Doc Holliday: A Grave with a View
June 7th, 1879. A former Army scout came into a small saloon in Las Vegas, New Mexico. He wanted his girlfriend to quit her job as a saloon girl. When she refused, he went out into the street to shoot up the town. The saloonkeeper let him fire off a couple of shots before he calmly stepped outside and dropped the lovelorn scout with one bullet.
This was Doc Holliday’s first killing. Three more would follow… or ten more. Some say eighteen and that Doc was arrested seventeen times, without a single charge sticking. It’s hard to say when you’re dealing with a legend. Even if it was more fiction than fact, I wanted to visit the gunslinger’s grave.
In any case, Doc Holliday’s life and death are a colorful part of American history. He was born in 1851 in a small town in Georgia. His full name was John Henry Holliday. His family was middle-class: his father was a druggist, and his mother tried to instill her son with Southern manners and etiquette. Though a gunslinger, he was a gentleman about it.
Doc’s mother passed away from tuberculosis when he was fifteen (the same disease that would later claim him). Subsequently, he enrolled in a two-year dentistry course at the University of Pennsylvania. After Doc was diagnosed with tuberculosis, he headed to Dallas, Texas in 1874 for its drier climate.
The nightlife of Dallas was too enticing, and soon Doc Holliday was making more money from gambling than dentistry. He began drifting around the Southwest until he befriended Wyatt Earp. In 1878, he defended Earp in a saloon shootout, against a group of men in Dodge City, Kansas.
After this the two often traveled together, including to Tombstone, Arizona, where the infamous OK Corral took place.
Six years later, the effects of the tuberculosis wore Doc down. He moved to Glenwood Springs, Colorado in hopes of easing the disease. Doc Holliday fell into a coma at a hotel, and passed away on November 8th, 1887.
Lane & Juliet
The writing and photography team behind Southwest Compass, the travel blog for the American Southwest.