Though John Henry Holliday’s dad was raised in Fayette County, but moved to Griffin when he married in 1849, the families often visited back and forth. Dr. John Stiles Holliday, who built the house we now use as a museum, had a son, Robert, a year older than John Henry and the two grew up often visiting each other.
Robert decided to become a dentist and went to the Pennsylvania College of Dental Surgery. I believe Robert graduated first and came back to Atlanta, where he opened his dental office. John Henry graduated the next year, in 1872 and entered the profession in his cousin’s office.
However, he began to experience weight loss and a nagging cough. After consultation with family members, and probably realizing he had inherited tuberculosis from his mother, he headed west for his health. He carried with him a recommendation to a dentist in Dallas, Texas in September, 1873. He had no doubt he could make a living as a dentist, but as history shows, there just wasn’t much of a call for this profession in the West at this time.
Digressing here for a moment, to his growing up in Griffin. There was a maid in the house, Sophie Walton, who was quite clever with cards, She taught John Henry to play cards at an early age. Out West, he was forced to use this knowledge to make a living.
Is he a “gunslinger”? Not in the sense one things of the word. While a deputy, he killed two men, and while I am not trivializing a death of any kind, it was “legal”. As far as I can ascertain he killed no one else.
His health declined due to the tuberculous and he died November 8, 1887 while in Glenwood Springs, Colorado.“`11
That said, I have never pursued any information on his exploits out West. Here, however, is my personal story.
Twenty five years ago I worked for the Peachtree Conference Center and as head of graphics, one of my jobs were getting printing done at a local establishment. One day there was a bit of a hole in the devil strip nearby, and I tripped and fell. I didn’t think it amounted to much, but after several months I realized I was wrong. About this time I was going to visit my daughter in Denver and decided to visit Glenwood Springs, Colorado, where “Doc” was supposed to be buried.
Driving there involved quite a trip and upon checking with its chamber office, ascertained the location of the site. When we got there it was obviously up a fairly good size hill and by then my leg was really getting bad. A sign at the entrance to the path up advertised he was buried at the top and I knew I couldn’t make it. So I took a picture of the sign.
When I got back, a doctor’s visit reflected a compound fracture and I ended up with a cast from my toes to two inches above my knee.
There has been some conjecture that “Doc” isn’t buried there anyway and perhaps his body was brought back by his father and buried in Griffin.
Did you know “Doc” and Margaret Mitchell are “cousins”? Details next week.