The Lingering Appeal of the Wild West and Doc Holliday ~ Kimberly Grist

Happy Fall, y’all. I’m so pleased to be your guest blogger today. I love history, and one of my favorite parts about the writing process is doing the research required to ensure accuracy in my stories. I also like to try to find something that may not be widely known to keep the story interesting.

My family and I share our hometown of Griffin, Georgia, with a notorious gambler and gunfighter who’s also a dentist. I work only a block away from the location of his dental practice.

Doc Holliday is well known for his participation, along with Wyatt Earp, in the O.K. Corral gunfight in 1881. The battle itself lasted less than a minute. After almost 140 years, what do we still find so intriguing about the man? Multiple movies retell the story of the lawman, Wyatt Earp. But strangely, the character we’re most drawn to is a sickly dentist turned gambler and gunman known as Doc.

Pictured left Doc Holliday with Wyatt Earp and his brothers.

Perhaps the complexity of his character is the reason for his lingering appeal. His vibrant personality is rooted in contrast. Doc is critically ill but bold and gallant. He’s a deadly gunslinger and gambler, yet smart, educated, flashy, witty, compassionate, and loyal. Stir in a bit of vulnerability, a touch of vanity, and don’t forget a healthy dose of gallant southern charm to describe this critically ill man.


Born with a cleft palate on August 14, 1851, John Henry Holliday was fed by his mother with an eyedropper and a spoon.

The baby’s uncle, Dr. John Stiles Holliday, performed surgery, assisted by Dr. Crawford Long, the namesake of the Emory Hospital in Atlanta. The operation may have been the first time in history in which ether was used on an infant. He was schooled at home by his mother, who spent years training him to conquer his speech impediment. She also instilled in him Southern etiquettes, which would forever be part of his demeanor.

Two actors who played Doc Holliday, Stacy Keach and Jason Robards, were also born with the same condition.

Jason Robards played Doc in Hour of the Gun in 1967.

In 1864, his family moved to Valdosta, Georgia, where his mother suffered from consumption, now known as tuberculosis, and died when he was fifteen. Three months after his mother’s death, his father remarried.

 John Henry Holliday, age ten

Holliday attended Valdosta Institute, where he received a classical education, and in 1870, nineteen-year-old Holliday left home to attend the Pennsylvania College of Dental Surgery. He graduated five months before his twenty-first birthday. He returned to Griffin, Georgia, in 1872 to practice dentistry. 

John Henry was soon diagnosed with consumption and, in 1873, ended his career as a dentist. Some say he didn’t want his family to see him deteriorate and die from the disease. Others suggest he went west in hopes that the climate would be beneficial to his lungs. Regardless, Doc took the train to the literal end of the railroad line—Dallas, Texas.

Holliday understood the gravity of his disease and most likely considered himself a walking dead man. Though a realist, he remained hopeful for a cure. Doc found comfort in whiskey and gambling.

Texas was full of guns, knives, and violent men, some of whom were suffering from post-traumatic stress from the effects of war. Doc reinvented himself—from a southern gentleman dentist to a dangerous gunman who’d killed more than a dozen men in various altercations.

Holliday traveled from town to town, following the money and gaining a reputation as both a gambler and a gunman. In 1877, Doc was involved in an argument, but instead of going for his gun, he used his walking stick. His serious wounds, compounded by worsening tuberculosis, spurred a change of scenery. His next stop was Fort Griffin, where he met Wyatt Earp, who ultimately saved his life.

Earp and Holliday became fast friends. Eventually, Doc would join Earp in the wild boomtown of Tombstone, Arizona. Due to recent silver strikes, the town was flooded with merchants and cash but short on law and order. By the end of 1880, Tombstone was embedded with organized rustlers and thieves called the Cowboys. 

Val Kilmer as Doc alongside Sam Elliott, Kurt Russell & Bill Paxton as Virgil, Wyatt & Morgan Earp in 1993

On October 26, 1881. Tombstone City Marshal Virgil Earp deputized Holliday. Virgil asked Doc to carry his shotgun under his coat, and the four strode down the middle of the street to meet and disarm five members of the Cowboys near the O.K. Corral, which resulted in a thirty-second shootout.

GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment and you could win an ebook copy of WILLOW’S WORTH!



Telegraph operator, Willow Graham, has benefited from a unique lifestyle growing up with her grandfather at the livery. She’s independent and loves spending time riding and training animals. With her twenty-first birthday approaching, her family pressures her to return to the city and take up the lavish lifestyle her uncle has planned for her.

