In anticipation of the city’s annual Doc Holliday: Saints & Sinners Festival, officials with Denison Main Street and the Denison Public Library are hosting a series of talks in January about the history of the city and one of its more infamous residents.
John Henry “Doc” Holliday gained infamy in the late 19th century with a reputation as a gunfighter, gambler and one of the participants in the famous Gunfight at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona. Holliday’s local connection came after he opened a dental practice out of his hotel room in Denison following run-ins with law enforcement in Dallas.
“He’s an interesting character who spent some time in Denison early on,” Main Street Director Donna Dow said. “A lot of people just like to look back at the old west.”
Dow said the festival, now in its third year, will be held on April 28.
During Holliday’s time, Denison was still a young city that had become something of a travel stop for merchants, gamblers and other travellers who were moving along the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad. In its heyday, the city boasted many saloons that attracted night life to the frontier town.
This is the second year that organizers have separated some of the historic and academic presentations from the festival itself. Dow said this was designed to allow some of the presenters and local experts the chance to enjoy the festival while also sharing their expertise on the topics.
Officials started the series of presentations on Tuesday with a showing of the movie, “Tombstone” starring Val Kilmer as the dentist turned gambler. Dow said attendance was low, but attributed this to the new year and cold temperatures.
For the first of the official talks, to be held this Tuesday, Austin College English Professor Randi Tanglen will discuss Olive Oatman Fairchild, who was captured by Native Americans and was known for facial tattoos. Fairchild lived in Sherman and is buried in West Hill Cemetery.
On Jan. 16, Jim Mathis will talk about the White Elephant Saloon and Jim McIntire, a gunman who once hid at the saloon for several months in 1885 while avoiding law enforcement. Mathis once owned the property on which the saloon once stood.
The next presentation will be held on Jan. 23 and will cover the history of Justin Raynal, who was one of the city’s first proponents and advocates for education. The former Raynal school and monument are both named after him.
The final talk will be held on Jan. 30 and will feature former Fort Worth Convention Center & Visitors Bureau Director Douglas Harman discussing the Texas cattle drives and the impact it had on Doc Holliday’s era.
The presentations will take place each week in the library’s Eisenhower room. Library Director Kimberly Bowen said she hopes that the event will help spread information about Denison’s history and origins.
“Being a life-long resident of Denison, I found that there is quite a colorful history that I was unaware of and now have a greater appreciation for this beautiful community I am honored to call home,” Bowen said.
This year will represent the third year for the festival. Dow said last year’s event saw nearly 3,000 people crowd the streets of downtown Denison. Despite the lower than expected attendance, Dow said organizers were happy to have that many people attend amid poor weather forecasts.
For this year’s event, Dow said organizers plan to add an additional focus on music and entertainment, including a bell choir and dulcimer players. Dow added that organizers are also planning to add more activities in the 700 block of Main Street, which has previously hosted a mock frontier village.