Mattie Holliday, Doc’s cousin and rumored sweetheart, was quoted as saying, “He was a much different man than the one of Western legend.” He was also a lot more interesting, with travels that took him far beyond the OK Corral. But did Doc take a Florida beach break, as well? That’s the surprising direction the research goes, as historians continue to explore the unanswered questions of why – and how – Doc Holliday left Georgia. And one of the most intriguing of the answers comes from someone who knew Doc personally: Dodge City lawman Bat Masterson.
In his later years, Bat became a reporter and did a series of stories about the famous characters of the American West, including an article about Doc Holliday. The story, published in 1907 in a Boston, Massachusetts magazine, tells a tale of murder and escape set during the troubled times following the Civil War. According to Bat, there was a swimming hole on a little river near to the south Georgia village where Doc Holliday was raised, and where he one day came across some black boys swimming where he thought they shouldn’t be. He ordered them out of the water and when they refused, he took a shotgun to them, causing a massacre. His family thought it best that he leave the area, and he moved to Dallas, Texas. Although the report of a massacre isn’t likely, there are some interesting points to Bat’s story: Holliday did, in fact, live in a little village in South Georgia, the town of Valdosta, near where there is a river named the Withlacoochee, along which Doc’s family owned some land. And when Bat’s story was published and the family later asked about it by another reporter, they said that Holliday fired over the boys heads, not at them – but they did not deny the shooting.Continue reading