Dentist of the Purple Sage

Share Button

Before Zane Grey began creating legends of the American West, he was a hard-throwing Penn dental student named Pearl.

By Samuel Hughes | Illustration by David Hollenbach

Sidebar | Have Drill, Will Travel

Consider the plight of our fictional hero, Ken Ward, a freshman at an Eastern university suspiciously similar to Penn in the 1890s:

He has already started a near-riot for refusing to give up his seat in a lecture hall to a sophomore. Worse, the sophomore he slugged to start the melee turned out to be not only class president but captain of the varsity baseball team, which Ward had been hoping to join.

Now he is a marked man, and on a cold winter afternoon, he hurries from class and finds himself face-to-face with a tall, bronze-haired sophomore.

“Boys, here’s that slugging Freshie!” yelled the Soph. “We’ve got him now.”

Ward takes off, pursued by a dozen bloodthirsty sophomores. He turns first toward the university’s “magnificent club-house” (a dead ringer for Houston Hall), but finally heads for College Hall—which turns out to be crawling with the enemy.

Ken was heavy and fast on his feet, and with fear lending him wings he made a run through College Hall that would have been a delight to the football coach … He knocked them right and left, and many a surprised Soph he tumbled over.

Fleeing the building, his tormentors hot on his trail, he runs toward a distant avenue and finally clambers up a high, icy stairway that leads up to the sidewalk. Enter Fate, in the form of two boys carrying a bushel basket of potatoes. A “daring inspiration” flashes through our hero’s mind, and he grabs the basket from the boys. What follows sounds like something out of a pulp-fiction Western, transplanted to an Eastern university: 

The bronze-headed Soph was half-way up the steps. His followers, twelve or more, were climbing after him. Then a line of others stretched all the way to College Hall.

With a grim certainty of his mastery of the situation Ken threw a huge potato at his leading pursuer. Fair and square on the bronze head it struck with a sharp crack. Like a tenpin the Soph went down … Deliberately Ken fired the heavy missiles. They struck with sodden thuds against the bodies of the struggling sophomores … Then two more started up abreast. The first Ken hit over the eye with a very small potato, which popped like an explosive bullet and flew into bits … Ken landed on the second fellow in the pit of the stomach with a very large potato. There was a sound as of a suddenly struck bass-drum. The Soph crumpled up over the railing, slid down, and fell among his comrades, effectually blocking the stairway …

“Dodge, you Indian!” yelled Ken, as he threw. And seldom it was that dodging was of any use.

—From The Young Pitcher, by Zane Grey D1896 Hon’17.

Before Zane Grey was a pulp-Western superstar, he was a dentist, and before he was a dentist he was a pretty fair ballplayer—good enough to turn down several professional offers in order to come to Penn on what amounted to a baseball scholarship. His name was Pearl Zane Gray back then (he would later change the spelling to Grey), and his live arm and strong bat lustered his wobbly career as a dental student.

The Young Pitcher, one of several baseball books he churned out, is highly autobiographical—the potato-pitching scene really happened—and undoubtedly the best-selling novel ever set on the Penn campus, thinly disguised though it was. It paints a lively portrait of fin de siècle Penn, and of baseball in its raw, still-evolving youth. (Aficionados of the game today would get a kick out of such pitching terms as “jump ball,” “drop ball,” and “in curve.”)

It is not a prose masterpiece; nothing that Zane Grey wrote was. But it’s bursting with Horatio Alger pluck, befitting a man who started with nothing and, through hard work, a little luck, and a passion for his subject matter became the most commercially successful writer of his era.

By the time The Young Pitcher was published in 1911, Grey had achieved enough success that he could drop dentistry, which he had been reluctantly practicing in Manhattan. He was living in Lackawaxen, Pennsylvania, on the Delaware River, where he spent his days writing and fishing—not necessarily in that order. The year before, he had published The Heritage of the Desert, his first Western novel, whose hero is a consumptive Easterner who has headed west in search of a new life and a better climate for his TB. (One wonders if he had in mind the story of his fellow Philadelphia-trained dentist, Doc Holliday [see sidebar].)

