trueCOWBOYmagazine Sept/Oct 2014 - Page 60

They traveled together throughout the West, their stormy on again off again relationship continuing until the stagecoach incident. Doc Holliday was suspected of taking part in a stagecoach robbery near Tombstone in which a man was killed. Although Doc was acquainted with one of the robbers, highway robbery was not in his repertoire. Local authorities heard that Doc and Kate were fighting again. Eager to make an arrest, they got Kate drunk and persuaded her to sign an affidavit declaring that Holliday had been involved. They arrested him. Case closed. The following day, a sober and remorseful Kate recanted, but Doc never forgave her betrayal. Upon his release, he left town without her. The two got back together from time to time, and it is believed that Kate took care of Doc in Glenwood Springs, Colorado during his last illness, but things were never the same. After the tuberculosis finally did Doc in, Kate married a blacksmith named Cummings. The marriage did not last but she kept his name. Then Mary Katherine Cummings worked as a housekeeper for a Mr. John Howard in Dos Cabezas, Arizona until his death in 1930. As for that jailbreak story? Toward the end of her life in a rare interview, Kate denied the whole thing. “Think of it,” she said, “A woman weighing only one hundred and sixteen pounds, standing off a deputy and rescuing her lover? It reads fine, but there is not a word of truth in that fairy story.” But one thing was true back then. And that was the lack of lucrative, entrepreneurial opportunities open to women in the wild west of the 1880’s. Opinions as to how young Kate Silas, Fisher, Elder, Earp, Holliday, Cummings made her living differ. Some historians claim that though she worked in houses of ill repute but she was never a prostitute. Others, with equal passion and pride, claim that she was. All agree that her first known place of employment was at Nellie Earp’s sporting house in Dodge City, Kansas. Years later she earned the distinction of being the first Madame in Tombstone, running a combination brothel and saloon, known rather grandly as the Grand Hotel. It still exists today as an historical building and tourist draw in Tombstone. When asked about her lifestyle and flamboyant past, and in her own words, Big Nose Kate said, “I made my own choices about my life. I belonged to no house and no man. I did just what you’d do for your husband, only I got to keep something for myself.” Big Nose Kate ended her days in 1940 at the Arizona Pioneers Home leaving a legacy of strength and pioneering spirit behind.