In preparation of this year’s Doc Holliday: Saints and Sinners Festival, Denison residents and visitors gathered in the city center Saturday morning for a walking history tour of the former railroad town’s colorful wild west days.
The event was largely organized by Denison’s Main Street department and was hosted by Main Street Advisory Board Member Brian Hander. Participants walked through the 100-300 blocks of Main Street where they stopped at various sites and looked at pictures of buildings that had lined the thoroughfare in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
“So many of our buildings have changed since then, but the original core of them remains the same,” Hander said. “They’re what Doc would have seen.”
John Henry “Doc” Holliday was born in 1851 and was best known for his brief role as a deputy marshal and participant in the OK Corral shootout, which took place in Arizona in 1881. But before Holliday’s historic gunfight, he practiced dentistry and spent much of his time gambling and gun slinging in Dallas. Holliday’s habits got him into financial trouble and forced him to hide out in Denison where he settled sometime around 1875.
No one knows for sure where Holliday established his practice in Denison, but Hander said he would have arrived to find a bustling city full of churches, saloons and brothels.
“We only had about the first three blocks of main street, but it was growing by leaps and bounds,” Hander said. “It was very much a railroad town and a boom town. They were adding four to five new city blocks every month — full of houses and buildings. Still, there were a lot of tents on the outskirts of town and it was a good place to hide out.”
Betty Fulenchek attended the tour and said she wanted to get an inside look at the city’s historical buildings as several of her family members move forward with plans to open a new business near downtown Denison. She said she hoped to gain some design inspiration from the city’s past construction.
“I was very interested to learn about the bricks they used and how they got here,” Fulenchek said.
The Doc Holliday: Saints and Sinners Festival will be held on April 27 and will feature re-enacted gunfights, games, music, food and art. Hander said the tour and the festival were each unique to the city of Denison and allowed locals and visitors the chance to learn about and celebrate the city’s past.
“It’s something that really helps us remember our city’s heritage, all the way back to our beginning days,” Hander said.