The Heritage of the Desert would tap a rich vein in the American psyche, and the novel he was already working on, Riders of the Purple Sage, would hit a mother lode. And they were just the start. Between 1910 and 1921, eight of Grey’s books sold more than 700,000 copies apiece. By the time he died in 1939, he had written some 90 books, two-thirds of them Westerns, and the manuscripts kept trickling out of his estate long after his death. (His George Washington, Frontiersman, wasn’t published until 1994.) Over the years his books have sold tens of millions of copies in two dozen languages. And they still sell. An astonishing 110 movies have been made from his novels, while Zane Grey Theatre, hosted by Dick Powell, brought Grey’s spirit to prime-time from 1956-1962.

Yet his success as a writer came in spite of a glaring lack of craft. 

“[A]lmost any passage in any one of Zane Grey’s books makes it cruelly obvious that the man failed to master even the most basic unit of his craft: the prose sentence,” writes Larry McMurtry in an essay titled “Pulpmaster.” “It’s not evident from the prose that Zane Grey even noticed sentences—he was scribbling them off too fast …” Try this, from The Heritage of the Desert:

For an instant Hare’s brain reeled, and Mescal’s broken murmurings were meaningless. Then his faculties grew steady and acute; he held the girl as if he intended never to let her go. Mescal clung to him with a wildness that gave him anxiety for her reason; there was something almost fierce in the tension of her arms, in the blind groping for his face.

“Mescal! It’s Jack, safe and well,” he said. “Let me look at you.”

At the sound of his voice all her rigid strength changed to a yielding weakness …

But if it’s easy to snicker at him for being a Writer of the Purple Prose, it’s also missing the point. The fact that his “cactus opera” (to borrow The New Yorker’s phrase) often erupts in breathless bursts of melodrama doesn’t mean it has no merit; just that its merits are somewhat artless. Grey was an outdoorsman, not a craftsman; he seldom bothered to rework his rough drafts, preferring to let his wife, Dolly, take care of that unpleasantness while he went off and fished. (After he and his family moved to California, he became one of the world’s great sport-fishermen, sailing around the globe and setting records for everything from bluefin tuna to tiger shark.) When Dolly didn’t make-over his work, editors often rejected it.

For all his lack of craft, Grey seems to have been in touch with something primal—a sort of arch-storyteller whose soap-operatic tales resonated with the public in a way that more sophisticated literature wouldn’t. He was also wildly in love with his subject matter, and had the constitution and the desire to channel rivers of words—more than nine million of them, by one estimate—onto the page. Perhaps, as Larry McMurtry suggests, “it will soon be discovered that there is even a gene for pulp fiction—or, if not a whole gene, at least an errant particle that induces in its victims a kind of lifelong, low-grade logorrhea.”

The same defiant energies that made Pearl Gray take on bullying sophomores would lead Zane Grey to imagine the mythic West in book after book after book. His timing was perfect. Another Pennsylvanian, Owen Wister, had already helped create that mythos in The Virginian, published in 1902. Grey seized it and galloped with it across the plains, deserts, and mountains of the West.

“Novels by Zane Grey crystallized a set of symbols for the American West in the minds of his millions of readers,” wrote Kevin S. Blake in a Geographical Review essay titled “Zane Grey and Images of the American West.” “He infused the frontier myth with vivid imagery of a sublime and beautiful landscape inhabited by heroic cowboys, deadly gunmen, polygamous Mormons, and noble Indians. He also localized the myth in and along the southern margin of the Colorado Plateau, so that this landscape became the quintessential West. By extending his version into the 1930s, Grey encouraged the belief that the Wild West persisted well into the twentieth century.”

His effect on the nation’s self-image can be gleaned from a 1952 “Talk of the Town” item in The New Yorker. The State Department had “just asked Mrs. Grey’s permission to translate ‘Riders of the Purple Sage’ into Annamese,” the magazine noted, “so that it can be distributed in Indo-China for propaganda purposes.”

It was sheer human glory in the deed of a fearless man. It was hot, primitive instinct to live—to fight … Venters lifted his rifle and pulled the trigger twice.

The first flush, the raging of Venters’s wrath, passed, to leave him in sullen, almost cold possession of his will. It was a deadly mood, utterly foreign to his nature, engendered, fostered, and released by the wild passions of wild men in a wild country …

Yes, the border was a bloody place. But life had always been bloody. Men were blood-spillers … On sea, on land, everywhere—shooting, stabbing, cursing, clashing, fighting men!

—Zane Grey, Riders of the Purple Sage.

