So much has been written about Doc which is questionable that I must place a disclamier here. I have not researched John Henry Holliday. The information presented here comes from many sources which I have not verified.
As many already know Doc was born in 1851 in Griffin, Georgia and his reason for heading out West was due to tuberculosis.
His first stop was Dallas, Texas which may have been his stopping point only because the rail line went no further.
That was in the fall of 1873 and Doc had hoped to start his Dental practice but his illness chased away any customers he may have had.
How Doc came to learn he had a knack for gambling is up for debate but learn he did. Doc quickly discovered he had a natural proficiency in gambling, particularly with poker and faro, and started to frequent saloons. In those days, a gambler in the west had to be able to protect himself, for he stood alone. Doc was well aware of this and faithfully practiced with six-gun and knife. On January 2, 1875, Doc and a local saloon keeper, named Austin, had a disagreement that flared into violence. Each man went for his pistol. Several shots were fired, but not one struck its intended target. According to the Dallas Weekly Herald, both shooters were arrested. Most of the local citizens thought such a gunfight highly amusing, but changed their views a few days later when Doc put two large holes through a prominent citizen, leaving him very dead. Feelings ran high over this killing and Doc was forced to flee Dallas just ahead of a posse. He landed in Jacksboro, Texas which was west of Dallas. There he found a job dealing Faro. Jacksboro was a tough cow-town situated near an Army post.
Doc now carried a gun in a shoulder holster, one on his hip, and a long, wicked knife as well. Reports confirm the fact that he was becoming an expert with these weapons as he was involved in three gunfights in a very short span of time. One of these left another dead man to Doc's credit. Since this was a pretty wild section of the West at that time, no law action was taken against him. During the summer of 1876, Holliday again became a participant in a gunfight. On this occasion, he was careless enough to kill a soldier from Fort Richardson. The killing brought the United States Government into the investigation.
As the story continues, Doc hit the trail again. But this time his back trail was cluttered with the Army, U.S. Marshals, Texas Rangers, and local lawmen and citizens, who were anxious to collect the reward offered for him. Holliday knew that if he was captured, his neck would be stretched with very few preliminaries, so he headed straight into Apache country for Colorado, eight hundred miles away. Stopping for short periods at Pueblo, Leadville, Georgetown and Central City, three more men went down by his guns before he reached Denver. There he went by the name of Tom Mackey and was practically unknown until he was involved in an argument with Bud Ryan, while dealing Faro at Babbitt's House.
In the ensuing fight, Doc cut Ryan up pretty good. Ryan, who was a well-known gambling tough, survived the vicious slashing, but his face and neck were horribly mutilated. Although his victim did not die, public resentment forced Doc to flee again. He drifted on to Wyoming, then to New Mexico, and from there to Fort Griffin, Texas. It was there that Doc met the only woman who was ever to come into his life. She was known as "Big Nose" Kate, a frontier dance hall woman and prostitute, so some say. It was quite true that Kate's nose was prominent, but her other features were quite attractive. Her ample curves were generous and all in the right places. Tough, stubborn, fearless, and high tempered, she worked at the business of being a Madam and a prostitute because she liked it! She belonged to no man or no Madam's House, but plied her trade as an individual in the manner she chose.
Doc met her while he was dealing cards in John Shanssey's saloon. It was also at Shanssey's that he met Wyatt Earp, another person who was to have a great deal of influence on his life. Earp rode in from Dodge City on the trail of Dave Rudabaugh, who was wanted for train robbery. While Doc was helping Wyatt gain the information he needed, they became fast friends. Holliday had already gained the reputation of being a cold-blooded killer. Many believed that he liked to kill, but that was not true. He was simply a hot-tempered Southerner who stood aside for no man. Bat Masterson said of him: "Doc Holliday was afraid of nothing on earth". Doc could be described as a fatalist. He knew that he was already condemned to a slow, painful death. If his death was quick and painless, who was he to object! Actually, he expected a quick demise because of the violent life he lived.
