||Doc Holliday was involved in the westward expansion of the USA.|
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John Henry Holliday was born August 14, 1851 in Griffin, Georgia. His parents were Henry Burroughs Holliday and Alice Jane McKey. John's father served in the Mexican American War and the Civil War. John's mother died of tuberculosis in 1866. His father remarried, to Rachel Martin. Afterwards, the family moved to Valdosta, Georgia, where John attended the Valdosta Institute.
On March 1, 1872, John earned a Doctor of Dental Surgery degree from the Pennsylvania College of Dental Surgery and then moved to Atlanta, Georgia where he worked in the office of Arthur C. Ford. He later returned to his hometown of Griffin and opened his own practice.
|Mary Katharine Horony|
John Holliday next moved to Dallas, Texas, where he practiced dentistry with John Seegar. After some scandal in Dallas, John moved along to Fort Griffin, Texas. It was around this time that people started calling him Doc. While in Fort Griffin he met Mary Katharine Horony, sometimes known as Kate Elder, but better known as Big Nose Kate. It isn't clear if the couple ever officially married, but they regularly presented themselves as husband and wife.
John remained on the move during this time, found in various cities around the Southwest. He finally settled in Dodge City for a while, and practiced dentistry out of his rooms during the day while gambling all night. In 1878, Doc made his fateful acquaintance with Wyatt Earp, as he found himself in a showdown with some rowdy cowboys. Earp was soon to be assistant city marshal, serving under Charlie Bassett. Doc was introduced to Wyatt by John Shanssey, a mutual friend. Doc became good friends with Wyatt, as well as his brothers.
Doc traveled around the West and ended up in Las Vegas, New Mexico, where he opened a saloon. Before long, he had killed a former U.S. Army scout named Mike Gordon in an altercation. Authorities tried to capture Doc for questioning, but he left and joined his friends in Tombstone.
The Earp brothers had been in Tombstone, Arizona since December 1879. Some stories state that the Earps sent for Doc when they realized the problems they faced in their feud with the cowboys in the area.
A feud had developed between the Earp brothers and a gang led by Ike Clanton. At 3:00 p.m., Wednesday, October 26, 1881 in Tombstone, Arizona, near Fly's Boarding House and Picture Studio, where Doc Holliday had a room, there was a gun fight with Marshal Virgil Earp and his brothers, Assistant Marshal Morgan and temporary lawman Wyatt on one side of the venture. They were aided by Doc Holliday, sworn in as a temporary marshal by Virgil. On the other side were the outlaw Cowboys Billy Claiborne, Ike, Billy Clanton, Tom McLaury, and Frank McLaury. Ike and Billy Claiborne ran away from the fight and were unharmed, but Ike's brother, Billy Clanton, was killed, along with both McLaurys. Virgil and Morgan Earp were wounded. Wyatt and Doc were not injured.
The gunfight is believed to have lasted only 30 seconds but is regarded as the most famous gunfight in the history of the American Old West. Doc's companion, Big Nosed Kate, remembered Holliday's reaction after his role in the gunfight. She reported that Doc came back to his room, sat on the bed, wept, and said, "That was awful, awful." After the gunfight, a 30 day hearing found that the Earps and Holliday had acted within their duty as lawmen, although this did nothing to appease Ike Clantons.
On 27 December 1881, Virgil Earp was shot and injured. On 19 March 1882, Morgan Earp was ambushed and killed. After Morgan was murdered, Virgil and many remaining members of the Earp families left town. Doc and Wyatt stayed in Tombstone to hunt down Ike Clanton and the other members of the Cowboys gang. Several of the Cowboys were identified in the shooting of Virgil Earp and the killing of Morgan Earp. Wyatt Earp was made Deputy U.S. Marshall after Virgil was shot. He deputized Doc, Warren Earp, Sherman McMaster, and Turkey Creek Jack Johnson. Doc was by this time very sick with tuberculosis but he still managed to ride with the posse in search of the Cowboys.
