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John Henry "Doc" Holliday earned his nickname because he was a dentist as well as being one of the quickest draws in the west. Born in Georgia and classically educated, Doc studied dentistry in Philadelphia, then returned to Atlanta to set up his dental practice. When he was diagnosed with tuberculosis and only given a few months to live, he left dentistry behind and set out for the Southwest, hoping that the dry climate would extend his life.
With death constantly looking over his shoulder, Doc Holliday threw caution to the wind. He took up gambling, drank heavily, and fired off gunshots at anyone who argued with him. From 1875 to 1876, he traveled from Dallas to Denver, Cheyenne, and Deadwood, possibly the place where he first met Wyatt Earp.
The two reconnected the following year in Texas and traveled together, gambling and working odd jobs (Doc practiced dentistry in his hotel rooms and regularly dealt a card game called Faro). Wyatt Earp sometimes worked as a deputy sheriff or marshal. In 1880, Doc joined Wyatt and the other Earp brothers in Tombstone, Arizona, where they’d become embroiled in an argument with a local band of cowboys.
The fight came to a head in 1881 in the famous Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Shot guns and pistols blazed in the dusty streets of Tombstone, knocking down cowboys one after the other. The Earps and Doc Holliday all survived the shootout, but in the following months the Cowboy faction managed to ambush and severely injure two of the Earp brothers. One of the brothers died as a result. Wyatt Earp and Doc (and others) decided to make a vendetta ride against the murderers, and this resulted in the deaths of three men. To avoid capture, the group split up. Doc Holliday went to Colorado, where he lived out the rest of his short life.
In 1887, with his health spiraling rapidly down, Doc Holliday checked into the Hotel Glenwood in Glenwood Springs, hoping to take advantage of the healing hot spring there. Sadly, no cure was powerful enough to save him. He reportedly asked for a glass of whiskey on his deathbed. Doc was buried at the Linwood Cemetery, which overlooks the town.
Today, visitors to Glenwood Springs can see plays depicting Doc’s life and the shootout at the O.K. Corral. You can see his gravesite, visit the monument to him, and tour the Frontier Historical Museum to learn more. Glenwood Springs attracted a number of other famous visitors as well, from President Theodore Roosevelt to Buffalo Bill Cody.
Plus no trip to Glenwood Spring would be complete without a soak in the thermal pools and a good long visit to the steam in the Yampah Vapor Caves. So whether you come for the history and to relive legends of the old west or a just a little pampering Glenwood Spring is a "must do" when visitng Colorado.