Source: Valley Roadrunner

Valley Center has link to two infamous gunmen

by ROBERT LERNER, Historian Valley Center Historical Society

August 14, 2013

Two of the toughest and deadliest gunmen of their day have a connection to Valley Center. Both have become folk heroes.

One was Wyatt Earp, the legendary frontiersman-lawman-outlaw; the other was Joaquin Murieta, known in his day as the “Mexican Robin Hood.” Myths and legends surround both men, often making it difficult to separate fact from fiction. But here is what historians at the Valley Center History Museum believe to be the true stories.

Wyatt Earp, who lived in many towns during his lifetime, actually resided in San Diego County longer than anywhere else. During the latter part of his life, he would visit Margaret (Peggy) McNally at her adobe home and 310-acre ranch on McNally Road in Valley Center. The two were related by marriage. She referred to Earp as her uncle; he called her his niece. It is believed that McNally was the granddaughter of Adelia Earp, sister to Wyatt.

After McNally’s death in 1968, a photo was found inside her house showing Wyatt Earp in a lounge chair. That photo, which is on permanent exhibit at the History Museum, was dated 1928, one year before he died.

Joaquin Murieta was one of the most feared and hunted outlaws in early California history. A one-time gold miner, he led a gang whose robberies and murders terrorized the state for years. Press coverage of his crimes turned him into a celebrity bandit.

Shortly before Murieta was shot and killed by state rangers in 1853, it was discovered that he had been hiding in Valley Center for almost one year. He and his henchmen had set up camp on the grounds of the John Brown property in Moosa Canyon off Old Castle Road.

The renowned bandit remained a celebrity long after his death. His pickled head was placed in ajar and taken on public tour until it caught fire in a San Francisco saloon in 1906. Murieta was said to have inspired the fictional character Zorro.