It might be stretching things to say that the sophomore Class of 1895 helped transform Pearl Gray, a penniless, girly-named dental student from Ohio, into Zane Grey, the driven creator of manly Western tales adored by millions. Then again, it might not. True, the Sophs were just a product of the world around them, acting out their bullying rituals like every other sophomore class of that era. (A decade later, some Sophs from the Class of 1904 would toss a recalcitrant freshman named Ezra Pound C’05 G’06 into the Lily Pond, as the BioPond was then called.) And Gray might well have become a successful, high-testosterone writer had he never encountered a member of that hated breed. But if you were looking for a defining moment in the young man’s psychic growth, the temptation to zoom in on that first trial by fire is irresistible.

It began when he attended an anatomy lecture in an amphitheater—presumably in the building now called Logan Hall—and made the mistake of sitting in a row traditionally reserved for upperclassmen. A big, blond, “husky-voiced sophomore” got to his feet and roared: “Watch me throw Freshie out!”

Freshie may have been scared, but he wasn’t budging. When the sophomore tried to pull him away, Pearl gave him a violent shove that sent him backward over a row of seats into the midst of his classmates.

Here’s how biographer Frank Gruber, drawing on Grey’s unfinished, unpublished autobiography, put it: “Pandemonium broke out. The sophomores rose en masse to get to Pearl, and the freshmen spilled down from their heights to rescue their champion. The amphitheater became a scene of riot, and when it was over Pearl was stark naked, except for one sock. His clothing had been torn from him, including his shoes.”

Compare that with the more detailed, fictional version in The Young Pitcher:

“Hang, Freshie!” bellowed a freshman from the topmost row. It was acceptance of the challenge, the battle-cry flung down to the Sophs. A roar rose from the pit. The freshmen, outnumbering the sophomores, drowned the roar in a hoarser one …

Ken thrilled in all his being. The freshmen were with him! … [H]e clenched his fingers into the bench, vowing he would hang there until hauled away … Suddenly Ken let go his hold, pushed one fellow violently, then swung his fists … 

Like climbing, tumbling apes the two classes spilled themselves up and down the benches, and those nearest Ken laid hold of him, pulling him in opposite directions …

His clothes were torn to tatters in a twinkling; they were soon torn completely off, leaving only his shoes and socks … There was one more prolonged, straining struggle, then Ken was pulled away from the sophomores … [I]t was first blood for the freshman class.

One of his fellow classmen lent him an overcoat to hide his nakedness. Ken Ward was a hero now. So, in real life, was Pearl Gray.

For a while, anyway. Despite his athletic prowess, Gray was never a Big Man On Campus, and his years at Penn were not all sunshine. He was something of a loner, a trait magnified by the fact that he didn’t drink. (He did, however, learn to play poker.) His only real non-athletic sanctuary was the new Frank Furness-designed library, where he would read adventure writers and more high-toned poetry and prose, from Matthew Arnold and Edgar Allen Poe to Robert Louis Stevenson. “Whenever he was despondent he went to the library,” writes Gruber, “and by the time he left his spirits had been lifted.”

That fondness for reading, however, did not make him a good student, any more than it made him a careful prose stylist. Mechanical and operative dentistry were a “trial”; he didn’t care for anatomy and physiology; he found chemistry difficult and the chemistry professor, Dr. Wormly, “crabby and austere.” (In The Young Pitcher, Wormly’s counterpart is nicknamed Crab.) The only thing he really liked was histology (microscopic anatomy) and its professor, Robert “Bobby” Formad.

To make matters worse, the University decreed that a student had to pass his first year’s examinations before he could play on a team—which meant that Gray had to take his exams two months before everybody else.

That he survived may have had something to do with a tolerant attitude toward athletes. “He went before Old Pop Wormly in chemistry, who asked Pearl a few simple questions,” writes Gruber. “Pearl had to guess at the answers.” Wormly then asked him about baseball, knowing nothing about the game himself. “When Pearl finished, Wormly drawled, ‘Well, Mr. Gray, you know a good deal more about baseball than you do about chemistry.’” He gave Gray a passing grade.

Gray did even worse in some other courses, but his hide was saved by Professor Formad, who dispensed with the exam and gave him a 99. “You are one of the best students in histology I have ever had,” he told Gray. That grade raised his average enough for him to stay on at Penn.

Equally important, it allowed Gray to play for the varsity, and according to his unpublished memoir, he made the team that wintry day when he decimated his sophomore tormentors with potatoes. After that battle, it seems, he went back to his rented room in West Philadelphia, wondering if he would be expelled or arrested, when a “short, derby-hatted man with a huge cigar in his mouth” showed up at his door and gave Gray the once-over. Here is Gruber’s account, based on that unfinished memoir:

“Where’d you get the whip?” he demanded.