Her other alternative is to take her chances with a matchmaking agency’s recommendation and begin correspondence with a handsome farmer.

Leo Weaver is a man of many talents. Hardworking, he’s helped his father develop a successful farm. Loyal and giving, he volunteers as a deputy sheriff. Handsome and charming, he’s about to become the target of several well-meaning ladies in the community who have submitted his name for a new matchmaking venture.

 Willow craves the outdoors. Leo loves community life and wants to live in town. Can a matchmaking agency help two independent people realize the opposing desires of their hearts?


Kimberly Grist is married to her high school sweetheart, Nelson, a former teacher and coach, now a pastor. They have three adult sons, one with Down syndrome, and they have a passion for encouraging others with family members with special needs.

I’ve enjoyed writing since I was a young girl; however, I began writing my first novel in 2017. Inspired by so many things life has to offer, one of which includes our oldest son’s cancer diagnosis, it’s especially gratifying to write a happy ending.

I believe you should come away refreshed and inspired after reading a book. In my personal life, I wear so many hats, working inside and outside the home. I work hard, try harder, and then begin again the next day. Despite my best efforts, sometimes life stinks. Bad things happen. I need and want an outlet, an opportunity to relax and escape to a place where obstacles are met and overcome. My stories are designed to entertain, refresh, and inspire you, the reader. They combine History, Humor, and Romance, with an emphasis on Faith, Friends, and Good Clean Fun.




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47 thoughts on “The Lingering Appeal of the Wild West and Doc Holliday ~ Kimberly Grist”

    • Thanks for posting a comment. Doc is a fascinating character. My research inspired me to go back and watch some of the old movies to see how they capture his personality.

  1. So glad to have you as our guest blogger. I’m like you about researching anything in a book that is reality. I enjoyed your blog and learns so many things, really a lot of things about Wyatt that I didn’t know. Thanks for coming and a big Texas hug. Phyliss

  2. Kimberly- This was so fascinating. Living only 80 miles from Dodge city I get to hear Alot of history with Wyatt, Doc, and the gang. I also live only 60 miles from Meade, KS where The Dalton Gang hideout is located, I actually lived only about 5 blocks from the hideout when I 1st moved to Kansas from Texas.
    Thank you for so much history on Doc, very very interesting. Happy Thanksgiving and an early Merry Christmas to you’re family and you.

    • Thanks for reading my post and leaving a reply. There is a Doc Holliday festival in September that is a lot of fun. My family enjoy attending and watching the reenactment of the O.K. Corral.

  3. Good morning! What a fascinating blog! Thanks for the history on Doc. I have a nephew that was born with a severe cleft pallet. I believe he had 5 surgeries but maybe more as he grew. I do know those first months were hell for my sister, brother-in-law, my niece and my mother. My mother stayed with them for quite some Tim’s because feeding him was such a struggle. The fear he would die was present for a long time.

    I’ve yet to read one of your books and would love the opportunity. A giveaway is an awesome way to find a new author to add to my go to authors list! Happy Fall and I wish you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving!

  4. Fascinating history and a window into the challenges of yester year and how brave people had to be, just to live their lives. I really like the quote about their not being a “normal life.” It has special resonance today.

  5. Welcome today. I have always loved DOC. Maybe because of all his qualities. Thanks for sharing this information about him. Your book sounds interesting. Would love to read it. quilting dash lady at comcast dot net

    • Thanks for reading my post and leaving a reply. Doc is a fascinating character and I’ve enjoyed researching him. Good Luck with the drawing, of all the books I’ve written, Willow’s Worth is my favorite.

  6. This was very interesting. I learned things I hadn’t ever heard about Doc Holliday. Thank you! Your book sounds like a lot of fun. I’m sure I would enjoy reading it so I’m adding it to my wishlist.

    • Glad you enjoyed my post. Doc is a fascinating character and I’ve enjoyed researching him. It’s also fun to walk by his former dentist office each day. Good Luck with the drawing, of all the books I’ve written, Willow’s Worth is my favorite.

  7. Hi Kimberly! I enjoyed the history lesson regarding Doc Holiday. Thank you!
    Also, the book cover for Willow’s Worth is gorgeous! Glad to meet you today. I love your passion to work hard and try harder. You embrace your faith and I’ll bet you are an awesome pastor’s wife. I hope your family has a very blessed Thanksgiving. May God continue to be near to your family.