Wyatt, Doc, and the rest of the posse stayed with Virgil Earp and his wife, Allie, as they made their way to the train leaving for California. They spotted Frank Stilwell and Ike Clanton, who were lying in wait to kill Virgil. Frank Stilwell's body was found alongside the railroad tracks on March 20, 1882. His body was riddled with gunshot wounds, specifically shotgun wounds. Wyatt said he was the one who shot and killed Frank Stilwell, but Doc was the only one documented to have carried a shotgun at that time. Charles Meyer, Tucson Justice of the Peace, issued arrest warrants for five of the Earp posse, including Doc Holliday.
At Iron Springs, located in the Whetstone Mountains, they came upon eight of the Cowboys, who were well hidden and ambushed the posse. Wyatt and company were outnumbered. Doc, Johnson, and McMaster ran to find cover. Wyatt Earp killed Curly Bill Brocius, who was a prime suspect in Morgan's death. Wyatt then shot Johnny Barnes in the chest and Milt Hicks in the shoulder. Doc and four other members of the posse were still wanted for Frank Stilwell's death. They decided to leave the Arizona Territory for New Mexico and then Colorado. Wyatt and Doc split up, going to different parts of Colorado.
Doc was arrested in Denver on May 15, 1882 for the murder of Frank Stilwell. Wyatt was worried that Doc would not receive a fair trial in Arizona. He went to his friend, Bat Masterson, Chief of Police of Trinidad, Colorado to see if he could get Doc released. Masterson took Doc to Pueblo,Colorado, where he was released on bond two weeks later. June 1882 in Gunnison, Colorado, Doc and Wyatt saw each other for a short time after Doc's release.
Johnny Ringo, associated with Clanton's Cowboys, was found dead on July 14, 1882,in West Turkey Creek Valley. He had a bullet hole in his right temple and an exit wound at the back of his head. A number of people have been accused of his murder, including Doc Holliday, Wyatt Earp, Michael O'Rourke, and Buckskin Frank Leslie. Josephine Marcus Earp wrote a book, I Married Wyatt Earp, where she wrote that Wyatt and Doc returned to Arizona to kill Johnny Ringo. She insisted that Doc killed Ringo with a rifle shot at a distance. The coroner's ruling found that Ringo's death was a suicide. Ringo was depressed after being rejected by his remaining family members in California and the recent deaths of his outlaw friends. He started binge drinking and isolated himself. Despondent over his overall state, Ringo shot himself.
Doc Holliday spent the rest of his life in Colorado. He began to use alcohol and laudanum more and more to ease the symptoms of the tuberculosis. He moved to the Hotel Glenwood, near the hot springs of Glenwood Springs, Colorado. As he lay dying, Holliday is reported to have asked the nurse attending him at the Hotel Glenwood for a shot of whiskey. When she told him no, he looked at his bootless feet, amused. The nurses said that his last words were, "Damn, this is funny." Doc Holliday died at 10 am on November 8, 1887. He was 36. It was reported that no one ever thought that Doc Holliday would die in bed with his boots off.
Wyatt Earp said,"I found him a loyal friend and good company. He was a dentist whom necessity had made a gambler, a gentleman whom disease had made a vagabond, a philosopher whom life had made a caustic wit, a long, lean, blonde fellow nearly dead with consumption and at the same time Doc was the most skillful gambler and the nerviest, fastest, deadliest man with a six-gun I ever saw." Wyatt Earp wasn't with Doc when he died. He learned of Doc's death two months afterward.
Virgil Earp said of Doc, "There was something very peculiar about Doc. He was gentlemanly, a good dentist, a friendly man and yet, outside of us boys, I don't think he had a friend in the Territory. Tales were told that he had murdered men in different parts of the country; that he had robbed and committed all manner of crimes, and yet, when persons were asked how they knew it, they could only admit it was hearsay, and that nothing of the kind could really be traced to Doc's account. He was a slender, sickly fellow, but whenever a stage was robbed or a row started, and help was needed, Doc was one of the first to saddle his horse and report for duty."
|Headstone of Doc Holliday in Glenwood Springs, Colorado|
|Second headstone, replaced after the cemetery posted the wrong date on the first. It isn't clear where in the cemetery Doc is actually buried.|
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