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The Life Of Doc Holliday

.. and, therefore, his aim was off. Doc fired several shots, all of them missing their mark, and Joyce hit Doc on the head with his pistol. Joyce ended up with a shot through the hand, the saloon’s bartender was shot in a toe on his left foot, and Doc was arrested and charged for assault with a deadly weapon. He was found guilty of the charge and fined.

On March 15, 1881 a stagecoach was held up and its driver and a passenger were killed. The “Cowboys” took this opportunity to try to get rid of Doc. They stated that he was one of the four holdup men. The local lawman, Sheriff Behan and Deputy Stilwell, found “Big Nose” Kate in a drunken state after another of her and Doc’s break-ups. The got her to sign an affidavit stating that Doc was one of the men and was the one who had killed the stage driver.

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Upon learning of this, the Earps began gathering witnesses who would testify to Doc’s innocence. Once Kate had sobered up and realized what she had done, she immediately repudiated her statement. The District Attorney threw out the case against Holliday. Kate left Tombstone after this, but would come back often. She claimed to witness the famous gunfight and may have, since she and Doc shared a room above a photography studio.

This is probably the reason the “Cowboys” were waiting in the vacant lot next door beside the OK Corral, for they may have been waiting for Doc to return to he and Kate’s room so they could kill him. OK CORRAL Once the “Cowboys” threatened to kill Doc and the Earps, the outcome was inevitable. Everyone knew that the threat would not make them run. On October 26, 1881, Virgil and his brothers discovered that some “Cowboys” were carrying weapons in Tombstone, which was against city law. The “Cowboys” were holed up at the OK Corral. As the Earps walked down Forth Street toward corral, Doc joined their ranks.

The gunfight did not actually take place within the corral, but at the corner of Third and Fremont Streets, in a sort of alley between the OK Corral and Camillus Fly’s Photographic Studio (above which Doc and Kate lived). Finally, at 2:30pm, the tension between these two groups came to a head in what is surely the West’s most legendary shoot out. The “Cowboys” at the corral were: Ike Clanton, Billy Clanton, Frank McLaury, and Tom McLaury. The shooting started when Billy Clanton and Frank McLaury cocked their pistols. After the battle started, Doc shot Billy through the chest and then turned on Tom.

Tom was killed with a double charge of buckshot. Wyatt allowed Ike to run, but Doc wasn’t going to let him off so easy. He fired twice at Ike and missed both shots . As Ike ran, his brother Billy tried to fire a last few shots before death took him. His gun was taken away by Mr.

Camillus Fly. Frank shot at Doc, but the bullet hit Doc’s pistol holster and minorly wounded him in his hip. Doc returned fire with a shot through Frank’s brain. Within 30 seconds, Billy, Frank, and Tom lay dead. Virgil had a shot through his leg and Morgan had shots through both shoulders.

Wyatt was the only uninjured participant. The Earps and Doc Holliday were arrested for murder by Sheriff Behan. At the trial following the gunfight, it was determined that the Earps acted within the law. THE AFTERMATH It was a few months before any real after effects of the gunfight were felt. On January 17, 1882, a drunken Johnny Ringo challenged Doc and Wyatt to a gunfight.

Some say he challenged all the participants of the OK Corral, but this is doubtful since Virgil and Morgan were still suffering from the wounds they earned at the gunfight and probably wouldn’t have been up and about by then. Doc and Wyatt brushed off Johnny because they knew he was drunk and that it was the whiskey talking. A few months later, on March 18, while Morgan was playing pool in Campbell and Hatch’s Saloon, he was shot in the back from outside. This resulted in his death, and his body was sent back home to his parents for burial. On March 20, Wyatt and Warren Earp, Doc Holliday and a couple of other men met Frank Stilwell and Ike Clanton at a railroad station.

Wyatt shot Stilwell and killed him after chasing him down the track. A warrant for the group’s arrest was issued. Stilwell’s death was the start of a trail of carnage that was going to be laid across the West by the Earps and Holliday on their trail of vengeance. Upon hearing on March 22 that Pete Spencer was in the Dragoons, the “Vengeance Posse” rode there. Spencer was not there, but a Florentino Cruz was. He told the posse who had murdered Morgan, himself included.

He was killed on the spot. The posse then encountered Curly Bill Brocius with eight other men near Iron Springs. Curly Bill was killed on that day (March 24). When he and Wyatt left Tombstone for good, they eventually traveled to Colorado. When Doc arrived in Denver, he was arrested by a Perry Mallan. Some (including Holliday himself) believe that this man was a brother to Johnny Tyler.

While in jail, this statement appeared in the local newspaper, the Denver Republican (May 22, 1882): “Holliday has a big reputation as a fighter, and has probably put more rustlers and cowboys under the sod than any other 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.” Due to the efforts of Bat Masterson, Doc was exonerated by the governor of Colorado and was released from jail. After being released, Doc left Denver and traveled to Leadville where he encountered Johnny Tyler and Billy Allen. Word had it that Allen had threatened Doc’s life. Doc wasn’t going to take any chances over this.

On August 19, 1884, Doc entered Hyman’s Saloon and waited at the end of the bar for Allen. When Allen entered, Doc shot and creased his head. He shot again and hit Allen’s left arm. At this point, Holliday was disarmed. Since Allen had publicly threatened him, Doc was acquitted of charges.

THE END OF THE ROAD In May of 1887, Doc Holliday went to Glenwood Springs in order to see if the local sulfur vapors would help his TB. However, his TB had progressed too far by the time he finally got there. His last fifty-seven days were spent bedridden. On November 8, 1887, he awoke, drank a glass of whiskey, said, “This is funny,” and died. He was buried in Linwood Cemetery. A WORD ON HIS LAST WORDS Doc had gone West knowing he had a short time to live and that his last days would be painful ones.

For him, the death of a gunman would be welcome for its quickness and painlessness. However, he made it through all sorts of gunfights without ever being seriously wounded. To him it must have been funny to think back over all the trials and tribulations he had made it through and to think that he had to be brought down by something he had brought West with him: a disease that he contracted before his rough and tumble days. Plus, he had come west after being told it would add mere months to his life. The doctors were wrong. Coming west added fifteen years to the life of this legendary man.

1) Traywick, Ben T. The Chronicles of Tombstone. 1996. m 2) Brown, Dee. The American West. 1994. Charles Scribner’s Sons: New York. pg 284.

3)Harm, James D. The Great American West. 1959. Crown Publishers, Inc.: New York. pg 230.


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