A bully boy of Fort Griffin sat down in a poker game with Holliday. His name was Ed Bailey and he had grown accustomed to having his way with no one questioning his actions. Doc's reputation seemed to make no impression on him what-so-ever. In an obvious attempt to irritate Doc, Bailey kept picking up the discards and looking through them. This was strictly against the rules of Western poker, and anyone who broke this rule forfeited the pot. Holliday warned Bailey twice, but the erstwhile bad man ignored his protests. The very next hand Bailey picked up the discards again. Without saying a word Doc reached out and raked in the pot without showing his hand, Bailey brought a six-shooter from under the table, while a large knife materialized in Doc's hand. Before the local bully could pull the trigger, Doc, with one slash, completely disemboweled him. Spilling blood everywhere, Bailey sprawled across the table.
As he felt that he was obviously only protecting himself and in the right, Doc stuck around town and allowed the Marshal to arrest him. That was certainly a mistake, for once he had been disarmed and locked up, Bailey's friends and the town vigilantes began a clamor for his blood. "Big Nose" Kate knew that Doc was finished unless someone did something and quick. Likely as not, the local lawmen would turn the slim gunman over to the mob. Kate went into action by setting fire to an old shed. It burned so rapidly that the flames threatened to engulf the town. Everyone went to fight the fire with the exception of three people: Kate, Doc, and the Officer who guarded him. As soon as the lawman and his prisoner were left alone, she stepped in and confronted them. A pistol in each hand, she disarmed the startled guard, then passed a pistol to Doc and the two of them vanished into the night.
They headed for Dodge City, four hundred miles away, on "borrowed" horses. The couple registered at Deacon Cox's Boarding House in Dodge City as Dr. and Mrs. J. H. Holliday. Doc felt he owed Kate a great deal for rescuing him from a hanging in Fort Griffin and was determined to do anything in his power to make her happy. Kate gave up being a prostitute and inhabiting the saloons. Doc gave up gambling and hung out his shingle again. All of Doc's good intentions were totally unappreciated and did not endure for long. Kate stood the quiet and boredom of respectable living as long as she could. Then she told Doc that she was going back to the bright lights and excitement of the dance halls and gambling dens. Consequently, the two split up, as they were destined to do many times during the remainder of Doc's life.
September found Doc back dealing Faro in the Long Branch Saloon. A number of Texas cowboys had just arrived in Dodge City with a herd of cattle. After many weeks on the trail, they were a wild, salty bunch, ready to "tree" Dodge. Word was brought into the Long Branch that several of the trail drivers had Wyatt Earp cornered and were boasting that they intended to shoot him down. Doc leaped through the door, gun in hand. When he arrived, two cowboys, Morrison and Driscoll, were holding cocked revolvers on Wyatt, goading him to draw before they shot him down. About twenty of their friends also stood nearby, taunting and insulting the enraged, but helpless, Wyatt. Holliday loosed a volume of profanity and, as the self-styled bad men turned to face Doc, Wyatt rapped Morrison over the head with his long barrel Colt. Then he set about relieving the other cowboys of their guns. Wyatt never forgot the fact that Doc Holliday saved his life that night in Dodge City.
Kate and Doc soon had another of their frequent, violent quarrels and Doc, in a furious mood, saddled his horse and rode out to Trinidad, Colorado. Shortly after he arrived in town, a young gambler, known as "Kid Colton", wishing to make himself a reputation, badgered Doc into a fight. Doc's gun roared twice and Colton collapsed in the dust of the street. Under such circumstances, Doc did not wish to linger around, and rode on into New Mexico. In the summer of 1879, Doc tried his hand as a dentist for the last time in Las Vegas, New Mexico. It was a very weak attempt and ended in a short time when he bought a saloon on Center Street. A few weeks later, he got into an argument with a local gunman, named Mike Gordon, who, by all evidence, was rather popular with the locals. Not one to mince words, Doc politely invited him to start shooting whenever he felt like it and then shot him three times in the stomach. A mob quickly gathered and began plans for decorating a hang tree, using Doc as an ornament. Wisely, Doc disappeared like smoke. Since he had to move on again, Doc knew the one place he would be safe in was Dodge City. After all, Wyatt Earp was his friend. But when he rode back into town, he discovered that Wyatt had gone to a new silver strike, in a place called Tombstone, Arizona.
