• Justine McLellan

Big Nosed Kate

Mária Katalin Horony was born in Hungary in 1850. When she was ten years old, Horony, her parents and her siblings emigrated to the United states. A fews years later, her mother and father died and Horony and her siblings were placed in foster care.

At 16, Horony left her foster family and travelled across the country, making ends meet by working as a full service sex worker in saloons along the way.

In 1877, Horony, now nicknamed Big Nosed Kate, met a man in Texas, Doc Holliday, whom she took as a lover, then as a common law husband. Their on-again, off-again relationship was tumultuous and often violent.

Doc Holliday was a dentist in the East, but when he was diagnosed with tuberculosis, he set off to have an adventure and die in the West. He became an apt gambler, very skilled with a gun, and knife, and as his diseases progressed less and less tolerant to perceived slights. He was respected and feared, and killed a lot of people. He was said to have claimed that he would rather drink himself to death than cough himself to death.

During their relationship Kate and Doc got into all kinds of scraps. Once, after Doc had been arrested for some gambling discrepancy, Kate set fire to a hotel as a distraction. This event happened in a wooden town in the desert, so Doc Holiday was left with only one guard while everyone else went to take care of the fire. Kate stole two horses and bullied the guard into releasing Doc, and off they ran.

One night, after Kate and Holliday had a fight, a corrupt County Sheriff decided to exploit the situation. He plied Kate with alcohol and suggested to her a way to get even with Holliday. She signed an affidavit implicating Holliday in a recent murder and attempted robbery. A judge issued an arrest warrant for Holliday. Luckily, Holiday had an alibi, and when Kate sobered up she said she had been so drunk she didn't understand the document she had signed. The district attorney threw out the charges, labeling them "ridiculous".

As Doc’s drinking deteriorated, so did his success as a gambler. Despite their issues, Kate cared for him when Doc became destitute in his old age with money she had earned while working as a saloon prostitute.

After Doc Holliday died, Kate married Irish blacksmith George Cummings. They moved to Bisbee, Arizona, where Kate briefly ran a bakery. After only a year of marriage, George became an abusive alcoholic and they separated.

In 1900, Kate began cleaning rooms in a hotel. Cummings committed suicide in 1915. In 1931, now 80, Kate contacted her longtime friend, Arizona Governor George Hunt, and applied for admittance to the Arizona Pioneers' Home in Prescott. The home had been established in 1910 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, but she nevertheless became 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, often contacting the governor when she was not satisfied with their response.

Kate died on November 2, 1940, just five days before her 90th birthday.

©2019 by Kaytlin Bailey and Justine McLellan.