Big Nose Kate (born Mary Katherine Horony Cummings November 7, 1850 – November 2, 1940) was a Hungarian-born prostitute and longtime companion and common-law wife of Old West gunfighter Doc Holliday.
Couple Profile Source
Full Name at Birth
Mary Katherine Horony Cummings
Profile Bio Text
Mary Katherine Horony Cummings (November 7, 1850 – November 2, 1940), known as Big Nose Kate, was the Hungarian-born long-time companion and common-law wife of fabled gambler and gunfighter Doc Holliday in the American Old West. Despite numerous adventures, she lived a long life.
Immigration to the United States of America
Kate Harony (seated at left) and younger sister named Wilhemina in about 1865, at the time they were orphaned. Kate is about 15-years-old.Mary Katherine Horony was born on November 7, 1850, in Pest, Hungary, the second-oldest daughter of a Hungarian physician, Dr. Michael Horony. In 1860, Dr. Horony, his second wife Katharina, and his children left Hungary for the United States, ultimately reaching New York on board the ship Bremen in September 1860. Although no conclusive evidence or records exist, Dr. Horony was to accept a position as personal physician to Austrian-born Emperor, Maximilian I of Mexico. Many authors have stated, without proof, that Horony left Mexico in 1863 with his family long before Maximilian's rule crumbled. The family settled in a predominantly German area of Davenport, Iowa, in 1862. Horony and his wife died in 1865 within a month of one another. Mary Katherine and her younger siblings were placed in the home of her brother-in-law, Gustav Susemihl, and in 1870, they were left in the care of attorney Otto Smith. The 1870 United States Census records for Davenport, Iowa, show Kate's younger sister, Wilhemina (Wilma), living with and working as a domestic for Austrian-born David Palter and his Hungarian wife Betty when Wilhemina was 15 years old.
 St. Louis and Dodge CityAt the age of 16, Kate ran away from her foster home and is reported to have stowed away on a riverboat bound for St. Louis, Missouri. While in St. Louis, Kate claimed she married a dentist named "Silas Melvin" and that the two had a son. Subsequently, husband and son were said to have died of yellow fever. No record currently proves the marriage, birth of a child, or the deaths of either Melvin or the child. What is known through United States Census records is that a Silas Melvin lived in St. Louis in the mid-1860s but was married to a steamship captain's daughter named Mary Bust. The census further shows Melvin's occupation to be an employee of a St. Louis asylum. Since it is during the early 1870s that Kate met Doc Holliday, there is speculation that she may have confused the two and their occupations when recalling the facts later in her life.
By 1874, Kate had left St. Louis and made her way to Dodge City, Kansas. It is alleged that she and Bessie Earp were fined for working as "sporting women" in a sporting house run by Bessie Earp, wife of James Earp. Through the years, a number of historians and biographers have labeled Kate as a prostitute. To date, there is no (conclusive) proof that this was ever the case.
 Doc Holliday and the O.K. Corral
Big Nose Kate's Saloon in Tombstone. It was originally called the "Grand Hotel" and was built in 1880. Ike Clanton and two Mclaury brothers stayed there the night before the famous OK Corral gunfight.In 1876, Kate moved to Fort Griffin, Texas, where she met Wyatt Earp and began her long-time involvement with Doc Holliday. Doc said at one point that he considered Kate his intellectual equal. There are unproven reports that Kate owned and operated a bordello in Tombstone. (Amongst amateur historians, Big Nose Kate has often been confused with a Tombstone sporting woman who went by the name "Rowdy Kate".) She did own a miner's boarding house in Globe, Arizona, along Broad Street.
By her own account, Kate and Doc went to Trinidad, Colorado, and then to Las Vegas, New Mexico, where Holliday was briefly a barkeeper at a saloon on Center Street. Doc and Kate met up again with Wyatt Earp and his brothers on their way to the Arizona Territory. Virgil Earp had already been in Prescott before Wyatt persuaded his brothers to move to Tombstone. Holliday and Kate parted ways when Kate left for Globe, Arizona. Holliday, like his friend Wyatt, was always looking for an opportunity to make money and joined the Earps in Tombstone during the fall of 1880.
After the March 15, 1881 robbery and murder of stagecoach driver Eli "Bud" Philpot and a passenger between Tombstone and Benson, Arizona, Cowboy Bill Leonard was one of three men implicated in the robbery. Holliday had become friends with Bill Leonard. When Kate and Holliday had a fight, County Sheriff Johnny Behan and Milt Joyce, a county supervisor and owner of the Oriental Saloon, decided to exploit the situation.
Behan and Joyce plied Big Nose Kate with alcohol and suggested to her a way to get even with Holliday. She signed an affidavit implicating Holliday in the murders and attempted robbery. Judge Wells Spicer issued an arrest warrant for Holliday. The Earps found witnesses who could attest to Holliday's whereabouts elsewhere at the time of the murders. Kate said that Behan and Joyce had influenced her to sign a document she didn't understand. With the Cowboy plot revealed, Judge Spicer freed Holliday. The district attorney threw out the charges, labeling them "ridiculous." After Holliday was released, he gave Kate money and put her on the stage. Kate returned to Globe for a time, but returned to Tombstone in October that year.
