John Holliday nicknamed "Doc" is one of the legendary characters of the Wild West. In the middle of the nineteenth century, his name was known to everyone, and only a few risked calling him to a gunfight or trying to beat him at the card table.
Having lived only thirty-six years, Doc went down in American history as an incredibly fast and marksman, a skilled poker player and a real desperado, not afraid of death.
He was expected to have a brilliant career in dentistry, but health problems forced the guy to give up the practice and burn his life in saloons, where his companions were cards, whiskey, and revolvers.
On the bright path of life of John will be discussed in the article.
John Henry Holliday was born on August 14, 1851 in Griffin, Georgia. He was the only native child in the family. His only sister had died a few months before John was born. Also, the parents raised an adopted son Francisco.
Halliday's father fought in the civil war on the side of south, and later worked as a doctor. Mother, causa soul in the son, was a housewife and thoroughly involved in the upbringing of her son.
John was born with a cleft palate. In the first months of his life, he underwent surgery by uncle John Stiles Halliday, after whom the boy was named. In childhood, he poorly spoke, and only thanks to mother's efforts he managed to get rid of this shortage.
The guy was raised in the tradition of wealthy families of the South. From a young age, he spent his free time on horseback and constantly practiced shooting from a different weapon.
John got along well with his mother, but when he was fifteen she died of tuberculosis. Francisco died of the same disease.
With the world of card games, young John introduced a slave Sophie Walton, who lived and worked in their family. She taught him to play poker, Faro and other popular games.
Study and career as a dentist
John received a good education. He wrote well, was well-read, was able to keep any conversation, knew French, Latin and Greek.
After graduating from high school, he enrolled in the Pennsylvania College of dental surgery, where he received his doctorate. The graduate was awarded his diploma six months before his twenty-first birthday. This was the minimum age to start a medical practice, so John had to wait until he could work in the specialty.
He then moved to Atlanta, Georgia, where he opened a dental office. His private practice flourished. From wanting to treat teeth in a talented young doctor was not rebound. That's when they called him Doc Holiday.
But within a year, John had to leave the town. He was diagnosed with tuberculosis. The disease required a warm climate, and holiday moved to the Southwest.
Change of life orientations
At first, John continued to work as a dentist, but every day he was less interested in a doctor career and was more fascinated by the local saloons. He became addicted to alcohol and played poker for a long time.
But tuberculosis remained the main problem for him. The coughing attacks became more prolonged and uncontrollable, so holiday was forced to leave the dental practice.
There was nothing to prevent him from concentrating on his card games. Gradually he gained fame as a skilled player.
His deteriorating health made him short-tempered and irritable. He often got into fights and threw his fists at anyone who dared to accuse him of cheating. If John ever lost, he would draw a knife or a revolver and take money from his opponents, claiming that he had been cheated.
Shootout at O. K. Corral
For several years Doc roamed the West, living by playing cards. One day he met a guy named Wyatt Berry Stapp Earp, with whom the hot-tempered John suddenly got along well. They played poker together, leaving no chance to rivals. Once, an opponent pointed a gun at Wyatt. John instantly drew his revolver and shot the insolent man.
On October twenty-sixth, 1881, there was an event that later portrayed in a half dozen feature films. In the city of Tombstone, at O. K. Corral Doc and Wyatt Earp with two brothers staged a shootout with cowboys, who traded robbery and theft of cattle.
Virgil Earp, Wyatt's brother, was a law enforcement officer who could legally apprehend criminals. They found bandits and at first suggested them to leave the city peacefully. They refused.
The history is silent about who fired first, but for the next half a minute there were fired about thirty bullets. Only Wyatt and Virgil had sustained minor injuries in Doc's company. The losses of their opponents were much greater: three killed, the rest fled.
Relatives of the victims sued Halliday and Earp. They were arrested and charged with premeditated murder. Doc faced the threat of maximum punishment. He was said to have shot an unarmed Tom Maclaury at point-blank range. However, the judge found them all innocent due to lack of conclusive evidence.
But friends rejoiced not for long. Soon Virgil was severely beaten in front of the saloon, leaving him crippled and later unknown persons have killed his brother Morgan. It was revenge for the cowboys killed in the shootout.
Wyatt and John could not leave the killers unpunished and staged a real vendetta, which contemporaries remembered as The Earp Vendetta Ride. They shot several people, including several innocent people. Police issued arrest warrants for the friends and they fled Arizona in a hurry.
