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Trusted local news leader for Prescott area communities since 1882
4:19 PM Tue, Oct. 23rd

Earps and friends once walked Whiskey Row

Courtesy/Sharlot Hall Museum<p>
Historians believe this 1879 photo of Doc Holliday in Prescott is genuine because Holliday signed it.

Courtesy/Sharlot Hall Museum<p> Historians believe this 1879 photo of Doc Holliday in Prescott is genuine because Holliday signed it.

Some of the most famous Wild West characters of all time - the lawmen involved in the shootout near Tombstone's OK Corral - once roamed Prescott's Whiskey Row.

Doc Holliday's longtime girlfriend, Mary Katharine Horony - better known as Big-Nose Kate - spent the final nine years of her life at the Arizona Pioneers' Home in Prescott and is buried on the southwest side of its cemetery along Iron Springs Road under the name Mary K. Cummings.

Virgil Earp had the strongest Prescott connections of the Earp brothers, friends and lovers. Virgil - who was Tombstone's only lawman when he deputized his brothers and Holliday for the shootout - spent several years in the Prescott area and apparently got his start with the law here.

While the exact locations of the Whiskey Row establishments that the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday visited are unknown, it's safe to say they walked Whiskey Row and historians agree that Holliday won a good bit of money gambling there.

The Palace Saloon was one of the finest saloons in the Arizona Territory back then. The Palace burned down twice since the Earps and the Hollidays hung out here in the late 1800s, but the name remains the same and the 107-year-old structure remains a stately Whiskey Row anchor.

While no known photos of the Earps in Prescott exist, one shows Holliday in Prescott in 1879. Historians generally agree it's authentic because Holliday signed it.

Virgil Earp passed through the Prescott area a few times before settling here in 1876, according to Days Past articles in The Daily Courier by Sharlot Hall Museum volunteer Bill Lynam.

After a short stint delivering the mail, Virgil helped develop a mine south of town while operating a sawmill. Legend has it that the sawmill was at the site of today's Thumb Butte Recreation Area parking lot, Lynam wrote.

Shortly after Virgil's arrival, the Yavapai County sheriff deputized Earp and others to help track down two cowboys who had shot up the town. Earp killed one of the men with his rifle south of town.

After the town council appointed Earp to a night watchman position, Prescott voters elected Earp constable. Then Earp decided to head to the new mining boomtown of Tombstone, where he would seal his place in history.

"E.W. Earp is about to pull out for Tombstone, which is just now the great center of attraction," the Arizona Journal-Miner newspaper in Prescott wrote on Nov. 14, 1879. "We don't like Tombstone and shall avoid them so long as possible."

In a letter she wrote in 1940 near the end of her life at the Pioneers' Home, 89-year-old Big-Nose Kate said she and Holliday arrived in Prescott in November 1879 and stayed until the fall of 1880. Some historical articles report that Holliday delayed his trip to Tombstone because he was having a great run at the Prescott gambling tables.

Virgil obtained a U.S. marshal appointment before he and his wife left Prescott with brothers Wyatt and Jim and their wives. He deputized some of his brothers and Doc Holliday before the big shootout on Oct. 26, 1881.

Three outlaws died in the gunfight, but not before they wounded Virgil in the leg. The feud continued, and outlaws shot Virgil again a few months later. He lost part of the bone in his arm and was permanently crippled. They killed his brother Morgan the following March.

In 1895, the Arizona Journal Miner reported Virgil's return to the Prescott area. He and a partner leased the Grizzly Mine in the Hassayampa District. About a year later, he was seriously injured during a mine cave-in.

Virgil had his own brief stint in jail in 1898. The newspaper reported that a candidate for sheriff hired him as a special constable to arrest the editors of the Jerome Reporter newspaper for libel, and then the editors got Virgil arrested for false imprisonment.

In 1898 Virgil applied for 160 acres of land in the Kirkland area near Prescott, under the provisions of the Soldier's and Sailor's Homestead Act. He and his third wife lived there and sometimes wintered in Prescott.

The Journal Miner reported in 1899 that Virgil finally met up in Oregon with his first wife and child, whom he couldn't find in Iowa after returning from the Civil War. His wife had thought he was dead. They hadn't seen each other for 38 years.

Yavapai County Republicans nominated Virgil for sheriff in 1900 but he soon dropped out of the race, possibly because of his poor health.

Virgil moved away from Yavapai County for the last time by 1904. He died in Goldfield, Nev., in 1905 at the age of 63. He was buried at Portland, Ore., at the request of his daughter.

Contact the reporter at jdodder@prescottaz.com