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Sat, Jan. 25

Notorious Old West figures hung out in Prescott

As the territorial capital of Arizona, Prescott was a happening place during the Old West days.

Strolling down Whiskey Row or through the grounds of the Sharlot Hall Museum a few blocks to the west, it's not hard to believe that a piece of that Old West remains alive here, too.

Along with the thousands of forgotten Old West characters who passed through here, some remain infamous, including the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday of OK Corral shootout fame.

The museum is a great place to tour at the start of your visit to Prescott, since it's home to several territorial buildings, including two early governor's mansions and many cabins that allow the museum's living history exhibits to come alive.

The museum also has established a companion museum at Fort Whipple, an Old West fort where numerous historic buildings also remain on the expansive grounds.

Call 445-3122 or go online to for more information about locations, events and displays. The museum is located at 415 W. Gurley St.

Prescott was the favorite home of Virgil Earp, who lived here with his wife Allie in 1877-79, and returned to Prescott and nearby Kirkland in 1895-1902.

"It's the only place that seems like home," Earp wrote about Prescott to his friend, Prescott Constable James Dodson, in 1882.

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.

Thus began the Earp brothers' history as lawmen. Virgil was later elected constable, then appointed a U.S. marshal before his brothers met up with him in Prescott in late 1879 to head to Tombstone and their place in Old West history books.

Doc Holliday and his girl, Big-Nosed Kate, stayed behind so he could enjoy the card tables on Whiskey Row a bit longer, according to more than one historical account. One of the few authenticated photos of Doc, personally signed by him, was snapped in Prescott in 1879.

Holliday arrived in Tombstone in 1880, but returned to Prescott for a few months later that year and lived in a Montezuma Street boarding house.

Virgil deputized his brothers and Doc before the OK Corral shootout on Oct. 26, 1881.

While the buildings along Whiskey Row burned down in 1900, it's likely the Earps hung out in the current saloons, since Virgil lived in this area for a few years after 1900.

Big-Nosed Kate spent her last days in Prescott and is buried here. She was Doc's on-again off-again girlfriend after Doc's friend Wyatt Earp dumped her. Her aliases over the years included Kate Fisher and Katie Elder.

She applied to live at the Arizona Pioneers' Home, a state-run home for pioneers, in 1931 at the age of 80. Her application is framed on a shelf in the home's main lobby today. The stately 100-year-old home is perched on a hill overlooking downtown Prescott.

Her application - and her 1940 gravestone at the Pioneers' Home Cemetery - lists only her real name of Mary K. Cummings.

During her time at the Pioneers' Home, the story of the fight at the OK Corral was becoming the subject of movies.

"I have recently read in the newspapers and magazines of frontier marshal Wyatt Earp, which is all wrong and only hearsay," Cummings told Prescott historian Bill Bork in 1935 at the Pioneers' Home. "I am the only one alive now that can tell the truth about the Earp Brothers and Doc Holliday. I am very old and would like to set these stories right before I pass on."

She got to tell her side of the story before her death.

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