Doc Holliday’s gun returning to Glenwood Springs; museum buys derringer that was in his room when he died
The Glenwood Springs Historical Society pulled the trigger Thursday on a move the group hopes will shape its future and promises to boost the town’s tourism.
On Thursday, the society authorized the $84,000 purchase of Doc Holliday’s derringer, one of few items believed to have been in the Hotel Glenwood room where he died in 1887.
Jason Brierly of Vancouver, British Columbia, was the society’s huckleberry, and met with members of the historical society and its board Wednesday night. The society had already secured a lender for the sale price, and after review of the gun’s provenance, Wednesday’s group discussed the purchase with the rest of the board Thursday afternoon.
The board voted to buy the derringer, given to Holliday by his common-law wife, Mary Katherine “Big Nose Kate” Horony-Cummings.
The gun was placed in a safe-deposit box. The society now will plan its exhibition and invite the public to view it as soon as possible.
“It was so important to let the public know all along what we’re doing because this is for Glenwood Springs,” said society Executive Director Bill Kight. “I really appreciate the fact that the city of Glenwood Springs has gotten behind us on this.”
On Wednesday night, Kight, historian R.W. “Doc” Boyle and other society members pledged contributions to help repay the lender. The organization may soon launch a fundraising campaign to involve the public, as well.
Those gathered Wednesday listened to Boyle’s assessment of the gun’s authenticity.
“The gun is real. There’s no doubt the gun is real,” the Holliday expert said, showing obvious emotion. The documentation, which he reviewed with Brierley the night before, included an affidavit from the gun’s first sale, letters, magazine articles and more.
The society first learned of the gun in August, when Brierley visited its Frontier Museum. Months later, he again contacted the society, this time to offer the opportunity to purchase the artifact.
“We want to make sure that we’re investing money into something that will make a huge difference for Glenwood Springs and history being in the position it should be to move us forward,” Kight said earlier in March. “That’s what counts.”
Brierley approached the society to give it an opportunity to purchase the weapon before he offered it to any other buyer. It belongs in Glenwood, he said.
“To this museum and to our board of directors, it’s priceless,” Kight said.
Brierley set a mid-March deadline because of an upcoming move, he said Wednesday night. He didn’t want to store the gun, which all involved believed would fetch a much larger sum if it were to go to auction. An Annie Oakley gun sold for $140,000 and a Bonnie and Clyde gun sold for $500,000.
Those involved said Holliday’s common-law wife likely purchased the gun as a gift in Tombstone, Arizona, one of the West’s frontier boomtowns and scene of perhaps the most famous gunfight in Old West history, in which Holliday teamed up with Wyatt Earp and Earp’s brothers battling the outlaw Cowboys gang. It’s one of several Holliday items to have sold in recent years, including a flask, which went for $130,000, and a shotgun believed to have been Holliday’s, which sold for $200,000.
“This gun’s a magnet for Doc Holliday’s stuff,” Brierley said.
The society members agreed; they have been stopped on the street to discuss it since the possibility of the purchase became public. The gun will become part of an exhibit at the Frontier Museum. The society hopes it will lead to loans of more Holliday paraphernalia and increase the museum’s visibility. The society has outgrown its existing space, with its archives crowding the basement below the museum.
“History in Glenwood deserves a better place where we can actually display in a proper, professional way things that come to us, that enlighten us about our past,” Kight said. “We’re saying to Glenwood, here’s an opportunity for us to move forward in a hugely unexpected way. That’s amazing to me.”
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