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Wild West Legendary Women

Big Nose Kate


1850 - 1940




She was born Mary Catherine Elder Haroney in Hungary on November 7, 1850 and was reported to have been the wife of Doc Holiday, however there are no records of the marriage. She traveled with Holiday to Texas, Dodge City, New Mexico and finally to Tombstone, Arizona.  She was a dance hall girl and prostitute for a number of years.

In 1880, Kate moved to Globe, Arizona when Holiday stayed on in  Tombstone with the Earps. She was visiting with him during the famous gunfight at the O.K. Corral then married another whom she later left.

Background:
Kate was from an prominent family and her father was a doctor.  In 1862 Mexico's Emperor Maximillian appointed Kate's father to be his personal surgeon, and so the family left Hungary  for Mexico.  Three years later, when Maximillian's rule dissolved, the Haroney family fled the country and moved to Davenport Iowa.   That  same year, in 1865, Kate lost both her parents (causes unknown) so she and her siblings were sent to foster homes.

Two years after that, Kate ran away by stowing aboard a steam ship enroute to St. Louis. The Captain named Fisher took pity on the girl and let her stay aboard as the ship made its way to St. Louis.  It was there that Kate took the Fisher name and enrolled in a convent school.  She later married a dentist and the pairing produced one child but both passed away the same year.

Meeting Earp & Holliday
In 1874, while working in a Wichita, Kansas sporting house for James Earp's wife, Nellie, it's believed that Kate developed a relationship with Wyatt Earp. She was then going by the name of Kate Elder (in 1875) and was listed as being in Dodge City, Kansas working as a dance hall girl.  A few years later she moved to Fort Griffin, Texas, where she met  Doc Holliday at a saloon where he was dealing cards.  While serving as a dance hall girl and prostitute, Kate earned the nickname “Big Nose” Kate for her prominent nose.
She traveled with Holiday to various parts of the country, including Kansas, Colorado, South Dakota and New Mexico, often still working as a prostitute.  While still in Fort Griffin, Texas, Kate came to Holliday's rescue when he was incarcerated over a card game fight.  She helped him escape and the two fled to Dodge City, Kansas.

They fought often during their years together and soon after this incident, Holliday went off to Colorado, and left Kate in Dodge City.  Trouble followed Holliday wherever he went, though.  After a gunfight that left another man dead, Holliday went back to Dodge City but discovered that Kate was now gone.  

Reaching Tombstone, Arizona
When he discovered that his friend Wyatt Earp had gone to Tombstone, Arizona, because of a silver strike, Holliday headed there too.  He ran into Kate in Prescott, Arizona where the two enjoyed each other's company once again, particularly since Holliday was flush with card game winnings.  Then in 1980, the two reached Tombstone, Arizona.  After that Kate ran a boarding house in Globe, Arizona, about 175 miles away from Tombstone. She often stayed with Holliday when she visited.

On March 15, 1881 a stage coach was robbed and Holliday was the prime suspect.  Kate and Holliday had just had one of their many fights and the Tombstone Cowboys who took after Holliday, got Kate drunk to persuade her to testify to the fact that she knew Holliday was involved. Holliday was arrested on her testimony but the next day she sobered up and recanted which resulted in the charges being thrown out.  This would more or less end the relationship with Holliday.  In October of that same year, the famous Gunfight at O.K. Corral took place.

From 1882 until the time of his death in 1887, Doc Holliday was in Colorado, and so was Kate, at least part of the time, as her brother owned property there. Some reports have it that Holliday may have spent time with Kate as her brother's home was very near to the Sulfur Springs that Holliday visited to try to help his tuberculosis. Kate stayed in Colorado until after Holliday's death.  Then, in 1888, she married a blacksmith and the two moved to Bisbee, Arizona, only a few miles from Tombstone. They also lived in Pearce, Arizona.

In 1889, Kate left her husband and moved to the small railroad town of Cochise, Arizona where she was hired to work at the Cochise Hotel which she did for about a year.  She then moved in with a man named Howard who she lived with until his death in 1930.  A year later, Kate  wrote to the Governor of Arizona, requesting admission to the "Arizona Pioneers Home."  She wasn't eligible because she was foreign born so she lied and said she had been born in Davenport, Iowa.  As a result, she was accepted to the home. Kate stayed there until her death on November 2, 1940.

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