Doc Holliday Moved To Cheyenne 142 Years Ago This Week
Before John Henry "Doc" Holliday would go down in old west history, he’d been a dentist who gave up his practice in Georgia. Diagnosed with tuberculosis and wanting a dryer climate, he just kept coming this direction, and ended up spending quite a time one winter in Wyoming.
According to the Old West Daily Reader, Holliday came to Cheyenne, by way of Denver, in early February of 1876. An alias he’d used in Denver "Tom Mackey" was already forgotten. He had become a skilled gambler, which was a “line of work” where one needed to be very self-defending. The former surgeon was well on his was way to being an accurate gunslinger. Holliday got work as a card dealer at the Bella Union Variety "Gold Room".
The variety hall and saloon, located at 310 Sixteenth Street, was known throughout the west since 1872. In fact, the Bella Union name also appeared on legendary gambling parlors in Deadwood and Denver, and for a short time, a theatre just down the street took the name in Cheyenne, under a different owner. Now, it makes for a good downtown parking garage, but among gamblers of the day, it was known as classiest of the classy. It was also approaching the time Cheyenne was known as the Richest City in the World.
In May of 1876, the Bella Union Variety was sold to Cheyenne businessman James McDaniel, who renamed it the "New Dramatic Theatre" and later the "McDaniel's Theatre". McDaniel's empire was a city block in downtown before fires forced him into bankruptcy.
Exactly when did Holliday leave Cheyenne? At least we do know he'd arrive back in Fort Griffin, Texas by fall of 1877.
Doc was still not nationally known until he had a part in the 1881 Gunfight at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone. And it was later that some historians – or story tellers - credited Holliday with three killings during his short stay in Cheyenne. There is just no evidence "Doc" was guilty of any crimes while in Wyoming.