Wednesday, November 14, 2018

What Ever Happened to Big Nose Kate

Big Nose Kate - Photo copyright
I don't know about you, but I'm a HUGE fan of the movie Tombstone. It's one of my top ten, must watch every year no matter what, movies. Maybe it's the intrigue of the wild west and the many barriers they faced settling in the western states or maybe it was the authentic, desperately sexy portrayals by Val Kilmer, Sam Elliott, Bill Paxton and Kurt Russell, (yum). Most likely the latter.

Tombstone Cast of Yummy Characters Photo Copyright
Doc Holliday was a well-educated dentist, with a gambler/gunslinger soul. He didn't like many, but those he trusted and respected could count on him when things got nasty. Wyatt Earp was one of those friends, as was his lady love Big Nose Kate.
Mary Katherine Horony, later known as big nose Kate, captured the gunslingers heart. She is said to have descended from Hungarian nobility. Her father, a physician, immigrated to American with his wife and children in 1860. After settling in Davenport, Iowa, Kate's father and his wife died within three years of settling. This sadly thrust their children into the foster care system.

At 16, Kate had had enough and ran away. Feisty even then, she stowed away on a riverboat bound for St. Louis. She reported to have married, and had a child, but no clear records were found. For a short time, it's said that she entered the Ursuline Convent, but only for a short time. In 1869, she started working as a prostitute for none other than Nellie "Bessie" Earp, James Earp's wife, and so goes her path to meeting and falling for Doc Holliday.
Doc Holliday Photo Copyright
Her real adventure started when she met Doc Holliday in 1877 in Fort Griffin, Texas in the John Shanssey's Saloon. The connection was instant and undeniable. They understood one another. Doc boasted that 'Kate was his intellectual equal.' By this time, she had already earned the nickname 'Big Nose Kate' due to her prominent nose. The couple followed Doc's good friend Wyatt Earp to Dodge City, then eventually to Tombstone, Arizona in 1880. She was his steadfast partner for many years, though many reported loud and passionate arguments and fights between the two.
Doc Holliday and Big Nose Kate Photo Copyright
In 1887, three years after Doc Holliday died of tuberculosis, Kate married an Irish blacksmith named George Cummings. They followed the excitement and intrigue of the mining boom from Colorado to several different Arizona counties. Kate moved to Dos Cabezas and started working at the Cochise Hotel, for John and Lula Rath when Cummin's alcoholism caused him to become abusive.
Cochise Hotel Photo Copyright
In 1910, Kate moved into the home of miner John J. Howard and lived a much calmer life until his passing in 1930. In 1931, 80 year old Kate contacted a longtime friend, Arizona governor George Hunt, and applied for admittance to the all men Pioneers' Home in Prescott, Arizona. It took Kate six months to be admitted. She was one of the first female residents of the home. She became an outspoken resident, assisting other residents with living comforts. 
Kate died on November 2, 1940, just five days before her 90th birthday, of acute myocardial insufficiency. Her death certificate states that she also suffered from coronary artery disease. She was buried on November 6, 1940, under the name Mary K. Cummings, in the Arizona Pioneer Home Cemetery in Prescott, Arizona.


Julie Lence said...

Great blog, Rhonda! I always liked her character in Tombstone. The real Kate led such a long and interesting life.

Renaissance Women said...

Thank you for researching and sharing the life of a very fascinating person. Doris

Unknown said...

Very interesting and also interesting that she was buried in Prescott, AZ. IF I EVER GET BACK THERE I WILL DEFINITELY LOOK FOR HER GRAVE. My son went to Embry-Riddle in Prescott.