board of Trustees and a National Advisory Council. Melba said she and her husband Robert along with a few other supporters have volunteered at the museum, and volunteered to organize the gunfight each year.


"Before the funding was cut the museum was open most of the year," Melba Matson explained. "Then it was seasonal, but now it is open by appointment only."


Museum hours will be set during the weeks leading up to the re-enactment. This summer will be the Matsons' 21st and final gunfight before heading to sunny Arizona, where the OK Corral is located.


Matson said she and her husband plan to auction off some personal items this year, go to Arizona for the winter and return to auction the Earp property in 2008.


The home is listed on eBay.


Matson hopes the new owners do something to continue the tradition in Monmouth.


"We are about to have our 10,000th visitor at the museum," she said. "We have had a pretty good turnout for the re-enactment some years, depending on what we had to spend on advertisement. Robert and I have had the honor of meeting some interesting people over the years. Visitors from 32 countries and every state except Rhode Island have come here."