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... gecoach for Denver, Colorado. Along the way, he stopped at Fort Griffin which, at the time, was the center of a flourishing cattle industry. Approximately two thousand hunters and cowboys annually visited Ft. Griffin. Their money and existence attracted gamblers and prostitutes alike, quickly giving Ft. Griffin the reputation as the craziest town in Texas.
Docs stay was cut short when he was again arrested for gambling which was more than likely, a sign of showing a newcomer unwelcomeness rather than upholding the law. Holliday got the point and swiftly left Fort Griffin. John finally reached Denver in the summer of 1875. He assumed the alias of Tom Mackey in order to start a new life and, perhaps, calm the lifestyle that had kept his sickness active. He got a job dealing faro and largely stayed to himself. Yet, in early 1876, after hearing stories of the booming city of Cheyenne, Doc quickly left Denver for the Wyoming city.
Doc didnt let the paint dry in Cheyenne before he was off to Dead Wood where he spent the winter of 1876. Doc then headed to Breckenridge where, while playing cards with a local gambler by the name of Henry Kahn, a fight broke out between the two men. Doc caned Kahn repeatedly with his walking stick. Both men were arrested and fined. The conflict would not end there. Later that day, Kahn grew more violent and shot Doc, seriously impairing him.
Nineteen days later, George Holliday, Roberts older brother, reached Breckenridge to nurse the frail and injured Doc Holliday back to health. After attempting to convince him to return Georgia and seeing to his full recovery, George and John parted ways once again. Doc, unfazed, returned to Fort Griffin settling back into a lifestyle of poker and faro. This is where and when he first met Kate Elder. He found Kate to be intellectually and compassionately stimulating. From this point in his life on, Big Nose Kate came in and out of his life repeatedly.
Also during this stop in Fort Griffin, Doc Holliday met Wyatt Earp. All seemed to be going well when, yet, another event turmoiled Docs life. While playing poker with a local by the name of Ed Bailey, Doc cut him with a knife after he had discovered that Mr. Bailey had been examining the discarded cards. Before Doc cut him, Bailey had drawn his pistol after ignoring several warnings from Holliday regarding the cards. Doc was arrested but was allowed to go under house arrest because of the uncertain claim of self-defense.
When Kate saw men outside of his hotel, calling for Docs head, she knew that she had to get Doc out of Ft. Griffin. She did this by setting a nearby shed on fire as a diversion; thus she and Doc were able to slip out of town. They headed north to Dodge City, following the advice of Wyatt Earp regarding the up and coming town. Doc put up his dentistry sign yet again, but did not give up the cards, which dictated his nightlife. Doc settled into Dodge City, where he became friends with many of the lawmen therein; Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson in particular. This was also the time where his friendship with Wyatt Earp reached a new level.
According to Wyatt, Doc saved his life when a man attempted to attack him from behind. Although financially successful in Dodge City, Docs health deteriorated and became a big concern. He, thereafter, left for Las Vegas. There, Doc tried, wholeheartedly, to recover and rehabilitate himself. He opened his dental practice and attempted to lay low in order to assist his recovery. As the railroad reached Las Vegas, Holliday tried his hand at owning the Holliday Saloon. What seemed like the beginning of a permanent lifestyle, was quickly changed when Wyatt told Doc of yet, another booming town that he and the other Earps were heading towards, Tombstone.
While picking up Virgil Earp in Prescott, Doc found a faro game and continued to do well in it. Thus, when the Earps headed to Tombstone, Holliday decided not to go with them, preferring instead to keep winning. Instead of going directly to Tombstone, he went back to Las Vegas to finalize some business affairs. While there, he ran into Charlie White, who he had previously had a run-in with. As soon as Charlie spotted Doc, he started shooting at him. Doc then returned fire and dropped White to the floor. Convinced he had killed White, Holliday, headed out of town.
In actuality, White had only been grazed and was momentarily stunned, but after realizing what had transpired, Charlie got on a train and headed to Boston in an attempt to never cross paths with Doc again. Doc arrived in Tombstone in September 1880. Once there, he found that Wyatt, Morgan, Virgil, and James Earp were all entrenched in the economy and thus, he too, started investing in local businesses. Typical of the pattern of his life, trouble forms in the form of Milt Joyce. While in a skirmish with Doc, Joyce was shot in the left hand and his partner was shot in the foot. Doc was arrested for assault with a deadly weapon but plead to a misdemeanor charge where he paid a fine $20 and $11.25 in court fees. Once again, Doc entered a gun battle in which no one really got hurt and no one paid the price for risky behavior.
