Part two of a series

Doc Holliday had a lot of traits; righteousness was not one of them. However, he will be eternally tied to Wyatt Earp, for his unerring support and friendship.

Truth be known, the line between good guys and bad guys was a little fuzzy in Tombstone, and Doc was a major contributor of the wavy lines separating the Earp contingency and the Cowboys faction. Much that he did provided catalysts for the historic street fight. It is even possible he pulled the first trigger on October 26, 1881.

After the vendetta ride in March 1882, Wyatt, Doc and other posse members skedaddled out of Arizona to Silver City, New Mexico Territory. They proceeded to Colorado where the posse disbanded. Doc and Wyatt had a falling out then, probably because the Georgia dentist thought very little of Earp’s girlfriend, Josie Marcus.

Doc found himself in hot water again. One of his enemies posed as an Arizona lawman and had Doc arrested, with the hopes of transporting him back for charges in Arizona. The Cowboy-aligned sheriff of Cochise County, John Behan, probably engineered the ruse. Doc was jailed for a while, and then released.

His next move, lured by gaming possibilities, was to travel to Leadville, a high mountain mining camp. This proved to be a tragic mistake. The altitude severely provoked his tuberculosis, which had been in remission.

Even in this remote Colorado boom town, Doc would again confront past enemies, which resulted in shots fired and Doc jailed for attempted murder. He was acquitted in March of 1885, but being behind bars did him no favor health wise.

He returned to Denver in 1886, but found he and his reputation were not appreciated. He was arrested for vagrancy. Leaving Denver’s unfriendly reception, he traveled back to Leadville. By now, his condition was dire; he weighed under 120 pounds and his hair had turned grey. He contacted old flame Big Nose Kate (Mary Harony) and she joined him in Glenwood Springs, a place that featured healing mineral waters.

Kate tended him with whatever meager funds they had. He was bedridden. He died Nov. 8, 1887.

His exploits, over time, have been greatly exaggerated. Of all his confrontations, he probably killed only one man, Frank McLaury in the gunfight in Tombstone, and even that killing has to be shared by others of the Earp party.

Doc nurtured the persona of being a dangerous man, no doubt to repel others from giving him a physical beating. But, there is no doubt he was a fearless man, devoted to aiding Wyatt Earp.

The Earp brothers

No small part of the Tombstone story resides with the other Earp brothers.

Virgil was town marshal when the gunfight occurred. He received wounds at the street fight.

On Dec. 28, he was ambushed by the Cowboys and barely survived. His left arm was rendered useless. He left Arizona in March to recover at his father’s place in Colton, California. He traveled to San Francisco for further treatment and stayed long enough to be arrested for dealing faro.

Virg returned to law enforcement, serving as town marshal and constable. He also did a stint as a private investigator, mostly for Wells Fargo.

Like his brothers, he had this wandering gene. It took him to various mining camps in California, Colorado, Arizona and finally Nevada. He died in Goldfield, Nevada on Oct. 19, 1905. He is buried in Portland, Oregon.

Odd? Well, Virgil discovered he had a daughter from a previous marriage.

His bride’s parents annulled the union after he enlisted with the North. His daughter, Janie, contacted him in 1898 and Virg visited her in Oregon.

Three of Wyatt’s brothers also were in Tombstone.

James was not involved with the “fighting Earps.” He was a wounded Civil War veteran who mostly tended bar and lived with a prostitute named Nellie Bartlett, who went by “Bessie.” James taught his younger brothers how to gamble (cheat?). He drove a hack in LA for years, dying on Jan. 25, 1926 at 84 years.

Morgan had a short shelf life after participating in the gunfight. He was gunned down in March of 1882.

Warren, the youngest brother, came to Tombstone to participate in the vengeance ride against the Cowboys. He spent the next 20 years being a pain in the butt. Always courting trouble, he is credited with stabbing a man, being in a non-lethal gunfight, and throwing another off a bridge.

He over reached in Willcox, Arizona on July 6, 1900. He verbally abused one Johnny Boyette, and was killed for the effort. Because of Warren’s obnoxious behavior, local citizens found no fault with Boyette.

Other prominent Earp supporters included John Clum. Originally an Indian Agent, he took up the newspaper business. In Tombstone, he published the Epitaph (which is still operating to this day). He was mayor when the gunfight occurred.

He went to California, working in real estate and for the San Francisco Examiner. He found government jobs. He was a post master and worked for the War Department. He was sent to Nome, Alaska in 1900 and reacquainted himself with Earp, who had followed the gold rush. The two hooked up later in LA. He was a pall bearer at Wyatt’s funeral in 1929. Clum died in 1932 at 80 years.

George Parsons was a prominent Tombstonian. His diary shed light on much of the silver camp’s history. He also reunited with Wyatt in LA.

Bob Paul played a large role in the Tombstone saga. He was driving a stage that was held up by Cowboy elements. That episode was a major contributory factor that led to the gunfight.

He was elected sheriff of Pima County. He went on to be a U.S. Marshal. He did not delegate, but enacted law and order over decades. He was a large powerful man. Paul performed executions himself, witness the 11 men hung during his tenure.

He was unquestionably one of the West’s greatest lawmen. He died of cancer in 1901, at 70 years.

“He was as fearless a man and as fast a friend as I ever knew.” Wyatt Earp.

Next: Part 3— After the Gunfight: The Bad Guys

Scott Dyke is a Wyatt Earp historian, Western lecturer and researcher. He is a member of Western Writers of America. He can be reached at

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