There was nothing to hold him in Dodge City with Wyatt gone, so Doc headed West, bound for Tombstone. Without Doc knowing it, he would soon get to know more of the Earp family, for all of the Earp brothers were bound for Tombstone. Morgan was coming in from Montana, Wyatt and James from Dodge City and Virgil from Prescott, where Marshal Crawley Dake had just made him a Deputy U.S. Marshal. Virgil left Prescott for Tombstone without Holliday , who was having a fantastic run of luck at the poker tables.
"Big Nose" Kate, also enroute to the new boom town of Tombstone, caught up with Doc in Prescott while he was still winning at poker. The two of them reached Tombstone in the early summer of 1880 and Doc, with $40,000 of the Prescott gamblers' money in his pockets, found Kate very happy to be in his company.
In Tombstone, Doc found Kate's living quarters sandwiched between a funeral parlor and the Soma Winery on the North side of Allen Street, at Sixth Street. Kate was quick to realize opportunity and, soon after her arrival in Tombstone, went into business and was soon making a sizable income. She purchased a large tent, rounded up several girls, a few barrels of bad, cheap whiskey and operated Tombstone's first "sporting house".
The outlaw gang in Tombstone had things their way for quite some time and they resented the arrival of the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday. "Old man" Clanton, his sons, Ike, Phin, and Billy, the McLaury brothers, Frank and Tom, Curly Bill Brocius, John Ringo and their followers lost no time in expressing their displeasure. Doc had become quite famous as a gunman by the time he had reached Tombstone. Several men had died in encounters with him. At any rate, Holliday was a welcome addition to the Earp's fight with the "Cowboy" faction.
Johnny Tyler and Doc had a dispute in the Oriental Saloon, early in October, 1880. Tyler left as quickly as possible but Doc and Milt Joyce, the saloon owner, continue to argue. The argument turned into gunplay and Doc drunkenly fired several shots. Finally, Milt struck Doc on the head with a pistol. When the affair ended Joyce had been shot through the hand, Parker, his bartender, was shot through the toe on the left foot and Holliday had a lump on his head from the pistol-whipping by Joyce. Doc was arrested and charged with assault with a deadly weapon. He was found guilty by Justice Reilly and fined $20 for assault and battery and $11.25 costs.
Once they were settled in town, Holliday and "Big Nose" Kate took up where they had left off. Although they lived together , Doc went back to drinking and gambling and Kate to her operation as a prostitute. Their arguments were frequent, but not really serious until Kate got drunk and abusive. Doc, at this point, decided that enough was enough and threw her out. As fate would have it, four masked men attempted a hold up on a stagecoach near Contention on March 15, 1881. In the attempt, they killed two men: Bud Philpot, the stage driver, and Peter Roerig, a passenger. The Cowboy faction immediately seized upon the opportunity and accused Doc Holliday of being one of the holdup men. Sheriff Behan and Deputy Stilwell found Kate on one of her drunken binges, still berating Doc for throwing her out. They sympathized with her and fed her more whiskey, then persuaded her to sign an affidavit that Doc had been one of the masked highwaymen and had actually pulled the trigger on the shot that killed Bud Philpot.