 Gunfight at the O.K. CorralIn a 1939 letter to her niece (Lillian Rafferty), Kate claimed of being in the vicinity of Tombstone with Holliday during the days leading up to the fight. Kate reminisces about her stay with Holliday at Fly's Boarding House. The room was along Fremont Street and the open alley way between the boarding house and the O.K. Corral. Kate is precise regarding minor details and states that she was with Holliday in Tucson, at a "feasto." There was a fiesta, which was the San Augustin Feast and Fair, in Levin Park on October 1881. On October 20, 1881, Morgan Earp rode to Tucson to alert Holliday of the impending trouble. According to Kate's recollections, Holliday asked her to remain in Tucson for her safety, but she refused, instead going with Holliday and Earp.
Kate wrote that on the day of the gunfight, a man entered Fly's Boarding House with a "bandaged head" and a rifle. He was looking for Holliday, who was still in bed after a night of gambling. Kate recalled that the man who was turned away by Mrs. Fly was later identified as Ike Clanton. This partly follows the historical record, as Clanton was buffaloed by City Marshal Virgil Earp after Clanton was found carrying a rifle and pistol in violation of city ordinances while looking for Holiday, and was bandaged afterward. However, Clanton had his rifle and pistol taken from him at the time, and there is no evidence he ever was armed after being treated. He had no arms at the time of the shootout.  Clanton was bandaged when he visited Spangenberg's gun shop after noon that day, but Spangenberg, observing his state, would not sell him a weapon.
The Earps and Holliday walked down Fremont Street to confront the cowboys in the vacant lot west of Fly's Boarding House. Author Glenn Boyer disputes that Kate saw the gunfight through the window of the boarding house. She would have been able to see the fight only if she stuck her head out the front window of Fly's. It is more plausible that Kate had heard testimony from accounts of the actual gunfight and then repeated them in her letter to her niece.
Kate stated that after Doc Holliday returned to his room, he sat on the edge of his bed and wept from the shock of what had happened during the close range gunfight. "That was awful," Kate claims he said. "Just awful." Other researchers dispute her account of events.
 After the OK Corral and later lifeKate is reported to have made trips to Tombstone to see Holliday until he left for Colorado in April 1882. In 1887, Kate traveled to Redstone, Colorado, close to Glenwood Springs, Colorado, to visit with her family, brother Alexander. Some historians have attempted to connect Kate and Doc in attempts at a possible reconciliation between the two. After Holliday had died, Kate married Irish blacksmith George Cummings in Aspen, on March 2, 1890. After working several mining camps throughout Colorado, they moved to Bisbee, Arizona, where she briefly ran a bakery. After returning to Willcox, Arizona, in Cochise County, Cummings became an abusive alcoholic and they separated. In 1900, Kate moved to Dos Cabezas or Cochise (which is now a ghost town) and worked for John and Lulu Rath, owners of the Cochise Hotel. Cummings committed suicide in Courtland, Arizona, in 1915.
In 1910, Kate is enumerated in the U.S. Census in Dos Cabezas, Arizona, as a member of the home of miner John J. Howard. When Howard died in 1930, Kate was the executrix of his estate. She contacted his only daughter who lived in Tempe, Arizona, and settled the inheritance.
In 1931, now 80, Kate contacted her long-time friend, Arizona Governor George Hunt, and applied for admittance to the Arizona Pioneers' Home in Prescott, Arizona. In 1910, the home was established by the state of Arizona for destitute and ailing miners and male pioneers of the Arizona Territory. It took Kate six months to be admitted, since the home had a requirement that residents must be United States citizens. According to the 1935 Bork interview, Kate was owed money by the Howard estate but the amount owed was not enough to buy firewood through the winter as Kate had complained in her letters to the governor.
She was admitted as one of the first female residents of the home. She lived there and became an outspoken resident assisting other residents with living comforts. Kate wrote many letters to the Arizona state legislature, and when she was not satisfied she would contact the state governor.
Death and discrepancy:
Kate died on November 2, 1940, just five days before her 90th birthday, of acute myocardial insufficiency, a condition she showed symptoms of for one day before her death. Her death certificate states that she also suffered from coronary artery disease and advanced arteriosclerosis. Kate's death certificate showed significant discrepancies regarding her parents' names and her stated birthplace. While history has always stated Kate was born in Hungary, her death certificate states she was born in Davenport, Iowa, to father Marchal H. Michael and mother Catherine Baldwin. The birthplaces for both parents on the certificate state "unknown".
Near the end of her life, several reporters tried to record Kate's life story, her relationship with Doc Holliday and her time in Tombstone. She only talked to two authors: Anton Mazzonovich and Prescott historian Dr. A.W. Bork.
Kate was buried on November 6, 1940, under the name of "Mary K. Cummings" below a modest marker in the Arizona Pioneer Home Cemetery, Prescott, Arizona.
In other media:
Big Nose Kate was depicted by Joanna Pacuła in Tombstone (1993 film), and Isabella Rossellini in Wyatt Earp (1994 film) respectively.
Cause of Death
Acute Myocardial Insufficiency
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