A Hungarian at the OK Corral?

A Hungarian at the OK Corral? - Doc Holiday and Big Nose Kate

Estimated reading time: 3 minute(s)

Another story of Hungarian influence in the most unlikely of places.

Those pesky Magyars get everywhere! But I’ll bet you didn’t know one was connected to what is probably the Wild West’s most well-known and infamous shootout: the gunfight at the OK Corral. Was it through Wyatt Earp? Nope. One of his brothers, Virgil or Morgan Earp? No again. The west’s deadliest killer dentist, Doc Holliday? Why, yes; turns out good ol’ Doc Holliday had a Hungarian lady friend/companion named, interestingly enough, “Big Nose” Kate.

Historical photo of Kate and her sister at about the time she left Davenport. circa 1867. Source: Wikipedia
Historical photo of Kate and her sister at about the time she left Davenport. circa 1867. Source: Wikipedia

It was a long and adventurous path from Budapest, Hungary, to the silver-mining city of Tombstone in the American Wild West. Mária Katalin Horony was born in Pest in 1850 of a well-to-do family. She and her parents and sister moved to Mexico and the US state of Iowa before Kati ran away from home after her parents died when she was just 16 years old. Sources vary on how she supported herself before she met and paired up with Doc Holliday in Texas in 1877, although “kept woman” is mentioned more than once.

Kati and Doc, introduced to each other by Wyatt Earp, had a long-standing love/hate relationship for many years, but through a tempestuous and often stormy partnership they always came back to each other. She supported and cared for Doc, who was slowly dying of tuberculosis, while he accepted her comfort and leaned on her for support during his times of need. In fact, in October 1881 Kate and Doc had a room at the boarding house next to the site of the OK Corral gunfight and she could easily have watched the entire episode unfold.

Big Nose Kate's Saloon This popular saloon of today first got its start as the Grand Hotel in September, 1880. During its first few years, the hotel often housed some of Tombstone's most famous residents including Wyatt and Virgil Earp, Doc Holliday, and the Clanton Gang when they came into town.
Big Nose Kate’s Saloon
This popular saloon of today first got its start as the Grand Hotel in September, 1880. During its first few years, the hotel often housed some of Tombstone’s most famous residents including Wyatt and Virgil Earp, Doc Holliday, and the Clanton Gang when they came into town.

Doc died in Colorado in 1887 and Kate continued her wandering throughout the old west, getting married and divorced and finally settling in Prescott, Arizona, where she died in 1940, just five days short of her 90th birthday. An exciting life for a rebellious young girl from Budapest.