Pearl could only stare at him.

The little man chuckled. “Pearl Gray, I know all about you. I’ve had a report about your pitching in Ohio from one of our alumni scouts. I’m Arthur Irwin of the Philadelphia National League team, but I’m also the varsity baseball coach at the university. Now, keep it under your hat, but that potato stunt of yours has made you a member of the Pennsylvania varsity!”

Actually, Arthur Irwin—whom Gray affectionately fictionalized as “Worry Arthurs” in The Young Pitcher, and to whom he dedicated one of his other baseball books—didn’t start managing the Phillies until 1894, Gray’s sophomore year. (Two years later, Irwin became manager of the New York Giants—whom Penn beat in an exhibition game.) And one has to wonder if Zane Grey didn’t embroider the facts a little about the reason for his ascension to the varsity.

Pearl Gray soon had another thing to worry about. Before his first season, the National League changed the distance between the pitcher’s mound and home plate from 50 feet to 60, and the college teams had to follow the new rule. Gray, who had spent years practicing his curveball for the old dimensions, suddenly couldn’t get one over the plate.

Since he could still hit, he was put in the outfield. There may be some clues about his fielding prowess in The Young Pitcher. During a particularly ugly loss, outfielder Ken Ward “ran around like a chicken with its head off,” in the words of an opposing player, and was finally benched. But the young team’s plucky performance inspired a rousing speech to the undergraduates on “college spirit” from the university’s fictional President Halstead. After a token warning about the fate that might befall a student who “slights his studies for athletic glory,” the president scolded the upperclassmen for not supporting the team, and concluded by singling out a certain outfielder:

“That young fellow Ward—what torture that inning of successive hard hits to his territory! … Every attempt he made was a failure—that is, failure from the point of view of properly fielding the ball. But, gentlemen, that day was not a failure for young Ward. It was a grand success … the most splendid effort ever made on Grant Field. For it was made against defeat, fear, ridicule. It was elimination of self.”

Chances are, President Halstead’s real-life Penn counterpart, Charles C. Harrison C1862, never singled out Pearl Gray for such treacly praise. But Gray didn’t want for glory. In the last game of his senior season, he came to bat against the University of Virginia with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, a man on second, and Penn down a run. A professor shouted: “Gray, the honor of the University of Pennsylvania rests with you!”

Gray responded with a home run.

“The crowd covered him with roses,” writes Gruber, “and the papers called him the real-life Frank Merriwell, the popular fiction character who always came up to bat in the last half of the ninth and won the game.”

The memory of that triumph probablyhelped sustain him during the next decade, during which he moved to New York, practiced dentistry, and tried to crack the publishing world. Years later, he would tell interviewers that a wealthy dental patient had offered to lend him the money to publish his first book—Betty Zane, a Revolutionary War-era novel based on one of his ancestors. What he didn’t say was that the patient was one Lina Elise Roth, better known as Dolly, whom he had been courting for three years. Dolly paid the cost of self-publishing Betty Zane in 1903, and in 1907, two years after they married, she used the last of her inheritance to underwrite his first solo trip to the West. 

It grew out of a talk by one J. C. “Buffalo” Jones, a former buffalo hunter who was attempting to breed “cattalo”—a hybrid of buffalo and cattle—on his ranch near the Grand Canyon. Grey heard him speak at the Campfire Club in New York, and while most of the audience hooted at his implausible-sounding adventure stories, Grey believed him. Furthermore, he proposed to accompany Jones out West and write a book about his work. Jones agreed, and the planning commenced—until Grey saw how much the trip would cost, at which point he realized he couldn’t afford it. But Dolly, who was sharp enough to describe her husband’s more overblown passages as “periods of retardation,” also had the vision to see his potential. 

“I’ve got a hunch that this trip to the West will be the turning point in your career,” she told him.

The trip—during which he rode into the wilderness with some tough-minded Mormons, shot a mountain lion, and drank in the landscape—sparked a lifelong obsession with the West. It also yielded The Last of the Plainsmen, whose scope was considerably broader than Buffalo Jones’ cattalo experiments.

There was only one problem. “I do not see anything in this to convince me you can write either narrative or fiction,” a Harper Brothers editor named Ripley Hitchcock told Grey after reading The Last of the Plainsmen. A dozen other publishers also rejected it. Even when the Outing Publishing Company agreed to print the book, it didn’t pay him anything for it.

