Outlaws and gunslingers of the old West share a unique persona. Visions of saloons, dance hall girls, whiskey and gambling immediately come to mind. These were the times when men were men who stood their ground and died with their boots on.
This Day in the Old West: July 19, 1879
When you hear the name "Doc" Holliday, do you envision days of the Wild West? Gamblers? Gunfighters? Outlaws? Does the Shootout at the OK Corral come to mind? Do you see Val Kilmer as "Doc" in the 1993 film Tombstone? It will come as no surprise if you answer "yes" to each question. Any and all of the above depict John Henry "Doc" Holliday.
What you may not know is that "Doc" Holliday has Southern roots having been born in Griffin, Georgia. If you trace Doc's ancestry, you will find he was the cousin by marriage of Margaret Mitchell, who wrote Gone With the Wind. Another connection of the two famous southerners was the shared date of November 8: Doc Holliday died November 8 and Margaret Mitchell was born November 8 (different years of course). Holliday lived through the Civil War with Mitchell being born afterward but with strong family ties to its events.
The question at hand, however, is what does this date (July 19, 1879) have to do with "Doc" Holliday?
|Portraits of the Doctor...Fact or Phony?|
July 19 is neither the date of his birth or his death nor the Shootout (Gunfight) at the OK Corral. Neither does the year 1879 fit into either picture. Holliday was a dentist earning a D.D.S. degree from the Pennsylvania College of Dental Surgery and set up a dental practice in Atlanta, Georgia but neither coincide with this day in history. In 1873, he was diagnosed with tuberculosis, the same disease that had claimed his mother when he was 15. It was this diagnosis that changed his life sending him westward.
He moved to the American Southwest in hopes that the climate would prolong his life. Taking up gambling as a profession, he subsequently acquired a reputation as a deadly gunman. During his travels, he met and became a good friend of Wyatt Earp and his brothers. In 1880, he moved to Tombstone, Arizona, and participated alongside the Earps in the famous Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.With "Doc" Holliday acquiring the reputation as a deadly gunman would imply he participated in a gunfight(s). What about the outcome(s)? Holliday did not die at the hands of a gunslinger but what about the other side of the coin? Did he kill anyone?
Fact or Fiction?
According to some historical sources it was on this day, July 19 in the year 1879 when "Doc" Holliday committed his first murder, killing a man for shooting up his New Mexico saloon. This account is refuted by some, accepted by others. Even the date is reported as July 19 by some, July 20 by others. What we know is dependent upon which source we take as fact and which as fiction. Regardless of the accuracy of the account, "Doc" Holliday became a legend of the Old West.
‘Few men have been better known to a certain class of sporting people, and few men of his character had more friends or stronger champions,’ said the Denver Republican in Holliday’s obituary. That obituary went on to say that Doc had ‘killed several men during his life in Arizona.’ Wrong. But then most writers get Holliday’s kill total dead wrong. There is no doubt whatsoever that he killed Tom McLaury near the O.K. Corral. Enough evidence exists to convince this author that Holliday killed Old Man Clanton, too. That makes a total of two. He shot eight more men — White, Joyce, Parker, Frank McLaury, Billy Clanton, Stilwell, Cruz and Allen — but none of those men died by his bullets. No matter how much blood he did or did not contribute to the blood-stained pages of Western history, though, Doc Holliday will not be forgotten. His deeds, his dentistry, his disease, his death and that name ‘Doc’ have brought the Southern boy named John Henry a secure place among the immortals who inhabited the Old West. [Source: Historynet.com]
During the early days of the American West, killing in the streets occurred regularly and hangings were public displays of capital punishment. The law and the lawless constantly battled over cattle, sheep, horses, water rights and land. Notorious outlaws and bandits were as common as band-aids along with Old West Scoundrels, Outlaw Gangs and Vigilantes. Are you among those who find such eventful days utterly fascinating?