    • Thanks so much for your kind words. Other than being a mom, i think the job of a pastor’s wife is the most challenging of my life. Happy Thanksgiving and thanks for responding to my post.

  8. I love Tombstone, the movie featuring Val Killer as Doc Holliday! I’ve always been a fan of Kurt Russell, but Val Kilmer stole every scene he was in. He was mesmerizing. But I must confess I’ve always been fascinated by wild west outlaws, and one of the most interesting is the lady outlaw, Belle Star. Another fascinating real life character of the old west is Bass Reeves. He was born a slave in 1838 and became the first black deputy U.S. marshal west of the Mississippi River.

    • Thanks fo your comment. I remember reading that it is believed that Bass Reeves may have inspired the character The Lone Ranger. I’ll have to go back and find where I read that. Belle Star is another interesting character.

  9. Kimberly, Thank you so much for a wonderfully interesting and informative post. I have never heard anything about Doc Holliday’s early years. He is so lucky to have had the family he did. Having worked with some children with cleft palates to get them surgery, I am a bit familiar with the difficulties they suffer both physically, socially, and emotionally. The death rate for babies with a severely cleft palate is sadly high. I had not heard much about early surgery. Also, interesting that two well known actors who played him had the same history. One has to wonder if at some point his becoming a gunslinger may have been a death wish to avoid the deterioration of his disease, especially since he watched his mother suffer and die from the same condition. That he became so good a gunfighter is likely a reflection of his subconscious will to live. I have heard several different descriptions of what really happened at the OK Corral , both relating to how the event transpired and who those involved were – farmers, outlaws, or whatever. I guess there will always be differences of opinion and research on what the facts are.
    Next time we head down that way, we will swing through Griffin. It looks like a nice old town. We might even have to stop in to the Doc Holliday Saloon.
    Willow’s Worth sounds like a good opposites attract story. They are always enjoyable and show how common areas can make them work. Lovely cover.

    Have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Stay safe and healthy.

    • Thanks for responding to my post. I think Doc was a realist and he knew he was a walking dead man, but at the same time had hope for a cure. Maybe that is why he didnt seem to fear danger. Perhaps the thought of dying in gun battle was less troubling that suffering through TB. if you do get a chance to go through Griffin in September they generally have a Doc Holliday Festival which is a lot of fun. Reenactments of the OK Corral are performed etc. The home where Doc grew up is also there.

  10. I enjoyed reading your post! I always focused more on Wyatt Earp so it was fun to read more about Doc Holliday. Your book Willow’s Worth sounds like a book I would love to read. Have a Blessed Thanksgiving!

    • Thanks for replying to my post. Wyatt is definitely intriguing as are his brothers. I had a lot of fun writing WIllow’s Worth and it is a favorite of mine. I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving as well!

  11. Thank you for sharing the information on Doc. Holiday. It was very interesting. I think that God has a hand in connection of love for a man and woman. I am not sure about match making agencies. There has to be a connection made and a friendship needs to develop before love can bloom.

    • thanks for responding to my post. Willow’s Worth is a mail-order bride story with a twist. The fictional matrimonial service took place during a time in history when there were few men in the east and few women in the west. In my imagination a pastor and the matron of an orphanage created an agency based on the story of Rebecca and Isaac. They work together with other churches to find a way to match young women to Christian men in the west. The agency is called H.I.M.M.” Which is short for Heaven Inspired Matrimonial Matches. The process includes recomendations from church members/pastors and opportunity for couring through correspondence. There is also a courting period in person when the bride arrives, prior to marriage. I agree its important that the characers develop friendship so the relationship moves along slowly then develops into a commited loving relationship. I also weave spritual truths throughout the story. And last but not least a lot of good clean fun!

  12. Hi there! Such an exceptionally interesting read, this post! I had heard of the OK Corral but never knew the details of it and the only Doc Holiday I’d ever heard of was the one played by Michael J. Fox in the movie “Doc”. ? I find it amazing that Brian Keith and Jason Robards, both of the actors who played him in the cinema, had cleft palate as well…wow! His whole biography was fascinating!! Willow’s World sounds wonderful, too — keeping my ?? that I win your book! ???

  13. I guess emojis don’t work here…it’s Venetia again. The end of my comment was “keeping my fingers crossed that I win your book!” with a smiley face with two hearts for eyes emoji, followed by a blue book, followed by a cowboy smiley emoji — just FYI! Have a great night!!!

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