Before John Henry "Doc" Holliday became one of the most legendary characters in old west history, the notorious gambler spent one wild winter in Wyoming.

According to the Old West Daily Reader,  Holliday came to Cheyenne, by way of Denver, in February of 1876. Shedding his alias "Tom Mackey", the skilled gambler and gunslinger quickly found work as a card dealer at the Bella Union Variety "Gold Room".

The variety hall and saloon, located at 310 Sixteenth Street, was well known to gamblers throughout the west since its opening in 1872. In fact, the Bella Union name also graced legendary gambling parlors in Deadwood and Denver, and a short-lived theatre just down the street in Cheyenne, although they each had different owners.

Gambling Saloon
The famous Bella Union gambling saloon in Cheyenne, when gambling and card playing were considered legitimate occupations. Three Lions, Getty Images.

In May of 1876, the Bella Union Variety was sold to influential Cheyenne businessman James McDaniel, who renamed it the "New Dramatic Theatre" and later the "McDaniel's Theatre". McDaniel's empire eventually covered an entire city block in downtown before a series of fires forced him into bankruptcy.

While its unknown exactly when Holliday left Cheyenne, we do know he arrived in Fort Griffin, Texas, by the fall of 1877.

After Holliday gained fame for his role in the infamous 1881 Gunfight at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, some "historians" credited him with three killings during his short stay in Cheyenne. However, there is no evidence linking Holliday to any crimes in Wyoming.


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