Cards and kills
Doc and Wyatt traveled together for a while. They went to Fort Griffin, Texas, where they played poker. There, John clashed at the table with a local sharper Ed Bailey. He was openly breaking the rules and not responding to comments, but Holiday managed to beat him.
John then provoked a scandal by refusing to show the defeated opponent the cards at the end of the last hand. The man drew his revolver, but Doc was prepared for this, and with a flash of his knife he stabbed the assailant to death.
This was the last mess Halliday and Wyatt were in. Soon they parted ways.
Doc continued to travel across the country, making a living playing poker. His name was overgrown with legends, which he fueled with large winnings and merciless punishments over opponents who dared to accuse him of cheating.
He once shot two guys in Colorado for questioning his integrity. He is also credited with the murders of Charlie white, johnny Ringo, Mike Gordon, and many other card players.
John was incredibly quick to draw his pistols, hit the target accurately from any position, and was equally skilled with his right and left hands, which gave him an added advantage in sudden skirmishes.
The stories of John's many "exploits" were passed from mouth to mouth, with many details unrelated to actual events. Wanting to strengthen his reputation as an unsurpassed GUNFIGHTER, Doc himself willingly talked about the defeated opponents, not hesitating to lie and fantasize.
John's last known altercation occurred at the Hyman saloon in Leadville. Doc lost, pawned jewelry and even borrowed money from the owner of the bar Billy Allen, acting as a servant of the law. Halliday did not want to repay the debt, and when Allen was going to get the money by force, he shot his attacker in the arm. John was detained, tried, but found not guilty, believing his version of self-defense.
The last days
Halliday was a vain man. He was afraid that after his death he would be immediately forgotten, and he wanted to leave something to remember him by. When tuberculosis reached a life-threatening stage, Doc decided to build a saloon and name it after himself.
He chose Las Vegas as a place for his bar. There was a railway construction going on nearby. John intended to open an institution with gambling tables and numerous girls, but he did not have time to implement the project.
He decided to go to Colorado and never came back. On November 8, 1887, he died at the Glenwood hotel. He was thirty-six years old. Feeling close to death, John tried to send a message to relatives, but he did not have time to contact them.
Wyatt Earp did not learn of his death until two months later. In an article published in 1896, Wyatt wrote about Doc:
I knew him as a loyal friend and a good companion. He was a dentist whom the circumstances had made a gambler; a gentleman whom illness had made a Vagabond; a philosopher whom life had made a sarcastic wit. He was a tall, slender, blond man, nearly killed by consumption, but at the same time the most skilled gambler and the most nervous, quick, and deadly man with a revolver I had ever met.
An obituary was published in the Denver Republican:
Few people were better known in certain circles of gamblers, and few people of his character had more friends or more influential pals. He represented a category of people who are gradually disappearing in the new West. He had a reputation as a crook, a thug, and generally a bad man, but a very quiet man, friendly and companionable, with many exceptional qualities.
History is silent on where exactly John Halliday's grave is. His body is known to rest at the Linwood Cemetery in Glenwood springs. Local authorities erected a monument to him there.
The only love
Of course, John had often had fleeting liaisons with various women, while traveling around the country, but only with one lady had he had a relationship that he acknowledged. We are talking about Mary Katherine Horony nicknamed Big Nose Kate.
She was originally from Hungary but had spent her life in the United States. She was born into a family of doctors and received a decent education. There are photographs of Kate, in which she appears a statuesque woman with curly hair and large features.
Doc met her at Fort Griffin in 1877. It is not known for sure whether the couple legalized the relationship, but they were close until John's death.
John Halliday was not a good man, but he was an interesting and versatile man.
Here are a few facts that allow us to better understand his character.
- In his younger years, Doc preferred the Navy 1851 colt that his uncle had given him as a child. Later, he did not part with the Colt Thunderer of 41-caliber and clothed model Colt Lightening of 38-caliber.
- John rarely used guns, but when necessary – as in the O. K. Corral shootout – he handled them perfectly.
- According to the nurse, Doc's last words were, "this is funny."
- When asked if his conscience bothered him, John once said, "I coughed it up with my lungs a long time ago."
Add that Halliday played in the movie more than thirty actors, including Hollywood stars. Numerous books and documentaries are dedicated to him.
Perhaps, if John had not been stricken by illness, he would have lived the peaceful and respectable life of a successful dentist with a large private practice. But fate decreed otherwise. Tuberculosis robbed him of his mother and took away his beloved job. He could not cope with this and Doc went to the winds.
He managed to become one of the most famous characters in the history of the Wild West, but he was hardly happy.