That slowly started to change due to Docs growing reputation as a gunfighter. In March of 1881, false rumors circulated that Doc Holliday was implicated in the robbery of a stagecoach in which two men were killed. Although false, Doc would spend the next six months avoiding both lawmen and vigilantes who took the rumors to be true. In an attempt to prove Docs innocence, Wyatt Earp sought to find those that actually committed the crime to testify to Doc not being present at the scene of the crime. Unfortunately, none could be taken alive and the killing of those that Wyatt Earp found, only created further hostilities towards the Earps and Doc Holliday. One individual in particular, Ike Clanton, was persistent in his hate of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday. In October of 1881, he was found announcing to all that would listen that he planned on killing Doc Holliday and the Earps. This led up to the infamous incident at the OK Corral.
There were numerous claims by townsfolk that Ike and members of his gang were armed and looking for Doc Holliday and the Earps. Doc quickly met up with Morgan, Virgil, and Wyatt and began the slow walk to the OK Corral. There they found Ike and Billy Clanton, Frank and Tom McLaury, and Billy Claiborne armed and looking for trouble. Marshall Virgil Earp called out to Ike and his men to throw up their hands. The response was immediate as two shots were heard. Who fired first is uncertain yet unimportant as the gunfight was inevitably going to occur.
During the next thirty seconds, shots were heard one after the other. Doc killed Tom McLaurey with his shotgun. He then tossed his shotgun and withdrew his pistol, where upon he fired at Frank McLaurey. During those thirty seconds, the McLaurey Brothers and Billy Clanton were killed and Morgan Earp was injured. Doc Holliday, the often portrayed ruthless killer, went back to his room and, according to Kate Elder, sat on the side of the bed and cried. Three days later, the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday were charged with the killing of the McLaurey brothers. Justice Spicer, who was in charge of the case, indicated that Virgil Earp, acting as Chief of Police, along with Doc and his brothers who were all deputized, were discharging their official duty, and therefore committed no crime. The verdict enraged Ike, Clanton, and his crew known as the Cowboys.
Threats circulated Tombstone regarding the Cowboys revenge upon Doc and the Earps. In March of 1882, Morgan Earp was fatally shot while playing billiards. Wyatt Earp, a spectator at the billiard game, held his wounded brother and promised to get revenge. When Doc got news about Morgans death, he went mad, kicking in doors of private homes looking for the possible killers. Wyatt blamed the entire Cowboy gang for his brothers murder and, along with Doc, became obsessed with erradicating his enemies. Wyatt, Doc, Warren Earp, Sherman McMasters, Turkey Creek Johnson, and Texas Jack Vermillion became a posse with the sole purpose of seeing Morgans killer come to justice.
This posse eventually led to the death of Frank Stilwell, Florentino Cruz, Curly Bill Brocius, Johnny Barned, and John Ringo. Although chased by authorities and Cowboy sympathizers, Wyatt and Doc were never actually found guilty of any of these crimes due to lack of evidence. After these events, Doc moved on to Leadville. In Leadville, a silver enriched boomtown, Doc went back to his typical life of gambling. Also during this time, Docs Tuberculosis worsened. This, coupled with pneumonia, which he caught several times, led to a fast decline in Docs health. Even with the deterioration of his health Doc found time for one more gunfight.
This time with Billy Allen, who was looking to settle some old debts. Again John Holliday was found not guilty, this time due to the motive of self-defense. This gunfight took more out of him than the others though, due to seven months spent in jail awaiting trail, devastating his health beyond repair. Doc found time for only one more trip as he headed to Glenwood Springs with Kate in October of 1887. This last and desperate attempt to secure his health was fruitless. Docs health was beyond repair and he died there in the care of Kate Elder.
The constant battle against tuberculosis that he had fought so long had finally claimed him. John Doc Holliday lived a life full of travel and adventure, yet plagued with the misfortune of disease. Wyatt Earp said it best when he described Doc as, A dentist who necessity made a gambler. A gentleman who disease made a frontier vagabond. A long, lean ash-blond fellow nearly dead with consumption and, at the same time, the most skillful gambler and the nerviest, speediest, deadliest man with a six-gun I ever knew. Bibliography: Works Consulted.
1. Linder, Shirley. When the dealings done, John H. (Doc) Holliday and the evolution of the Western Myth. Journal of the West, Vol. 37, No. 3, page 53-60. 2.
Marks, Paula. And Die in the West. New York: William, Morrow and Company, Inc., 1989. 3. Tanner, Karen Holliday. Doc Holliday:A Family Portrait. Norman: Oklahoma Press Co., 1998.
4. Walters, Lorenzo D. Tombstones Yesterday. Glorietta: Rio Grande Press, 1968..
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