But Grey, bless his stubborn soul, kept at it, and just two years after his humiliating rejection, he asked Hitchcock to read his new book, a sprawling Western novel titled The Heritage of the Desert.

Hitchcock read it, and summoned Grey to New York.

“You’ve done it,” Hitchcock told him. “You’ve made me eat my words. It’s a fine novel, and here’s the proof of it.” With that, he handed the writer a contract.

Seven years later, Grey would return to Philadelphia in order to receive an honorary Master of Letters degree from Provost Edgar Fahs Smith. The citation poured praise upon the dental-school alumnus, noting that his “travels and adventures, since graduation from the University, have been vividly portrayed in fascinating and instructive volumes of fiction.”

Instructive is a particularly nice word to describe Grey’s novels. One wonders if Zane would have used it to describe Pearl’s treatment at the hands of the Sophs—or the message he sent back with those potatoes.


He was an unlikely gunslinger: a slight, well-dressed, almost delicate-looking man, with piercing blue eyes set in a head “a phrenologist would delight in examining,” as one Colorado newspaperman put it in May 1882. “He is well educated,” the Pueblo Daily Chieftain’s reporter continued, “and his conversation shows him to be a man of considerable culture.”

A few days later, a reporter from the Denver Republican also admitted to being “very much surprised at Holliday’s appearance, which is as different as could be from the generally conceived idea of a killer.” Holliday’s hands were “small and soft like a woman’s,” he added, “but the work they have done is anything but womanly. The slender forefinger which has dealt the cards has dealt death to many a rustler … ”

Both those articles were written some seven months after the shootout at the OK Corral in Tombstone, Arizona Territory, which burned the legend of Doc Holliday into the national memory. Not all the papers were so respectful, however. Holliday was then wanted for murder in Arizona, and the Rocky Mountain News referred to him as the “notorious” leader of “the infamous Earp gang of thugs, murderers, and desperadoes.”

He could have easily gone down in history as a big-time villain, a small-time thug, or nothing. To become a legend by killing people, you need to be in the right place at the right time. It also helps to have the chroniclers—most of them, anyway—on your side.

For Penn to claim Doc Holliday as an alumnus is really not much of a stretch. True, he attended the Pennsylvania College of Dental Surgery (PCDS) rather than the University itself, but the PCDS was more or less absorbed into Penn’s School of Dental Medicine in the years after Holliday earned his DDS degree in 1872. (Penn’s Department of Dentistry, which soon became the School of Dental Medicine, was founded in 1878.) One of Holliday’s professors, Dr. James Truman, later became the dental school’s dean; his students would include one Pearl Zane Gray (see main story).

When Holliday arrived in Philadelphia from Georgia in the fall of 1870, the PCDS was located at 10th and Arch streets, though he probably spent some time in West Philadelphia, since clinical lectures at Blockley Hospital were open to all students. According to Dr. Frank Heynick, author of Doc Holliday, DDS, the college’s two-year curriculum was “unsurpassed for its day and age,” and Holliday, who wrote his thesis on “Diseases of the Teeth,” graduated near the top of his class. He spent eight months at the dental practice of a preceptor, Dr. Lucien Frank of Valdosta, Georgia, Holliday’s hometown. A gold molar crown that he supposedly made for a six-year-old girl in 1871 was still intact when she died in 1967 at age 102.

In the summer of 1872, he began practicing his trade in Atlanta, but was plagued by a persistent, debilitating cough. A doctor diagnosed it as tuberculosis, which had already killed Holliday’s mother and stepbrother. If he wanted to live a little longer, the doctor said, he should head out to the drier, healthier West.

“There, by one of those singular transformations that nobody can understand,” noted the Leadville (Colorado) Daily Democrat in 1884, “he became widely known as a desperate man.”

He settled first in Dallas, and “shared top prize in several categories of dental craftsmanship at the annual North Texas Fair,” according to Heynick. “But [his] persistent coughing made patients shy away from him. And his fatalism about his disease together with a certain love of risk and liquor led him to spend more and more nights in the gambling halls.”

One of those gambling halls, in Dallas, was the site of his first shootout, on New Year’s Day, 1875. He apparently wasn’t much of a shot then; nobody was hit. For the next five years he drifted about the West, from Texas to Kansas to New Mexico, sometimes practicing dentistry, often dealing cards—and getting into increasingly deadly dust-ups.