While Kate was sobering up, the Earps began to round up witnesses who could verify Doc's whereabouts on the night in question. When Kate realized what she had done, she regretted her actions and repudiated her statement. Since witnesses and Kate's new stand exposed the Cowboy frame-up, Doc was released. The District Attorney labeled the charges as ridiculous and threw them out. Doc gave Kate some money and put her on a stage leaving town. As far as he was concerned, his debt to her was paid in full. "Big Nose" Kate was a far different woman than most of the people in Tombstone realized. She had been born Mary Katherine Horony, in Budapest, Hungary on November 7, 1850. During her long life she was to use many last names: Elder, Melvin, Fisher, Holliday, Cummings and Howard. She did not travel far on the stage, only to Globe. Evidently, she made two or three trips back to Tombstone to visit Doc as she claimed to be a witness to the gunfight. She may have been, as she and Doc were staying in a room at Mrs. Fly's.
Most likely that is why the Cowboys were in a vacant lot next door near the O.K. Corral. They may have been waiting for Doc to come back to the room they shared where they would have an opportunity to kill him.
On January 17, 1882, came the famous confrontation between Wyatt, Doc and Ringo. Many writers would say that Ringo challenged all the Earps and Holliday. Not true. Virgil and Morgan were incapacitated with painful wounds. Ringo wasn't running much risk as there was little chance that they would accept his challenge. They knew that Ringo had been drinking heavily and that the Whiskey was talking. In addition, they had troubles enough from the aftermath of the gunfight at O.K. Corral. Ringo was well aware of all this.
After the Vendetta ride dust up,in which Doc Holliday accounted for more than his share of the Cowboys, and when he and Wyatt Earp left Tombstone for good, they rode their horses to Silver City, New Mexico, sold them, rode a stage to Deming, and boarded a train for Colorado.
Doc was arrested in Denver shortly after his arrival. The arresting officer was a man named Perry Mallan. (Some believe that he was actually a brother to Johnny Tyler, a foe of Holliday and would-be gunman, that Doc ran out of Tombstone). While Doc was in jail the Denver Republican of May 22, 1882, ran the following: "Holliday has a big reputation as a fighter, and has probably put more rustlers and cowboys under the sod than any other one man in the west. He had been the terror of the lawless element in Arizona, and with the Earps was the only man brave enough to face the bloodthirsty crowd which has made the name of Arizona a stench in the nostrils of decent men."
Doc's troubles, concerning extradition to Arizona, ended and the following article was in the Rocky Mountain News, May 30, 1882: "Doc Holliday's case was finally disposed of by Governor Pitkin yesterday, his Excellency deciding that he could not honor the requisition from Arizona. The District Attorney's Office was represented by Honorable I.E. Barnum, Assistant District Attorney, who was accompanied in his visit to the Governor by Deputy Sheriff Linton and Sheriff Paul of Arizona. Among others present were Deputy Sheriff Masterson (Bat) of Trinidad and several friends of Holliday."
Doc left Denver and went to Pueblo and from there to Leadville. It was there that he ran into two old enemies from Tombstone, Billy Allen and Johnny Tyler. Friends advised Doc that Allen had threatened him and was looking for him with a pistol. Around 5 PM on August 19, 1884, Doc strolled into Hyman's Saloon, and placed himself at the end of the bar near the cigar lighter. As Billy Allen crossed the threshold, Doc leveled his pistol and fired creasing Allen's head. Reaching over the tobacco counter, Doc shot him again through the left arm below the shoulder. Holliday would have shot him again, but bystanders disarmed him. Allen was much larger than Doc and had obviously threatened him publicly so Doc was acquitted of the shooting charges.
|Gleenwood Springs Hotel
Doc Holliday had come West years before, knowing his days were numbered. Long before his death he had maintained that he would not die in bed coughing his guts out. He always believed that he would be killed by a quicker, easier death than that planned for him by destiny. He often said that his end would come from lead poisoning, at the end of a rope, a knife in his ribs, or that he might drink himself to death. That's why he considered it funny when he died peacefully in bed. Doc was the best of the Western gamblers and he lost his biggest bet when he died of tuberculosis. The greater part of his years had been lived on borrowed time. His remains were buried in their final resting place in the Glenwood Cemetery (Old Hill Cemetery), Colorado.