October 17, 2004
Last modified October 17, 2004 - 2:08 am
Doc Holliday's Colorado tombstone corrected
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. - Over the years, history buffs have learned a lot about famous gunslinger Doc Holliday by visiting the Glenwood Springs graveyard where he is believed to be buried.
A monument at Linwood Cemetery has offered such details as when Holliday was born - 1852 - and the place of his birth, Valdasta, Ga. Visitors also learn that he attended Baltimore Dental School, and that he died in a Glenwood sanatorium.
Trouble is, all this information is wrong.
The first hint might come from the fact that there is no Valdasta, Ga., although there is a Valdosta, Ga. But the problem goes beyond the spelling: Holliday actually was born in Griffin, Ga. And he was born in 1851, not 1852.
Furthermore, he went to school at the Pennsylvania College of Dental Surgery. That's in Philadelphia, not Baltimore.
And he died at the Hotel Glenwood, before Glenwood Springs even had a sanatorium.
"To our knowledge it was not a sanatorium," Frontier Museum Director Cindy Hines said of the hotel. "He just happened to have had a room there."
Though these errors are set in stone, that's not stopping the museum from setting the record straight. On Wednesday afternoon, the museum and city of Glenwood Springs oversaw the replacement of the monument with a new, more accurate version.
Updating the monument is only part of a much bigger effort by the museum to make improvements at the cemetery. The museum uses the cemetery as the location for its annual Historic Ghost Walk fund-raiser.
"We thought it would be nice to use some of that money and put it back into the cemetery," Hines said. She said the museum spent about $2,000 replacing the monument.
Snyder Memorials in Grand Junction provided the new monument. Hines said it's actually a recycled old headstone more representative of Doc Holliday's time.
The new stone is of an obelisk style, four-sided, with a rounded top, and sits on a base. On the front, it contains Doc Holliday's full name (John Henry Holliday), and dates of birth (Aug. 14, 1851) and death (Nov. 8, 1887). The back says "Doc Holliday," and in the style of the time lists his age when he died as "36 years, 2 months, 25 days."
Hines said it's understandable that the old monument contains misinformation. The original monument apparently was erected in the 1950s, when there was perhaps just one book written on Holliday, and little other good research available, she said.
After the stone fell victim to target practice and other wear and tear, it was replaced in the 1980s, but the information wasn't changed, she said.
In the years since, interest in Holliday has surged, thanks in part to "Tombstone" and other movies about him and fellow gunslinger Wyatt Earp. The museum's archives now get a lot of use by historians, journalists and others interested in Holliday, and Hines believes Holliday's monument is the third-most-visited tourist spot in town, after the Hot Springs Pool and Glenwood Caverns.
Hines believes all that visitation makes it all the more important that Holliday's monument put out accurate information about him.
The museum and city are giving the old monument to Snyder Memorials, which had provided it.
"We don't want to keep it around," Hines said. "It just confuses matters."