During that time he met the other characters in his brief, two-act drama: the Hungarian-born Mary Katherine Haroney, better known as Big Nose Kate, a part-time prostitute and sometime girlfriend. Wyatt Earp, saloon-keeper, gambler, and part-time lawman; and his brothers, Virgil and Morgan. Bat Masterson, gambler and lawman. Various cowboys and cattle-rustlers, some good, some bad, most somewhere in between.

It was a dissolute, flash-point life, and one suited to Holliday’s brand of nervous energy. He once told Wyatt Earp that his edginess abated only when he was in a gunfight or doing dental work. (Now that’s a pathology.) Earp didn’t leave us any words about Holliday’s dental artistry, but he did describe him as “the most skillful gambler, and the nerviest, fastest, deadliest man with a six-gun I ever saw.”

Holliday didn’t limit himself to a six-shooter. In Fort Griffin, Texas, he stabbed a recalcitrant gambler named Ed Bailey to death with a knife. (After he was arrested for murder, the story goes, he was held in a hotel room—until Big Nose Kate set a fire in the hotel as a diversion, then used a pistol to persuade the reigning deputy to let him go.) And when he got to Tombstone, he showed himself to be pretty lethal with a shotgun, too. 

The brief, murderous gunfight near the OK Corral, which took place on October 26, 1881, became a defining moment in the national psyche. The story is usually told from the point of view of the Earps and Holliday, with clearly drawn Good Guys (them) and Bad Guys (the cattle-rustling cowboys). The reality was more complicated. If it happened today, it would be written off as a turf-war, fueled by trash-talking and booze.

When it was over, three cowboys—Billy Clanton, Frank McClaury, and Tom McClaury —were dead, and Holliday, Virgil Earp (Tombstone’s city marshal), and Morgan Earp were wounded. Holliday and the Earps were arraigned on homicide charges, but Judge Wells Spicer ruled that they had acted lawfully, if not very wisely.

Five months later, friends of the dead cowboys shot and killed Morgan Earp while he was playing pool. Wyatt and Holliday led a “vendetta posse” across Arizona, killing one of those friends in Tucson. Holliday fled to New Mexico and then to Denver, where a “crank” named Perry Mallen identified himself as a sheriff and stuck two pistols under his nose. He demanded that Holliday be returned to Arizona, where a murder warrant had been issued for his arrest by Sheriff John Behan.

“If I am taken back to Arizona, that is the last of Holliday,” the dentist told the Denver Republican. “We hunted the rustlers, and they all hate us. John Behan, Sheriff of Cochise County, is one of the gang, and a deadly enemy of mine, who would give any money to have me killed.” (Holliday traced their feud to the fact that he had once told Behan, in front of a crowd, that the sheriff was “gambling with money which I had given his woman.”)

In the end, Holliday avoided extradition through some clever legal maneuvering and some influential friends. “The results of their efforts,” noted the Republican, “led to the coining of a new word in Colorado—‘Hollidaying.’”

Two years later he shot another man in Leadville, but it appears to have been in self-defense, and Holliday was released. After that, his only arrests were for vagrancy.

By 1887, Holliday’s luck was running out and his health was failing fast. He headed to Glenwood Springs, a health resort along the Colorado River famous for its therapeutic hot springs.

“To help finance the treatment, he hung up his dentist’s shingle for the last time,” writes Heynick. Unfortunately, sulphurous hot springs were not what the doctor ordered for tuberculosis, and soon Holliday slipped into a coma at the Hotel Glenwood, coming out of it long enough to ask for a glass of whisky, which he drank with some satisfaction. His last words were: “This is funny.” Some attributed that remark to the fact that he realized he was going to die without his boots on, despite his prediction to the contrary.

He died on November 8, 1887, at the age of 36. His remains are thought to be buried somewhere in the Linwood Cemetery, though no one knows exactly where.

After his death, a number of newspapers published lengthy eulogies. Among those quoted by the Denver Republican was Holliday’s attorney, one Colonel Deweese, who allowed that the good dentist would “just as lief kill a man as not,” adding: “All he looked out for usually was to have the law on his side.

“I said to him one day, ‘Doctor, don’t your conscience ever trouble you?’ ‘No,’ he replied, with that peculiar cough of his, ‘I coughed that up with my lungs long ago.’”


Share Button

    Leave a Reply