The Death of Doc Holliday

Dying in bed at the age of 36, Doc Holliday is said to have taken a final drink of whiskey and looked down at his feet and said “This is funny.” After fifteen years of moving from cow towns to mining towns gaining a mostly unfounded reputation as a gunfighter and desperado, Doc Holliday died. Perhaps he found it strange to meet a peaceful end rather than die in a gunfight. He certainly had seen a fair share of action over the years and had been shot and beaten on several occasions. One fight in Texas left Holliday in such a bad state that the local newspaper reported that he’d died afterwards – this of course was not true.

When did he die?

Doc Holliday died on November 8, 1887 around ten o’clock in the morning

Where?

The Hotel Glenwood in Glenwood Springs, Colorado.

Was Wyatt there like in the film Tombstone?

No. Wyatt heard of Doc’s death shortly after he had died. He was close by in Aspen at the time and it’s thought that he may have visited Doc before his death, although no accounts exist to verify this. Josie Earp told a story about sitting beside Doc’s deathbed but it’s thought that she may have confused this with another occasion. Josie Earp did also give an account of Doc and Wyatt’s last meeting in the lobby of a Denver hotel. Both men were quite upset and Josie said that Wyatt cried afterwards.

Doc Holliday
This photo was supposedly given to Wyatt Earp after Doc died.

After Doc Holliday died, Doctor Crook sent Wyatt a photograph of Doc that had been taken in Glenwood Springs before he had become bedridden. There’s also a story that Doc’s gun was also sent to Wyatt although again not a lot of evidence to prove whether or not it’s true.

Who was with him?

Doctor Crook looked after Doc during the thirty-three days that he was bedridden. Doctor Crook practiced in Leadville, Co prior to moving to Glenwood Springs. Both Doc Holliday and Doctor Crook knew of one another in Leadville and it’s quite possible that Holliday had received medical care from Doctor Crook in Leadville.

In the 1970s, Art Kendricks, a prominent Glenwood Citizen and ex-mayor of Glenwood Springs would recall his early days working as a busboy in the Hotel Glenwood. He told Mr. A. E. Axtell, City Manager of Glenwood Springs that on numerous occasions he would be called up to Doc’s room to bring a bottle of liquor and was tipped ten cents each time.

According to Karen Holliday Tanner’s book Doc Holliday – A Family Portrait, Big Nose Kate was also with Doc when he died and made the funeral arrangements.

Final Words

Doc is said to have had a final drink of whiskey and said,”This is funny.”

Was there a Sanatorium in Glenwood Springs at the time?

No not in 1887. That would come later when The Saint Joseph’s Sanatorium was opened by The Sisters of Charity Leavenworth in 1898. The Sanatorium was part of the Yampah Hotel.

Personal Belongings

A diamond stickpin with the diamond removed, a small knife, a straight razor and some toiletries were among the possessions that Doc left after he died. These were forwarded on to Doc’s cousin and correspondent of fifteen years Martha Anne Holliday.

Funeral

Rev. W.S. Rudolph delivered the funeral address. On November 9, 1887 The Aspen Daily Times reported “Glenwood Springs, Colo., November 8 – Doc Holliday died here this morning at the Hotel Glenwood and was buried this afternoon and was followed to the cemetery by a large number of kindred spirits.”

Gravesite

There are all kinds of stories about this. The official record is that Doc’s remains were moved from the old cemetery and placed in the newer Linwood Cemetery near where the current memorial stone stands. Others say that the ground was too icy to bury him on top of the hill and that he’s still buried where the old cemetery was which is probably under someone’s house. This is quite unlikely as all the bodies were moved.

Doc Holliday's grave
Doc Holliday’s headstone in Linwood Cemetery

In a letter addressed to Susan McKey Thomas in 1973 Art Kendricks is again called upon to recollect Doc Holliday’s burial. He stated that Doc was buried on Palmer Avenue and Twelfth Street, just below the Linwood Cemetery. He would then account that Doc’s body was moved up to Linwood Cemetery at a later date and that he had marked the place with a small wooden cross. The American Legion Post donated a headstone to replace the wooden cross. This is where the current headstone sits.

It’s interesting to note that the grave next to Doc’s is Arthur Seller’s who died of typhoid in The Hotel Glenwood on September 22, 1887 just a few weeks before Doc. His room was across the hall from Doc’s. I think there’s a good chance that Doc is buried close to the marker as it would make logical sense to lay out the new cemetery with the most recently deceased next to one another. However, since the records for the cemetery are missing from the times, I can’t verify this one way or another.

Another suggestion has been made that Doc’s body was shipped back to Georgia and buried in Griffin, GA. Two unmarked gravestones have been found in Oak Hill cemetery. It’s claimed that one of the gravestones is for Doc’s father Major Henry Burroughs Holliday and the other for Doc Holliday himself. Again, there is currently no easy way to prove this one way or another.

Doc’s 100th Anniversary

In 1987, on the 100th anniversary of Doc Holliday’s death, Glenwood Springs celebrated with a wake and a funeral procession with disturbingly enough a Doc Holliday impersonator in a casket. There was also a huge poker party where local dentists served as dealers.

Visiting Doc’s Grave

Whether or not Doc is buried in Linwood Cemetery doesn’t bother visitors to Doc’s memorial. They endure the steep walk to leave flowers, playing cards, empty bottles of whiskey and even toothpaste at the site.

If you enjoyed this, you may enjoy my book: A Gentleman In Hell.

10 Replies to “The Death of Doc Holliday”

  1. I was fortunate to visit the “burial site” with my late wife, Joy, a few years ago and leave my own personal rememberance===hadn’t seen

    j.H. since 1882.

  2. I have researched and read most that has been written about the old west. I have spent days in Tombstone and visited Wyatt and Sady’s grave in Colma, Ca.. In my opinion Doc was one of the most feared pistolores that ever lived. He was dying and nothing to lose which made him very dangerous. It was said that James Wesley Harding came to a town and everybody left. ( good choice) Doc came to the same town and Harding left. A better choice. He was a person not to be fooled with. I would have liked this man. Mythical or truth

  3. That picture is not Doc Holliday. There are lots of pictures out there that claim to be Doc. It doesn’t even look like him. There are only a couple of pictures I’ve seen of Doc. One shortly after dental school and one shortly before Tombstone while he was in Prescott.

  4. Great Holliday read, thanks for posting it! Doc Holliday has always been my favorite western person since I read about him in the 1960s.

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