The general historical consensus has been that John Henry “Doc” Holliday was buried in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. The dentist-turned-gunslinger definitely died there (in 1887, from tuberculosis), and he was, at least initially, lowered into a grave. But there are a whole lot of people – his own descendants among them – who hold onto a different truth. He may be resting exactly where he was born – a world away from the Wild West in the small city of Griffin, Georgia.
Holliday was from a fairly well-to-do family, and became a dentist (hence the “Doc”), studying at the University of Pennsylvania. He returned home to practice dentistry for a short time, but contracted tuberculosis at the age of 23. He left for Texas, likely to seek the “drier climate” then thought best suited to those suffering from TB. He may have plied his trade on a few Texans’ teeth, but he mostly played cards and honed his shooting skills. Hitching his wagon to the like-minded gambler and sometime lawman Wyatt Earp, Holliday ended up as one of the notorious gunmen in the Shootout at the O.K. Corral. He rode around with Earp for a time, but it was his galloping disease that forced him to settle down. In Glenwood Springs, with his health quickly fading, he died at the age of 36. So far, everyone agrees.
Here’s where things get cloudy — it seems there was a burial in Greenwood Springs, at Linwood Cemetery, but a quick and maybe only temporary one. It’s thought that some early-winter bad weather made it hard to get to the assigned plot, and he was instead quickly interred somewhere else on the grounds. To this day no one is 100% sure where his body might be. There is a fenced-in “grave,” but along with the headstone, there is a marker that says: “This memorial dedicated to Doc Holliday who is buried someplace in this cemetery.”
Cut back to Holliday’s hometown of Griffin. They claim he’s alongside his father, both in unmarked graves in Oak Hill Cemetery where all the other Hollidays are buried. The theory is, despite his outlaw reputation and estrangement, as the only son of a traditional southern family they quickly and quietly made arrangements for the body to be brought back to Georgia. Given his reputation and growing fame as a kind of Wild West folk hero, they left his grave unmarked so it wouldn’t be disturbed. To support the idea of a father and son side-by-side burial, it is true that no marked grave of his father can be found — in Linwood or anywhere else — even though he was a wealthy landowner and one-time mayor of nearby Valdosta. Headstones for the rest of the family can be found, but no Doc and no dad.
Today there is a historical marker of the twin graves at Oak Hill, but it too poses a question: “’Doc’ Holliday Final Resting Place?”
Know Before You Go
Oak Hill is off Memorial Drive in downtown Griffin, but best to enter directly into the cemetery from East Poplar Street. The two graves are at burial plot 11, on your right just before Poplar Street ends. Look for the historical marker, posted over the two unmarked graves.