Tonight, we sit down with my special guest author and researcher Chris Enss who is an amazing researcher on the history of the Old West and she shares the story of the legendary Doc Holiday's love interest Mary Kate Cummings aka Big Nose Kate and her life during the Wild West.
*2020 Will Rogers Medallion Award Winner (Western Biographies)*
Doc Holliday’s paramour Big Nose Kate could never get a publisher to give her the big bucks she demanded to tell the story of her life, but that didn’t mean she didn’t collect material she wanted to use in a biography. Over the fifty years Mary Kate Cummings, alias Big Nose Kate, traversed the West she saved letters from her family, musings she had written about her love interests, and life with the notorious John Henry Holliday. Using rare, never before published material Big Nose Kate stock-piled in anticipation of writing the tale of her days on the Wild Frontier, the definitive book about the famous soiled dove will finally be told.
Kate claims to have witnessed the Gunfight at the OK Corral and exchanged words with the likes of Wyatt Earp and Josephine Marcus. There’s no doubt she embellished her adventures, but that doesn’t take away from their historical importance. She was a controversial figure in a rough and rowdy territory. What she witnessed, the lifestyle she led, and the influential western people she met are fascinating and represent a time period much romanticized.
Mary Katherine Horony Cummings (November 7, 1850 – November 2, 1940), popularly known as Big Nose Kate, was a Hungarian-born American outlaw, gambler, prostitute and longtime companion and common-law wife of Old West gambler and gunfighter Doc Holliday. "Tough, stubborn and fearless", she was educated, but chose to work as a prostitute due to the independence it provided her. She is the only woman with whom Holliday is known to have had a relationship.
Mary Katherine Horony (also misspelled as Harony, Haroney, and Horoney) was born on November 7, 1850, in Érsekújvár, Kingdom of Hungary (present-day Nové Zámky, Slovakia). She was the second daughter of Hungarian physician and teacher Mihály Horony (1817–1865) and Katalin Boldizsár (1830–1865).
Immigration to the United StatesKate Horony (left) and younger sister Wilhelmina c. 1865, near the time they were orphaned. Kate is about 15 years old.
In 1860, Dr. Horony, his second wife Katharina, and his children left Hungary for the United States, arriving in New York City on the German ship Bremen in September.
The Horony family settled in a predominantly German area of Davenport, Iowa, in 1862. Horony and his wife died within a month of one another in 1865. Mary Katherine and her younger siblings were placed in the home of her brother-in-law, Gustav Susemihl, and in 1870 they were left in the care of attorney Otto Smith.The 1870 United States Census records for Davenport show Kate's younger sister, 15-year-old Wilhelmina (Wilma), living with and working as a domestic for Austrian-born David Palter and his Hungarian wife Bettina.
n 1876, Kate moved to Fort Griffin, Texas, where in 1877 she met Doc Holliday. Doc said at one point that he considered Kate his intellectual equal. The couple went with Earp to Dodge City and registered as Mr. and Mrs. J.H. Holliday at Deacon Cox's boarding house. Doc opened a dental practice by day but spent most of his time gambling and drinking. The two fought regularly and sometimes violently, but made up after fights despite the volatile relationship.
According to Kate, the couple later married in Valdosta, Georgia. They traveled to Trinidad, Colorado, and then to Las Vegas, New Mexico, where they lived for about two years. Holliday worked as a dentist by day and ran a saloon on Center Street by night. Kate also occasionally worked at a dance hall in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
By her own account, Doc and Kate met up again with Wyatt Earp and his brothers on their way to the Arizona Territory. Virgil Earp had already been in Prescott, Arizona, and persuaded his brothers to move to Tombstone. Holliday was making money at the gambling tables in Prescott. In 1880, he and Kate parted ways when Kate left for Globe, Arizona, but she rejoined Holliday soon after he arrived in Tombstone.
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